Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ian Morgan Cron - Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me [Book Review]

I was drawn first to ‘famous’ episcopal priest, Ian Morgan Cron’s book by the buzz about it. If it was intended, generated or genuine, I really can’t tell. So on starting the book, I had high hopes, very high ones. ‘Jesus, My Father, The CIA and me’ is a memoir and the thing about memoirs is that they are hard to critic. I mean it’s someone’s life story and telling someone one’s memoir is boring or bad is like saying ‘would you go get a more interesting life story please?’ But we can sure rest the boring case cause Ian’s got a very interesting one delivered in his memoir which reads like something Charles Dickens might have penned. Yes, truth be told, it reads like fiction, ‘Jesus, My Father, The CIA and me’ is unbelievable, Unbelievably good and true.

The book unfolds around Ian’s life story which includes his alcoholic father who worked for the CIA. The major theme is redemption and how God is faithful to father the fatherless. It’s artistic, very and well written. It’s gutsy. It’s honest. Reading ‘Jesus, My Father, The CIA and me’ is journey, you would laugh so hard at some lines, some would just make you keep nodding in agreement, others would make you close the book and go for a long walk to think about what you just read, and some would make you give up tears. Yes it’s that good and real. It reads like the life story of a person and may I add, unedited.

Apart from metaphors, unnecessary comparisons that would make you roll your eyes, clumsy and uncalled for use of the name of God in various parts while the author is trying to make a point or describe various scenarios, I think ‘Jesus, My Father, The CIA and me’ could just be one of the best memoirs ever written and a great work of reflection that would be remembered in times to come.

Book Synopsis
An entertaining, touching memoir of life with an alcoholic father who secretly works with the CIA, a dark pilgrimage through the valley of depression and addiction, and finding a faith to redeem and a strength to forgive.

At the age of sixteen, Ian Morgan Cron was told that his stockbroker father actually worked with the CIA. The story of this world-rocking discovery is the stepping-off point into a fascinating exploration of one man's alternately heartbreaking and humorous journey to faith and spiritual growth.
Born into a family of privilege and power, Ian's life is populated with colorful people and stories, including the account of an alcoholic father who takes his family on a wild roller-coaster ride through wealth and poverty and back again. Includes tales of a nearly blind English nanny who teaches him what love means, a famous New York radio personality who saves his life, a simple carpenter who leads him to faith in Jesus, and his own personal journey from addiction to twenty-three years of sobriety.

Believers and seekers alike will be moved by how Ian uncovers and honors what is sacred in his story, how he discovers God in the struggle to find redemption, and how the mysterious movement and presence of God is woven throughout the adventure of his life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nicole Croteau - Anchors and Silhouettes [Music Review]

Artist: Nicole Croteau
Album: Anchors and Silhouettes
Label: DREAM Records
Album length: 12 tracks: 45 minutes, 1 second
Street Date: March 13, 2012
Genre: Pop/Acoustic
IPod Pick: Amazing

For me, there two types of artistes. One, those who tell you from the radio ‘come, come to where we are. It’s so good here’ and there are the others who somehow cross the electromagnetic line between you and the radio, take your hands and say ‘come with me, let me show you where I have been’. Nicole Croteau who just got recently got signed to DREAM records is one of the latter. Nicole Croteau on first listen is one artist (even though you have never met before or seen her face) you would be longing for a conversation with over a cup of tea. Even on the ‘jivy’ pop/country/ Americana/ soft rock tune (yes her sound is hard to describe, more on that latter) her debut presents; you would hear her heart on every sound. The harmonies and ad-lib on her debut are just heavenly with occasional claps, ouhs, whistles and playfully said words. It’s one you drink deep. It becomes yours on first listen cause Nicole does what great artists do: The story she has to tell on this album transcends herself and time. On listening you will find her singing your story to you. She puts to words finely with beautifully crafted music what your heart has been longing to say which you couldn’t find the exact words for; that’s the summary of ‘Anchors and Silhouettes’.
On ‘Storyteller’ she encourages like a dear friend “Don’t doubt in the dark what you knew in the light”. On ‘Push Down’ she sings confidently ‘Cause I’m dodging bullets now . . . they say we’ve finally found the cure for living out loud”. ‘Amazing’ would sure get you off your seat dancing. ‘Devon’ is meant to be a sad song but something about how it’s delivered and crafted offers nothing less of hope.

