Wednesday, July 31, 2013

my favorite albums... 80 to 71

Continuing on my own personal list of my all time favorite albums, CDs, records, digital copies and so forth...

My 100 to 91st Favorite Albums of All Time
My 90 to 81st Favorite Albums of All Time

"The Way That I Am" by Martina McBride (1993)... It was very tempting to go with "The Greatest Hits" from Martina... she's a country icon, one of my favorite voices and let's be honest, very easy on the eyes.  But this, her second album (following "The Time Has Come") is just amazing.  The one negative about any greatest hits compilation is the track lineup... the original albums were arranged for the music to flow perfectly, and in a best-of, its mostly just hit after hit, or in chronological order.  Martina's "Greatest" is an awesome set... but "The Way That I Am" has "Life #9" and "My Baby Loves Me" and the heart wrenching "Where I Used to Have a Heart" and her signature song, "Independence Day"... few times has a woman taking revenge on an abusive husband sounded so doggone awesome.  By far, my favorite track.

"Even Worse" by Weird Al Yankovic (1988)... Michael Jackson was always a good sport when it came to Weird Al's parodies, and this takeoff of MJ's "Bad" was no different.  The lead single, "Fat" is hysterical ("the sidewalk cracks... when I fall down... I've got more chins than Chinatown... ham on... ham on whole wheat, alright..."), and the video is even better.  But the jokes keep on coming, including "This Song is Just Six Words Long", a rendition of George Harrison's "I've Got My Mind Set On You" and "I Think I'm a Clone Now", from Tiffany's (and Tommy James & the Shondells) "I Think We're Alone Now"... my favorite is the original "Good Ole Days", a James Taylor'esque look back at the days of yon... "do you remember sweet Michelle, she was my high school romance... she was fun to talk to, and nice to smell, so I took her to the homecoming dance... well, I tied her to a chair and shaved off all her hair, and left her in the desert all alone... well, sometimes in my dreams I can still hear her scream, oh I wonder if she ever made it home... those were the good old days..."

"Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture" (1978)... Who doesn't love "Grease"?  Its the kind of film that when you see it on the big screen at special theater shows, you can sing along to everything.  In college, I saw it with a group of friends, and all we did was sing, or at least mouth the words, and do the hand jive during the TV show taping.  If you pick this one up, make sure you get the full album... there is a single disc CD that has the major stuff on it, but there is a 2-disc set that has all of it... you want that.  Its hard to pick a favorite, though... "Hopelessly Devoted To You" is sweet... "Summer Nights" is fun... "You're the One That I Want" is great... and I do love "Sandy", as silly as it is. 

Two thoughts on "Grease", since we are on the subject...

1) You do.not.understand how dirty and innuendo filled "Greased Lightning" is until you get older and are able to understand such things.  Its like "Walk this Way" or "Pour Some Sugar On Me"... nothing but musical sex dressed up with fun phrases that mislead a 12 year old into singing along.

2) This was the cassette I was listening to when I had my first wreck.  I was driving along through Elba, Alabama, not paying attention, singing along to the title song, "Grease", and ran a red light.  I smashed into the side of an Oldsmobile with a couple of brothers in it.  They weren't happy, but I didn't get beat up.  Which was good. 

And as a 12 year old boy, how cool is this album cover? I
just don't feel like they do cool album art anymore... its
an afterthought now, in this day and age of mp3s and
iTunes and immediate downloads...
"Hysteria" by Def Leppard (1987)... When I was 12, my brother Shawn had acquired this tape from a friend of his, this band called Def Leppard.  On it was this song that just had hit the radio, "Pour Some Sugar On Me", this sexually charged party anthem that would go on to become an all time classic and a mainstay on rock stations forever.  Again, like in the previous album review, we didn't know the full meaning of the song, we just liked singing "I'm hot, hot, so hot, sticky sweet!" at the top of our lungs.  Anyway, I really liked what I heard... rock like "Armageddon It", whatever the crap that even means... "Rocket" and "Animal" and "Don't Shoot Shotgun"... this album rules.  I mean, they have a one-armed drummer!  My favorite track: "Hysteria"

"Sleepless in Seattle" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1993)... As the years go on, this movie holds up.  And I think it will be shown on cable and E! and the TV Guide Channel and Hallmark for decades.  Part of the charm of this film, though, is the music.... and to 17 year old me, it was my first real introduction to the likes of Jimmy Durante, Ricky Lee Jones and Nat King Cole.  Every track is gold, no moment is wasted, and everything has its own special place in the movie... my favorite track is hard to choose, but its probably something sing-along-able, like Harry Connick Jr's "A Wink and a Smile" or the classic "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" by Louis Armstrong.

"Greatest Hits" by Keith Whitley (1990)... For those who have no idea who Keith Whitley is, you probably know his music... or at least, "When You Say Nothing At All", a song later made even more famous by Alison Krauss.  The late 80s featured Whitley in heavy rotation on a ton of country stations, featuring such now-classics as "Miami, My Amy"... "Don't Close Your Eyes"... and "I'm No Stranger to the Rain".  And that's what made it so sad when on May 9, 1989, he was found dead, face down in his bed, fully clothed, after a weekend of drinking and partying.  The official report was alcohol poisoning, with a blood level of .477--that's equal to 20 1oz shots of 100-proof whiskey.  I'm not a drinker, but that seems to be heckuva lot of the booze.  Like Tupac, Keith Whitley's music was released long after his death.  My favorite cut on the album: "Don't Close Your Eyes"

So... could I be the first person to ever put Tupac Shakur and Keith Whitley in the same sentence?  Maybe.  I hope so.  We all have to have goals.

"Cooleyhighharmony" by Boyz II Men (1991)... I love me some Nate, Mike, Shawn and Wanya... no joke.  Its often joked how similar some of their songs are, with the slower pace and the deep voice speaking about "Baby, come back, I know its tough, but I know we can make it" or something like that.  Doesn't matter, though, because Boyz II Men sounded great in all their music. This was their first album, and it was an R&B masterpiece, with "Uhh Ahh", and the song that would end up being the Samson High School 1993 Class Song, "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday"... and of course, the incredibly cool "Motownphilly", which makes you move.

