Archive for May, 2014

Live in Stuttgart 1993 is one of the Deep Purple archive re-releases. It was originally part of the 4 concert Live in Europe release that captured Ritchie Blackmore’s final concerts as a member of the band on their 25th anniversary tour. The band had begun working on their new album, when the record company wanted to sack Joe Lynn Turner and bring back Ian Gillan for the anniversary. Blackmore didn’t agree and it took a quarter of a million dollars to get him to buy in. But it didn’t last long. The album they released, The Battle Rages On, is an excellent contribution to their catalog in my opinion (but not Ritchie’s). But the differences of opinion were just too big. Blackmore decided he’d had enough.

This concert is near the end of the string performed with Ritchie, and he is in fine form (for the most part). This is yet another excellent concert release. The set list for this 25th anniversary tour for the Mach II line up is different, and that isn’t just because of the new material. They removed a few old standards, like Strange Kind of Woman, and inserted a few other songs including the questionable choice of Anyone’s Daughter. Surely they could have found a better song than this country-ish song to represent the Fireball album (which Gillan loved and Blackmore didn’t). This is probably evidence of the shift in control that Blackmore noticed and didn’t quite appreciate. Some songs are just moved, like Black Night shifting to the 2nd song instead of being part of the encore.

The highlights of this concert include the new material, particularly Anya with some extended solos by the temperamental guitarist. Space Trucking was also transformed into a pretty good medley of songs. The turmoil in the band produces a great show as Blackmore feeds off of the negative energy.

The low lights would be that nothing was included from the Mach I line up. It would have been  great to hear a short version of Hard Road (Wring that Neck) or Mandrake Root for instance. Nothing from House of Blue Light makes the cut either. Ian’s between song banter is centered on a big soccer match (I think) going on that night. There are few song introductions like on Come Hell or High Water, now released as Live in Birmingham (with Ritchie not coming on stage until the camera man gets far away). The bigger issues are that Gillan’s voice sounds harsh at times and you can’t really hear the bass often (I no longer have a stereo system so that may be the problem). At times Gillan forgets lyrics which is one of those things that probably drove Ritchie crazy.

Highway Star opens the concert, as usual. It is good, but Blackmore’s first solo is not up to his usual standards. The second is better as he seems to be warming up. After Black Night they play Talkin’ About Love one of the new songs. Oddly the guitar mostly drops out on the 2nd half of each verse. But it still has an interesting interplay between Lord’s organ and Ritchie’s guitar. After some nonsensical ramblings by Ian they rip into Twist in the Tale from the new album. The rendition of Perfect Strangers is solid, and lacks the echo effects on Ian’s voice that was common in the 80’s concerts. His voice does sound better on as the concert goes on, and this is one in which he sounds particularly good. (If I remember correctly, this was one of the riffs Ritchie had been working on for Rainbow that found a good home on the first reunion album.)

What follows is a different version of The Mule than you’ve probably heard. There are no vocals on this shortened version. It really doesn’t seem like the original song. Its solo bears some resemblance to Difficult to Cure at points.  It does not culminate in a drum solo like on so many other old concert CDs. It does move into Difficult to Cure though. This sets the stage for Lord’s classical-filled solo that also has some funk to it. It is an interesting solo but seems to lack cohesion. Next is Knocking at Your Back Door with a short bass solo by Roger at the beginning. Jon and Ritchie trade solos after the second and third verses. Again Ian’s voice holds up well in a song that has some demanding parts.

The shift to Anyone’s Daughter just sounds strange in light of the songs that came before it. And those that follow it. It sticks out like a sore thumb to me. It does connect with the previous song in terms of theme: sexual immorality (thankfully not many of their songs touch this subject). The bright point, I guess, is the lack of distortion on Ritchie’s guitar. He plays it fairly clean for the song.

They enter the “anti-war” section (according to Ian’s comments in Birmingham) with Child in Time, the new song Anya in which Ritchie has his best solo for the concert, and The Battle Rages On. Too bad they didn’t have time to squeeze in Under the Gun as well. But this is a very good  portion of the concert.

