Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Moby>Why Does My Heart Feel so Bad?

Next up on my Lent playlist is a song by Moby. It's a song from Play which was a really successful album and one I enjoyed when I bought it on recommendation from friends shortly after release in 1999. Strangely, I don't feel the same way about it now - I don't really feel much inclination to listen to it at all. However, the one track that I never seem to tire of is 'Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?' It's musically very moving and the lyrics are very simple:

Why does my heart
Feel so bad?
Why does my soul
Feel so bad?
These open doors

I'm not sure what is intended by that last line but it reminds me of a quote I keep seeing around that is something like: 'blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light.' And so with this song I get a similar idea, like that of 'the dark night of the soul.' Actually a heart and soul that 'feels bad' is one that is an open door. The heart that is secure in itself, confident and forever buoyed up, is not on a journey because it's already arrived. That is perhaps something to get worried about because laziness, complacency and staleness creep in. And so this Lent I'm OK with saying that my heart does feel bad, that my soul does feel bad, but they are open for change, open for life and open for God.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Velvet Underground>I'm Set Free

The Velvet Underground are one of those bands that have a very distinctive sound - even if you've never heard the song before you know it's them almost immediately. Personally I prefer their more mellow songs (although they do some cracking upbeat ones, too) and the album The Velvet Underground (1969) has plenty of them - 'Pale Blue Eyes', 'Jesus' and 'I'm Set Free'.

'I'm Set Free' is a very good song. It's probably about drugs as are so many of The Velvet's songs ('Heroin' in my opinion is the best song about drugs ever written). However, like 'Jesus' there is plenty of spirituality about this song. Who for example is the 'prince of stories'? And there's biblical imagery throughout.

So why did it make my Lent playlist? Well, traditionally Lent is associated with the rigours of fasting and discipline. These things whilst associated with keeping particular rules are endured to bring freedom for the soul. In my own experience freedom rarely comes without a cost. And if we can only perservere through the pain barrier there is a prize worth it all at the end.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Having been tagged by my brother-in-law and most avid reader, I felt it my duty to keep it going so in the true style of Arvo Part I'll 'festina lente'. (Find out more about tagging on his blog: Views From a Coffehouse).

The rules of the tag are:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five other people.

Well the nearest book, sitting on the desk right next to me is '1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die' - now you know where the material for this blog comes from! Page 123 has no writing on it all, but a photo in true 1967 hippy style of The Jimi Hendrix Experience pictured with two topless ladies. It's linked with a review of Jimi's incredible debut album, Are You Experienced? In fact as I look down the track listing there are so many great tracks there: 'Foxy Lady', 'Red House', 'Love or Confusion', 'Fire'. Anyway from the fifth sentence onwards:

'All are slices of rock history that are underminished in their power to excite and transport. The frenetic 'Manic Depression' elevates the depths of despair, as does 'I Don't Live today', both presaging Jimi's comet-like trajectory. Extended tour de force 'Third Stone from the sun' features distorted vocals and pyschedelic jangling.'

And if you want more you're just going to have to get the album yourself but it is a classic and was added to my collection when as a 15 year old I rifled through my Dad's LPs. A taster below...

Now who on earth am I gonna tag?

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Arvo Part>Festina Lente

For week 2 of the Lent playlist, I've chosen Arvo Part's 'Festina Lente' (Miserere, 1990). This is a Songs for the Journey first because I'm going highbrow with a 'Classical' piece (although a misnomer of course because it's not classical but modern, but you know what I mean).

I bought my first Part CD about 15 years ago, under the influence of my wife who was heavily into Gorecki and Taverner at the time. 'Festina Lente' is a sort of add on track to the 'Miserere' but actually was the stand out piece on the CD for me. It's quite confusing but 'festina lente' doesn't actually have anything to do with the festival of Lent although you could be forgiven for thinking so. In fact it is Latin for 'make haste slowly', which is a Roman proverb. But then again, in other ways it does have a lot to do with Lent.

If Lent is a season to ponder and reflect on God and our place in the world then doing something slowly is of course apt. However, simply retreating from the harsh realities of the world for 6 weeks is not an option for most of us. Whether we like or not, people and work demand us to do stuff. And so perhaps this is a rightful motto for Lent 2008 - do stuff, but do it with patience, with humility, with reflection and with measured intent. And all the better if this beautiful piece of music is the soundtrack to such activity.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008


This is the first song on my Lent playlist. If there was ever a song made for Lent this seems to be it. Could just be the song Jesus' Abba sang over him during the 40 days in the desert. It's almost as though God had to put Jesus through the test to see what he was made of. Take a look at the full lyrics and you'll see how it fits with the Biblical account. Perhaps God was even 'scared' about the outcome as presumably the temptations were as real as anything any human faces, Jesus' divinity counted for nothing...

Here are some comments from YouTube on this song:
'Fantastic, life affirming song. Who hasn't ever closed their eyes and prayed for a better tomorrow? Real lyrics for real people.'

'omg i love this song it got my parents through som hard times when work went well crap and its got me through some times when i've felt like dying i love it :D:D:D'

'You know what is the best about them. The fact that almost all their songs speak straight right into every one of our souls. Their songs helped me to see myself, to realize who i am, to pursue happiness and meaning of my life.'

As a Christian who was brought up singing hymns and 'worship songs' in church I wish I could say the same thing about those songs, but honestly I can't. 1 or 2, sure, but mostly, no.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Playlist = Lent

There are 40 days in the Christian season of Lent or roughly six weeks and so here are 6 top tunes (one a week) to help reflect during a period set aside for fasting, self-examination and prayer. I picked these 'songs' because they somehow resonated with the main themes of Lent, or at least looked like they might. I plan to post some thoughts each week on my own reflections and these tracks....

Week 1: James - Tomorrow
Week 2: Arvo Part - Festina Lente
Week 3: The Velvet Underground - I'm Set Free
Week 4: Moby - Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
Week 5: Coldplay - the Scientist
Week 6: Nick Cave/Kylie Minogue - Death is Not the End

Friday, 1 February 2008

Otis Redding>I've Been Loving You Too Long

Consider this quote from Nick Hornby: 'I try not to belive in God, of course, but sometimes things happen in music, in songs, that bring me up short, make me do a double take... I just mean that at certain spine-shivering musical moments - and you will have your own inevitably - it becomes difficult to remain a literalist. (I have no such difficulty when I hear religious music, by the way, no matter how beautiful. They're cheating, those composers: they're inviting Him in, egging Him on, and surely he wouldn't fall for that?)' (31 Songs, 2003)

I know what he means - there are just some moments in certain songs that connect with the divine. The lyrics become irrelevant, the people creating the music simply names and it's as though time slows down to a virtual stop for a moment and it's just you, the music and God. I can think of a number of songs that do this (or have done this at different moments in my life) for me. Strangely, now I'm thinking about it - it's often been songs with titles about death - 'Bill is Dead' (Extricate, 1990) by The Fall, 'Psycho Killer' (Stop Making Sense, 1984) by Talking Heads, 'A Murder of One' (August and Everything After, 1993) by The Counting Crows. I'm sure it's just co-incidence!

However, there's one that gets me everytime and it's in 'I've Been Loving you too Long' (Dock of the Bay, 1968) by Otis Redding. There's just something about his voice at 22secs (album version) that leads to the numinous. Perhaps it has something to do with the circumstances of first hearing this song - it came a time when love was in the air. Who knows - probably not even Otis Redding and he's with God now!