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Bernard Davis "Bernard Davis" (Birmingham, England)

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People Get Ready!: A New History Of Black Gospel Music: A New History of Gospel Music
People Get Ready!: A New History Of Black Gospel Music: A New History of Gospel Music
by Bob Darden
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.48

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story and a great read, 28 Dec 2007
I came to this book as I imagine a lot of people will. I've heard some of the classic gospel songs. I've been at a few gospel church services. Most of all I know the classic soul and r'n'b tracks laid down by artists who learned their craft in churches: singing and playing Gospel.

I bought this book on the off chance. Thinking - hey - I'd like to know some more about this music.

Robert Darden deserves to be congratulated for producing a very fine history of Gospel music indeed. His in-depth knowledge, his delight in detail, and his easy flowing prose come together to suck the reader into the story. A few pages and you will be hooked.

He goes back, right back to the days of slavery to reveal the roots of the music. To the way themes from the Bible were chosen for songs for the hope and liberation they promised to the oppressed. It was particularly interesting to read how some songs were coded route maps by which slaves could head north from the plantations to freedom in the northern states.

The route to `Gospel' is charted musically through the `Spirituals', Jubilee Singers, Minstrels and Barbershop Quartets; through the evolution of black churches; and through the ever developing ways of getting the music out to the people - from sheet music through Gospel record labels to the age of the CD.

Robert Darden loves personal detail, and so the evolution of the music is described through the lives and careers of key players. Like gifted pioneer and self publicist Thomas Dorsey, great female characters like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson, and groups like the Soul Stirrers and the Sensational Nightingales.

The book was published in 2004. The scene at the time of publication is represented by six singers: John.P.Kee, Vickie Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams, Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin.

As I'm posting on I should note that this is a purely American history of gospel music. No voices from the UK here and no story of music in British Black churches. That would be another book. Fans of the soul and R'n'B that grew out of Gospel roots should note that artists who crossed over into the mainstream are included only when their stories are important in the evolution of Gospel music itself. This is a history of Gospel music. No doubt Robert Darden could write another fine book on the music that Gospel gave birth to, but that would be another book.

The book ends with a generous list of key Gospel records, but books like this beg the question. Can words really tell us anything about the music? Oh yes, the history - oh yes, the analysis - but can a book tell you what this music feels like? Probably not, but page after page Robert Darden manages to brew up the atmosphere of the times he is talking about, and his warts and all descriptions of people bring them to life. Of course you need to put the records on, but with this book in your hand you'll appreciate the music a lot more.

Symphony No. 3, '(A) Pastoral Symphony' & Symphony No. 5 in D
Symphony No. 3, '(A) Pastoral Symphony' & Symphony No. 5 in D

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Music of nature, struggle, memorial and The Eternal City, 28 Dec 2007
I bought this CD in the mid 1990s, and it is now an old faithful in my collection which I return to a couple of times every year. It pairs two of Ralph Vaughan Williams most immediately approachable symphonies.

Vaughan Williams sketched his ideas for his third `Pastoral' Symphony whilst on active duty on the western front during the First World War: first as an ambulance driver and then as a artillery officer. He completed the symphony in 1921 as a memorial to those who died.

His Fifth Symphony began as an attempt in the late 1930s to create a work from the music for his then unfinished Pilgrims Progress opera, which at the time he could not see himself completing.

The two works make an excellent coupling, especially in these interpretations by conductor Adrian Boult with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The conductor infuses both works with a transcendent radiance of tone. Adrian Boult produced performances of many early 20th century British classical works which have defined them since. He mapped the arc of Holst's Planets Suite: from the advancing German Blitzkrieg of Mars the Bringer of War to the ethereal music beyond the spheres of Neptune the Mystic. He always knew how to accentuate the new in the works he was interpreting.

With the Pastoral Symphony he revels in it's sense of space, and in the delicate instrumental lines suspended above a shifting ground of strings. So different to the works of Elgar, and the Wagner and Strauss inspired composers of the preceding few decades.. The effect is beautiful and this interpretation deserves to stand on it's own merits. Whether it is actually what Vaughan Williams intended is another matter. There is little in this version that suggests that the landscape that inspired the music is a landscape ravaged by war. The disquiet here could be no more than incoming bad weather. Haitink's interpretation on EMI gives greater voice to the darker elements in the score.

The same can be said of his interpretation of the Fifth Symphony. The CD moves seamlessly, perhaps too seamlessly into the first movement `Preludio', which sounds like an even deeper entry into the world of the Pastoral Symphony. A highlight of this interpretation is the slow third `Romanza: Lento' movement which begins all glowing serenity before other elements intrude to propel it forward.