Then they dig back to one of the old standards with Lazy. They shook this one up too because this time it features Ian’s drum solo. It is fast paced and led by one of Blackmore’s signature solos. After the song Ritchie plays part of Hall of the Mountain King on the next Rainbow album. It is a a glimpse of what is to come for him, sounding like a throwback to the Dio days with a medieval feel. It was the direction he wanted to go musically and the rest of the band wasn’t interested. This sets up the Space Truckin’ medley which included Woman from Tokyo and Paint It Black instead of the usual shift into Mandrake Root. Paint it Black didn’t sound as good as Woman from Tokyo. The real problem was Gillan’s vocals. At times they were indecipherable. It just didn’t work. In the Birmingham show it was part of the Smoke on the Water medley. Here Smoke on the Water is the final song. This medley ends the regular part of the show.

The encore starts with Speed King. It is a good rendition of the song with the riff from Burn thrown in for good measure (the only music representing Mach III). Technically, Hush is a song from the Mach I unit but they did a new version in the 80’s. This is the 2nd song of the encore, and has the most forgotten lyrics, with Gillan making the best of a bad situation. They close with the song most fans have been waiting for, Smoke on the Water. It starts with a mellow solo based on the famous riff before letting loose. At one point Gillan is really off, and makes note of how horrible that sounded.

This concert shows a few things:

  1. Blackmore still had the skills that made him famous. Overall his playing is great, and his creativity stills shines through. At times he did settle for speed, but there are still plenty of pieces that demonstrate his skill.
  2. Gillan’s skills, on the other hand, were in decline already. The voice goes faster than the fingers and Gillan’s range was decreasing. Some of this was age, and some from not taking care of his voice.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but Deep Purple was better with Blackmore without Gillan than with Gillan without Blackmore. They lost the creative spark of the band. Things were less tense, most definitely, but also less exciting. This concert marks the end of an era, essentially the end of my favorite band. Some of the material with Steve Morse is good, but it just isn’t the same. The best with Morse is the stuff that sounds most like Ritchie (Now What? and Infinite). Ritchie would only do one more rock album before falling completely under the spell of Candice and medieval folk music. But Blackmore finally found happiness as he has been with her and played with her for nearly 20 years which is the longest he’s ever done that. This concert is an appropriate ending because it reveals some of why the Mach II lineup could not coexist.

This is another great concert from Deep Purple. With the “newer” material it does deserve to be in any fan’s collection. That new material is great material with some exceptional solos.

They also freshened up a number of the older pieces. That mostly worked. It is like a breath of fresh air. There are plenty of songs I wish they had finally done live. That would wait until Morse was in the band as they finally played Pictures of Home, Bloodsucker and Hard Lovin’ Man. This reveals one of Blackmore’s weaknesses. Perhaps it is a result of his technical memory. In an interview with David Gilmore, he mentioned how many songs he could remember for a tour. Ritchie seemed to have only so many songs he could remember for a tour. His specialty was improvisation. It limited the band to an extent. I’m left wishing I could have heard him play so many songs live.

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2012 was a nightmare year for the Red Sox. They were mediocre until the Nick Punto Trade. After the trade that freed up all that money for the future, they were downright horrible.

2013 was in incredible surprise. I thought they would be good, but not World Series Champion good until about August. The hopes of Red Sox Nation were restored. The new model seemed to pay off: no long term contracts, overpay if you need to to do it.

Then came the off season. I will admit, I thought they would be better than they have been. But it seems that Ben over-played his hand. There was too much change. I saw recently that most World Series Champions experience about 20% roster change. The question is, what 20% should change. In 2004 they lost Pedro and Damon. Those were very big pieces to lose. In 2005 they were good but were quickly dumped from the playoffs from the eventual World Series Champion White Sox.

They seemed to learn the lesson. After the 2007 championship, they held on to Mike Lowell who was their primary free agent. It would be a mistake as his hips betrayed him. It nearly paid off as they got all the way to game 7 of the ALCS. All they needed was either a healthy Lowell or Beckett to return to the World Series.

