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December 2012

STOCKI'S ALBUMS OF 2012 Pt 2; # 15 - 1

Albums of 2012

15. Duke Special – Oh Pioneer

Worth it for the song Condition on its own Belfast’s eccentric yet songwriter on classic lines fashions his eye liner and dreads into another satisfying collection.

14. Deacon Blue - Hipsters

One of the returns of the year, Deacon Blue with Ross’s usual great songs and the best musical context for his work since Raintown.

13. Sinead O’Connor – How About I Be Me (and You be You)?

O’Connor’s strongest writing in decades shares some radical theology of love and justice.

12. Bob Dylan – Tempest

In the year of returns to form Dylan made his most urgent record in a very, very long time.

11. Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls

The first time I heard Brittany Howard’s vocal on Later With... Jools was a musical highlight of my year. Great big riffs and a bigger Gospel voice. Wow!

10. Glen Hansard – Rhythm and Repose

Frames and Swell Season mainman strikes out alone with an
intoxicating songs about love’s redemptive power in the midst of joy and regret.

9. Ben Kyle                                   

Gentle alt. country songs from this Belfast born native of Minneapolis. God infected with a gentle strength in sound and dogma.

8. Matthew Perryman Jones – Land Of The Living

If Chris Martin had depth... if Bono was more poetic...

7. Martyn Joseph – Songs For The Coming Home

Year after year this Welsh boy gets better and more
spiritually wise and politically on the money!

6. Patti Smith – Banga

For adventure, art, religious exploration and the future of humanity it is a wonderful contribution.

5. Mumford & Sons – Babel

Mingling theology subtly inside those banjo picking ho downs is completely electrifying.

4. Brian Houston – Shelter

Think Springsteen, Alabama Shakes and Exile On Main Street era Stones all wrapped in Gospel songs!


3. Jake Bugg

The freshest sound to hit me in ages, Bugg has Dylan, Arctic Monkeys and even George Jones all youthed up for 2012.

2. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

Prophetic songs of economic injustice and where to seek redemption. I spent a whole night preaching from this record during a wonderful evening of music and chat in the Beehive, Delaware, Ohio in March!  

1. Bill Fay – Life Is People

The revelation of the year. The man’s amazing story. The humility of his life. The beauty of his work. Thank you God that there is a Bill Fay in the world and in the world of music and that we got to hear it!

STOCKI'S ALBUMS OF 2012 - Pt 1; # 30-16

Albums of 2012

30. Various Artists – Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest Of Us

Phil Madeira’s session playing CV is such that when he comes
up with a great idea like this he can call on the likes Of Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller and The Civil Wars to get him started. Great songs of faith and realism...

29. Emeli Sandé – Our Version Of Events

This girl was the voice of the Olympics and pretty much everywhere else in 2012. My girls all loved her and she snuck into my affections too.

28. Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives

The Death Cab For Cutie singer make aa solo debut. If I’d bought it earlier this could have been higher. Great songwriting and layered
harmonies. Sweet!  

27. The Lumineers

All over the television I took to them late. Remind me of Belfast’s Lowly Knights but more popped up.

26. Rosie Thomas – With Love

Saw Rosie in concert at Calvin College in March. Wonderful. Consummate writer and she reaches deep into heart and soul.

25. The Killers – Battle Born

Perhaps the law of diminishing returns is hitting The Killers’ output but still catchy and always a few nuggets of spiritual nourishment.

24. Charlie Peacock – No Man’s Land

Peacock’s first song based record in a long time was no disappointment. Think Paul Simon rhythms and Eugene Peterson theology adding some deep southern blues and spirituals to the mix.

23. Julie Lee and The Baby- Daddies

My old work mate Julie with those gorgeous oldie tunes and
Gospelly songs and that great big voice.

22. Burning Codes 2

Another soul tingling musical experience from the boy Paul Archer. Shimmering zenlike atmospheric indie moods and deep undercurrents.

21. Paul Buchanan – Mid Air

Blue Nile mainman’s first solo album was good but not as good
as I had hoped. Still all the early morning calm and reflection of old just not as seminal.

