Tag Archives: music

Saddest Song Poll

Over the years I’ve mentioned one or two contenders for the saddest song ever.  The song “The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics was mentioned in a book I was reading today.  It’s a pretty good contender.  So here’s are my nominations for saddest song ever:

1. “Tomorrow is a Long Time” – Bob Dylan (lyrics)

Here’s a YouTube version, but only the first minute or so is Bob’s version:

2. “The Living Years” – Mike and the Mechanics (lyrics)

This one is actually about the writer and his father.

3. “Closer to the Light” – Bruce Cockburn (lyrics)

A song written by Cockburn in response to the death of Mark Heard.

A cover version (unfortunately I couldn’t find Bruce’s version, which is much cleaner and personal, on YouTube):

4. “Seasons in the Sun” – Terry Jacks (Lyrics

5.  “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” – Sufjan Stevens (lyrics)

This is about the Chicago serial killer.

“Season in the Sun” was overdone on the oldies radio stations, but it’s still pretty sad in terms of lyrics. I was also going to include David Meece’s version of “We Are the Reason”, but I think I’ll save that one for the “Most Guilt-Inducing Song Ever“. In fact, let’s forgo that ballot and just give the man the award right here and now. Back in the day when I was a big David Meece fan, I used fast forward through that song, I just couldn’t listen to it. In fact, I’m not even sure how the rest of the lyrics go anymore–it might well be an uplifting song, for all I know.

Anyway, I’m giving a strong vote to “The Living Years” for Saddest Song Ever, with “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” in a fairly close second.

What do you think? Do you have any other contenders you’d like to add to the list (perhaps with some linkage)?

Coldplay Live Album

Have you downloaded your copy of Coldplay‘s live album, LeftRightLeftRightLeft, which is available for free on their website?  You should.  It’s FREE, for Pete’s sake!

If you have an emotional weakness for 20,000+ people singing in joyful unison, this album’s got some good’uns for that, particularly Viva La Vida and, better still, Fix You.  In fact, I say with a little embarassment that water rose to my eyes as I listened to Fix You.

It’s otherwise not particularly remarkable for a live album (I get the sense that Coldplay doesn’t vary their songs between studio recording and stage), but I suspect that it does give one a sense of the live Coldplay experience (which I’ve never had).

Download it now. (NOW!)

Easter Roundup and Miscellany

» Sunday I was up at 5:30a.m. to lead our sunrise service at the river at 6:00a.m.  That went well, I think.  It’s traditionally a short service–20 minutes or so–but it felt particularly short this year, as I prepared for (with Linea‘s input and Randall‘s blueprint) and led the service.  Seemed short for the effort of getting up at such an hour and just about freezing our butts off–just like that, it’s over.  It was nice, though: mist rising from the river; the sun breaking over the clouds right around the time I read from a Psalm, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

» Preached on Easter Sunday morning as well.  For some reason this was a really difficult sermon to prepare for, trying to come to terms with the scripture and what’s inside me and what might be expected of the Easter Sunday service from within my tradition.  I felt good about what I was saying (but unhappy about how I said it), but I wasn’t sure how it would come across.  I tried to level the intellectual playing field a bit (e.g. we all make leaps of faith) and took a  “What if it’s true?” angle.

I see I wasn’t totally alone going that route, which is comforting:

What looks like madness to the mind

Makes absolute sense to the eyes of faith.

“He is not here. He has risen!”  (link)


It’s easy enough to get into the spirit of Easter, especially if the sun is shining, the church bells are ringing and there are plenty of flowers about adding to the sense of spring and new life.  But stop and think about it for a moment, and – especially if life is not unbounded joy for you at the moment – resurrection is an extraordinary idea, truly beyond belief.  (Link)

Received a positive response afterwards, too, which is nice.  (Though I need to keep my eagerness for approval in check.)

» On Saturday I finished reading the 500-page Early Christian Doctrines, which was good to get through.  Now I just have to type out the answers to the reading questions (which I’ve marked in the book) and that’ll be another assignment done.

» With all the Easter services done and a major reading assignment complete (well, the reading part, anyway) I decided to take the rest of the weekend ‘off’ from schoolwork (I got Monday off as well).