After the victory in 2013 they had some difficult decisions to make as Ellsbury, Napoli, Drew and Saltalamacchia were free agents. All of them were key starters. They made reasonable attempts to retain Napoli and Drew. They made a feeble attempt to retain Ellsbury. Who knows, if they made a real offer during the exclusive negotiation period he might not have gone to the Yankees. I would not pay him what they paid him, but I certainly would have offered him more than they did. They decided to move on from Salty.

The reasons for both were the development of prospects at short (Bogaerts), center (Bradley) and catcher (Vazquez and Swihart). The result was that they had a new catcher to buy time for the prospects, an inexperienced left side of the infield in Middlebrooks and Bogaerts and an inexperienced centerfielder. They also took a gamble on a rebuilt Grady Sizemore who looked very promising in Spring Training but created a log jam in the outfield.


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It seems like so much has happened since our first congregational meeting on this topic in December. There have been plenty of changes in the plans and dollar figures. One of our members, a retired OPC elder, noted that with building projects you should double the figure and add 10%. He was about right as we went from Dec. to mid-May.

What are we doing?

At some point I’ll put a link to some graphics but here is the rundown.

  1. Adding a triple-wide modular (new) that will provide office space, a new nursery and SS space.
  2. The office space will be converted into sanctuary space. We estimate adding 60-70 seats. We can’t fully utilize that space or we’d have to retro fit with sprinklers, so we’ll actually have some storage space for chairs/tables/instruments depending on the use of the sanctuary space at any given time.
  3. The “overflow room”/SS room will be converted into a new ladies’ room where they shouldn’t have to worry about the door knocking their knees every time they enter/leave a stall.
  4. The old ladies room will be converted into a men’s room so we can have more than one guy in there at a time (up to 3).
  5. The old men’s room will become a family/ADA restroom that can handle busy bathroom times.
  6. Part of the covered sidewalk at the entrance will be walled in to create a foyer or narthex. There will be double doors to enter the sanctuary space so there will be more noise insulation for bathrooms and crying/naughty children.
  7. We will reorganize our largely haphazard parking to accommodate more cars in a more organized and functional fashion.

We are looking at about a $370k project and a sizeable loan to fund it. We do have nearly 1/2 of the funds already but taking out a loan is a big deal. We cannot wait until we have the money in hand because we will soon stagnate and/or shrink if history repeats itself. We are past the comfort zone of capacity and that is okay in the short run, but a church that is too “full” will usually shrink back to comfort (and often beyond as some people misinterpret the departures).


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One of the enemies great tricks is to undermine people’s confidence in the Scriptures. In the Garden the serpent got Eve to start questioning what God said. It worked then, so why change tactics.

As a result of this continuing barrage, the church has needed to defend the Scriptures on a variety of fronts. Over the years a number of significant books have been written with this purpose. Many of those books were written for more advanced readers: pastors, academics. There are a few that are written for the younger Christian. Kevin DeYoung has added to that list of books that are accessible, meaningful, practical and interesting. Face it, this is not a topic that gets the averaged browser in a bookstore jazzed. But this is a necessary topic so it must be handled wisely.

DeYoung’s Taking God at His Word is structured around 8 passages of Scripture that teach 8 important things about Scripture. It was probably a sermon series or SS class turned into a book. Not that it matters, but it follows a similar structure as my book on marriage (one of those topics that gets store browsers jazzed) which may eventually see the light of day. He also utilizes many of those older books to help us understand the importance of what Scripture is saying.

“There is no calamity like the silence of God. We cannot know the truth or know ourselves or know God’s ways or savingly know God Himself unless God speaks to us.”

He starts with Psalm 119 in which the Psalmist delights in the Word of God (including the Law!!). Even well-meaning Christians struggle with this concept (because they see every mention of the law thru the lens of justification). The Word is filled with promises, and warnings, to be believed and acted upon. If the Word of God is not delightful to you, something is amiss in your Christian experience. The Spirit works in us to develop such a response to the Word. He recognizes the elements of circularity in the arguments for the authority of Scripture that rest on Scripture. However, if another document establishes the authority of the Scriptures it would be at least on par if not above Scripture. No one doubted the authority of the king to speak before the Magna Carta. God speaks as that kind of absolute king except He has unlimited knowledge, wisdom and goodness.