Critics have compared Nicole sounds to that of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus but I’m sure these two superstars would be awed if they listened to Nicole’s sound. And another thing about this album that might get listeners wondering is who Nicole is actually referring to on some songs. On Falling she sings ‘In your presence is where I need to be cause that’s where I’m complete ,baby, I can’t never let you go’. I’m sure Jesus hasn’t earned a new name called ‘baby’ but I love how she reminds us with these lyrics that the very idea of love is sacred.

All in all, this is a straight 5 star album. And note, this album wasn’t just produced, it was crafted. ‘Anchors and Silhouettes’ is Nicole Croteau’s invitation to listen to your own story cause in singing hers she sang yours not even knowing you. Want a live concert where you can meet the artist and not just her jives right where you are? Go get ‘Anchors and Silhouettes’.

You can Connect with Nicole Croteau  on Twitter : @NicoleLCroteau and on Facebook

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dr. Henry Cloud - The Secret Things of God [Book Review]

When Howard Publishing house seeks to present a Judeo-Christian view point of the raving popular book 'The Secret' by Rhonda Byrne the result is 'The Secret Things of God' by professional psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud. Before I continue with this review, I must say that 'The Secret Things of God' is one of the most practical books I have read in a while. I first heard about this book while watching the 'Enjoying Everyday Life' show by Joyce Meyer some years back, since then I already had my eyes open for this book, so when I came across it I couldn't resist it and I also had expectations.

First, Henry Cloud does a very good job in balancing various world views from a Christian perspective. He brings our attention to how the bible has a lot to say about living and living well. He also draws our attention to the very subtle undertones we tend to look over in the bible. Another thing that he does in this book that I love is how he balances out what he agrees with in Rhonda's 'The Secret' and what he doesn't agree with. He also gently outlines the misconceptions of the said book and a better way to handle the 'half-truths' shared in it. The parts on relationships and sovereignty aren't something to be missed by no one. Dr. Henry shares some great insights that would open your eyes to what you've already been staring at for a while.

'The Secret' by Rhonda Byrne has made so much sales and book success and has been termed by a lot of people (Christian and people with secular world views) as a life saver but any true Christian would know that there's something missing somewhere in those glossy pages. What Dr. Henry Cloud has done in 'The Secret Things of God' is to write the book how it was meant to be, offering the greatest secrets of all with no gaps or blank pages. Are you a Christian wanting something more and fresh insights on your faith or are you a non- Christian in search of what really makes life work? Dr. Henry Cloud's book 'The Secret Things of God' is one you don't want to miss. Put aside your ego and buy two copies cause once you are done you would be mailing one to a friend or relative and starting over again. Yes it's that good and I believe in a world in desperate search for answers for what exactly makes life work, we need more books written like this.

"This is one of the most important secrets God teaches us: One of the best things you can do for yourself is to work on who you are as a person. Until you do this, you will find ways to sabotage the best jobs, the best relationships, the best opportunities, and just about everything else that comes your way. Not intentional sabotage, but the kind that comes when someone is not ready or able to do something " - Dr. Henry Cloud (From 'The Secret Things of God')

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Courageous [Movie Review]

I think the beauty of any work of art is its ability to be a compelling mirror of life that we can take a break from life itself and sit back look into. With no ifs or buts, I would say Courageous is one of the best movies I have seen in the last one year (yes, I have seen Warrior, Tourist, Inception, Sorcerer's apprentice and other very great ones.), and the story telling is superb. For every good story, the hallmarks are character development, the hero finding identity or finding his way plus humor, romance and suspense on the journey. New movie by the Sheerwood Church drama team lacks none of these; in fact it offers it in a seamless form one can't resist.

The first scene is worth the price of the film and more. One thing I love most about this movie is that though it's by a church's drama team, it really can't be termed a 'Christian' movie cause it tackles a lot of social issues. A quick overview: the story's central theme is fatherhood and the ripple effects fathers abandoning their roles have in a society in need of it.