20. The Lofires

A stunning little surprise slipping out of Dublin unheralded. Lo-fi with songs lovely spacious arrangements and quality writing.

19. Van Morrison – Born To Sing: No Plan B

East Belfast’s soul machine concocted his most satisfying work in a while. Attacks on the monetary injustices of the world and some everyday wisdom for living.

18. Camille O’Sullivan – Changeling

Dublin’s chauntese records a range of covers from Nick Cave to David Bowie to Radiohead tastefully produced by my old buddy Eanna Hickey. Their version of Snow Patrol’s Dark Roman Wine is gorgeous!

17. World Party – Archaeology

Karl Wallinger off loads a box set of new songs, covers, live stuff and demos. Fantastic stuff!

16. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

In his late 70s the guru that is Leonard Cohen still touches the heart and soul.

STOCKI SURMISES HIS LOSING 50lbs in 2012; The Physical Secret and Spiritual Key

Zumba Fitness

So 2012 will probably be the year that I look back and remember that I got my weight back. For more than decade I have been struggling
with my weight. I never put weight on until I was thirty; I guess soccer three times a week and running 13 miles a few times a week helped keep me trim. When you are thin until you are 30 then you never see yourself as fat. Those who get to know you after your thin period never see you as thin. It is an interesting tangling of identities. Anyway, this year I took on the flab and won. At least I am currently winning. The good thing about being way over weight is that when
you lose 52lbs people call you “thin” even if you are still officially in the overweight band! There are a few pounds to go yet but in some quarters I am a slimmer of some substance! How did I do it and were there spiritual lessons in the dietary mix!?

First the physical secret. Slimming World. Not that I went to a class. No, my mother was doing Slimming World and when she got a
second book for her home by the sea she thought I needed it more than her hideaway apartment. What made me think I might like this diet was when she gave me a fry to get me started! Lean meat? OK! Eggs? OK? Nimble bread was a price to pay but hey! Eating this tasty diet meal, my mother explained that I was able to eat as much potato, boiled rice and pasta as I liked! Lean meats were also
permissable and of course vegetables and fruit. What have ejected I from my diet? Well, cakes and donuts for sure. Chips, ice cream and that half packet of biscuits I might have dunked in one cup of tea! Muller Light Yogurts have become my best friends especially the chocolate sprinkled ones and the Greek ones! These cover my sweet tooth’s cravings. Also, and this has been important, one Weight Watchers’ Chocolate Digestive after tea and supper! Disciplining one
biscuit has been vital and these are actually very tasty!

The Slimming World regime took a couple of stone off in a couple of months; very quickly. After three months it was both necessary and
actually enjoyable to up the exercise. I needed that first 30lbs off to make it safe! I started on the exercise bike but I was always a runner so I started running the hills when we went out with the dog. Eventually I was doing a little running. This has been a psychological battle. When I was in my twenties I thought I’d go for a run and on my first attempt ran 9 miles and didn’t feel stretched. I was able to average 6 minute miles over 6 miles and 7 minute miles over 13
miles. To be starting with half a mile at an average mile pace of 10 minutes has been humiliating but apart from a break for illness in December I am building the running up. Then Zumba entered my life like a blessing. Janice and I met Lorna McIlwaine after a walk in Lagan Meadows. After a chat about her Zumba classes I suggested she did one in Fitzroy and within weeks she was. I have found Zumba physically effective and also enjoyed the fun. Without doubt Zumba, added to the running, has shifted the last 15lb. I always weigh in after that class and what a fun, if physically testing, class it is.

This physical work has been dressed up in a spiritual truth that cannot be underestimated in my fight of the flab. I realised about the
middle of October that my life in general was a little more chilled than I remembered it being in a long time. I was more relaxed and had more time to walk the dog or spend time with the family. Haunted by the Protestant work ethic I worried  I was slacking in my job but after some inner investigation I realised that the answer was a new sense of place. For some twenty years I had been working hard every year to find my place in a new group of people. I had been a University Chaplain for 15 years and so every year there was a new student community to force my way into. That led to stressful mad effort and when I found my place they had graduated and I started all over again. Being in Fitzroy for over three years was new ground and feeling that I had found my place and my people allowed me time to find myself. I have no doubt that that has been a huge contributing factor to the success of this regime; spiritual belonging!