Do they still do class songs?  I wanted ours to be "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart.  Someone else pushed hard for "Free Bird" by Skynyrd.  I'll take "Its So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday", even though it was featured in a funeral scene for a teenage gangbanger in "Lethal Weapon 3".

In 1994, any picture with the Friends gang in it was a
picture you wanted to be in.  We don't think about it
much now, but back then, this show was a huge'
cornerstone in so many lives, especially those in
high school and like myself, in college
"Friends Original TV Soundtrack" (1995)... Like the TV Soundtrack to Ally McBeal, this is one that stayed in heavy rotation in my CD player... well, at first my tape player, then my CD player... for a long time.  "Sunshine" by Paul Westerberg became a daily sing along with me, while "Shoe Box" was fun to blare while speeding up Highway 231... plus, Hootie & the Blowfish's "I Go Blind" was awesome, as I am a big fan of Hootie, and I ranked "Good Intentions" by Toad the Wet Sprocket as my 2nd favorite song in all of 1995 (behind "Fantasy" by Mariah Carey. Naturally.)   And to top it off, there were bits of dialogue from some episodes intersparsed between tracks... loved it.  Favorite track is definitely "Good Intentions"

"Notting Hill Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1999)... Let me establish that I frickin' love this movie.  I love it.  I love everything about it.  Currently, it sits as my 15th favorite film of all time... its just wonderful.  Like "Sleepless in Seattle", the music is a big, big part of it.  Its got your typical love song stuff, "You've Got a Way" by Shania Twain and "I Do (cherish you)" by 98 Degrees... there is an Elvis Costello cover of "She" that is pretty great... but there are three that pop out and make this entire albu\m shine--"How Do You Mend a Broken Heart" from The Rev'rn Al Green... the incomparable Bill Withers doing "Ain't No Sunshine... and Steve Winwood leading The Spencer Davis Group, rocking out on "Gimme Some Loving", one of the best party songs in the history of the world.  All three are immaculate tunes.

By the way... the scene when "Ain't No Sunshine" comes in, when Will (Hugh Grant) walks down the street and you see the seasons pass him by as he walks--so underrated as a visual montage.  I mean, just incredible. 

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson (1982)... Okay.  Its Michael Jackson.  It's "Thriller".  Its "Billie Jean".  Its "Beat It".  Its "P.Y.T. (pretty young thing)".  Its "Human Nature".  And it's one of the best jams in the history of great jams... "Wanna Be Starting Something".  Nothing else I can say... if you say you like Michael Jackson, you need to either buy, or at least listen to this soon.

So, I rave about it, but why isn't it higher on the list?  Well... because its at 71.  That's how this works.  There are 70 albums I like better than Thriller.  So there.


Another soundtrack that I really enjoy is the 1997 "My Best Friend's Wedding" music.  I mean, its fluffy and love-struck, like most rom-coms, but sometimes the guy who puts these things together really outdoes himself.   The opening cut is the signature song from the film, "I Say a Little Prayer (for you)", this version done by Diane King... then the song that opens the movie itself, Ani DiFranco's version of "Wishin and Hopin'"... Jimmy Soul's comical "If You Wanna Be Happy"... and how can you beat Tony Bennett's "The Way You Look Tonight" (okay... Sinatra's is better, but Tony's is pretty good)... and towards the end of the album, you have the cast version of "Say a Little Prayer (for you)", from the famous dinner scene in the movie.  My favorite, though, and one of my all time favorite songs--at least in my Top 50--is Amanda Marshall's ode to letting go of someone you love, called "I'll Be Okay".  Holy crap is this song brutal.  Awesome, but brutal. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

the grace abuser

What can I say... I'm a sinner.  Pretty pathetic, if you ask me.

I know the Word, so I can't play ignorant... I just simply turn the other way many times, and the problem is, many times, I'm not sure I care so much.  I enjoy what I do, I enjoy doing my own thing many times, and... well, I'm just too lazy.  I'm too lazy to sometimes do the right thing, I like the easy way out, whatever makes me feel nice and doesn't make me have to work for anything.  Its just easier. 

Here's what Romans 7: 15 - 25 has to say, according to The Message... Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different

What I seem to keep forgetting is that Jesus Christ... well, He's got this.  He's got it.  I am a screw up, but He's got redemption with my name on it.  As Out of the Grey once sang, "Grace Abounds and I'm the Chief Abuser".

It sounds like a pity-party, I know, but its really not... its an admittance.  An admittance of guilt, an admittance of a need for humility and a need for a Savior... and what better way to express it than the Sinner Anthem, a song by Chris Rice from the Deep Enough to Dream album, called "Clumsy"...

Think I'd have it down by now... I've been practicing for 24 years.

Should have walked a 1000 miles... what am I still doing here?

Reaching out for the same ol' piece of forbidden fruit
I slip and fall and knock my halo loose,
Somebody tell me what’s a stupid sinner like me supposed to do?
Gonna get it right this time, I'll be strong and I'll make You proud
Prayed that prayer a 1000 times, the rooster crows and my tears roll down...
You keep reminding me You made me from the dust
And I can never be, no, never be good enough
But You're not gonna let that come between us...

I get so Clumsy... I get so foolish...
I get so stupid... and I'm feeling so useless
But You're saying You love me
And You still want to hold me
Now You want to be near me
Still making me Holy, still making me Holy...

From where I stand Your holiness is up so high
I can barely reach it..
My only hope is to follow Jesus....

I get so Clumsy... I get so foolish...
I get so stupid... and I'm feeling so useless
But You're saying You love me
And You still want to hold me
Now You want to be near me
Still making me Holy, still making me Holy...
Have you ever sinned, been forgiven, and then turned around a little while later and did the same thing again... and then go through this cycle a dozen times?

Aren't you glad that its grace by faith, and not by works?  I get Clumsy, Stupid, Foolish and feel so useless many times... but I am assured in the fact that He made me from the dust, and no matter what--or how good--I do, I will NEVER be good enough...

