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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: Lord of the Starfields


Time for Another BOTB!

        It's the 15th of the month and that means another Battle of the Bands is here.  This is the twice monthly event that is brought to you by the fine bloggers at A Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.  Be sure to visit both of their sites and vote on their battles.   Other possible participants are listed at the bottom of this post.  If you'd like to do a Battle of your own let us know in the comments so we can come to vote on yours.

Composer Bruce Cockburn

         Since it's Sunday I thought I'd go with a song with a spiritual theme.  Lord of the Starfields is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singer/songwriters Bruce Cockburn.  For those unaware of Cockburn (pronounced koh-bərn), he's a Canadian artist who released his first album in 1970 and has recorded numerous albums since then.  His songs often deal with topics of a spiritual or political nature with his music influenced mostly by folk, rock, and jazz.  He is an excellent guitar player.  Though popular in Canada and having won numerous awards in his home country, he has been sadly neglected by American audiences, yet retains a loyal following in the U.S.  His music is worth pursuing for those who enjoy folk/rock with an intellectual flair.

        The song Lord of the Starfields comes from 1976 during the period when he was recording more songs reflective of  his Christian faith.  If you are interested in hearing Cockburn's own version of the song then you can click here.   This video has some pretty cool images of distant galaxies and below the video you can find the song lyrics.   To me this is among the most beautiful praise songs ever written.

          I'm not including Cockburn's version in the contest, but I hope you might listen to it and be interested in listening to more of his fine work.

Ali Matthews "Lord of the Starfields"  (2004)

          This young Canadian contemporary Christian artist has released six albums since 2000.  Her version of Lord of the Starfields remains fairly true to Cockburn's original version.

Nico & Ari Neufeld "Lord of the Starfields"  (2010)

        Here's a couple more Canadian artists who team up for a live performance of Cockburn's song kicking up the tempo a bit.   Nico Boesten who plays drums and provides vocals in this video currently resides in British Columbia.  Ari Neufeld, also from British Columbia, is a diversely talented individual who not only performs music, but also is a painter and creator of other visual arts.

Who Will Win?

         Who wins depends on your vote.  In the comments please vote on the version of Lord of the Starfields that you liked best and tell why you prefer the version you chose.

 Here are some other bloggers who may or may not be participating in the Battle of the Bands.  Please visit their sites to vote on their battles:

         Faraway Series
         Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
         Your Daily Dose

          Were you previously familiar with Bruce Cockburn?   Are there any particular Contemporary Christian music artists that you enjoy listening to?     Do you think there is a bias by the U.S. audiences or the entertainment industry toward a good many Canadian music artists?


  1. That's a tough one. I certainly appreciate the subject matter. The video for the first one leaves no doubt as to what the song is about.
    I like what Boesten and Neufeld did with the song though. Little more upbeat. Think for that reason, it gets my vote.

  2. One of my fave songs is Bruce's 'Wonderin where the lions are' from 1980, and also Lovers in a dangerous time.

    I'm not a fan of Christian music, although I do like Iona's 'Book of Kells' CD which came out in the 90s. The bass player was Nick Beggs, of Kajagoogoo fame - one of my fave bands too.

    There may be a bias towards the good Canadian bands/singers. For example Loverboy, Celine and Bryan Adams (can't stand any of them) shoot to the top of the charts while decent bands like Tragically Hip & Crash Test Dummies go largely unnoticed (but for the Dummies one hit).

  3. Totally agree with JoJo. If you catch my Tilting At Windmills- Time Machine posts, you know how we feel about Canadian music in our household.

    Didn't know that about pronouncing Bruce's name. Even Casey Kasem pronounced it as it was spelled.

    In the midst of listening- I really like the first one. While I listen to the second, I should mention that Bruce's Rocket Launcher is also a good, if rockier tune .

    I will vote for the second duo. Preferred the vocal, it had more emotion to it. aND THE UPTEMPO BEAT WAS A GREAT FEATURE AS WELL.

  4. Excuse the shouting at the end. I truly wish I could remove my caps lock button.

  5. LEE ~
    I didn't realize Cockburn had been recording since 1970. I didn't become aware of him until maybe 5 years later.

    >>... Are there any particular Contemporary Christian music artists that you enjoy listening to?

    Yeah, a few, but I generally prefer old Baptist-style Gospel songs by singers like Mahalia Jackson and the (fictional) Angels Of Mercy (see the movie soundtrack for 'Leap Of Faith').

    Of the newer breed, I love Joel Chernoff and a few of the other Messianic singers. Michael Card has written some stellar Christian songs! I was in 'Boys Chorus' in elementary school with Jubilant Sykes, and that guy (who has also sung Opera) has a voice that could cave the roof in!

