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10 Underrated Classics

  1. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd:  Though “Dark Side of the Moon”, and “The Wall” are undoubtedly the groups most iconic albums, die-hard fans often rank “Wish You Were Here” above them as the band’s finest work. 
  2. Aja – Steely Dan:  Despite being generally revered by Rock critics, Steely Dan’s albums are rarely mentioned amongst the all-time greats.  Arguably, “Aja” stands out as being one of the bands most cohesive projects.  Decades later, it sounds even better than when it was first released.
  3. Reggatta de Blanc – The Police:  While “Outlandos d’Amour” was a great introduction to this talented trio, it was “Reggatta de Blanc” which provided the first glimpse of the band’s spectacular potential.  It was a leap forward in style, songwriting, musicianship and production.
  4. Frontiers – Journey:  On the heels of the phenomenally successful “Escape” album, the band released this gem, which combined the best of that previous record with a heavier, more rock based sound.  While the former could be considered a pop record, with some rock underpinnings, the later was more of a rock record, with pop sensibilities.
  5. Bad Company – Bad Company: Formed from the remains of successful bands, “Free”, “Mott the Hoople” and “King Crimson”, Bad Company came out firing on all cylinders for their debut record.  Though this album contained numerous rock radio staples (e.g. Bad Company, Can’t Get Enough, Ready for Love, Movin’ On) and featured one of rock music’s best vocalists (Paul Rodgers), it is rarely acknowledged amongst rock’s elite records.
  6. In Utero – Nirvana:  There is no denying the massive impact the bands, “Nevermind” album had on the music industry, but in some ways that story has obscured the brilliance of their latter work.  With “In Utero” the band began to show its range, both musically and emotionally.  Tragically, their story was cut short before we got to see how far they could take it.
  7. One of These Nights – The Eagles:  The extraordinary success of 1976’s “Hotel California” didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.  1975’s “One of These Nights” was a number one album, featuring three top ten smashes, “One of These Nights”, “Take it to the Limit” and “Lyin’ Eyes”, which were each sung by a different lead vocalist.  Few records or groups have ever managed such a feat.
  8. Pieces of Eight – Styx:  The dynamic tension between Dennis DeYoung’s over the top pension for musical theater, and Tommy Shaw/James Young’s hard rock dreams came into perfect balance for the album, “The Grand Illusion” and on its breakout single, “Come Sail Away”.  But on the follow-up record, “Pieces of Eight” it was the duo of Shaw & Young who got to be the rock band they’d always wanted to be.  Unfortunately, the phenomenal success of the single, “Babe” from their next album, “Cornerstone” brought DeYoung back to the forefront, and marked the beginning of the end of the band’s straight ahead rock sound.
  9. Love Over Gold – Dire Straits:  Though it was not their best selling or highest charting album, “Love Over Gold” may be the band’s most artistically ambitious work.  The plaintive “Love Over Gold”, the haunting “Private Investigations”, and the sprawling, “Telegraph Road” create a soundscape that rivals the film scores that Mark Knopfler would eventually become famous for.
  10. Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin:  Though Led Zeppelin I, II & IV are most often featured on critics “best of” lists, “Houses of the Holy” features some of the bands strongest and most original work (e.g. The Rain Song, No Quarter, Over the Hills and Far Away, D’yer Mak’er).

In this era of digital downloads, the concept of a record album is somewhat lost.  Also referred to as an LP (long-playing), an album normally contained 10-12 songs, split into two sides.  Generally, you needed to like at least 3 songs on an album to justify paying the extra money as opposed to simply buying the single.  If you found a record with 5 or 6 good songs, it was a real treat. Since they were played on record players, having to switch between tracks was not at all convenient, so finding a record that had a side that could be played all the way through was a rare and beautiful thing.  Ultimately, the most exceptional experience was the album that didn’t have 1 song you wanted to skip (i.e. two sides that could be played all the way through).  The 10 records listed below fall in that category.  