One last thing. If you know someone who is losing weight be a Christian brother or sister. Imagine their battle with food as you
would an alcoholic’s battle with drink. If your friend was an alcoholic you would not go on about how good the whiskey you are drinking is. You would not constantly ask them to come to the pub with you. You would not drink their favourite drinks beside them. One of the many imbalances of evangelical Christianity has been to see drink as the big danger to the “Temples of the Holy Spirit” and to treat other physical dangers less seriously. I have had some of my community help me by avoiding putting that plate of buns in my face at Church functions but others have carelessly taunted me with temptation. This battle is tough. So help!

And so... on into 2013 with even more ambition. More weight loss. More fitness. Back in May I suggested at the front of Fitzroy that
we should have an over 50s Relay Team in the Belfast Marathon. It was a rash commitment but here I am positively believing that it is achievable and after that who knows what...     

STOCKI'S ALBUMS OF 2012 - Martyn Joseph; Songs For The Coming Home

MJ Songs...

(two days until Stocki declares his Top 30 Records of 2012 and here is another contender...)

I can’t take my ears off Martyn Joseph. This is maybe his 30th record (studio/live/collaborations/eps) and since I boughtAn Aching And A Longing, his live acoustic album in 1989 which took his career on the journey he has treaded ever since, very few artists have kept my attention as well as this Cardiff Devil (Ice hockey reference and not confirmation that he is a Liberal Backslider!). As soon as Songs For The Coming Home starts playing on my iPod I am gripped, intrigued and utterly blessed by ten new songs. Many other artists that I have loved have lost my attention down two and a half decades but never Joseph. His longevity has me wondering why? Is it the voice that is strong, vulnerable, ragged, smooth, angry and loving all across every album and live show? Is it the songwriting that is always intelligent, poetic, provocative, prophetic and pastoral? Is it that, though his song craft has not moved far from a folk song template, his records have added subtle little shifts of grace notes as the piano here on Clara, the mid sixties Beatles’ brass on Beyond Us , the Springsteen-esque harmonica and the Gospel choir on Still A Lot Of Love Round Here? It has to be said that Songs For The Coming Home is maybe his most satisfying production yet and maybe that is another reason; his craft as well as his content has matured with the years. This collection is his most successfully eclectic in topic and sound and is without doubt his fullest, deepest, widest and highest work yet.

I reckon that it is for all these reasons that Martyn Joseph never shows any hint of the law of diminishing returns. Yet, as I pondered why I realised that this record more than any other gives me the definitive answer. Maybe a year ago in a conversation about music Martyn offered as a reason for his vocation that he was trying to write songs that would be companions on the journey. That is it! Martyn Joseph writes the songs that best get along side me as I stumble on my mental, emotional, political, cultural and spiritual journey. There is this honesty on Falling From Grace that is then balanced with the hopefulness of Still A Lot Of Love Around Here. Political musings are right there in Beyond Us and religion gets an audit in Not A Good Time For God. Archive is a song for the big scenery with its particular location Alberta, Canada but an accompaniment for any connection with the vast resonating beauty of creation and the mysterious miniscule preciousness of our humanity.

On Songs For The Coming Home, Martyn has a song that spells out his belief in the power of the song. Clara is as beautiful a story song as I have heard in many a long year. A black girl nurses a rich white unwanted baby and sings him songs. Years later and the baby is  grown up and in the mood for suicide when he hears songs in his head that he knows not where from and it pulls him back to live a life of literary grace. In their late years they are reunited and Clara sings the songs and suddenly the writer knows who saved his life. It is moving, profound and a theology of the importance of song. It is why I can’t take my ears off Martyn Joseph. He is one of my most important Claras:

“I hope we all have a Clara

Singing songs unknown

Songs for the healing

And songs for the coming home.”  