I remember watching 'Charlie St. Cloud' which starred Zac Efron and how the subject of grief was dealt with seemed so dark to me. Now please don't get me wrong, losing someone itself could be a very dark experience. But I love Courageous take on the subject of grief. I also remember watching 'Stomp the Yard' starring popular Chris Brown and almost weeping how his character's life was taken in the movie. Courageous also tackles the street gang issue in a way we see a cause and also a solution. In letting you into a bit of the story, I don't know where to start from not to spoil the fun and enjoyment for you, it's that seamless. The movie hinges on this very true statistics

"When a father is absent, kids are five times more likely to commit suicide and abuse drugs, 20 times more likely to wind up in prison. "

Courageous is bold and relevant. It isn't just another 'Christian' movie, to term it that is to deny a society of ready answers to a breaking point problem. Please take a break at least for some two hours from the many movies out there that keep painting up a make believe world which end up like broken or distorted mirrors in our view after a long hard look and watch Courageous. You would laugh, cry, smile, scream, get to the edge of your seat and do all those things a good movie does to you and long after the disc stops, a call to be part of the solution to the state we have found ourselves in, you would keep hearing. It's as real as life it's self but brighter as it should be. Next stop at the cinemas or the iTunes HD area? let it be courageous. You wouldn't regret it. No hype!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fireflight - Now

Artist: Fireflight
Album: Now
Album Length: 10 tracks; 36 minutes 6 seconds
Genre: Rock
Label: Essential Records
Street Date: March 6, 2012
IPod Pick: Escape

10 new tracks from Grammy nominated female front band whose music can sure shake up a sleeping child isn’t something fans of Evanescence, Paramore, Flyleaf, Kelly Clarkson and Gretchen would want to miss. 

The album starts off with ‘Ignite’, which is very anthemic and reminiscent of Paramore and a bit of the playfulness of Avril Lavigne’s music. ‘Escape’ follows suit as Dawn Michele (lead vocalist of the band) ems the chorus with soaring and haunting vocals and less I forget, who did the keys for this song?, they are awesome. The album slows down on ‘He weeps’ which is hopeful and sometimes uses cliché lyrics but is sure enough to evoke emotion. Dawn’s voice morphs into the Taylor Swift- sweet kind on ‘Keeping Me Alive’ which paves way for a beautiful and worshipful easy listening track.

The album picks up it pace again on ‘stronger than You Think’. The innovative and confident ‘Prove Me Wrong’ kind of breaks new ground musically on the album. You would hear nothing really new musically on ‘Dying For Your Love’, using riffs similar to that on former Fireflight and Skillet albums. ‘Rise Above’ is beautiful in that the musical style used amplifies it story-like and hopeful lyrics. The album ends with the title track ‘Now’ which I personally think is a loud way to end a rock album. Ending one like this might just throw the listener out of the reflective mood rock music is generally known for.

I have always known Fireflight as that band that has a collection of songs to ‘wake you up’ in the mornings ( ‘Brand New Day’,’For Those Who Wait’, ‘Unbreakable’) and they don’t fail to bring the same vein of hope-driven songs on this new project but musically this one doesn’t break any new grounds. Fans wouldn’t sure want to miss this. And this one is more interesting to listen to than the Grammy nominated ‘For Those Who Wait’ album. If you liked their first two albums, this is for you and if you are a new listener, you would not regret getting this as long as front-female rock bands and hope aren’t one of the things you detest.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

For King & Country - Crave

Artist: For King & Country
Album: Crave
Album Length: 11 tracks; 41 minutes 47 seconds
Genre: Rock
Label: Fervent Records
Street Date: February 28, 2012
IPod Pick: Fine Fine Life (for Lovers of ‘Sweet’ Rock) or The Proof of Your Love (For the Worshipful addicts)

Welcome new band of brothers (to the Grammy award winning Rebecca St. James), and they’ve got sweet, sweet music for us.  Fans of sweet rock music (the type you throw up your hands to when you are alone in the car or when you are with friends at a concert) are in for a big treat. Also lovers of big bands like the fray, U2 and King of Leons are in for a sweet ride too.

 The album starts off with the piano light rock tune ‘Light it up’ which is followed by the worshipful ‘The proof of your love’. What I love about this album is that though it’s so culturally relevant in sound, Luke and Joel (the brothers who make up the band) don’t mince words on where they stand on matters of faith. ‘Missing’ opens up with heavy piano keys followed by bouncy drums reminiscent of the early days of ‘The Afters’. On ‘Busted Heart (Hold On to Me)’ , we hear heart-felt lyrics such as ‘broke your heart a thousand times but you have never left my side’ the way it’s sung abandons the cliché feel. ‘People Change’ its arrangement and everything about it would bring your mind back to 90’s rock, also reminding you of artist such as R.E.M, Aerosmith and Michael W. Smith (obviously his earlier projects). 