  1. Tapestry – Carole King:  Includes classics, It’s Too Late, I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, You’ve Got a Friend, Will You Love Me Tomorrow?, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, and great album tracks like Smackwater Jack and Beautiful.
  2. Boston – Boston:  Includes classics, More than a Feeling, Piece of Mind, Foreplay/Long Time, Rock & Roll Band, and great album cuts like Hitch a Ride and Smokin’.  Their second album, Don’t Look Back was similarly complete.
  3. Dreamboat Annie – Heart:  Includes classics, Magic Man, Crazy On You, Dreamboat Annie, and great album cuts like How Deep it Goes and Soul of the Sea.
  4. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash:  Includes classics, Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Wooden Ships, Marrakesh Express, Helplessly Hoping, Long Time Gone, and great album cuts like Guinevere, and Lady of the Island.
  5. Joshua Tree – U2:  Includes classics, With or Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Where the Streets Have No Name, Bullet the Blue Sky, and great album cuts like, Red Hill Mining Town and Running to Stand Still.  Their albums, War and Under a Blood Red Sky were similarly complete.
  6. Hotel California – The Eagles:  Includes the classics, Hotel California, New Kid in Town, Life in the Fast Lane and great album cuts like Victim of Love and Wasted Time.
  7. Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd:  Includes classics, Money, Us and Them, Time, and great albums cuts like, Breathe and Brain Damage.  Their albums, Wish You Were Here and The Wall were similarly complete.
  8. Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin:  Includes classics, Rock and Roll, Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, and great album cuts like, When the Levee Breaks and Going to California.  Their albums, Led Zep I, II, III and Houses of the Holy were all similarly complete.
  9. Escape – Journey:  Includes classics, Don’t Stop Believin’, Who’s Crying Now, Open Arms, Still They Ride, and great album cuts like, Stone in Love and Mother, Father,  Their follow up album, Frontiers was similarly complete.
  10. Rumours – Fleetwood Mac:  Includes classics, Don’t Stop, You Make Loving Fun, Go Your Own Way, Dreams, Gold Dust Woman, The Chain and great album cuts like Songbird and Second Hand News.  Their eponymous album from 1975 was similarly complete.

Honorable Mentions:  The Police (Synchronicity), Van Halen (Debut & 1984), Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run), The Beatles (Abbey Road, Sgt. Peppers), Metallica (Black Album), Steely Dan (Aja), Styx (Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight), AC/DC (Back in Black), Rush (Moving Pictures), Peter Gabriel (So), Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road), Def Leppard (Pyromania, Hysteria)

Back in 2008 I published my first book, which was a little collection of stories I got during times of prayer. Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties (e.g. font too small, margins too small), and the publisher set too high a price for it. Because of that, I’ve not encouraged people to look for it. For years I’ve been meaning to go back and fix it, and in recent weeks, I finally did. This Revised edition has a few more stories in it, and is hopefully more readable. The prices are better as well ($5.00 paperback, $3.00 Kindle).

Don’t be deceived, revolting against abusive authority does not equate to submitting to legitimate authority. Rebellion keeps us focused on the oppressor, while submission fixes our gaze on the One who is the embodiment of truth and justice.