These performances are satisfying on their own terms. There is much beautiful playing by orchestra and soloists. However there is no disguising the fact that these are 1950s recordings. There is some lack of clarity in the quietist sections. There are also occasional studio noises such as the movement of musicians' chairs. This may or may not bother you. It gives these versions a live recording feel.

Well worth buying, but do hear what more recent interpreters have found in this music as well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 14, 2010 7:17 PM BST

Historic Wimbledon: From Caesar's Camp to Centre Court
Historic Wimbledon: From Caesar's Camp to Centre Court
by R. J. Milward
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gently entertaining introduction to the history of Wimbledon, 13 Dec 2007
For over 40 years the author Richard Milward was a much loved History teacher at Wimbledon College high school. Every morning he could be seen propelling his trusty old bike uphill towards the school. His watchwords were `significant detail'. He lived up to them in his presentations to his pupils, which were more of the standard of University Lectures, and in almost 30 publications he authored on the local area.

This book is a good example of his style. It makes an excellent introduction to the Wimbledon area. He tackles it one significant building at a time, but in such a way that most of the rest of the history of the area is included into the bargain. The text is augmented with a wealth of photographs, drawings and hand drawn maps.

His gentle humour often comes into play. As a Wimbledonian now living in exile in Birmingham I chuckled when I looked at the map of `Wimbledon's Nieghbours' on pages 234-5. Two things stand out. One is the influence of the railways on Wimbledon's sense of place, so that its inhabitants feel a connection to Dorking and Guildford, 15 and 20 miles away, which they do not feel to inhabitants of neighbouring London suburbs to which they are not directly connected to by rail track. The other is the great snaking, separating line of the River Thames, one might as well inscribe `Here Be Monsters' across the land on its northern bank.

Price: 24.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best introduction to the music of John Michael Talbot, 8 Dec 2007
This review is from: Signatures (Audio CD)
By 2003 John Michael Talbot, self styled `Troubadour for the Lord' had been creating worship music in the woods of Arkansas at his `Little Portion Hermitage' for 25 years. A number of collections from his huge musical output have been produced, but this rerecording of 15 of his most popular songs is the best introduction to his music and ministry.

A hallmark of his style is the way in which he can take passages of the Bible and use them with few changes, and yet the finished songs are uniquely his in an unmistakable style..

As ever John Michael Talbot has conceived the project prayerfully as an act of worship. All the benefits of modern technology have been used to produce an album that stands outside the spirit of the age and has a deep authenticity missing in much contemporary Christian music. The songs have been rerecorded, John Michael Talbot laying down his vocals and guitar parts in Arkansas, with the backing vocals by St Michael's Singers from Coventry Cathedral and orchestral accompaniment by The Philharmonia Orchestra being recorded in London. The parts come together seamlessly, and if anything John Michael Talbot manages to mine deeper into his seem of inspiration in these versions that on the originals. All his musical influences, folk, country, hints of 70's rock and classical blend into a profound style which could be described as relaxing if it's intent was not much deeper. John Michael Talbot's intent is recreation, the re-creation that comes from opening up a window between earth and heaven to gaze on the face of God through the medium of music, and be transformed.

Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?
Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?
by John Piper
Edition: Paperback

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars John Piper ties himself in knots, 7 Dec 2007
First let me say that this is a very well written book. It is easy to warm to John Piper's style. However, style is not everything. Piper has set out to write a serious theological book, so it is the substance that we must look at.

John Piper subtitles this book 'should we abandon the imputation Christ's righteousness?' There are several possible definitions of Christ's righteousness. For instance, it could refer simply to the positive moral purity of Christ. Piper want's to define it as Christ's active obedience to the Old Testament Law during his earthly life. This has been believed by many Christians, but few would count it an essential. Try finding it in evangelical Statements of Faith, you will have trouble doing so.

There are a number of problems with the concept. In Romans chapter 7 Paul tells us in verse 6 that we have been delivered from the law, not that we have been wedded to it by the imputation of Christ's active obedience to it being accounted to us. In Romans 8 verse 4 `the righteous requirement of the law' that must be fulfilled in us is brought up, but the solution is not that we have Christ's active obedience to the law accounted to us. The solution is the condemnation of sin in Jesus' flesh on the cross - verse 3. Piper says this is not sufficient. Piper also seeks to deny that Justification has anything to do with our liberation from sin's mastery. Well, at the heart of sin's mastery is it's ability to bring people into condemnation. Piper knows Romans 8 verse 1 `There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit'. Surely we receive this freedom from condemnation as a declaration from God as part of Justification. Does Piper want to shift this removing of condemnation into sanctification, in which case we might feel less condemned when we resist sin and more condemned when we fall into it? Surely not! There is now NO condemnation.