"...but You're not gonna let that come between us..."


Thursday, July 25, 2013

my favorite albums... 90 thru 81

Welcome back to the show... here's the next set of my all time favorite albums...

The Introduction
My 100th to 91st favorite albums of all time

"Off the Deep End" by Weird Al Yankovic (1992)... I love, have always loved, and will always love, Weird Al Yankovic.  He's just hilarious.  And inventive.  And funny.  And his 7th studio album falls in that love category... he parodies the New Kids on the Block's "The Right Stuff" with an ode to the creamy center of an Oreo, "The White Stuff"... he digs on Milli Vanilli in "The Plumbing Song"... he joins with Cheech Marin in doing some "Rico Suave" as "Taco Grande"... and my favorite of the bunch is the lead single--"Smells Like Nirvana", a great parody of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".  Story goes that Al reached out, somewhat nervously, to Kurt Cobain about doing a Nirvana song.  Cobain asked, "Is your parody about food?"  Al replied, "Well... uh... no.  Its actually about how no one can understand your lyrics..."  Cobain loved the idea, the song and the video that accompanied it.  As he should.  Its brilliant.

"Songs from Ally McBeal" by Vonda Shepard (1998)... This will fall into the category of "CDs I listened to continually for a long, long time, but haven't heard in a long, long time..."  I used to love me some Ally McBeal, as well as the music... and most of the music from the first few seasons was done by singer-songwriter Vonda Shepard... the CD is mostly covers like "Walk Away Renee" and "Just Ask the Lonely", but my favorite is the Ally McBeal theme song, "Searching My Soul". 

Wait... I just found out that Vonda Shepard is the same Vonda Shepard that duets with Dan Hill on the 80s cheesefest "Can't We Try"... how did I not know this?  I mean, how many Vonda Shepards making music can there be?  Why didn't I make this connection?  I'm losing my touch...

"Purple" by Stone Temple Pilots (1994)... I have to give props to my high school buddy Greg Avant for turning me on to this band... I'll tell that story later, but "Purple" is their second CD, and its just so, so good.  "Interstate Love Song" is the one that got the most play on the radio, but there are other gems here... like "Big Empty", a song that was later featured in "The Crow" soundtrack, and the oddly named, great sounding "Meat Plow".  I'm not a huge heavy metal fan, but I loved me some STP.  Of course, this was truly the last great album they made... their next CD, "Tiny Music from the Vatican Gift Shop" was good, but just not the same magic as their first one, and this one.  Favorite track: Vasoline

Unfortunately, Scott Weiland, the frontman for STP, was buzzed on heroin for much of the early STP years.  And he sounded awesome.  And when he got clean, STP suffered.  I know, its a terrible thing... but I miss Heroin Addicted Scott Weiland.  Maybe he just shoot up for recording sessions, remaining closely supervised by doctors, and then immediately go into rehab.  That's probably why I'm not a music producer.

"Surfacing" by Sarah McLachlan (1997)... I do love me some Sarah Mac.  I procured tickets to see her in concert once, while working at a radio station.  We sat next to the Paepckes' (Jon from NBC13 and his wife Jennifer)... and the four of us might have been the only four straight people in the entire arena.

Anyway, "Surfacing" is the fourth studio album from Sarah, and containing some excellent songs like "Building a Mystery" and the grew-on-me-over-the-years "Adia".  Loses points, however, for the inclusion of "Angel", a really slow song already that has been forever marred because its the music used by the ASPCA, showing you pictures of one eyed puppies, three legged kittens and retarded horses to guilt you into sending them money.  That song is ruined.  Favorite track, though? "Sweet Surrender".  Looooove me some "Sweet Surrender".

"House of Love" by Amy Grant (1994)... The early 90s were really tough on Mrs. Grant.  She made a highly successful crossover to pop music with "Heart in Motion", released in 1991 and was on the short list of albums for this Top 100... things weren't going well, though.  She separated from singer/songwriter Gary Chapman, and while in that separation, she met country superstar Vince Gill, who appears on this album, in a duet for the title track.  Gary and Amy finalized their divorce in 1999, and in 2000, she married Vince, himself previously married to a chick from Sweethearts of the Rodeo. 

Personally, I think she fell in love with Vince in the mid to late 90s, still married to Gary... but I also think they knew years before the divorce that the marriage was doomed.   Listen to 1997's  "Behind the Eyes", the album that came after this--its pretty painful.  Her heart was broken.  How did this turn into an Amy Grant story?

"House of Love" is fun, light, and peppy, especially with "Lucky One", a somewhat winkwink nudgenudge to the art of Christian lovin'... I dig her version of "Oh How the Years Go By"... I like "Children of the World"... but my favorite has to be the title track, "House of Love"

"Caedmon's Call" by Caedmon's Call (1997)... Like many of you, I find new bands because someone says "These guys are awesome, you should check them out."  That's how I discovered The Weepies (Thanks Hannah Pruitt!) and The Lemonheads (Thanks Mike Dunn!  You stole my girlfriend, but at least I have the Lemonheads to listen to!)... and one summer in 1997, doing summer missions with the Baptist Association in Montgomery, Alabama, this dude named Jason said, "You need to listen to Caedmon's Call.  They are awesome."  And they were.  They are.  From the opening "Lead of Love" to the great closer, "Coming Home", and everything in between, its guitar worship Jesus praise, and its great.  "This World" is an amazing take on how this is not our home, "I Just Don't Want Coffee" could be a theme song for me, and "Close of Autumn" is one of my Life Songs, or songs that most affected my Christian Walk

"Serious Hits... Live" by Phil Collins (1990)... Phil is one of those guys who was pretty awesome in a band--Genesis--and had a pretty awesome solo career, at least early.  Then he kinda became a wuss.  (See "Adams, Bryan").  Anyway, on this live CD you get some pretty serious hits live, like "Do You Remember" and "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven", which are from the studio album before this "But Seriously...", but you also get some earlier stuff, including "Easy Lover" and "In the Air Tonight".  And there is an incredible version of "Separate Lives", and my favorite Phil Collins song "I Wish It Would Rain Down".  Did you also know that Phil is the father of Lily Collins, the big sis in "The Blindside"?  Yup. 