4 Corners

(As we prepare to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the 4 Corners Festival... this is my first ever blog about it... it's genesis...)


The first journey up to visit my friend Fr Martin Magill in his Presbytery house beside St. Oliver Plunkett Church in Lenadoon was a revelation. When I turned left at Asda on Kennedy Way it was like driving through a wardrobe into Narnia. I had lived in Belfast for about twenty five years of my adult life and here was a world that I had never seen before. There was a sports’ stadium, an amazing looking school, even a Fuscos Ice Cream Parlour never mind all the shops, parks and thousands of houses. This was my city and I had never been.

We live in an apartheid Northern Ireland. Former South African President FW De Klerk once shared with my students that the only mistake his Afrikaner people made was to institutionalise the segregated way South Africa lived. There was segregation all over the world, particularly in America he added, but making it law was their undoing he suggested.

We have never institutionalised it into Catholic or Protestant toilets or park benches in Northern Ireland but here I was experiencing the reality of our lived out apartheid about a mile from where I lived. It could even be argued that since the Good Friday Agreement we have become even more polarised.

Since that historic Agreement in 1998 it could be rightly said that we have a political peace in Northern Ireland. Societal peace, however, is another thing. The recent Flag controversy and street protests that followed or the parades issue as Loyalist bands and Catholic protesters confronted each other outside St. Patrick’s Church are just two of 2012’s reminders that all is not shalom on the streets of Northern Ireland. The political and indeed religious speeches that follow such events accentuate the fractures.

Sitting chatting over coffee with Fr. Martin Magill, some months later in that aforementioned Presbytery House in Lenadoon, we came up with a novel idea. Martin had been sharing a similar experience to mine when he searched out Ballyhackamore Library for an event in the East Belfast Festival. He didn't know his city.

We were chatting about the fact that The Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity was perhaps a little tired and not attracting a younger audience.

We were chatting about how that East Belfast Festival had touched on some interesting themes on religion and reconciliation.

The casual conversations suddenly untangled themselves in our minds and before I had left for the trip back to South Belfast we had decided to get a few like minded people together to see if a Festival could be birthed. Martin was taken with a poem I had written, fascinatingly for a Jesus In The City Conference in St. Patrick’s Church, called The 4 Corners of Belfast. Within a few weeks the 4 Corners Festival was founded.

In a segregated society, geographically, politically and religiously, one of the seemingly simple but I believe profound things to do is to get people crossing traditional boundaries and becoming friends. When
we skew the picture we rip default positions asunder.

My friendship with Fr. Martin has been a case in point. One Sunday evening in Fitzroy the speaker was asked, during the question time, about the Apocrypha and did what any visiting speaker would do and sent the question back to the minister! Without thinking or contriving I looked across the Hall at my friend Fr. Martin and asked him to tell us about the Apocrypha. The discussion went on. Later on Facebook, a visitor
to the event told me that it had been the most natural moment of reconciliation that he had experienced... and a default position was smashed and needed reconfigured!

So, our first foray in the 4 Corners Festival has small beginning in 2013 but aims to break down boundaries and build new relationships
across north, south, east and west of the city. We will have author Tony Macauley doing a reading from his book Paper Boy about life growing up in the north of the city; south Belfast musicians from the Fitzroy Arts Collective will track across to the Falls Road to do The Gospel According To...Christy Moore in Clonard Monastery; a theological discussion will take place about Protestant and Catholic views of justification by faith in St. Patrick’s Church; a look at the architecture of Catholic and Protestant Churches will end up at East Belfast Mission’s new Skainos building. There is more, all ending with prayer walks congregating at the Titanic Quarter. See all the events on the website -

It seems a perfect time to something imaginative and Christian in Belfast. The Peace Prayer on December 15th had Christians of all denominations linked arm in arm, looking out from the City Hall to all 4 Corners of the city, praying. It was the image of that poem I had written fourteen years earlier. It was the image that Fr. Gerry Reynolds used in his blessing in Fitzroy on the Sunday before Christmas. As we ask what ways we can answer the five minutes of silent prayers that morning there is no better time for a festival to give us the opportunity to visit the 4 corners and create a new Belfast. After all the tourist Board slogan says it is Our Time and Our Place!   

