I have one favorite movie, “Gran Torino,” in which Clint Eastwood plays an unhappy widowed man living next to an immigrant family who came to this country with help from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). The whole movie is worth it just to hear him say, “Damn Lutherans.”
But, I have many favorite albums. Albums aren’t really a thing anymore, as the music business increasingly focuses on streamed individual songs. But albums give us a deeper look at a musical artist’s work, and in the case of a live album, let us get a glimpse of a concert experience.
The albums I’ll list aren’t just my favorites, they’re albums that, in one way or another, changed my life. You’ve probably got time to listen to these. Maybe they’ll change your life too.
My 5 Favorite Albums, First Edition:
Leon Russell & New Grass Revival: The Live Album. https://www.discogs.com/Leon-Russell-New-Grass-Revival-The-Live-Album/release/1776481
U2: All That You Can’t Leave Behind. https://www.amazon.com/All-That-Cant-Leave-Behind/dp/B00004Z0LW
Jim Post: Ship Shape. https://www.discogs.com/Jim-Post-Ship-Shape/release/7254458
John Prine: Sweet Revenge. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Revenge_(John_Prine_album)
Passion: How Great Is Our God. https://www.amazon.com/How-Great-Our-God-Passion/dp/B0007X9UFG
Leon Russel was a member of the Los Angeles based group of studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, and later moved to Nashville. New Grass Revival essentially invented the idea that it’s possible to play rock, jazz, and bluegrass at the same time. “The Live Album” includes covers of everything from Beatles, Rolling Stones, Hank Williams, and traditional Gospel songs.
My youngest daughter learned to drive while listening to U2 and John Mayer. “All that you Can’t Leave Behind” was one of the two CDs we could agree on. There’s a long history of interplay between the music of U2 and contemporary Christian music.
Jim Post had a hit in 1967, recording under the name “Friend and Lover,” with the song “Reach out in the Darkness.” Soon after that he moved to Chicago, where he produced the first recording of Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.” “Ship Shape” is a tremendous live album that introduced me to jazz violinist Randy Sabien and Chicago-based harmonica player Corky Siegel. And, of course, these are GREAT songs.
Sweet Revenge doesn’t have the late John Prine’s most famous songs. But this is my favorite John Prine album. “Grandpa Was a Carpenter” may be my favorite Prine tune. If you’ve never heard Prine’s “Dear Abby,” you need to listen to this record.
One of my seminary professors assigned my class to listen to “Passion: How Great Is Our God.” This album, and that class, changed my understanding of worship music.