At some point, this exchange actually happens:
Paula:  Have you ever been in love?
Keanu: If I was... I didn't know it...
Glorious.  Brilliant.  Poignant.  Ridiculous.  All in one. I frickin love
the "Rush Rush" video...
"Spellbound" by Paula Abdul (1991)... And we get our first repeat artist of the countdown... I gotta be honest.  For a long time, I had "Forever Your Girl" ranked this high, and "Spellbound" was among the discarded nominations... but I took a long look at the track listing, and even pulled up iTunes and took a listen at "Vibeology" (oh so funky) and "The Promise of a New Day" (positive vibes along for the ride) and "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" (soft and melodic) and of course, "Rush Rush", which can only be truly appreciated if you watch the most ridiculous video in the history of mankind.  I mean, Keanu Reeves is portraying James Dean.  Read that sentence again. 

"A Maze of Grace" by Avalon (1997)... Yes, in the 90s, trios and quartets in Contemporary Christian Music were almost a dime a dozen.  Sometimes it was hard to tell your Sierra from your The Waiting from Silage from PFR to FFH to Big Tent Revival... they all kind of sounded alike, even with different sounds and styles... and somehow, Avalon kinda sounded like that too.  But, to me, they stood out with this CD... This, their 2nd album, was magical, as it contained great worship music like "Adonai" and "Dreams I Dream For You"... oh, and this monster hit you couldn't get away from, "Testify To Love".  Don't get me wrong, its a great song, but in 1997-98, that song was EVA.REE.WHERE... I mean, all over.  And yes, I know all the words.  My favorite tunes on this album though, are the awesome strong-in-faith song "World Away" and the love song to God, "Reason Enough"

"Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live from Central Park" by Sheryl Crow (1999)... I do love Sheryl Crow. Ever since her first album, "Tuesday Night Music Club", which as you might guess, you'll hear about later, I have enjoyed her music, her writing and her style... that's changed a bit in the last six or seven years, as I kinda feel like she's become a little flaky for my tastes, as you can read here in a post from years ago, but that doesn't change her work in the 90s.  This live CD features Eric Clapton, The Dixie Chicks, Chrissy Hynde from The Pretenders, Stevie Nicks and Sarah McLachlan, an incredible line-up, and... well, this CD is just fun.  My favorite track is the duet with Stevie Nicks, on a cover of "Gold Dust Woman"


My first three CD purchases... 1) The Monkees box set... 2) The Pulp Fiction Soundtrack... and ...

The Hit Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber (1995)... I don't know who sings these songs, and the liner notes are somewhere around here, I dunno... but I love "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" from Evita, a musical I don't really ever care to see... and I thought this version of "Memories" from CATS was incredible, even though I've seen CATS twice and it sucked both times... and of course, the title song from "The Phantom of the Opera" will rock your world... and "Jesus Christ Superstar"?  Holy crap that song is a jam.  And I got it all from this CD, on sale for $11.95, at On Cue in Troy, Alabama.

Monday, July 22, 2013

my favorite albums... 100 to 91

Didja read the intro?  Do that first.

And now... drumroll please... my 100 favorite albums of all time...

"Found a Place" by FFH (2000)... Poppy and light, but still a great devotional/worship album.  Be it a catchy tune about having the faith of "Daniel", or a prayer to be used however He sees fit, like in "Lord Move or Move Me", every song is a great devotion.  My favorite is the simple praise song "Be My Glory"... check that one out on iTunes, if nothing else.

"Forever Your Girl" by Paula Abdul (1989)... Nowadays, Paula Abdul is somewhat of a punchline.  Somewhat strange, flaky, rambling, a bubble of fluff and rainbows when she appeared on American Idol for what seemed like forever ago.  But back in the day, she was a hot dancer who became a hot singer who sang awesome stuff like "Opposites Attract", with some dude named MC Scat Cat.  She did a video where she had a romance with an animated, smoking cat!  And she was praised for it!  I love this CD.  My favorite cut is the title track, "Forever Your Girl".

"Cocktail" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1988)... My cousins Shannon and Frankie Jr, and his girlfriend at the time, were down from Virginia with family visiting us in Samson, Alabama, and the four of us decided to go to the movies.  Now, this is in Enterprise, Alabama, where you go to the Clark Cinemas--whichever movie you want, that's the window you went to.  Want this film, go to the left, want that film, go to the right, with the concession stand in the middle.  That night, Shannon and I went to see "Hot to Trot", with Bobcat Goldthwait and Frankie Jr and his chick went to see "Cocktail".  After our movies were over, we met in the parking lot.  Frankie Jr raved about "Cocktail", so we all went to see it.  Mine and Shannon's second film of the night, their 2nd time viewing the movie.  And at the time, I thought the movie was awesome.  Now?  Eh. Its okay, I guess.

The soundtrack is rollicking, though.  Its known for two main songs:  Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and the love it or hate it "Kokomo" by The Beach Boys, which subsequently led to a reunion and a new tour and John Stamos on drums.  No, I'm not kidding.

But the real gems are the covers of "All Shook Up" by Ry Cooder, and the original "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard.  It also features John Cougar Mellencamp, Starship and a bombastic Fabulous Thunderbirds on "Powerful Stuff"... my favorite of the bunch, though, is the "Hippy Hippy Shake" by the Georgia Satellites, which sometimes runs through my head when I'm rockin' at the espresso bar at Starbucks. 

"Third Day" by Third Day (1996)... At the beginning of my huge Christian music fandom, and what I consider the growing-up of the CCM industry, there was a band out of Atlanta that emerged.  They released this album with a bus on the front, and called it "Third Day"... this was after a few years of playing around the area, growing the fandom and releasing a few indie albums.  They have release 8 studio albums and 2 worship CDs since then, but to me, their first is by far the best.  It kicks off with "Nothing at All", then continues the bluesy rock with songs like "Blackbird", "Consuming Fire", and maybe the most well known from this CD, "Thief".  My favorite is "Take My Life", a soft, worship tune that I first heard when my frat brother Jason White strummed it on guitar.