‘Middle of Your Heart’ might get you dancing like Napoleon Dynamite from the opening line. ‘Love’s to Blame’ is reflective and sounds so much like a sorry heartbreak letter (think ‘One Republic’) but it’s not. ‘Fine Fine Life’ is beautiful; I would say that again, ‘Fine Fine Life’ is beautiful. Get it and listen to it that’s all I can say. I don’t know why but something about the intro of ‘Sane’ would bring your mind back to Brandon Heath’s ‘Now More Than Ever’ from his ‘Leaving Eden’ project. ‘Pushing on a Pull Door’ shows the creativity and uniqueness displayed on it even from its title. ‘Crave’ would make the worship set for any youth group where Hillsong’s music is used, though it isn’t vertical per see.

One of the hardest genre of music to critic is rock cause somehow it always tells a unique story but still as much as I want to say For King and Country’s debut is a blast of fresh air, it really comes in through our window with some we’ve breathed in before. I believe there was a focus when the music for this record was scripted so there’s a sure reason for the obvious monotony that could have been avoided but all in all, like I said earlier, if you love ‘sweet rock’ and deep worshipful lyrics that would help you connect on a blue day, this is SO for you.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Jekob - Pocketless Souls

Artist - Je'kob
Album - Pocketless Souls
Genre - Hip-Hop
Album Length - 12 Tracks, 42 minutes
Street Date -  10 October, 2011
iPod Pick - Walking on a Dream (With Empire of The Sun)

Truth be told, I find it hard to reconcile Je'kob's first album (minor setbacks for major come ups ) to his latest. And I'm learning to put aside my curiosity to try to comprehend what story must have emerged between the period between the release of these two records and just simply enjoy this new offering.
Read what former member of duo group 'Washington Project' and Hip Hop Soul band 'Soul Jahz' has to say about his new record.

“Prayerfully this record will hit home with a great deal of people out there struggling with the economy, addictions, feelings of inadequacy & their faith. The concept behind "Pocketless Souls" is simple. We are all spiritual beings who all too often get caught up in the rat race of life. It is an encouragement to prioritize your life around the reality that we can take nothing we acquire here with us into the afterlife. The most important thing we can do with our time here is to truly make it worth while & passionately spread the Good News every chance we get.” – Je'kob

'Minor setbacks for major come ups' was good , party ready and very beaty with amazing production. But 'Pocketless Souls' might just be my best album of the year (2011) after all ( even with Beckah Shae's Destiny's contending for that space).

The album starts with a talk intro with background that just gets straight to the heart. 'Falling Star' which comes up next would remind you of old school rapper Coolio and of course veteran rapper and producer Kanye West's Music.The hard clap 'Far away' follows in the same vein. 'Never be the same' is sure a blast of fresh air. Never heard anything like it. It's a song about living the new life we've been given in Christ. 'that homie is gone. . . ' Je'kob sings on this beautifully stringed track.

'Up up & away' music wise is David Guetta meet Lecrae. The chorus would sure get you off your seat. 'Everything' is a song I personally love. It's reflective and has a retro style. Other highlights are the Empire of The Sun hit song 'Walking on a dream' on which Je'kob raps in a style that's so unique and ' Pushin' Me' (With Cold Play)

'Pocketless Soul' is very deep and refreshing. It's so obvious that so much hard work has been put into this project. Je'kob's new album is so good and you can testify to that truth by downloading it  here for free. Come taste and see, sure you wouldn't remain the same after embracing the truth shared on 'Pocketless Soul'.

P.S. - Also get Jekob's first album 'Minor Setbacks for Major Comeups' here . And Don't forget to get his latest 'Love is All' on iTunes.
He has also just been nominated at The International Songwriting Competition for his song 'Love is All'. The judges include Kelly Clarkson, Ozzy Osbourne, Run DMC and many more. Please do vote for him here.
Connect with him on twitter @iamjekob and on facebook


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