I've been on an iTunes drive. My PC has died, and now my laptop is ill, so a new computer is in the offing - and in the meantime, I've been letting my iPhone take the strain. As it won't actually sync with this laptop, I've had to buy some new music. Hence, iTunes...
OK. I'll start with the worship stuff. Then some jazz. And finally a classical blitz.
A couple of years back I bought (and genuinely loved) Chris Tomlin's Hello Love. I still listen to this a lot, and it's now available here with JD Walt's My Beloved as a bonus track - a song we use a lot. Beautiful. The whole album is just great. So I bought the follow-up, And If Our God Is For Us with high hopes. Always a mistake. Some of it sounds good, but pretty much all of it sounds bland. I mean, the title track is monumental in a monumental kind of way - but can I remember a single tune? When I listen to it, do I think, "We must sing this at church?" No and no. With the previous album, I not only thought "Yes!" but we actually do sing the songs.
Still full of hope, I followed up this purchase with Here For You from the Passion movement in the States - think Soul Survivor with accents - as I'd seen that early sales had sent it to no.11 in the Billboard charts, so it must be good, right? Chris Tomlin headlines, but there are lots of other guys in the mix.
Well, it's more varied than AIOGIFU, (not a tough ask), but again I was disappointed. I remember buying the Passion album with How Great is Our God on it & thinking, "Wow! So 'live' worship albums can sound really good!" This sounds really...the same. I guess I will listen when I need background worshippy type stuff. Maybe you had to be there. Maybe I'm just too old.
And then along comes a contemporary worship album that tells me I'm not too old for something if it's good. Lovely lovely Tim Hughes. Love Shine Through is not consistant. It isn't brilliant from start to finish. But it's title track does show Chris Tomlin just how to sound monumental and memorable all at the same time. And it's opener Counting on Your Name (you get it several times on the Deluxe version) has a typically strong hook on an album that is all about the hook (and I'm tempted simply to list nearly every chorus). Though for me it's the softer tracks that catch me - often the way with Tim's writing. Keep the Faith is a gem. The gentler version of At Your Name is beautiful - though both versions raise a pet peeve of mine. Please, Yahweh is not God's name and there's no reason to spoil a wonderful song with such awful cod-theology. Yahweh is an anglicisation of an unpronouncable word too holy to say or sing. If you want a name for God, try Jesus - there is no other name given to us. Yahweh is theological balderdash. And though I will use this song, sorry Tim - it will need a re-write just here.
Apologies. I'll get off my high horse. Because this is a great worship album, and you should have a copy. Now.
Another record on my iPod comes from 1953. I had bought a brand new big band recording, The Syd Lawrence Orchestra's Night at the Movies. Hmm. It sounds great on some equipment and OK on others, which happens, and at times I want to turn the vibrato on the trumpets off and then add a little to the trombones, and just occasionally I wish they'd splashed out on a real male singer... I love these guys. They are a great touring band. and the best of this album (for me Marcel McTattie LeCoq) swings magnificently - and yet I kind of come away wanting, you know, a bit more?
Which is what I got from my 1953 album. A 'live' recording of Ted Heath & His Music At the London Palladium in the days when Decca knew how to record a big band. Who cares it's in mono? It is amazingly recorded. The band is phenomenal. Each soloist superb. Ronnie Verrell on drums a powerhouse. A mix of swing, be-bop, ballads and all-round big band jazz pleasure, this is how to do it. The Champ & The Hawk Talks stand out for me - but then so does every track. At around £4 as an introduction to British Big Band music - buy it. It's not the easiest listen, but it's great. I actually own the 1953 LP for this, as my dad bought it back in the day, and I snaffled it off him. The download misses out all the crackles but none of the the fizz!
Talking ancient history, the very first classical LP I ever bought was Mozart Symphonies 40 & 41. The very first classical LP I ever bought & enjoyed was Beethoven Piano Concerto no 5. That version, by Robert Casadesus with George Szell & the Cleveland Orchestra is only available on download as part of a huge set - I have it on CD and wasn't about to get all of that for my iPhone. But I read a review in the Telegraph of a new recording by Yevgeny Sudbin with the Minnesota Orchestra, and so acquired that instead. Coupled with the 4th Concerto, it is lively, refreshing, occasionally surprising & though it will never replace Casadesus in my heart, it's a very good version.
Finally (for now - you always think of something else with iTunes - it's a blessing & a curse) I've just bought tickets to go see my favourite opera at Welsh National come the end of May. Turandot. There are many, many recordings of this available, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest. It's forty years old and will probably remain the standard for some time. Shamefully, I bought the highlights not the whole opera, but the highlights disc has the concert ending to Nessun Dorma, which feels great in the car! Joan Sutherland, singing Turandot, a role she never sang on stage, is glorious - powerful, beautiful, glorious. Montserrat Caballe as Liu occasionally sounds a little too like Sutherland, but this is power casting. And then there is the youthful Pavarotti at his very, very best, turning in a sensational Calaf. Zubin Mehta conducts - I saw him once run the pit at Florence, and despite an all-star cast there, it was the orchestra I remember. Occasionally that happens here. The London Philharmonic turn in an astoundingly ravishing performance, again brilliantly recorded by Decca (not just good at big bands).
Hmm. You know, I think I worshipped a lot more to the Puccini than the Tomlin? Sorry. My heart leapt and soared and my face beamed with joy as I drove along. Not that I thought much of Giacomo's stuff would do for the congregation... And maybe I need to put a lock on my iTunes account before I think of something else - oh, hang on...