"Momentum" by Toby Mac (2001)... Not sure that dcTalk will ever unite.  Makes me sad. That being said, Toby Mac is awesome.  Christian rap and hip hop sometimes gets a bad... well, rap... because... well... its usually awful.  I mean, most rap is awful, and Christian rap isn't much different.  But Toby Mac somehow makes it work.   And on "Momentum", there are shades of dcTalk all through, but it comes alive when you have guests like Kirk Franklin and GRITS join up.  My favorite track by far is "Irene", but mostly because we did a dance to that song when I did missions in New York City in 2002.  That ruled.

"Greatest Hits" by New Kids on the Block (2008)... Now, I know what you are going to say.  What is that doing on your list.  I know, I know... but I chose to put Greatest Hits and compilations on this list because yes, they are albums, and yes, they are albums I like.  There are several GH on this list, including 2 box sets, and even a few live albums.

What?  You meant "Why are the New Kids on this list?"  Well, because in high school, as a dude, I wasn't allowed to like them.  But as a grown up, I think its probably okay.  And I like this CD--it saves me from having to actually get any of their other stuff.  "Hangin' Tough", "Step by Step", "I'll Be Lovin' You (forever)"... take a listen, they aren't bad.  My favorite?  "Tonight"

"Dirty Dancing" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1987)... Talk about an album to know by heart.  Glancing at the track listing for this record, I know every word to Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes"... every word to Bruce Channel's "Hey Baby!"... and all the cheesy notes to Mickey & Sylvia's "Love is Strange".  And, of course, "(I've had) The Time of My Life" with Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes.  My favorite is "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes.

"Songs You Know By Heart: Jimmy Buffett's Greatest Hit(s)" by Jimmy Buffett (1985)... Its hard to believe that all of these songs were before 1985--in fact, they are all from 1973 to 1979.  And yeah, if you are familiar with Buffett at all, you'll know "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and "Fins" and The Lovely Steph Leann's favorite, "Come Monday"... and of course, "Margaritaville", my favorite from the set.

"La Bamba" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1987)... from a movie in my Top 500, I freakin' loved La Bamba when it came out.  The story of Richie Valens, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, it chronicles the rise of Valens, his stardom and his death, "The day the music died", in a plane crash with The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly.  The music in this movie should have its own credit in the cast list.  TexMex rockers Los Lobos provided all the songs for Valens, and are featured here on the first half of the album--"Donna", "Come On Let's Go", and "La Bamba" included.  The last half is also great, with covers of Buddy Holly's "Crying, Waiting, Hoping", Brian Setzer's version of "Summertime Blues" and the original Bo Diddley classic, "Who Do You Love".  But its the Jackie Wilson cover of "Lonely Teardrops" by Howard Huntsberry that stands out for me.

"Breathless" by Kenny G (1992)... Oh, come on.  In 1992, I liked it.  And guess what?  Its 12x platinum--it sold over 12,000,000 copies.  So, back off.

The problem with cutting it to 100 is there are still so many albums to talk about... so here's one that I loved, but didn't quite make the list:

"The Greatest Hits" by INXS (1994)... Once again, rather than buying all the CDs, I found it easier to just get this one.  And am I glad I did... "Suicide Blonde" with that opening riff... "What You Need" rocks... "Need You Tonight" is fun to sing... and "Beautiful Girls" is awesome.  It loses points though because it doesn't include the cool "Mediate"...

Coming soon... the next 10 favorite albums of all time... including something a little Weird... our first TV soundtrack... and finally, a real, hard rock album...

my all time favorite albums

For those of you who aren't aware... I love lists.  I love ranking things.  I love putting things on a spreadsheet, and moving them up and down, higher than this one, lower than that one, giving myself a definitive list of what's best in any category. 

Entertainment Weekly declared this the best album of
all time.  I disagree.  In fact, there is nary a Beatles
album on my entire list.
Entertainment Weekly gave their list of the 100 Greatest... in everything. 
--Their 100 Greatest Movies (Citizen Kane)...
--Their 100 Greatest TV Shows (The Wire)...
--Their 50 Greatest Plays (Death of a Salesman)...
--Their 10 Greatest Musicals (Guys & Dolls)...
--Their 100 Greatest Books (Anna Karenina)...

and finally.

--Their 100 Greatest Albums (The Beatles' "Revolver")...

I have my list of my movies... I am sure I could throw down a quick list of 25 favorite books (probably not 100... just being real)... And probably my favorite 50 or so TV Shows...

But my favorite albums?  At first, it was easy.  I thought "Eh, my top 25 and that's it..."  Well, when I got to 34, I thought "Oh, well... my favorite 50, right?"  And when I had listed 71, I thought, "Well, geez... guess we are going to 100..."

And when I got to 127, I decided that in order for it to not just become a list of all the albums I liked, I had to make a cutting off point... there had to be hard decisions made.  There had to be cuts.  Some artist, some band, some CD or record or tape would be left off to the side.  It had to be difficult to cut.

Then, I had to establish some rules... just because I dearly love a few songs on the album doesn't mean that I love the whole album.  Hence, the exclusion of "New Miserable Experience" by the Gin Blossoms.   Also, just because I love a few songs on the album doesn't mean I know the whole album well... thus, the exclusion of "The Dutchess" by Fergie.  No, I'm not kidding.

That's difficult too... because sometimes there are tunes you want to mention, and discuss... but that's for the 100 Favorite Songs list.  No, I actually don't have one... not yet, anyway...

And, well... sometimes I just found at least 100 albums I loved more than "Chase the Sun" by The OC Supertones or "Slippery When Wet" by Bon Jovi.  I know, sacrilege. 