When Piper refers to the verse he finds no liberation from the power of sin in it, only from the penalty of sin . Personally I cannot read the preceding chapter 7 of Romans without seeing the power as well as the penalty of sin to which the start of chapter 8 is the answer to.

Then he heads straight into self contradiction. This is a man who tells us that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us by the imputation of Christ's active obedience to the law. Right, whether I agree with that or not I understand his point. The fulfilment of the righteous requirement of the law in us is a matter of justification. Now we get to Romans 8 verse 4 and Piper tells us that the righteous requirement of the law being fulfilled in us is a matter of sanctification (page 71). You can't have it both ways John!

I imagine that what you are trying to say at this point is that there is an imputed fulfilment of Jesus active obedience to fulfil the law in us (justification), followed by a lived out fulfilment of the law in our spirit empowered lives (sanctification). However 2 huge problems come up against your reasoning here. Firstly this is the Bible's clearest reference to the righteousness requirement of the law being fulfilled in us. If the imputation of this righteousness in justification is so important, then why isn't it here??? Note, I am using your argument here, not the logical flow of the text. Secondly you argue that the imputing of Jesus active obedience to us is so important because our own fulfilment of the righteous requirement of the law as Christians (in our sanctification) is always imperfect. Well, that makes a nonsense of the verse, doesn't it?! It turns Pauls words into `He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be partly fulfilled in us ....". You don't like this reading? It is the logical reading according to your own argument!

Do I really think John Piper believes this?

What I think, what I see, is John Piper tying himself in knots.

If you are interested in John Piper's take on Justification by Faith this book now has a follow up 'The Future of Justification' which I have also reviewed.

The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
by John Piper
Edition: Paperback

38 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars an often great author misses the mark by miles, 5 Dec 2007
Coming up with a review of this book has proved to be a mighty difficult task. Piper has a gift for writing an articulate, persuasive and even convincing argument. There is much here which on the surface suggests that he is being fair to N.T.Wright, whose view of Justification is in his sights. Reading through this book, and warming to Piper's style, I found it easy to begin ticking off points one by one, much as if I was marking a student's dissertation. I found myself thinking - this boy Piper is going to make the grade, in fact he's going to pass with flying colours!

The problem is that the easy surface sheen of this book masks huge problems with it's analysis that go right to the heart of the matter in hand. So that is where I will go.

124 pages in, after much argument that would suggest - in the nicest possible way of course - that Wright's view is seriously deficient, Piper lays out in diagram form the difference between the Traditional Reformed doctrine of Justification and Wright's. He can only find one point of difference. Both the traditional view and Wright believe in the imputation of the merits of Christ's death and his resurrection. But Piper detects that Wright leaves out the imputation of Christ's active obedience.

At this moment we should take a deep breath.

Some evangelicals hold this point dear. Others find the imputation of the benefits of Christ's death and resurrection sufficient, indeed superabundant. We can look in vain at evangelical Statements of Faith, we will not find the imputation of Christ's active obedience in them. From the UK try those of the Evangelical Alliance, or the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship, try that of more conservative Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. Not there. Try John Piper's own General Baptist Conference in the USA. It isn't in his own denomination's Statement of Faith! Mr Piper, If this makes the difference between the true gospel and an defective one you should be making a stand in front of your own denomination! Why are you going after N.T.Wright as someone pedalling a dangerous new view - when that same view is all over the evangelical world . What has N.T.Wright done to you that you would have him as your whipping boy, suffering the lash of your argument for a view that probably the majority of evangelicals hold? Generations of Christians have agreed to stand together despite differences on this point. Is 2007 really the time to attempt to break open a new fault line across the already much divided evangelical landscape, dividing Christians one from another? Does such a strategy serve the gospel?

The real sadness is that Wright actually does include Christ's active obedience, in his own way. Piper quotes Wright. "On my reading of Paul the `righteousness' of Jesus is that which results from God's vindication of him as the Messiah in the resurrection' Piper reads this as seeing righteousness as a vindication not a reckoning of Christ's obedience. This is to wilfully misread Wright's words. Wright sees God the Father vindicating Jesus as the Messiah, which means vindicating him as the one who has obediently taken upon himself the vocation of the suffering servant in Isaiah (see Wright's `The Victory of God'). God the Father is vindicating Jesus' obedient bearing of the judgement due to a disobedient people, even unto death, so that by God the Father's vindicatory resurrection of Jesus, that people may be raised to new life as an obedient people.

