Ian Anderson Wondrin’ Aloud about Canes, Questions, Cathedrals… and John Cleese

Ian AndersonTracing the spiritual thread through Jethro Tull’s catalogue is a puzzling job. On Aqualung – the album that catapulted them up the ranks of classic rock bands – singer Ian Anderson was clearly angry with the Church, which could explain the somewhat pagan stance that he seemed to take on later, more rural albums like Songs from the Wood.

When it came to his solo records, one instrumental commission called Divinities had a distinctly multi-faith cover.

All of this made it surprising that Tull then released a proper Christmas album that included some pro-Jesus songs among the traditional carols. Anderson has also been performing regular charity concerts to support church buildings. His new release, The String Quartets, was recorded in Worcester Cathedral and sports the logo of The Churches Conservation Trust in its liner notes.

So does this constitute a coming to faith or a maturing of his world view? And what caused that early vitriol?

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Dave Bainbridge – the Solo Work

Dave Bainbridge Goodbye Iona, hello Celestial Fire.

Dave Bainbridge’s unique Celtic/prog/ rock /folk band is on hiatus, but with his new band Celestial Fire he has taken its more combustible elements and thrown on another can of musical petrol. Fiery it certainly is.

After so long working in a band context, where ideas only progress if every member is happy with them, the Celestial Fire solo album let him release his inner prog-head.
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Future of Forestry – Awakened to the Sound

(Sound Swan Records)
If Eric Owyoung (who is FoF) is looking for soundtrack commissions, he could do worse than submit this collection, which mixes lush strings, oriental splashes and a dash of Isaiah.

A year ago, he released an EP of re-worked earlier tracks with the self-explanatory title The Piano and Strings Sessions. It was one step further for the classically trained musician on the route from indie rock artist to almost contemporary classical composer. This album is a far more fully realised widescreen set of songs that peak with grand orchestral sweeps of strings and choral highlights.

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Harriet Lamb goes Bananas for FairTrade

Harriet LambTalk to Harriet Lamb C.B.E. without mentioning bananas? You might as well write a biography of Richard Nixon that skipped over Watergate or write about the FA Cup without mentioning Wembley.

Their bold shape and colour may match her driving passion for what she does, and their fun image suits a woman who laughs a lot and laughs loudly, but she loves the Fairtrade ones,  because they inspire her work by transforming many thousands of lives.

Harriet Lamb is the woman who grew the Fairtrade movement from some £30 million in 2001 to nearly £500 million in 2007, with more than 4,500 retail and catering products carrying the Fairtrade mark.

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Spiritual Protein for your Music Menu

If you have come here from the Christianity Magazine article “Lies our Worship Music Culture Tells Us” then welcome to you.  There was so much I wanted to add, but space was too short. So here are here are some recommended albums and songs with Spiritual Protein to add to our musical diet, to counter-balance the lighter stuff that we are often fed.
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Paperback (and Hardback) Writer: Steve Turner on his book Beatles ’66

Steve TurnerWriter Steve Turner must have one of the best jobs in the world.

He gets to be creative every day, writing about things and people that interest him. He has the platform to put out his view of the world in poetry. He has had a film made about him. He gets to work with musicians he holds in high regard (and vice versa – in a Guardian article in 2006, his daughter wrote that Bono once gave her a hug and said, “I’m a big fan of your Dad”).
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Vox Clamantis: The Deer’s Cry (Music by Arvo Pärt)

Vox Clamantis

Arvo Pärt’s music comes in various shades, and for those of us who prefer the most calm-inducing pieces, this release, which features shorter and more recent compositions, is a great find.

No one does Pärt like ECM and these seventeen voices create a collection as peaceful and pure as any I have yet heard.

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2016 in Music: Shock and Awe

Bowie Blackstar
The biggest musical occurrence of 2016 was arguably a death. David Bowie’s demise was a Shock-and-Awe event: shock that it happened and awe at the way Bowie orchestrated his passing.

Rather than fading away, Bowie created an album that – with hindsight – dropped enormous clues about the cancer that was ravaging his body, but (testament to the respect that he had earned) no collaborators spilled the beans, and neither did anybody guess from the clues given. And with dramatic timing, the album Blackstar was released just two days before he died.

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The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream – the Best Christian Album to Come out in Decades?

Neal Morse Band
After living with the Neal Morse Band’s The Similitude of a Dream for several weeks, I haven’t been as excited about an album release since… the band’s previous one.

And that’s with some 70 reviews in between.

No wonder that drummer Mike Portnoy posted that this was the best album he has made. Coming from a man with a career in Transatlantic, Dream Theater and Flying Colors, that is saying something.

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Anomalisa (DVD)

AnomalisaThis beautifully animated work brushes with many questions about life, relationships and the value we place on individuals.

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