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3.0 out of 5 stars The Rant and Rave Show, April 26 2004
This review is from: Rock Cries Out (Paperback)
Steve Stockman is the host of a Belfast radio show on BBC Ulster called "Rythm and Soul." No news there. But it used to be called "The Gospel Show." But it wasn't gospel, it was a show playing "contemporary Christian music," which you can hear anywhere. When he took over the show, he immediately jacked up the rock content, playing Larry Norman, Vigilantes of Love, Victoria Williams and Bruce Cockburn, thus providing an unimaginable public service to the listening public, since you can't hear those artists anywhere. Imagine the funny joke of hearing Larry Norman on "The Gospel Show" when people turning in probably thought they'd get hymns. The leprecauns must be laughing at that one.
So why change the name of the show? It must be because while he could appreciate the edge and intelligence in the music of these artists, he just couldn't buy the faith part. But no, it turns out he's a Presbyterian chaplain. He just found more challenging, edgy and angry lyrics in Radiohead, Nirvana, and Bruce Springsteen than in those other artists. So now it really is a "gospel show," with these songs as springboards into his radical radio table talk. Only now the unheard, independent voices are once more cancelled out in favor of music you can hear anywhere.
Stockman summarily dismisses British singer Cliff Richard, but Richard has already been there with his own BBC "Rock Gospel" show, and complained that Larry Norman was the only artist he could find to connect with. Stockman writes as a fan, and that part is engaging and interesting. But he uses these insights as springboards into a simple gospel that, while obvious to him, is never quite spelled out. This part resembles rough sermon notes that only appear as afterthoughts and asides. He warns he'll be attacking the church (whatever that is) and America (how surprising) and all sorts of social ills. He never explains his reasoning or his positions because, of course, it's all so obvious. Everyone knows the war in Iraq is unnecessary, although for some reason he doesn't also dismiss America's help to Britain in WW II. Everyone knows we all have a god-shaped hole in us, as he points out, St. Augustine said. Except that was said by Pascal. Look how big American companies are ruining the world--except they're owned by bigger European ones. To troubled students he prescribes the soul searching songs of Jackson Browne. What he never makes clear is if he includes Browne's own hard-won insight that they might feel better with fewer drugs and less free love. Whether or not readers agree with his obvious propositions or can untangle his simple gospel, the premise of the book is still valid: books like this could be written on any artist by any fan so engaged, whether Presbyterian chaplain or Tibetan monk. Rythm and Soul or The Gospel Show, it's still about, at bottom, a fan listening to music and exploring what they find there.
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