I could go through other areas of this book where Piper expends much argument hiding the fact that he and Wright actually substantially agree on the point in question, but a review can only be so long.

I will just briefly mention the section on legalism in first century Judaism. Piper spins out a long argument against Wright's view of the relationship between Israel's national pride and works righteousness without coming to the vital point, that he and Wright agree on the conclusion - that in Christ there are no ethnic distinctions in the church, and that this is part of the message of Justification!

This has been a difficult review to write, but in the end the conclusion is easy, this is very poor book. John Piper has written some excellent books, from Desiring God in the 1980's to God is the Gospel in 2005. This is not in the same league. A huge disappointment.

If you are interested in the thinking that led John Piper to write this book you should read his earlier 'Counted Righteous In Christ'. This book is effectively part 2 of the earlier one, so perhaps it would be best to read the earlier book first - I have also reviewed it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2009 12:43 AM BST

Messiaen: Vingt Regards Sur L'Enfant Jesus
Messiaen: Vingt Regards Sur L'Enfant Jesus
Price: 24.05

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars at once the most and the least spiritual music, 2 Dec 2007
Oliver Messiaen's 1944 work Vingt regards sur L'Enfant Jesus is the most spiritual, and the least spiritual music. There is no contradiction.

On the one hand it is the most spiritual. Messiaen is not simply trying to set a religious text to music here - indeed - there is no text. Neither does he simply try to respond to a religious theme. No, he attempts to create a musical language that actually gives voice to the mysteries that inspire it.

On the other hand it is the least spiritual music, put this music on without knowing its inspiration and there are no obvious clues, no influences or references to traditional spiritual music. Nothing so shallow. Rather than dusting down traditional spiritual musical language Messiaen has set out to birth something new. Even the music of `holy minimalist' composers like Arvo Part sounds mannered by comparison.

The work, about two hours long, consists of 20 movements for solo piano. Each seeks to describe the contemplation of the infant Jesus, not from another perspective, as if the composer were rolling off a list of themes, but the act of contemplation by another person or key event or thing that Messiaen invests with personality. Jesus is contemplated in turn by his heavenly father, the guiding star, his mother, himself - the eternal son contemplating himself caught into earthly time, the cross, the angels, and so on.

This music may be for a solo instrument, but there is nothing small about it. It is not chamber music, it is chamber busting music, breaking free of any attempts to constrain it .

It begins so peacefully with `watch of the Father', to the sound of lulling waves of celestial water, before heading deep into the ice cavern of `Watch of the star', which is revisited during `watch of the virgin'. After 20 minutes of relative calm the music explodes into rhythmic life with 'By him was everything was made'. Messiaen devotion to birdsong appears to be given voice on the `watch of the heights' and in the whirling dervish figures of `watch of the spirit of joy'. The 13th movement `Christmas' may confirm prejudices against modern classical music. It does sound like a piano falling down a flight of stairs. However it sounds like a piano on which one of Beethoven's late piano sonatas is being played - falling down stairs.

The inexorable march of time is heard in measured form in `watch of the cross' and insistently and even impatiently in `watch of the prophets, shepherds and magi'. Finally the work ends with the extended 12 minute long `watch of the church of love' which as ever finds Messiaen defining his own voice, at a distance from traditional spiritual musical language, until reaching towards a more conventional voice in the last minute or two in a gesture of spiritual and musical reconciliation.

Aimard appears to have the measure, or rather a measure of this music, I say a measure because unlike a previous reviewer I find it impossible to say that this is a definitive performance. The music itself resists such definition.

Aspects of the Atonement: Cross and Resurrection in the Reconciling of God and Humanity
Aspects of the Atonement: Cross and Resurrection in the Reconciling of God and Humanity
by Marshall I. Howard
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.14

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars here is the necessary background you need for the current debate on the atonement, 26 Nov 2007
In the last few years there has been plenty of debate on various aspects of the atonement. Works that claim to uncover previously unknown aspects of the truth, or that claim to be defending endangered positions are the easiest to sell. These have often created more heat of argument than light on the gospel. More considered and better reasoned volumes are harder work up a sales pitch for. This is a great pity as they are generally the most profitable ones to read. Like this volume

I. Howard Marshall is to be congratulated for producing this short 100 page outline of the doctrine of the atonement. He does a service to anyone trying to maker sense of the present debates over subjects like `penal substitution' and `justification' by presenting the whole area of biblical truth that needs to be considered. The four chapters here cover it all under the chapter headings (1) The Penalty of Sin (2) The Substitutionary Death of Jesus (3) `Raised for our Justification' and (4) Reconciliation: its Centrality and Relevance'). We need more of this comprehensive approach, rather than the consideration of doctrines in pale isolation which robs them of their wider context and significance.