A Wake Up Call

I got this word about twelve years ago, which is before my wife started this blog for me. Like so many other things I wrote in that time, it was destined to live in my notebook, except that my beloved made it her mission to share my writings. Apparently, she posted it on Facebook, as it just popped up in Memories. Good thing she did, because I couldn’t find another copy of it anywhere. As I re-read it, I remember how vividly I received it. I believe it resonates just as strongly today.
*
I awoke to the voice of the Lord saying, “Son, wake up; I’ve got some people for you to see.” I arose quickly and dressed. Skipping my morning routine, I made my way downstairs to the lobby of my apartment building and out onto the sidewalk. The sun seemed to be very bright and as I looked across the street to the park, I heard the Lord say, “Over there.”
*
The park was surprisingly busy for early on a Saturday morning and I walked slowly, as I anticipated further direction from the Lord. Just ahead I saw a girl or maybe she was a woman. She had one of those faces that could belong to someone in their late teens or in their early forties; though I would have guessed that she was in her twenties. She had kind of a “goth” look to her; jet black hair, lots of mascara, multiple piercings on her ears, nose & lip… She was barefoot, with gray sweatpants, a black tank top and she appeared to be doing some sort of yoga or meditation. As I started to pass the bench she was on, the Lord said, “Ask her” and somehow I understood that He meant for me to ask her what she was doing. Though I was uncomfortable about approaching her, I sat down and struck up a conversation. She said that she was “centering” herself, which she explained was her way of coming to a place of inner peace. She was surprisingly open about the fact that she’d had a late night of debauchery and that this was her way of spiritual cleansing. Even more surprising than her candor, was the fact that she did seem genuinely peaceful. She went on to explain that she was a recovering drug addict and that her “spirit guides” had taken her to past lives to show her that she was a strong person and that she didn’t need to be at the mercy of this addiction anymore. She proudly told me that she’d been drug free for the last eight months and that she was hoping to enroll in college classes in the fall. As the conversation began to wane, I guessed that the Lord must be opening a door for me and so I asked her if she knew anything about Jesus. She laughed and rolled her eyes, telling me that she’d been raised in church and that she’d even been a leader in her church youth group. I was stunned and without thinking I asked her what had happened; to which she looked me in the eye and knowingly said, “Absolutely nothing!” At that moment I realized that our conversation was over. As I walked on, I wondered if there was something that I was supposed to have told that girl, but something inside of me knew that the Lord had been speaking to me through her.
*
After a few more minutes of wandering, I saw a man that used to go to my church and again I felt the Lord’s prompting to go speak to him. As we spoke I found out that he’d just finished an eighteen month tour of duty in Iraq, where he’d been working alongside and training members of the Iraqi army. As I commented on how difficult it must have been to be an American living amongst the Iraqi people and even more so, a Christian living amongst Muslims, his expression grew troubled. He said, “You’d think so wouldn’t you; but honestly I felt more acceptance and brotherhood amongst those people than I ever have with the people that I’ve called brother and sister here.” He went on to tell me that his experience in Iraq has made it difficult for him to attend church since returning, because those relationships seem so phony and superficial. I tried to say some wise sounding words to encourage him to stay in church, but they sounded hollow and empty to my own ears; and undoubtedly meant nothing to him. As we parted ways, I once again had the uneasy sense that this conversation had been more for my benefit than for his; and I began to pray that the Lord would help me to understand what He was trying to show me.
*
Feeling suddenly tired, I decided to sit down on a bench for awhile; and after a few minutes my attention was drawn to a group of women who were gathered at a nearby picnic table. Not wanting to stare, I could only see them out of the corner of my eye, but they seemed to be having a great time together, as they talked and laughed loudly. After stealing glances for a few minutes I began to sense that there was something unusual about the way they interacted with each other. As they gathered their things and began to walk toward me, I was able to get a better look and from their appearance and body language I guessed that they were probably a group of lesbians. As they got closer, I recognized that one of the women was my cousin Peggy, who I hadn’t seen in a few years. She had become somewhat of an outcast in the family since deciding to live the homosexual lifestyle, though she and I had always gotten along well as kids. I was genuinely happy to see her, but I was also apprehensive about approaching her amongst this group of women. Within my moment of hesitation, she recognized me and immediately shouted out my name. She broke away from her group, moving quickly to me and throwing her arms around me. She spent the next several minutes catching me up on the events of the last few years and introducing me to her friends. I was struck by how genuinely happy she seemed and at the wonderful closeness she seemed to share with her companions. The few times I’d seen her as an adult (mostly at family gatherings), she’d seemed miserable and depressed; and when I mentioned how well she seemed to be doing, she replied, “I’ve finally found a place where it’s alright to be who I am.” Somehow those words were piercing to me, though I managed to suppress that emotion while we exchanged cell phone numbers and a warm farewell. But as this boisterous group walked away, an overwhelming sense of grief washed over me. I searched for what it was about our family that had failed to make Peggy feel loved and accepted; and wondered at how she’d so easily found that in the streets.
*
As I began to head back to my apartment, I felt queasy at the understanding that God had somehow orchestrated these three encounters. What was He trying to tell me through the lives of these people; all of whom had heard about Him and yet were finding their peace, hope, fellowship, love and community somewhere else? My eyes were fixed on the sidewalk and my mind was wrestling to understand, when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. When I stopped to get a closer look, it appeared to be a twenty dollar bill and instinctively I looked around to see if there was any obvious owner. Since there wasn’t, I stepped over to the curb and eagerly picked it up. Even before I got a chance to unfold the bill to look at it, I could tell that it didn’t feel right in my hand and as I held it up, I could see that it was one of those gospel tracts disguised as money in the hopes of tricking people into picking it up. My queasiness began to rise into nausea, as I heard the Lord say,
*
“Unless my people begin to deal in the currency of heaven, the things they do in My Name will only make the counterfeit seem more real.”

The Spirit of This Age

I didn’t begin writing until I was almost 40 years old, which was about the time I began to discern the Lord’s voice more clearly.  As such, my motivation to continue has been centered on sharing what I believe He is saying at any particular time.  Within a few years I began to get regular downloads on subjects like relative truth, humanism, cultural revolution, and moral relativism.  Though I felt sure these insights were from the Lord, they seemed strange and rather worldly.  At the time, I didn’t see or hear anyone else talking about such things, and I wondered if I wasn’t just being pulled off track.  These topics seemed more rooted in sociology than spirituality, and generally garnered little or no response within my sphere.  Even so, the downloads continued to come.

