Jubal: Trust

Wheat WR 1001  (1977)

Although this Detroit-based production has been described as “Christo-funk,” it’s really very eclectic, with a wide variety of styles that reflect the makeup of the group.  There’s both jazz and soul elements in it, some hard driving stuff and some very light stuff too.  One thing that’s missing is any churchy or even any CCM sound to it.  A real delight that is sure to brighten your day.

Thanks to Dennis for providing this music.

The songs:

  1. Whom The Son Sets Free
  2. Changed Man
  3. I Long To Glorify Thee
  4. Blessed Abundantly
  5. Rock Of Refuge
  6. Be All That You Can
  7. Psalm 57
  8. Expose Yourself To His Love
  9. Loser
  10. Trust

DL

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The Oyster and the Flying Fish

There are many ways of expressing the idea that you should be content where you’re at, but my favourite is this one, from Kevin Ayers’ 1970 album Shooting at the Moon:

The lyrics are as follows:

An oyster was a’travelling
Along the ocean road
He’d been some time preparing
And now he’d left the fold

He was sick of being oysterized
And he wanted to explode, to explode
Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la
La la la la la la la la

He saw a pretty flying fish
And said if I could have one wish
I’d change into a flying fish
And then I would be happy, yes I would
Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la
La la la la la la la la

The flying fish came down to see
Just who had made this plea
And seeing the poor oyster
Said this cannot be
An oyster has to stay inside
And a flying fish must flee, all the time
Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la
La la la la la la la la

As the oyster turned to go away
The flying fish was heard to say
“If I could find a place to stay
I know I would be happy, yes I would!”
Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la
La la la la la la la la

Growing up in South Florida, I remember seeing flying fish paralleling our boat as we went to and from the Bahamas.

The Wrong Side of the Border for Good Tamales

Even the Mexicans know the truth, if they won’t admit it:

We bring tamales by the bagful to holidays gatherings, trading them like baseball cards with friends and cousins—I’ll give you some of my Tía Meme’s pineapple tamales if you hook me up with the potato ones from your Guatemalan sister-in-law. And, once we’ve put on the pounds (the Freshman Fifteen has nothing on the Tamale Ten) and sworn to reform our ways in the new year, we freeze what’s left to extend the holiday cheer.

The truth of the matter is that the Guatemalan Christmas and year-end tamales are far superior to anything produced in Mexico.  They are some of the most outstanding holiday food out there, and let’s hope they serve them when they move their embassy back to Jerusalem.

Sounds of Christmas Past: Robert Shaw's Joy to the World

The first Christmas album I ever owned–and I still have it–is the Robert Shaw Chorale’s Joy to the World, released on RCA Camden in 1958.  Recorded right after World War II, it has two distinctives: it’s entirely a capella and all the carols are traditional and sacred.

“Jeffnham” has done something completely different: he’s recorded the entire album while playing on his 1967 Magnavox console.  (We had one of those, too.)  It’s one of those things that could be a dud but it comes off very nicely; he did a great job miking the console and he’s brought back the experience of listening to albums on units like this.  Enjoy and be blessed!

In Defence of Prog

It was a sorry moment on Twitter when I found the Atlantic‘s James Parker’s “book review” on David Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock.  It’s not as much a book review as an assault on “prog” as it’s called.  Given that everything else “progressive” gets good press in the Atlantic, that strikes me as odd.  So I think it’s time for me to Stand Up (pun intended) for the one form of secular rock that really made an impact on me.

It’s not an understatement to say that, for a span of about four years (later years in prep school and first years as an undergraduate) prog rock dominated the turntable.  Principally it was Jethro Tull, but Emerson Lake & Palmer, the Moody Blues (and later Mike Oldfield, Kevin Ayers and 10cc) joined the domination.  They turned into tour guides on my 1976 trip to the UK, leading me to places such as the Fulham Road and Hergest Ridge.  The obvious question, then and now, is “What did you see in these groups?”  Prog, more than any other type of rock, is an acquired taste, and it’s one of those things that was acquired first and the “why” figured out later, if ever.

The first was that they were all British, or more broadly unAmerican.  To be raised where I was resulted in being raised out of touch with much of American life, and what most Americans thought important wasn’t on the radar screen.  The endless “hick moving to town” theme meant nothing to me.  Prog was a way to escape a culture I didn’t like and, in some ways, didn’t like me.

The second was, believe it or not, a product of church upbringing.  Let’s put it this way: when people raised on the “Red Back Hymnal” (one former Church of God state overseer refers to it as the “Red Neck Hymnal”) got into rock, they listened to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, who themselves were raised in that kind of church.  For someone like me who was raised on the Episcopal 1940 Hymnal, prog artists like ELP fit the bill, to say nothing of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung.

