Songs of Redemption opus 8


Frank Zappa once said (I’ve been dying to say that for years: it makes me sound very knowledgeable):-

‘Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid’

Tom Waits has a voice that is more than an aqquired taste. To my British ears he sounds like what a seedy bar in mid west America must sound like. Sometimes he is almost unlistenable to, but he is always worth listening to…

Listen to ‘Chocolate Jesus’ and be bowled over by it’s truth, it’s insight and it’s humour. Get a whiff of what is wrong with how a lot of ‘religion’ or ‘spirituality’ in the west has become ‘me-uality’:-

‘Dont go to church on sunday
Dont get on my knees to pray
Dont memorize the books of the bible
I got my own special way
Bit I know jesus loves me
Maybe just a little bit more

I fall on my knees every sunday
At zerelda lees candy store

Well its got to be a chocolate jesus
Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate jesus
Keep me satisfied’

It’s hard to pick a single track from ‘Mule Variations’ but that is my best shot.

Half term is nearly over…. I still haven’t quite got a full LP. Just two more posts..

Songs of Redemption Opus 7


Songs that show brokenness I find appealing. Songs where the singer feels mired in sin, but longs for Grace I love. Songs where the singer knows what s/he could do but is so attracted by what they want to escape from move me.

A couple of months ago I had a steal in a HMV sale: 2 Spritualized CDs for less than £3 in total. I had heard of them, listened to them, but never bought any of their music. I knew fragments of their story; that latterly their singer had come close to death but miraculously came through. I also knew hints of long romances with substances that were likely to be stronger than snuff.

So I got to ‘Let it come down’ and began to listen (I had been strangely unmoved on first listen to ‘Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space’). Have you ever had that moment where you were stopped still by a song? I did on ‘The Straight and the Narrow’. It was a combination of all the things I said in the first paragraph, a cracked voice and a great tune.

‘The trouble with the straight and the narrow
Is its so thin, I keep sliding off to the side
And the devil makes good use of these hands of mine’

So much honesty…could use a church like that. Maybe you are not far from the kingdom of heaven.

‘And if Jesus is the straight path that saves
Then i’m condemmed to live my whole life on the curb
On the crossroad to the devil, I’ll dwell and i’ll count my years’

Reaching, longing, but despairing….

You know that I got a little something I should say
I guess that I’m just so easily led astray
It’s alright because I know my own way back home from here

And I don’t fall off the wagon you know
I take a dive and go as deep as I can go
Don’t hold your breath because I’m coming up slow, this time’.

...and being attracted to what destroys…..longing to escape, but liking it at the same time. Love it love it love it….

Songs of Redemption opus 6

harry patch

‘Radiohead’: the very name sends me into paroxysms of ecstasy. Again there are loads of songs which have become songs of redemption for me (I was going to include ‘No suprises’; one as it is a great song, two as I can play the riff). Watching them last year in the open at a sunny Old Trafford cricket ground with the light fading and aircraft trails across the sky as they sang ‘Lucky’ was …….. I’m sorry I have no words.

A CD of theirs is an adventure in moods. I sincerely hope no one ever releasses a ‘best of’ or I will scream (albeit very tastefully, in a supressed middle class way). They now say that full albums are no more: individual downloads are the way forward.

Anyhoo, my song of redemption is the only song I ever paid to download and best of all, all proceeds go to charidee. Find it here

It is ‘Harry Patch: in memory of’. Released just before Harry Patch, our last WW1 veteran died. It is stunning… beautiful and moves me to manly tears. With the sparse, Bartok-like strings it evokes the horrors better than any media I know….

‘i am the only one that got through
the others died where ever they fell
it was an ambush
they came up from all sides

i’ve seen devils coming up from the ground
i’ve seen hell upon this earth

I’m blogging all week on songs which move me. It’s half term and my brain is fried.

Songs of redemption opus 5

One indisputable fact: you cannot have a ‘songs of redemption’ without having Leonard Cohen.