Yes.  I think this album is fun.  I mean, its not like the
video for "Fergalicious" has 115 plays on my iPod.  I
mean, that would be silly, right?  Haha... uh... I mean,
who would have that.  That's dumb.  Um... next topic.
Another rule?  I have to either own, or have owned the album in some form... maybe I had the record album when I was a kid, and haven't upgraded... or the cassette that I haven't replaced on CD... or maybe I don't own the CD, but I have a copy in iTunes... or, more than likely, I just own the CD. 

In ranking these albums, I had to decide what they meant to me, how much I loved the entire body of work, and it especially helped if I had a special memory or a season in my life I could attach to it. 

This could also be any kind of album, any genre, any style.  It might be a greatest hits compilation, it might be a compilation of just random artists, or maybe its a soundtrack of tunes.  Doesn't matter, its my list.

Finally... well, its my list.  Love it, hate it, agree, disagree... I would hope that going through my list will spur some of your own memories for yourself...

Starting Monday night... my favorite 100 albums of all time...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

passion that grows on trees

Ever heard of Julia Butterfly Hill?

Probably not. 

The only reason I remember her is that I mentioned her story in something that I wrote in the early part of 2000... see, Julia was this chick who lived in California, and became famous because she moved into a... well, an odd sort of house.  So strange, she even named her house Luna.

Sort of like Tara from Gone with the Wind, but not the same.  She moved in on December 10th, 1997, and lived in that home for 738 days, before finally leaving. 

Wait, did I tell you that Julia was living in a tree?  A tree she named Luna.  She disagreed with the She was living about 180 feet in the air at the top, in order to prevent this tree from being sliced down by loggers.   See, the Pacific Lumber Company was clearing some wooded areas, including some redwood forest trees in Northern California. 

She was a part of a group that was rotating in and out of the trees, in an effort to stop the cutting... people were staying a few days at a time, and they wanted someone to volunteer for a week.   And so Julia said she would.

Julia, branching out.  Two years in a long time.  Quite spacious, though.
I mean, check out that trunk space.  I'll bet the loggers couldn't wait for
her to leaf.  Should I go on?
Says Julia: "An hour and a half after reaching the base of the tree, we got the last of the provisions up. By then it was midnight. Finally, I was able to put on the harness and ascend Luna. It seemed an exhausting eternity before I reached the top. When I finally got there, I untangled myself from the harness and looked around for a place to collapse."

And there she stayed.  For 738 days, she lived on two 6x6 platforms.  She exercised by moving about the branches and trunk.  She didn't wash her feet very often, finding that sap on the bottom of her feet helped her stick to the tree for better traction.

She used solar powered cell phones, became an "in-tree" correspondent for a cable tv show, and commanded an 8 person crew that would hoist supplies up to her as needed.  She slept in a sleeping bag, cooked on a single-burner propane stove. 

Through it all, she suffered from freezing rains, 40+ miles per hour wins due to El Nino, helicopters buzzing around constantly, angry loggers attempting to intimidate her and an actual siege by company security guards.

Finally, on December 18th, 1999, a little over 2 years after climbing to the top, Julia Butterfly Hill struck an agreement with the Pacific Lumber Company... they agreed to preserve Luna the Tree, and all of Luna's brothers and sister trees in a 200 foot radius.  As part of the agreement, $50,000 that was raised by Julia and her activist groups was donated to the logging company, which was in turn, donated to a university for research in forestry.

She has since parlayed this into a lifetime of protests and such, as well as a book deal with her memoirs, being the subject of a documentary and even getting arrested in Ecuador for similar protesting--they didn't respond well... the Ecuadorian president said, "The gringo has been arrested..." and said gringo was soon deported.

Oh, and according to her Wikipedia page, she's a vegan.  I kinda feel like they could saved that 2.3 seconds of typing, because I think we could have done the "lived in a tree to protest logging/vegan" math there...

There are many words you can use to describe Julia Butterfly Hill.




Maybe a need to re prioritize her life.



Yes, Passionate.  Like it or not, this chick was passionate about what she believed in.  Whether you think she's brave and wonderful, or a complete moron... she is passionate.

And I think the difference in enthusiasm and fervor and zeal versus passion is that you can lose the first three quickly... you can be enthusiastic for something one day, and the next day be down and lose it, and the following day be excited again... "fervor", "zeal", kinda the same thing.

But passion is developed.  And lost over time.  And gained back over time.   And we have to be careful not to lose our passion.

I'm pretty sure that maybe on Day 78 of her journey atop a tree, J-Butt might have thought, "What the crap... Am. I. Doing?" and perhaps on Day 123, maybe she thought, "I would love a clean toilet right now" and on Day 201, she might have thought, "So... I have missed the last 48 weeks of Friends... and did Clooney come back to ER?" 

And when the loggers were calling her what I can only imagine are ugly names, she probably shed some tears.  And when Pacific Lumber came to her and said, "Hey, if you come down, we promise we won't cut down THIS tree... just the rest of them..." she might have been tempted to say "Okay, good enough" and come down and had a steak a tofu dog.

But she didn't.  Because she believed in what she was doing so much, she didn't allow her emotions to take over... she didn't let the temptations of a lesser goal to overtake her.  She knew what her goal would be, and was even quoted as saying, "I gave my word to this tree, the forest and to all the people that my feet would not touch the ground until I had done everything in my power to make the world aware of this problem and to stop the destruction."

This tells me that she recognized she couldn't do it all, and she knew there were some limits... but she wouldn't stop until she had done everything she could have done. 

And this is where you come in.  What is your passion?  If you give it up because you get emotionally dinked, its not passion.  Its a hobby.  If you walk away because you settled for a mark way, way before what you believe your passion is, its not passion.  Its just something you enjoy doing.

When the zeal is gone, when you are unenthusiastic about it... if its truly passion, your passion will remain.

And so goes the way of the Christ Follower.  Passion.  Keep chasing God, even when the Spiritual high of a great worship has worn off.  Passion.  To keep working even when you feel as if you aren't making a difference to anyone.  Passion.  When there is no zeal, no fervor, no enthusiasm whatsoever, you keep the pursuit of God in hand.  Passion.