That underscores another aspect of prog that’s forgotten: many prog artists, such as Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman, had classical training.  ELP’s Pictures at an Exhibition is, in many ways, the best rendition of Mussorgsky’s piano piece; Ravel is too restrained.  There was also Tull’s Bourée.  But classical influences and training are, usually, the kiss of death on this side of the Atlantic.

Parker’s characterisation of prog as the “whitest music” only shows his uncritical acceptance (along with much of the American left) of the white supremacists‘ racial model.  Prog is better described as European, as opposed to American.  That’s in evidence in the rhythmic clapping during Mike Oldfield’s Exposed (his live album of a Continental tour) rendition of Incantations.  His use of Longfellow’s Hiawatha as an “incantation” is hilarious, but much of his music had a satirical underpinning.  To look at things differently, at the time country and Southern gospel were very “white” forms of music, but the result is entirely different.

Getting back to the UK trip, in addition to a guide it was a nice mental soundtrack, from 10cc’s fine motorway driving music at the start of How Dare You! to the late Lindsay Cooper’s haunting oboe solo at the top of Hergest Ridge.  Such were things that, in the day, made life sweet.

So how did I “get past” prog?  That’s easy: it wasn’t that I tired of the music, but I tired of the message.  That occasioned a culture shock, but also a shift in music styles to what you see on this site.    There’s certainly Christian prog, but there isn’t a lot of it, and it was years before I found it.

Progressive music was the product of a world with universal health care, planned urban spaces and public transportation (as the Baker Street Muse knew all too well.)  Nearly a half century later, these are mostly unrealised in these United States.  Those who wanted them to happen and survived the years of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll should have worried about something else than what happens when the hick moves to town.

As for me, I think I’ll stick with the show that really, truly, never ends.  But leave my prog alone.

Those African Immigrants Sure Are Encouraging

Carol Swain, the Vanderbilt professor who took early retirement after ruffling the feathers of their very politically correct establishment, tells this turning point while growing up in Roanoke, VA:

She married in her teens and wound up a “divorced welfare mother of two sons.” It was a fellow shift worker at the Liberty House Nursing Home, an African immigrant named Abou, who persuaded to try her hand at higher education. Against these steep odds, she climbed the academic ladder all the way from Virginia Western Community College to a law degree at Yale and professorships at Princeton and Vanderbilt. Prominent mentors along the way—at Roanoke College, where she completed her bachelor’s; Virginia Tech, her first master’s degree; and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, her doctorate in political science—helped make it possible. But these days, she reflects, “In some ways, I feel like I didn’t always turn out the way people had hoped I would turn out.”

Seven years ago, my Kenyan department head and his Cameroonian assistant sat me down and told me I needed to get my PhD.  He’s told others that, but I took his advice.  The rest is history.

The Bad Little Bunny: An Easter Tale

On the day we celebrate Our Lord’s resurrection, I usually try to do something uplifting, like this.   This year, I dunno, maybe it’s time for something completely different.  This story goes back a long way, but perhaps it has some relevance for today.  Hopefully it will brighten yours.

We moved our family business to Chattanooga in 1960As I’ve described elsewhere, we didn’t exactly fit into the scene here.  Chattanooga was a very “ingrown” place with a very definite social hierarchy.  Those having the “mountain top experience” were at one end and those in the valley had another, and the two didn’t care much for each other.  That battle isn’t what it used to be except in the Hamilton County Department of Education, which is one reason why they’re having such a time finding a new superintendent.

In the midst of this scene, it was necessary to get my brother and I into school.  My mother, both in Chattanooga and later in Palm Beach, always preferred to see her sons in private school.  After a year an a half in the county school (I am a kindergarten dropout, which is a real hoot when you end up with a PhD) we transferred to the Bright School, which was and is this town’s most prestigious private primary school.

I came there in second grade; it was the year Bright moved from its old campus downtown to the Riverview location it occupies today.  Our teacher was nearing retirement; the first day of class she went around the room and pointed out several students.  “I taught your father…I taught your mother…I taught your uncle…” and so forth.  I should have known I was behind the 8-ball when this took place. It didn’t take long for that to surface.  I was adjusting to a new school and a new teacher, and neither was smooth.

The biggest bump in the road took place at Easter.  They had a school play, which featured a “good” Easter bunny and a “bad” Easter bunny.  After the performance we were instructed to write thank you letters to the cast.  Well, I decided to make mine memorable: I told them that the bad bunny was “the bomb” and loved his performance.  I’m not sure what prompted me to do this.  I could have figured it would get under my teacher’s skin.  Also, I grew up in a house where people who didn’t show the requisite IQ were referred to as “dumb bunnies,” so when one made a good impression, it was an event.  Finally, being the kid always picked last, I may have sympathised with the guy who must have drawn the short straws to get the part.

My teacher’s reaction was predictable: she went ballistic.  I was in hot water and so were my parents.  Fortunately cooler heads prevailed in the form of the Headmaster, Dr. Mary Davis, who was brought from where I teach now to succeed the school’s founder.  She arranged for me to come to her office periodically to discuss “things.”  With a sympathetic ear at school, I settled down, and so did my teacher.