Post Christmas Day Thought; Will we Live in Open Skies or Ferry Boats?

JLS Seagull

“For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, through, it was not eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything else, Jonathan Livingston Seagull loved to fly.”

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the central character in Richard Bach’s book named after him…and yes he is a seagull! He was no ordinary seagull though. He was a seagull who wanted to fly like no other gull had ever flown. Anytime of day you’d catch him, up in the high skies practicing. He had wings and if he could open them wide enough, just at the right angle then he could glide and soar and feel the delight of the Maker and live life to the fullest of life’s potential. While Jonathan stretched for the edge of life’s possibilities his friends and family plodded along after the boats, scavenging survival’s tit-bits of fish
and bread. Jonathan’s peers didn’t understand him and his family constantly nagged him about settling down. Flying is such a waste of energy when you can get the easy scraps of existence.

Jesus said that he came to bring us life and life in all its fullness. (John 10 v 10) The Message translates it “life beyond all our dreams.” Jesus didn’t get born in a stable, live among us, teach us how to live and then die and get raised to life again so that we would follow the Belfast-Stranrear ferry! The world around us tries so hard to bland us out, dull us down and blunt the sharp edge of all that God wants to lavish upon us. Radiohead warn us that the devil is having his way because we are not paying attention. To follow Jesus into loving
neighbour and enemy, storing up treasure in heaven instead of earth, making the last first and bring God’s kingdom and will on earth as it is in heaven is flying like no other human being has ever flown. It is taking the WWJD off your wrist and feeling the delight of God as you soar in the skies of what we were designed to be.

So? Bland or brilliant? Dull or techni-colour? Blunt or razor sharp? Open skies or ferry boats?

STOCKI'S ALBUMS OF 2012 - Leonard Cohen; Old Ideas

(I will put them in order by New Year's Eve... in the meantime a reminder of the contenders every day til then...)

LC Old Ideas

It doesn’t seem seven years since Leonard Cohen’s last album because the man has spent the middle years of his seventies up to his wrinkles in a whole lot of activity including critically acclaimed concert tours that produced a plethora of CDs and DVDs and a number 1 hit single via the dubious conduit of X Factor winner Alexandra Burke! The years between Dear Heather and Old Ideas have built Cohen’s status to a Zen guru presence. For weeks there has been anticipation about this new record not because the public
is imagining some reinvention at the age of 77 but more that he is the closest thing rock music has to a spiritual sage and we are waiting for the wisdom he has to share.

There is no disappointment for those looking for spiritual songs. As always even with his Zen Buddhist practice and Jewish faith doesn’t
stop some excursions into Christianity. On Amen he sings, “When the filth of the butcher/is washed in the blood of the lamb...” and on Show Me The Place, “Show me the place/Where the Word became a
Word has a capital letter and it is hard to get past
John’s Gospel chapter 1 and verse 1. Prayers, penitential hymns and search for sacred insight is rampant on this collection of songs. Healing, mercy, solace, peace and justice are sought throughout.

As always Cohen’s life and songs are well balanced with darkness, desire and guilt but it could be that in some ways his aging has slowed down his ability to; “I’m tired of choosing desire/Been saved by a sweet fatigue” he sings on Crazy To Love You, written with his girlfriend Anjani. Cohen’s age does seem to hang over this collection of songs. I guess if it has been seven years since your last record and you realise that if it is seven years until your next
and that you’ll be 84 years old by then that you might be sensing your time running out. Mortality has been on the mind of Leonard’s good mate Robert Zimmerman in recent years, Paul Simon has been thinking Afterlife too! The opening song here is God speaking with Leonard and trying to direct is art. Perhaps God has seen the drawing of a naked woman on the CD and wants to change Cohen’s direction but he is certainly encouraging Cohen to share divine messages. The song is entitled Going Home and suggests that
Cohen is on his way there with no sorrow or burden; heaven