God pursues us with Passion.  Every time we hurt him, every time we turn our backs on him, every time we deny his name and deny the cross, He still comes after us.  With a Passion.

We all are passionate about something... even if its being passionate about not committing to anything.  Even if its just an addiction to the warm fuzzies.  I'm passionate about writing.  About movies.  About my family.  And sometimes, I'm passionate about God... and that's just honesty.

Here's the challenge... to find your Passion, and if it's anything other than the relentless pursuit of God as he pursues us, to channel it to that pursuit.

Let's just hope its not in a tree.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

some you tubery randomness

Just some random things runnin' through my head in the last few days...

In the same vein of things I've shared in recent days, I thought this was worth a look-see... sorta, kinda eye opening...


Doing the deposit at our store, and came across this little gem in the stack of 1 dollar bills...

Thought it was quite a surprising find, but also a neat little reminder.


Have you seen this?   Please... take the time to watch this, especially if you have a child or two.  Or three.  Or none. Its awesome.


In September, I'm headed back to Disney World!  As a part of the Adult Educational Program, I'm going for a week to do some Disney training.  Typically, the agents stay at a deluxe resort, and I was truly hoping for a Polynesian or Contemporary stay... we'll be at The Wilderness Lodge, which I've already stayed in... but I'm not complaining. At. All.

We'll be touring the resorts, possibly be doing a ship tour, possibly touring some other sites on property, and I'm pretty doggone stoked.  I'm actually staying an extra day and a half because I'm hitting the water park as soon as I am clear of the conference... The Lovely Steph Leann does not do water parks for anything, so this is my chance to go!


This is absolutely precious... well, if it wasn't so wrong in 15 different ways.  The serious delivery on this makes me cry from laughing so hard...

Hope you had some laughs with all of this...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

no warm fuzzies allowed

Well... I guess its time to 'fess up.  We're STARTing. 

Let me explain... one of my favorite columnists is Jon Acuff, author of both the blog page and book entitled "Stuff Christians Like", and also the author of a fantastic little book called "Quitter".  Its all about bridging that gap between doing what you have to do--your job--and doing what you love.  It doesn't tell you to quit your job, he tells you to find your passion, and do what it takes to do that. 

His next book is called "START", with a long subtitle of "Punch Fear in the Face / Escape Average / Do Work That Matters".  I know what you are going to say... another Christ Follower with a tried and true method of making you feel all fuzzy and warm, pumping you up, making you raise your head to the Heavens and say, "Yes Lord!  I am made for more than this!  I'll become what you want me to be!!" which is all well and good, until you have to go work the next day.   Or school.  Or re-join the real world in some other fashion

Warm Fuzzies are dangerous.  They make you feel so alive, so loved, so comforted... and yes, you are.  By God, you are loved and comforted.  By your friends, your family, your kids, maybe your spouse, maybe just your besties, but you are loved.   But they give you a false sense of love, of security, and they are the first things to abandon you when times get an inkling of being sorta kinda tough. 

Be it reading a book about STARTing, punching fear all up in its grillz and becoming awesome, or having a throwdown hoedown praise and worship session like no other... warm fuzzies like to take hold.  And when its over, where are the Warm Fuzzies that were all up on you like white on rice on a paper plate on a polar bears back on an Alaskan hillside in a January snowstorm? 


But... what if its not a warm fuzzy?  What if you could avoid the warm fuzzy, and truly find what you want to do, maybe He wants you do?  Find that passion?

My passion, when it boils down to it, is writing.  I love writing.  I love blogging.  Yes, I love Disney, and I love planning trips and so on, that is a passion... but truly, doing what I am doing at this very second, expressing my thoughts to you via Algore's interwebs... that is what I can do.  This is what God has given me the talent to do.

And so I do not want to neglect that.  Hence, pouring hours this week into this website... it was in danger of becoming obsolete.  Or forgotten.  Or just left, with the intentions of continuing, and probably just left in a pile of old blogs that make you do math to figure out when the last post actually was...

I joined a START group on Facebook, and it was there that I was spurred to continue.  Thousands of people posting, from all walks of life, all about their own fears... their own forgotten passions... their desires to be more than what they were... their wanting to find how to glorify Him the most out of what we do... and I was so encouraged by it.

Next week, out of the 2500+ people who signed up, we will be divided up into groups of 24... over 100 groups across the country (world?) and given a 24 day challenge.  Who knows what it will be... but I'm excited about it.  I'm excited to be pressed.  I'm excited.

Time to drop the pretense, time to shake off the cobwebs, time to do what He gave me the talent to do.

I'm a writer.

I will write.

Final thought.  Here's one of my favorite songs of all time, ever.  Caedmon's Call off of their self-titled album, its a song that I've discussed here before, but always seem to find my way back to... "Close of Autumn".  The last line pierces me every time--its about how we aren't baby Christians anymore, and we shouldn't be hanging out in the shallow end of the God Pool.  Its time to swim.  Yes, my fear was that You'd leave me here.  A long time back, my feet... they could actually touch the bottom.

When I'm cold and alone, all I want is my freedom, a sudden gust of gravity... I stop wailing and kicking just to let this water cover me, cover me.  Only if I rest my arms, rest my mind, You'll overcome me, swell up around me.  With my fighting so vain, and my vanity so fought, I'm rolling over...

And in just the same way, this stream becomes swollen, swollen with cold up over the ground.  When my heart draws close, to the close of autumn, Your love abounds.

All this time I've been thinking, wondering, how would it be to breathe in deep?  Guess I need to be careful when I ask for a drink, just might get what I ask for.  And I know just what You say to me, that's why I don't ask You, what would I ask You?  I'm like a bull-headed boy these days, crying "my toy's gone!"  You're shiny and new.

Cause in just the same way, this stream becomes swollen, swollen with cold up over the ground.  When my heart draws close, to the close of autumn, Your love abounds.

Guess I'll drop my anger here, before I float away, and the chains around me.  And awful lot of talking, I don't leave You much to say. 

You didn't ever leave me.

Any my greatest fear, was that You'd leave me here.