Over time, I began to understand that God was giving me discernment of the emerging transformation.  To the naked eye, America didn’t look or sound much different, but beneath the surface there were monumental shifts taking place.  Our collective view of truth was being radically altered, and for the most part, we didn’t even notice.  Even those who did recognize the change didn’t necessarily understand the long term implications of it.  After all, humanism’s promotion of concepts like the intrinsic value of a human being, community, and social justice, seem to be very compatible with a standard Judeo-Christian value system. Indeed, many mainstream denominations appear to be predisposed to a sort of religious-humanist perspective, where tepid religious tradition is tolerated like a neutered dog, who sleeps in the breezeway, but never actually comes in the house.

With all the supernatural elements stripped away, God becomes more mythological than real (like Mother Nature); Jesus becomes little more than a revered historical figure (like Gandhi or Mother Theresa), and the Holy Spirit remains a ghost in the relentlessly pragmatic religious machine.  Effectively, such religion becomes two-dimensional and paper thin, but it is kept around to retain the sense and appearance of being good and moral.  The upside to such an arrangement is that it doesn’t interfere with a burgeoning friendship with the world.

With the benefit of almost two decades of hindsight, I can see that the repercussions of this shift have been far more profound than I first understood.  This change in course was not circumstantial or incidental, it was birthed in the spiritual realm, and the spirit behind the philosophical construct of humanism is not a passive or mild entity, it is an Anti-Christ spirit.  In its purist form, humanism is secular, with no allowance for anything supernatural, spiritual or transcendent.  It seeks to exalt man to the position of creator, ruler, and judge; which is as appealing to our human nature as it was to the first man (in the garden).  But these are all roles the Lord has reserved for Himself.

Compassionate, and well-meaning believers can easily be pulled into the idea that humanism’s emphasis on human rights might simply be viewed as an extension of God’s love and concern for people, but that is problematic.  Within this doctrine there can be no accommodation for the eternal, and no assent to a higher power.  It seeks to explain our origin as anything other than coming from a Creator, to promote the idea that we evolve as opposed to being transformed, and to replace the power of the Holy Spirit, with the power of the human spirit.  As John Lennon mused in his masterful ballad, “Imagine” we must rid ourselves of notions like heaven, hell and religion, so that we can all live together as one.  Indeed, humanism has so much faith in the virtue of mankind, that it presumes that left to its own devices, and separated from its ancient religious ideas, it will quite naturally arrive at a utopian society.  Of course, this is diametrically opposed to scripture’s assertions that apart from God, we can do “nothing”. 

While some might argue the Christian heritage of the United States, there is no doubt about where our society stands in this current age.  It is a culture steeped in humanist thinking, where the emerging generations are taught that evolution and technology have exempted them from the lessons of history, and where young children are taught that they can determine their own gender.  Like ancient Greece, we’ve become a nation filled with false gods, and altars to worship them at.

Perhaps no scripture makes the contradiction more plain than proverbs declaration that there is a way that seems right to a man, but it ultimately leads to death, while humanism purports that there is a way that seems right to a man, and it ultimately leads to paradise.

After a disheartening season of watching brothers and sisters on the right exalt a man as though he were a priest, a prophet or a king, and make it seem as though God desperately needed him (instead of the other way around), we now see brothers and sisters on the left being taken captive by a hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  Indeed, many who are called by His name are likely to perish from this lack of understanding, and many is the teacher leading His little ones astray. 

There is no man-made system that can produce or orchestrate real unity, true peace, authentic justice or genuine freedom.  If we continue to look to the world for such things, we will continue to be disappointed.  We need to quit fighting amongst ourselves, and begin to engage in the battle against the spirit of this age, which is devouring the world around us.

God isn’t as likely to do things “for us” as He is to do things “through us”. We are supposed to be His body. If we don’t show up, we shouldn’t expect much. It is Christ “in us” that is the hope of glory.

We are not likely to convince anyone of a truth that we ourselves never believed enough to live out

We shouldn’t mistake good intentions for right motivations. God is not as interested in our desired outcomes as He is in what moves us to act or speak.

We need to be viewing current events through the lens of what God is saying to us,

not trying to figure out what God is saying to us through the lens of current events

(John 10:27, 2 Cor. 4:18, Matt 4:4)