Musically, it is as I said, nothing ground breaking. That would be sacrilegious! A few strings here and more importantly a few female vocals (check Come Healing for instance) there to give tone and shade to Leonard’s often little more than spoken husky whisper are
enough to set up these songs. Even the lyrics are so much simpler than say a Hallelujah or a Tower Of Song. All in all Cohen has come up with another mature bunch of reflections on the shades of light and darkness that spin around the human life. Another meditative reflection on the spiritual; serenity with potency. The gauntlet is thrown; 2012 you have eleven months to better this

STOCKI'S ALBUMS OF 2012 - Chimes Of Freedom; The Songs Of Bob Dylan

(I will put them in order by New Year's Eve... in the meantime a reminder of the contenders every day til then...)Chimes of Freedom

My friend Lesley loves Bob Dylan and hates cover versions of his songs. I, and I think most Bob fans, am less prejudiced, more liberal and tolerant. I think Dylan’s songs are so good that they gain something from being stretched and squeezed, push and pulled. Other shapes and arrangements can bring out the nuances of a catalogue of songs that is second to none. Well, here is a reshape fest. Seventy three, almost entirely previously unreleased, covers of Bob Dylan songs is an absolute treasure trove. This release, for the good cause of honouring fifty years of Amnesty International, is so vast across four CDs that it is almost impossible to review. So let me say at the outset that it is well worth the £15-20 you’ll have to pay for whatever version you choose. The vast amount of these songs are to be enjoyed, very few are to be left off a carefully programmed playlist and then there are a healthy number of gems that throw another hue on some classic Dylan!

The range of contributors is amazing in itself. There are the established and likely acts like Sting, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Mark Knopfler and Bryan Ferry to name but a few. Then there are to me the more unknown fringe players like Flogging Molly, The Belle Brigade and The Airborne Toxic Event to name but three. Zee Avi, Oren Lavi and Xamina Sarinana give a world music contribution along with the established Angelique Kidjo. More surprising and maybe making my friend Lesley fear the worst are Natasha Bedingfield, Maroon 5, Adele and... wait for it Miley Cyrus!

Well, first things first... Miley nails it! Her southern drawl sneaks through a deeply felt version of You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When We Go; a suggestion that here is a career that could outlive the teen TV bubblegum. Bedingfield does a good version of Ring Them Bells too. Adele’s Make You Feel My Love is already hitting classic status and introducing the Zim to a whole new younger audience.

Sheer quality could be a subset playlist that you could press Jackson Browne’s Love Minus Zero/No Limits, Sting’s Girl From The North Country and Diana Krall’s Simple Twist of Fate, Joan Baez’s (it would have been wrong not to have included her) Seven Curses and Mark Knopfler’s celtic slant on Restless Farewell right into. Buckets Of Rain could have been written for Fistful Of Mercy as could Trying To Get To Heaven for Lucinda Williams.

Stretching and squeezing is at its best on the haunting melancholy of Cage The Elephant’s The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, the menace of Rise Against’s Ballad of Hollis Brown, the drive of Gaslight Anthem’s Changing Of The Guard, the visceral defiance of Sinead O’Connor’s Property of Jesus and the almost electronica of Elvis Costello’s License To Kill. The old time string jig sound of The Carolina Chocolate Drops doing Political World and Flogging Molly’s Irish knees up of Times They Are-A Changing are surprising successes too!

It is hard to pick out a failure. Maybe some of the heavier rock versions don’t quite click but that might be my own subjective old man tastes! This is a not only an honour for Amnesty but the most lovely tribute to Bob Dylan too. Stick these songs on your mp3 player, press shuffle and marvel at the different voices, styles and hues; unless your name is Lesley you’ll love the vast majority of it!