A long time back my feet...

...could touch the bottom.

Thank you for reading with me.  Hopefully, you'll join me in the deep end.  Some say I might be going off the deep end.  And peruse the blogroll, you might find a few random blogs you didn't know before...

Friday, July 05, 2013

the lone ranger review

When "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" was released, it was glorious.  It was fun, it was unpredictable, it was different, and kept you wanting more.  And much of the movie's charm and brilliance rested on the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, played so well by Johnny Depp that he secured an Academy Award nomination.

It was this same charm that was unsuccessfully forced in the next two films, "Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End."  These two movies that simply didn't work for a myriad of reasons, including how long, convoluted and unoriginal they were.  Granted, the last one, "On Stranger Tides", was better than "Chest" and "End", but maybe because it didn't try to follow the same formula as "Black Pearl"... but, it was still the "All Johnny Depp Show" all the time.  As great as he is, you have to have a story that you can follow--and want to follow--in order to have a good movie.

And now we have "The Lone Ranger"... another "Johnny Depp Show" for another 2 and a 1/2 hours.  I think we need to sit down and have a chat with Depp and director Gore Verbinski, if only to tell them that we can have a fun movie made in under 120 minutes.

The movie itself is somewhat of an origin story... you have John Reid, a law abiding straight attorney in the old west who gets embroiled in a big ordeal via the murder of his brother (this is in the trailer, so I am not spoiling anything, I promise)... and along the way, he first arrests, chases, befriends, leaves for dead, saves, is saved by and travels with his legendary Indian partner, Tonto, that being Johnny Depp.

Armie Hammer, who you will most likely remember as playing both of the Winklevii Twins in my 72nd favorite film of all time, "The Social Network", takes on the title character, and is not bad.  I've heard Hammer being described as "not talented" and "not a good actor", but personally, I think he's just fine here.  Supporting characters include Barry Pepper (the young guard in "The Green Mile" and also in "Saving Private Ryan") who has made a great name for himself as a character actor of late... Tom Wilkinson... Ruth Wilson, an Brit who is relatively unknown here... and an excellent turn by William Fichtner--you don't know his name, but you know his face, I promise--as the bad dude, Butch Cavendish.  Even Helena Bonham Carter, no stranger to Depp films, finds her way in a bit part.

In the movie, there is a main storyline of a mine with a bunch of silver, a bunch of people who want that silver, treaties between the White Man and the Savage Indian, Butch and his gang being behind a bunch of it, Reid/The Lone Ranger wanting to bring Butch Cavendish to justice for his crimes (including the murder of his brother), Tonto wanting resolution for his guilt-ridden past, and so on.

First... I like the movie okay enough.  I had very low expectations for this movie, and part of me really didn't even want to see it... but I kinda felt like I had to.  The fact that you probably came to this page to decide for yourself whether to see it or not tells me that you are also having the same thoughts. 

Its overly long, coming in at 2 hours and 17 minutes, and it starts, and ends, with this silly narration involving a boy in a museum.  It keeps cutting back to this, its so unnecessary, and it many times breaks the momentum that many times the film has had to work hard to build. 

John Reid comes off as a nerdy type guy, so straight laced that his idea of justice is to make sure that every bad guy "has a fair trial and will hang for his crimes", an idea that in real life might be fine, but in a movie like this, makes his character look a little impish.  Tonto, on the other hand, is so ridiculous and odd that he kinda makes up the comic relief... Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer have decent enough chemistry, but like the last few Pirate films I referenced, I think "The Lone Ranger" relies soooo much on Depp, it misses opportunities that could have helped the film elsewhere.

Not only that, but the film varies from fun action--the final climax with the train and bridge is lots of fun--to the absolute absurd, like Silver, the famous horse of The Lone Ranger.  Silver is presented to us as this sign from the spirits that John Reid is the "Spirit Walker", and is destined to be great, or some hokum like that... really?  Silver shows up on the roof of a burning barn to save the day, and even in a tree, wearing John Reid's white hat.  I said in the tree.  Not under it.  In it.  Yep.  Get ready for that.

Fichtner's Butch Cavendale is a great villian.  I've seen him be a bad guy before, but not like this... he looks mean, he talks mean and Fichtner chews up, maybe steals, many of the scenes he is in. 

I've never been a huge fan of the old Lone Ranger, but I can probably tell you that this isn't your father's Kemosabe.  Then again, the audience not much younger than me won't know a lot about the original Ranger anyway, only the familiar names like "Tonto" and "Hi Ho Silver!" having heard them passed about in pop culture references.  Depending on your age, and original fandom of these characters, that will determine how you take this new spin on the old legend. 

This may or may not be the beginning of a franchise... I'd say likely not.  A few years ago, Disney released "John Carter", also hoping to build upon that name... it was blasted by critics, audiences stayed away, and at a budget upwards of 250 million, it made about 74m total.  Luckily, "The Avengers" came out a few months later and saved the day.  "The Lone Ranger" has a budget of around 200 million again, was plagued with production troubles and delays, isn't tracking well, and might have the same issues.  Through three days of release, its being trounced already by "Despicable Me 2", and it doesn't look great for the next few weeks.  So we'll see.

For kids?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, in that there is enough humor and some slapstick to keep kids laughing.  Language is at a minimal, and though a whole lot of people get shot and killed, much of it is very cartoony.  There is a scene with a machine gun that mows down a line of oncoming attackers, but none are shown close up and there isn't a lot of blood.  There is a scene were Butch Cavendish cuts out the heart of a good guy, and apparently.... takes a bite?.. but you don't see it, and its only referenced later.   Innuendos are also at a minimum, though there is a scene that takes place at a house of ill repute--again, nothing is shown.

Finally... there is a scene during the credits.  It actually starts a few minutes into the credits, and the credits keep rolling while the scene plays out... but let me tell you, what you see in the first 30 seconds of the scene is all you see.  That's it.  That's all. 

Bottom line... its worth a matinee.  Don't expect to be blown away, when you see the white horse standing on the roof or in a tree, just bear with, and block out the stupid museum kid.