» Sunday night we finally watched The Dark Knight.  I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5.  I confess, though, to having an increasing distaste for violence in film.  I don’t know where this is coming from (maybe having children?), but I’ve noticed it quite a bit lately.  Last week Dixie and I watched Kill Bill Vol 1 again.  Last time I could handle the violence of that film (which was helped by its intentionally campy, B-grade tone), but for some reason it made me uncomfortable this time ’round.  With The Dark Knight I started wondering about who these people are that sit around thinking up these diabolical film characters and their horrible ideas for death and mayhem.  Seriously.  Who are these people?

» When Heath Ledger killed himself, it seems to me the media suggested that he got so into character when playing The Joker in The Dark Knight that it affected his mental health.  Maybe, but I didn’t find The Joker nearly as dark as I had expected the character to be.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first (Michael Keaton) Batman film, but, as I recall, Ledger’s Joker wasn’t a great deal darker than Jack Nicholson’s.  (But then memory may not be serving well.)

» Purchased the Tragically Hip’s new album, We Are the Same.  I like it so far.  It’s a quiet album with plenty of melody, which is something which has been distinctly lacking from their last couple of albums.  Being somewhat of a completist, I also bought In Between Evolution at a highly discounted price and remembered as soon as I put it on why I didn’t buy it when it was originally released.  Noisy, melodyless.

House concert – Dale Nikkel – March 14

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we would be having a house concert this coming Saturday (March 14, which I had mistakenly said was the 15th).  There is still a house concert, but plans have changed slightly.  The concert will no longer be at our house (it will be at someone else’s), but you are still welcome to come if you’re interested.  

Dale Nikkel is an award-winning folk singer/songwriter and storyteller, family man, former-teacher-turned-student out of Winnipeg (though I don’t think he lives there right now).  Check out his website for more information about Dale and for free mp3s and samples of his music.  Also, go to YouTube for some videos of live performances.

Dale is the brother of a friend of mine from my tree planting days.  Dixie and I saw Dale in concert in Saskatoon several years ago and we loved the concert.  We had also seen Bruce Cockburn in concert several weeks prior and in an email to Dale’s brother I remarked that Dale’s concert was as good as Bruce’s–probably even better because it was in a more intimate setting.

His songs are introspective, other times funny.  He’s a great story teller–a Dale Nikkel concert experience is not unlike a Steve Bell concert: a healthy mix of song and story.

I’m not a great promoter.  Don’t hire me as your PR guy.  

Here are some blurbs I nicked from his website:

“An engagingly personal performer…” – The Toronto Star

“Captivating images in streams of poetic beauty” – The Edmonton Journal

“Lyrics that can raise the hairs on your neck.”  – Uptown Magazine, Winnipeg

“The easy cadence of Paul Simon colors the voice of Canada’s Dale Nikkel…” – Performing Songwriter

All true.  Seriously: Dale Nikkel is an excellent singer/songwriter.  If you ever have a chance to see him in concert, go.

The concert will be at about 8:00 this Saturday.  Contact me if you’re interested.  I’m not posting details here because it’s a house concert, so space will be limited and I don’t want a horde of unexpected people showing up at the door.  Dale is touring to promote his new album, Second Hand.  There is no charge for the concert, but there is a suggested donation of $10 per person to cover some of his costs.  His concert will be more than worth that price.

You can contact me about it by clicking “Email Me” above or emailing me at theeagleandchild AT gmail DOT com (please make the subject “Dale Nikkel” to make absolutely sure it doesn’t get picked up by my spam filter).

In the meantime, here are a couple of YouTube clips:

Dale and his friend Kimbal Siebert (who will apparently be joining Dale for the concert) performing “Closer to the Flame”:

And here is Dale doing a duet of his song “Silver and Gold” with Samantha Schultz:

More videos here.

Hope to hear from you (certain Prince Albert people who will be attending a certain birthday party in town on Saturday need not worry. The concert will follow some of the birthday festivities. Stick around.)