“Psalm 119 shows us what to believe about the word of God, what to feel about the word of God, and what to do with the work of God.”


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I’ve decided to commit career suicide. Okay, that is a bit extreme. I’ve done a SS class on Revelation. There are just some books of the Bible that should be tackled in a Sunday School setting instead of a sermon series. I couldn’t imagine preaching on Revelation. There are some parts that I haven’t settled on in terms of their original meaning. A Sunday School course allows you to offer up various viewpoints and not necessarily commit to one. I did approach the course with a mix of partial preterism and idealism. I think both are far more helpful than the historicist and futurist views. But some passages just seem to defy all categories.

The Song of Songs is another one of those books that is best done in such a setting but for different reasons. The content is more appropriate for an adult audience. I’m amazed at how anachronistic some approaches to the book are. They despise a more literal approach. I think the book is a series of love poems (not a sex manual or relationship guide). They do have a typological function pointing us to our relationship with Christ, but we must be careful not to eroticize that. It does have plenty of references to sexual activities in veiled fashion. As a part of the canon, it points us to a redeemed, or holy, sexuality. Much of the Scriptures offer warnings about our disordered sexuality. This is largely a re-ordered sexuality. Not perfectly though.

Here is what I’m using:

Song of Songs by Tremper Longman III in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series. This is rated as one of the top commentaries by Keith Mathison and Tim Challies. The opening chapter, which focuses on a history of interpretation, is very helpful in setting the stage for the study.

The Message of the Song of Songs by Tom Gledhill in the Bible Speaks Today series. It also appears on Challies’ and Mathison’s lists. I wasn’t too impressed with the chapter covering introductory matters. It did make some good points about the danger of removing the veil so to speak. People will have to be careful with what they learn and hear lest they plunge themselves into sexual sin by obsessing on something. This is something Mark Driscoll should have paid attention to.

Song of Songs by Dennis Kinlaw in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. I bought the volume for the commentaries on Psalms and Proverbs by VanGemeren and Ross respectively. I have yet to begin reading this. I’d better get on that!

Solomon on Sex by Joseph Dillow. Yes, the Song is not a sex manual but there may be some helpful material in there. I know I liked during my counseling coursework. It has been hidden in notebooks for years and has finally been unearthed. This is out of print and difficult to find. We purchased a photocopied version for our coursework.

Communion with God by John Owen. I read this years ago and remember that he refers to the Song quite a bit. It is not a commentary on the Song. I’ll pretend it functions typologically for my purposes.

Discovering Christ in the Song of Solomon by Don Fortner. Don and I will not agree on much. He uses an allegorical interpretive method, making it about Christ and the Church directly. There is no “original meaning” and then seeing it through the lens of Christ. He jumps right to Jesus. I can tell there is much that is true, but that is not what the text (in my opinion) is saying. There are some statements that I would deem dangerous or controversial. For instance, he takes her statement “I am black and comely” to mean she is both sinner and saint. I find equating black with sin to be troubling. I don’t recall any other portion of Scripture doing this.

Perhaps I’ll be back to update this when I’m done. I can only read so many books to prepare for the lessons without driving myself insane. I read far too many on Revelation (lesson learned!).

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Devotional books can be funny things. The author can have a sense of an overall purpose and flow which can be lost on the reader. Or perhaps the author doesn’t have a flow. John Piper has put together a few devotional books over the years and I have appreciated the ones I’ve read, particularly Life as a Vapor.

His latest, culled from various writings in other places is A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You. The stated theme is cultivating a Godward heart. It is tough to put pre-existing material into a book and expect it to fit a theme. In this case, I’m not sure the theme holds. Don’t get me wrong. There is some great material in this volume. It just doesn’t feel cohesive (yes, that is quite subjective.

The book begins in startling fashion with The Morning I Heard the Voice of God. At first you think he’s having some sort of charismatic experience (well, he is charismatic) but he’s talking about “hearing” God speak in the Scriptures (Ps. 66 in particular). It seems unnecessarily provocative, maybe. Piper wants to remind us that the real power to change us, the real words that should move us, are the Scriptures as the Spirit works in us to apply what Christ has done for us. A Godward heart is one that loves the Scriptures.


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