STOCKI'S ALBUMS OF 2012 - Bob Dylan; Tempest

(I will put them in order by New Year's Eve... in the meantime a reminder of the contenders every day til then...)


I have admired the last few Bob Dylan records. They have been interesting, very solid and very far from his worst. Yes, these were worthy additions to his life work but I didn’t fall in love with them. Time Out Of Mind I really liked but Oh Mercy might be the last
Dylan record I really loved in a way that has me return to it again and again. Tempest arrived with some hopeful expectation. Dylan
spoke of wanting to make a religious album and that was what got me to acquire the taste of his voice in the first place. Though he seems to have chickened out of the full blown religious statement could there be some of those intentions lingered. I was looking forward to this one. In the end Tempest is my favourite Dylan record since Oh Mercy.

Why? Well, though Dylan continues to trawl the American history of blues, folk, jazz and country the musical production here gives up its rights here in order to serve the voice. The voice is 71 years old and more ragged than ever but somehow it is in your face and devastatingly gripping as a result. Mojo magazine have just done an
article about the recording of Desire where Dylan seems to have
walked around distancing himself from the mic with engineers frantically following him, Emmylou Harris in tow, in order to capture him. On Tempest the microphone is so close that you can feel the spittle dampen your speakers. The phrasing, always Dylan’s genius, is brilliant both when the voice seems to be thread bare or when it is as strong as it has been in a while.

For me it is what Dylan says with that voice and in that phrasing that intrigues me the most and has kept me buying his records and reading books about those records. Here again Tempest is a winner. Couplet after couplet fascinates and there are images, stories, love, death (lots of death actually), social judgments, political comment and yes religious comment too. Bob Dylan’s enigma has purposely
confused, distracted and sent us down blind alleys for an entire career. You get the feeling that he is sitting somewhere laughing at the very idea that people are trying to decipher his cryptic clues to some kind of meaning but the realise he doesn’t really care. Yet, Tempest seems to have a lot to say about the vacuous obsessions of the First World, America at war and how salvation comes. In a recent Rolling Stone interview Dylan said, “ Narrow Way seems to suggest that that redemption is not ours to earn, “I can't work up to you, you'll surely have work down to me some day.”

The title of another song Pay In Blood is dripping with the images of the Jewish Passover or the Christian idea of atonement when Christ shed his own blood and shouted from the cross an Aramaic word that could be translated “Paid in full” but also seems to be haunted by America at war in recent years – I play in blood, but not my

The song Tempest itself is a 45 verse take on the sinking of the Titanic. Part of the lyrics are fact but sit alongside the fiction of Leonardo Di Caprio from the movie and then some stuff out of Dylan’s head. Dylan would say that because it is not all true does not mean that it is not true! The facts are not as important as the spiritual, social, political or personal truth that needs to be told.  In recent press articles Dylan has been charged with plagiarism and there is a litany of sources from which he steals in lyric and tune on Tempest. However, that is now Dylan’s thing. Working out of a
rich seam in rhythms and rhymes he is almost like the editor of sacred texts who ties the threads together to highlight truths needing highlighted and maintained. The old sage is on form and we need to listen to the wisdom hidden within a very powerful record of our time, set in all time. I am loving it!



Now that was a Christmas Day

Dog sleeping by a winter fire

Family chattering out the memories

The crib having all our hearts inspired

Ripping wrapping from Tunnocks and Merlot

Turkey and beef so carefully spiced

The magical visit of Santa Claus

And the miracle of the Christ

Grace arriving, kicking and crying

To end the long yearning wait

Marcus shouting, “Awake My Soul”

And Ricky leading us through Bethlehem’s Gate.


Now that was a Christmas Day

Richard’s trumpet ringing

Linford and Karin’s Snow Angels

And my congregation singing

The bright wide eyes of my daughters

The warmth of my lovers kiss

Love that’s being born this morning

To allow us to love like this

Grace arriving, kicking and crying

To end the long yearning wait

Marcus shouting, “Awake My Soul”

And Ricky leading us through Bethlehem’s Gate.