No Line on the Horizon

I’m ridiculously loyal to U2.  I keep buying their CDs upon release without listening to them first.   I have continued to do this even though I effectively stopped listening to new U2 material a decade ago (Pop was the last album I paid much attention to).  Even now, when they’ve already looking forward to the follow-up album coming out in the fall. Why do I do this?  I don’t know.  Continuity?  Loyalty?  Obsessive compulsiveness?

I don’t know what it was about All That You Can’t Leave Behind (ATYCLB), which was effectively a come-back album for the band in terms of popularity, after unorthodox (but still good) Zooropa and Pop (and–sort of–Passengers) and a somewhat lukewarm (relatively speaking, of course–because U2 and their work can really only be compared to themselves) response to the PopMart tour.  ATYCLB has some unquestionably good songs on it, but something about it seemed…I don’t know…forced.  And I think it might have been a bit overproduced to the point of being soft-around the edges–like something by Boston (I’m guessing there) or later Big Sugar or Wide Mouth Mason.  Yes: a little too polished.

In terms of production, the album which followed–How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (HTDMAAB)was a much grittier improvement.  Actually, I thought it was a much better album overall than ATYCLB, again with many good songs.  But still…something didn’t click.

In spite of this, I kept looking forward to the new album.  U2 set the bar incredibly high with both The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby and I suppose some part of me is anxious for them to do it again, even though that will be nearly impossible to do for them.  Shortly before the release of No Line on the Horizon (NLOTH), I read the Rolling Stone review, which gave the album five stars out of five and said it was their best album since Achtung Baby. My hopes skyrocketed again.

The problem with high hopes is that they’re rarely met.  After my first listen through of NLOTH I was “disappointingly underwhelmed”, to quote my own Facebook status.  Obscure, unsingable melodies; that annoying “Elevation”-“Vertigo”-“Get On Your Boots” guitar sound; seemingly pointless jangly guitar riffs.

Some of these review blurbs from MetaCritic summed it up for me:

“…a grab bag of underdeveloped ideas that never seemed to command the band’s full attention” — The Onion A.V. Club

“…reveal[s] not that U2 went into the studio with a dense, complicated blueprint, but rather, they had no plan at all” — All Music Guide

I was disappointed, unimpressed.

Where were the anthems of yesteryear?  Where were the must-be-sung melodies of old?  When will we hear something comparable to “Where the Streets Have No Name” or “One”, “Stay (Far Away, So Close)” or even “If God Will Send His Angels”?

And yet…

And yet I found the songs from NLOTH were stuck in my head and I didn’t mind them so much.  I’ve been spinning the album in my car for the last couple of days–much more attention than I gave the last two albums–and I’m beginning to wonder if this will be another one of those albums which, like Zooropa, will become better the more it is listened to.  It’s growing on me.  Already “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” is my favourite U2 song in more than 10 years–probably since 1993’s “Lemon”.

I’m not going to give it a rating. But I’ve given it enough time to realize that there is great potential here.  I was originally planning  on posting this review the day after the album was released, I’m glad I waited.  It may just be their best album since Achtung Baby, I don’t know.  It doesn’t complete the Joshua Tree-Achtung Baby trilogy, but I am getting the sense that it does eclipse their last two albums.  And, since they are not pretending to be something they’re not, perhaps it eclipses Zooropa as well (but, for purely subjective reasons, I’m not willing to commit to that suggestion).

Some things I realized while listening to this album:

  • Bono and The Edge get all the media attention, but the two quiet guys who use their own names–Larry and Adam (drums and bass, respectively)–are the musical heart and soul and foundation of this band.
  • In the post-Achtung Baby U2 world, my favourite songs tend to be those that are unusual and less U2-like.  On this album: “I’ll Got Crazy…” and “Stand Up Comedy”.  In the past: “Lemon” (Zooropa), “Miami” and “Please” (Pop)
  • Donald Miller (yes, the writer of Blue Like Jazz) has an interesting review of the album, in which he highlights a fact that we generally overlook, especially when we critique what U2 does: that they are an organization with hundreds of employees, many of whom will have families.  It’s not just the four of them that need to be considered, but a whole network of people are affected by how popular their music is and how well their tours do.  There is a U2 machine to keep oiled and running.

I’m still not fully convinced about NLOTH, but, as I say, it’s growing on me.