Mind you, N.T.Wright, a key figure in present debate, will not find the approach here sufficient. Consideration of the Old Testament background to New Testament concepts is in the main thing lacking and there is nothing of his Israel-centred approach. However, one volume is unlikely to please everyone.

The short length of the book means that some sections are little more than lists of Biblical references with brief commentary linking them together, but at least by this approach every atonement theme in the New Testament does get considered.

The reader does not find themselves being pushed into this or that theological camp. Instead I. Howard Marshall opens up the challenge of the affirming the breadth of the teaching in the Bible, including themes that individual schools of interpretation downplay or leave out. The only appropriate response to reading this book is to get a Bible out and start studying the wide range of themes presented here in more detail.

It is for inspiring such further study that the author deserves most credit and thanks. There are too many authors doing bad Gary Glitter impressions at the moment `You gotta be in my gang, my gang, my gang'. I Howard Marshall doesn't want you to join his gang. He wants to present you with as much information as possible in coherent form, so that you can appreciate this vital area of truth for yourself.


Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation: An A-Z of the Christian Life
Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation: An A-Z of the Christian Life
by Adrian Plass
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars cuddly teddybear meets naughty schoolboy, 1 Nov 2007
Adrian Plass began his (ho hum) literary career by ripping off the title of the Adrian Mole Diaries and amusing us by proving that there isn't much difference between a confused 37 year old Christian and a typical spotty adolescent 24 years younger. He has failed to mature in the 20 years since - mercifully - and has become the cross between cuddly teddy bear and naughty schoolboy that continues to amuse a Christian public that knows that it is being too solemn and earnest for it's own good.

This dictionary style book is a kind of `Greatest Hits of Adrian Plass'. This removes the need for all those devices comic authors must usually employ to link the jokes together. You know. Like a story. No doubt it also means that Adrian's wit will now appear in even more sermons, talks, and, God help us, lectures than ever before, as speakers can now access it alphabetically by subject.

Some of this is side splittingly funny, some of it is `Oh no, he can't have said that!!!!!!` Some of it is worryingly perceptive. Sadly the book does not smell of Bacon Sandwiches. Hence I am only giving it four stars.

If you like this style of Adrian Plass book I recommend his earlier 'Clearing Away The Rubbish', if you like that book you should enjoy this one.

Glass: Heroes Symphony, The Light
Glass: Heroes Symphony, The Light
Offered by Giant Entertainment
Price: 5.63

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a classic missed opportunity, 25 Oct 2007
Philip Glass composed 'The Light' to commemorate the Michelson-Morley experiment confirming the uniform speed of light. It is one of his early neo classical works, written in the same year as his Violin Concerto: 1987, but it is not in the same league. Its all very pleasant in a light classical kind of way and the composer plays with his limited amount of material in a reasonably inventive manner that keeps the work moving for about 16 minutes. The problem is that leaves 8 minutes of needless repetition after that. Fans of Glass may think that I haven't got the point. But I have. In the Violin Concerto the endlessly repeated figures build into something, but here they just keep on going and eventually become wearing.

So to the Heroes Symphony (1996), designed as a six movement Symphony and ballet piece. David Bowie's `Heroes' album (1977)is a considerable achievement. It is at its most exciting in the glorious collisions of rock and dance on tracks like `Beauty and the Beast', `Joe the Lion' and `Blackout'. These tracks are bursting with possibilities for adventurous reinterpretation by a cutting edge composer, especially one creating a dance work. But Glass turns his back on the most adventurous tracks on the album and chooses mainly the simpler more electronically based ones to interpret in what is a pretty insipid style. If anything shouts from the music here it is `Missed Opportunity!!!'

Harsh words? I think not. First movement `Heroes' is the strongest thing here, serving as a march like introduction to the Symphony. 'Abdulmajid' is half off-the-peg middle eastern tune, half James Bond ratchetting-up-the-tension sequence. 'Sense Of Doubt' descends into outright farce when it begins with the type of series of ominous descending chords that usually herald the entrance of The Baddie in a pantomime. In general the symphony is 46 minutes of inoffensive bland music, as if Glass has taken the Heroes album and stuck it in the washing machine on the `Heavy Soil' programme until anything tense, troubling or messy has been eliminated to reveal the shining white cloth he presents us with here. The thing is - it was the very things he has washed out that made the music interesting in the first place.

As usual The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Marin Alsop do a magnificent job with the material they have been given, but they can't improve the music. However they may be the reason I am giving this three rather than two stars.

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