The following year at Bright was much better.  But my time ran out there; my health was poor in Chattanooga, and we moved to Palm Beach.  Socially I was getting used to Chattanooga, but I doubt that my father shed a tear when the Mayflower moving van pulled out of our Tennessee house.

In looking back, I guess the thing that intrigues me is this: what would happen if this (or something like it) had transpired today?  Two possibilities come to mind.

The first is the “everyone gets a trophy” theory: the bad little bunny needed to be praised just like everyone else.  In that case I would have done the right thing.  Face it: he came to the practices and learned the lines, why not?

The second is the more unfortunate outcome.  There’s a good chance that such a play now would be a “politically correct allegory” written to inculcate the desired morality these days.  Say, for example, that the bad bunny was a stand-in for Donald Trump, who was trying to “make Easter great again?”  Just thinking about the blowback from that is stressful.

The one unlikely outcome, sad to say, is the measures that Dr. Davis took.  It takes patience and understanding to deal with children that don’t fit the “norm of the day,” and that too often is in short supply in both our public and private schools.

But ultimately the message of Easter, which concerns the resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is obscured by the pagan inclusion of bunnies, good and bad alike.  The key here is that, when it comes to Easter, it doesn’t pay to be a dumb bunny.

The Geniuses Really Do Commit Suicide…Well, Some of Them

We have some data on the issue:

For the first time reliable data has shown that the suicide rate among people working in creative roles is significantly higher than the national average.

The first-ever study of suicide by profession from the ONS, which covered England in the years from 2011 to 2015, showed that people who work in arts-related jobs are up to four times more likely to commit suicide.

My prep school freshman and sophomore English teacher put my parents off with this:

My parents had a far lower impression of this man, and much of that came from the first parent-teacher conference they went to.  The basic problem (although he wouldn’t put it this way) was that I was insufficiently deconstructionistic to suit his fancy.  Somehow he conveyed this to my parents, who came back with their idea that I was very intelligent and did well elsewhere.  His response: yes, but geniuses commit suicide.

What’s interesting about this study is that the geniuses doing themselves in are in the arts, not the hard sciences.  Had I stuck with the arts, he may well have been right.  But I didn’t, either stick with the arts or commit suicide.

One reason why I shifted into engineering–in addition to the desire for steady meals–was to get away from people such as him.  Doing that, as Robert Frost would say, has made all the difference.  The road is not only better but, on this side of eternity, longer too.

Reflection: Sounds of Salvation

Reflection RL 310 (1974)

If there’s one genre that’s mostly AWOL from the “Jesus Music” era, it’s prog.  To a great extent that’s still the case; a major exception is this dance troupe, which sets their Christian dance to some very good prog music.  We’ve featured prog on this site (especially this.)  But at the top of the heap, without a doubt, is this masterpiece, from the UK.  It not only sets the standard for what progressive Christian music should sound like; it’s one of the most memorable productions ever undertaken in the era.

Commissioned by the Methodist Church, if their objective was to product a Christian album to appeal to a secular audience, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  It goes from its noisy start to the hard-driving “Overseers” (which is probably what my students think of me) to a visit to Hell in “Many Regrets” to what is one of the nicest musical representations of the new birth in “What’s That I Hear.”  And that’s just the first side.

It’s an album that has to be experienced.  There’s an entire blog (something of a stub) about it.  This posting is based on the conclusion that the “distribution” that has been out there for a long time is a “needle drop” operation; there are also rumours afoot that same operator has passed on.  If this is not the case, let me know; I’d love to point to a full re-release of this monumental work.

The songs:

  1. Montage & Because My Mouth
  2. Jesus Is The Rock & Overseers & Psalm 94
  3. Who Am I
  4. Many Regrets
  5. For An Instant & In The Dark
  6. What’s That I Hear
  7. People I Live With
  8. Love III
  9. Kumbaya & Prayers
  10. What Is It Like, Lord
  11. Lonely
  12. For A Little Freedom
  13. Prayers
  14. Salvation Hymn
  15. Because My Mouth (reprise)

DL

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Next Thing, They'll Start Declaring Students as "Unmutual"

Syracuse University leads the way:

Syracuse University wants student to combat hate and report bias incidents to the administration when they encounter them on campus. Given how broadly the university defines bias, it’s surprising that students have time for anything else.

According to Syracuse, bias involves “telling jokes,” “excluding or avoiding others,” using the phrase “no homo” (does anyone even say that anymore?), making comments on social media, and a dozen other things.

Avoiding others?  Forced socialisation?  Reminds me of the classic series The Prisoner, where in “A Change of Mind” #6 is declared “unmutual” for his independent ways:

The series was, sad to say, prophetic.  Be seeing you!