And on “I’ll Go Crazy…” alone (and their amazing tour set–it’s pretty amazing, if that thing falls apart during a concert, the band is dead) I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t make an effort to see them in concert in Vancouver or Chicago in the fall.

Open House streaming video

[there used to be an embedded streaming video here]

Well…seems we only get internet through one line in the house. Something to do with a filter. So, 1.5 hours late and a wireless network card later, here we are. Also, the signal in this corner is weak. Signals from other houses in the neighbourhood are actually stronger than mine. Not sure why this is.

Anyway, enjoy.

* * *

OK. We’re having some technical difficulty here. Seems I need to fiddle with my IP settings. It looks complicated. And I’m being anti-social. I’m going to try something else…

* * *

That’s been working for a while now, but my wireless connection in the house is weak. Can I boost that somehow?

Also, our webcam is pretty crappy.

By the way, Everyone In the Prince Albert Area and Beyond, our house is open to one and all. It’s an open house. Stop by. The door will be open until 9 or so (depending how things are going). Stop on by.

* * *

Well, that was fun. Not as many people stopped by as we expected (we have WAY to much left-over baking). There was a “rush” at about 3:00 which waned after an hour, and then only a trickle until near 7 and then things livened up again. Good times.

Then for those of you who were paying attention to the streaming webcam, Dixie and I (and later Thomas) put on a 2-hour acoustic set of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Radiohead, R.E.M., Johnny Cash, The Tragically Hip and Glen Hansard classics, among many others.

And I learned that I need to update my repertoire.

I’ll definitely do a streaming webcam again. Maybe on New Year’s Eve.

Good night

Monday Mix

Watched Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events the other night.  It got mixed reviews from the critics and its domestic (U.S.) gross didn’t make up the film’s production budget.  But I enjoyed.  Jim Carrey was excellent as Count Olaf.  I was worried that he’d play Count Olaf in a too Jim Carrey-ish way, but he did quite well.  The humour in the role was more quirky than rubbery, if you know what I mean, and he did well.  Quite a dark film—could’ve been directed by Tim Burton (but it wasn’t)—and not sure what to make of the ending, but still…3.5/4

Of course, I’ve always thought Jim Carrey was a fine actor.  The Academy has a hard time with crossover actors, at least at first (Tom Hanks has broken that barrier, though).  One day Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell will get their due acclaim.

* * *

Looking at some of my site stats, particularly country of origin for hits.  Lots of 1 and 2 hit stats from all over the world, which I consider flukes or bots or spam.  The number spikes in the UK, but I know I have at least one regular reader there.  Canada is the majority source for hits, with the U.S. in distant second. But there is an oddity: a significant number of hits from Switzerland.  Enough hits to not be accidental.  Who could that be?  Swiss reader: show yourself!

* * *

The worst part of writing a sermon?  It’s impossible to include everything without taking up an enormous amount of time, turning it into a lecture and losing everyone in the process.  I wonder if any sermon ever feels complete to some degree.

* * *

My favourite song ever?  “The Pink Panther Theme” by Henry Mancini, for several reasons:

1. Apart from everything else, it’s a fantastic song.

2. It moves me, probably because

3. It’s steeped in memory.  As a young boy in Holland I must have seen a episode of the animated Pink Panther at some point, because I remember seeing a number of opening credits when they played the Pink Panther movies (starring Peter Sellers) and getting excited.  The opening credits always involved the animated Pink Panther character and the animated Clouseau character in hot pursuit.  I loved those opening credits, which included the theme song, because I thought it was an episode of the Pink Panther.  But I was always disappointed when the “episode” ended and the live action film began.  I appreciate Inspector Clouseau much more now than I did then.

* * *

I anxiously await Phil‘s review of the Bob Dylan concert in Regina.  I’ve heard Bob Dylan’s concerts can be quite “tempermental”: sometimes they’re fantastic, sometimes they’re terrible.  Here’s a review by my seminary course “instructor”.  I take his review as “mixed”—good because it was Dylan, not so good because of poor sound.  He links to the setlist, which is largely made up of post-1997 material.