Another indisputable fact: his is the best ever version of ‘Hallelujah’ (in fact, in a random survey of my two children who were trapped in a car and subjected to repeat playing of Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley, they both went for ‘the old man’).

Another indisputable fact: the using of it as a song on the X Factor deserved at least a 20 year stretch for crimes against art.

What is not to like about this song? You would have to be dead or the kind of person who only bought ‘Best Ofs’ not to be brought prostate by this song. I know the stories about 80 plus verses written for this song, but the ones he kept in his version are beyond fantastic. If I really listen to it, it is hard to get through it without a lump in the throat. I’m still toying with it as a funeral song:-

‘And even though it all went wrong;

I’ll stand before the Lord of song,

With nothing on my lips, but Hallelujah’

..amazing. Take me now Jesus……….

A reminder: it’s half term- I’m all out of deep thoughts so I’m blogging songs (excluding U2). That’s cos it’s my blog.

Songs of Redemption opus 4


Years ago, when I lived in North Wales I went to a concert (North Wales was to rock concerts what reasoned open debate is to the British National Party) and there was this excellent support act called Booley. In the words of Victor Kiam: ‘I liked him so much I bought his CD’. There are some songs on that CD that I still play and have the power to move me, still.

A while ago I found out that he had been reincarnated as Duke Special- I went out and bought ‘Songs from the Deep Forest’ (Amazon marketplace and ebay is a curse for a Methodist minister on a limited income who is trying to be delivered from an addiction to cds) and it was just so…different (I told you I didn’t do music journalism well). I feel several cliches coming on, viz: it was amazing/it blew me away/it moved me so much yadda yadda yadda.

There is so much on there that could be a song of redemption (‘This could be my last day’ for instance). Instead, I’ll go for ‘Freewheel’ which has one of the best descriptions of following God and being honest that I have found, with lyrics as far away from ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ as it is possible to be…

‘You’re a face in the distance I hope to recognize,

But it’s running through deep water trying to look into your eyes’


A reminder: it’s half term- I’m all out of deep thoughts so I’m blogging songs (excluding U2). That’s cos it’s my blog.

Songs of redemption opus 3

Low trust

I think I have seen Low 3 times. Their concerts feel like Communion more than concerts. The kind of concerts where I just want to fall backwards and expect to be carried to heaven…. time stops, thoughts cease….

Don’t know what the style is: ‘low-fi’, ‘slow core’ or maybe just ‘Low’.

I could pick almost any song of theirs and feel connected/together. The one that does it every time is ‘In the drugs’. I think you would have to be less than human not to cry/experience lots of goosebumps/feel lit up inside every time you hear this…. I’m not going to quote any lyrics…. they seem unimportant as to where the song takes you (I feel a strange urge to write ‘…man’ just there, but I’m not going to… I’m not a hippy, man…ooops…).

I hear this and am redeemed.

Songs of redemption opus 2

It’s Sunday… time for ‘God is in the House’.

No more shall we part

I first encountered Nick Cave through ‘The Boatman’s Call’: I can’t get enough of that CD (who else could write a lyric that goes ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God, but darling I know that you do?’). After that he released ‘No more shall we part’ which I think is nearly as good. Check out his ‘Introduction to the book of Revelation’ in ‘Revelation’ published by Canongate books and see if you have ever read a better introduction to that puzzling book.

Stand out song that brings me up short, shocks me and makes me think is ‘God is in the House’. I can’t work out a way to play a music sample of it on here, although you can find a clip on

Why does it? Well it is a great song with a fantastic tune (my prose style tells you that I do not do musicological reviews...)…but the lyrics…. hit you when you make God too small- like a personal household god (I was in a place a few years back when the speaker said ‘God is a good chap’. I’m not honest enough- I should have screamed ‘No…leave the room now. Right now’).