* * *

I’m listening to some music samples on BobDylan.com.  Some observations:

1. Why is it that the best artists go through nearly-unlistenable periods in the 1980s?  Bob Dylan and Bruce Cockburn both do and it’s a shame.  I have a large Bruce Cockburn CD collection, but there is a huge gap in there spanning the late-70s and the 80s.  1978-1986 are nearly unlistenable years musically (although I’m sure he remains lyrically brilliant during that time).  And just at the time when Cockburn comes to his musical senses, Dylan dives into his own period of 80s darkness.

Who ever thought that drum machines and synthesizers were a good idea?

2. Bob Dylan’s “born again” albums are fantastic.  Shot of Love is a personal favourite and, based on what I’ve heard on the website, I think both Saved and Slow Train Coming are worth purchasing.  (I’ve said it before, but I can hardly believe that “Gotta Serve Somebody” won a Grammy for Best Song—not because it’s a poor song, but because it’s so overtly evangelical.)

3. I could use more Bob Dylan.  The unfortunate fact of being born in the mid-70s and not getting into Bob Dylan until well into my 20s is that I have a lot of catching up to do.

My Dinner with Steve (sort of)

I’m too tired to post anything of substance.  Dixie and I got home at 2:00a.m. after a Steve Bell (& co.) concert in Saskatoon.   Excellent show, as always.  It was mostly unfamiliar stuff from his new worship album, Devotion, but it was great nonetheless.  Steve music and lyrics have a depth to them that never fail to move, and his stories are always entertaining.  Kerri Woelke, John Buller, Roy Salmond and Mike Janzen, touring with Steve Bell, were all also excellent.  Mike Janzen’s jazz piano solos alone were worth the price of admission.

Kerri Woelke  [Kerji Stephens] is a friend of mine from Bible college.  She sent me a message to call her a couple of weeks ago, which I did.  Apparently she’d been telling the guys that I had taught her guitar.  This is true, when you get down to it: I taught her the basic chords, some strumming and rhythm, and told her to loosen up.  And we played a whole lot of Counting Crows, Cranberries and Frente together.  Chances are that there was more to it than that, but my memory does not serve, so I tend to downplay it.  That was a long time ago.

I’m quite flattered that she remembers.  I tend to assume that people move on with their lives and leave the past behind—I don’t, but for some reason I assume other people do—so it is always a pleasant surprise when someone calls or bumps into you and says things like, “Remember when…” or “I was just telling my friend about the time…”

So she was telling everyone that I had taught her guitar and that I’d likely be at the concert in Saskatoon, to which they replied, “Bring the ol’ boy ’round, what?”  (I wasn’t there, so that phrasing could be inaccurate.)  After the show she invited Dixie and I to join her and Steve and the rest of the guys for their 11 o’clock post-concert supper at Moxies.  So we hung out for an hour or two, eating, drinking, talking.  They’re a great bunch.

Back to immediately after the concert: Kerri called Steve over and introduced us.

“So you’re a musician?” he asks, a question presumably based on the revelation that I taught Kerri guitar.  This is why I’m reluctant to talk about it: it’s a point of pride on the one hand; on the other hand is the realization that some people might take that to mean much more than simply teaching her some chords and telling her to loosen up.  I have improved since Bible college, but not by leaps and bounds.

“No,” I replied stupidly.  “Well, I play guitar, so I guess I’m a musician.  But I’m not a Musician.”

“Do you write?”


Dang.  If there was ever a time I wished I had applied myself to music and guitar lo these last 15 years or so, it was then.  Talk about deflating—for a moment Steve Bell and I had a talking point beyond the usual fan-to-artist chit-chat and then I went and stuck a fork in it.  (Was I too humble?  What’s the definition of “musician”?  Do I meet the criteria?  I was thinking of it in terms of someone who does it professionally.)

Never mind.  It was a great evening.

You, dear reader, should go to their concert when they come your way.  I’ve never been disappointed by one of his concerts (and we figure we’ve been to 9 or 10 of them).   Go buy your tickets.  Do it.  NOW.

Idiot moment of the weekend: Dixie and I had supper at McNally Robinson.  I had ordered some coffee.

“Would you like cream or milk?” asked our waitress.

“Both,” said I.


“Wait—what?  No, I thought that—I meant…Cream is good.”

I won’t bother finding excuses for that one.