It’s a song about order, about using the idea of ‘God’ to buttress middle america’s (but it could be so easily be middle Britain’s) idea of keeping everything just so…

‘Our little church is painted white
And in the safety of the night
We all go quiet as a mouse
For the word is out
God is in the house’

So anyone not just so is kept out (with typical Nick Cave droll and biting humour):-

‘Well-meaning little therapists
Goose-stepping twelve-stepping Tetotalitarianists
The tipsy, the reeling and the drop down pissed
We got no time for that stuff here
Zero crime and no fear’

…and the song closes in a whisper…

‘For no-one’s left in doubt
There’s no fear about
If we all hold hands and very quietly shout
God is in the house
God is in the house
Oh I wish He would come out
God is in the house’

I love that song. It’s not a popular word, but part of me wants to repent after hearing the song…. I am part of that church culture that makes God like a declawed neutered kitten who merely serves and purrs around our safe politics, excessive materialism and connivance at anything that makes our world position safer.

Oh dear, just got too thoughtful and introspective…

I’m away for a few days, so I may not reply to comments ( he said hopefully…) quickly.

Songs of redemption opus 1

The Verve

It’s half term and my brain is fried (I nearly wrote that my brian was fried. I don’t have a brian and if I did I would not fry him unless he tasted nice). Too fried for deep introspection of the soul anyway.

I’m going to do a few days on songs of redemption that keep me going. Except, they will all be the devil’s music: rock (oh, the irony- did you spot it there?). I’ll do 10 posts: probably enough to fill an old LP.

I promise that no song featured will be U2. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have an obsession that is dangerously close to pathological with that top Irish r’n’b’ combo.

Underneath the irony, I’m serious- rock music has touched me, lifted me, kept me going in ways that a lot (but by no means all) of ‘worship music’ generally hasn’t. I have said it before, but sometimes this is the only sound that helps me.

‘I’ve never prayed but tonight I’m on my knees. I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me’.

(ok, its old, so very 90s and I won’t blog in depth on that one- but that song does it everytime for me; lyrically and musically. If I had been a member of The Verve, I would die a happy man knowing that once in my life I had created Bitter Sweet Symphony).

Should you be so inclined, please chip in during this series with songs that do it for you. If anyone puts down ‘The Laughing Gnome’ though I may have to start a comments policy….

Please note: I am away for a few days so there may be a delay in comments being published.



I get sent a quote a day from which is really worth signing up for.

I got this last week:-

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually–let them grow,
Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


I really don’t like the idea of ‘slow’ as in sat around in beatific contemplation…although a bit of that from time to time doesn’t do anyone any harm. ‘Perhaps God prefers to travel at 3mph’ was how I began this series…so there is movement, but it is deliberate. I like a doctor or dentist who travels at 3mph…. they are easier to talk to and tend to diagnose better. Perhaps as a result they seem to do more or paradoxically need to do less. I’m no expert…just a patient.

I’m thinking that a minister who did this or who followed the above quote might be the same, might be less anxious, could well be found at the centre of parties and perhaps would be a good deal less ‘precious’.

And I’d like to be that person. Just a little bit.

‘Perhaps God prefers to travel at 3mph’.

‘Be strong, and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the Lord’(Ps 31:24 NRSV)

(From tommorrow for a few days, I’m going trivial…)


‘Perhaps God prefers to travel at 3mph’.

I’ll be honest: yesterday’s post was aimed squarely at me and some of the issues that I feel are besetting me right now. I don’t want to go fully into it…. but big questions…. an old ministry question in the local area that nearly drove me into the ground just before my sabbatical is returning….raising issues about the unsuitable nature of the place I live in for the job I do (and expecting a wall of resistance. Manses are something that would make me leave Methodism…rant rant…) and other stuff that is big big big. It may just be a ‘5 year itch’. I don’t know..

Can it really be:-


That good things come to those who wait? That God prefers to travel at 3mph? I’m wondering when I will become aware of that….. and I’m hoping that it is the equivalent of a pint of Guinness that will come after my waiting and not Guinness marmite as I don’t like marmite (and especially not Marmite best before July 2008).

See; that is the great thing with preaching and blogging- you get to address yourself and face up to your questions all the time….

‘Perhaps God prefers to travel at 3mph’.