    But without a doubt, my favorite "modern" Gospel album is 'Living Water' by The Malibooz (which includes Walter Egan of 'Magnet And Steel' fame).

    >>... Do you think there is a bias by the U.S. audiences or the entertainment industry toward a good many Canadian music artists?

    Certainly there is no bias AGAINST Canadian performers by the entertainment industry! Are you kidding? Those whores would promote ANYONE whom they thought could make them money!

    In this BOTB installment, I am voting for Ali Matthews. She has a nice voice and the song twinkled like beautiful stardust.

    I stopped the second video at the 3:52 mark because, in my mind, the contest was already long over at that point. Ari Neufeld, in my opinion, has a very "average" voice and nuttin' I heard musically raised it above the Ali Matthews version.

    Nice song choice, Lee! I learnt sum new stuffs here.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  6. I like the second version better. The first version seems a little too hippy-ish for my tastes.

  7. Love the first one as it feels ethereal and has the same style that harkens to a celtic flair and I like that more than the more folksy style. So the first gets my vote! Thanks for checking out my blog:)

  8. Nico and Ari get my vote. I liked the instrumentation before the guy started to sing. Anything with a lonesome violin gets my attention.

    Dislike the style in #1.

  9. Lee-

    It will probably not surprise you to hear I've got 32 Cockburn titles in my CD collection (only a handful of LP's, which I have duplicated on CD)-like most US residents, I became aware of him when "Wondering Where The Lions Are" broke, although my favorite tunes are "How I Spent My Fall Vacation" and "The Coldest Night Of The Year."

    I do not think there's a bias against Canadian artists-I have a post I am working on that was inspired by the "20 Feet From Stardom" documentary (worth watching-I saw it last night for the first time) that will address this (they spoke of biases against overweight women singers and black women singers in the documentary).

    Simply put-if you produce an album that people want to buy, they will buy it.

    More importantly, if the record labels think people will buy it, they will promote it because they want to sell it.

    Bruce was not a bigger hit in the US because there were a plethora of singer-songwriters to choose from, and Christian music was far from being mainstream.

    Ali Matthews (who is getting my vote-I like her voice) is undoubtedly not a bigger hit in the US because there is a plethora of Christian music, and it is still a niche genre for the most part.

    Plus, look at the whole industry-people just do nut buy music like they used to.

    An awful lot of Canadian artists have had success in the US:

    Bryan Adams
    Paul Anka
    Sebastian Bach (Skid Row)
    Randy Bachman (BTO)
    Michael Buble
    Tom Cochrane
    Leonard Cohen
    Holly Cole
    Burton Cummings (The Guess Who)

    continued below...


  10. continued

    Rick Danko (The Band)
    Beniot David (Yes, Mystery)
    Celine Dion
    Percy Faith
    Sue Foley
    Nelly Furtado
    Nick Gilder
    Corey Hart
    Jeff Healey
    Terry Jacks ("Seasons In The Sun")
    Carly Rae Jepson
    Sass Jordan
    John Kay (Steppenwolf)
    Diana Krall
    James LaBrie (Dream Theater)
    Avril Lavigne
    Gordon Lightfoot
    Guy Lombardo
    Frank Marino (Mahagony Rush)
    Loreena McKennitt
    Kate and Anna McGarrigle
    Alanis Morissette
    Alannah Myles ("Black Velvet")
    Aldo Nova
    Lindi Ortega
    Oscar Peterson
    Crash Test Dummies
    Barenaked Ladies
    Buffy Sainte-Marie
    Ron Sexsmith
    Paul Shaffer (David Letterman)
    Jane Sieberry
    David Clayton Thomas (Blood Sweat & Tears)
    Cowboy Junkies
    Bruce Springsteen
    Tegan And Sara
    Shania Twain
    Neil Young
    Joni Mitchell
    Martha Wainwright
    Rufus Wainwright
    Gina Vannelli

    (continued below)


    My vote goes to Ali.


    *just kidding about Bruce Springsteen-wanted to see if you were still reading

  11. Me again- I hit send a little too fast on part two-meant to save my vote for this comment.

    Are you sorry you got me started? Those are just the obvious Canadian stars-there are a lot more that have had some success that never hit big.


  12. I didn't dislike either version of this song. I preferred the first one because I thought her voice was really lovely and I enjoyed the arrangement more. The second one was fine but it didn't surpass the first.

    And I think LC covered the whole Canadian bias thing. I have nothing to add to that...:D

  13. I caught the Springsteen thing- but not the caveat at the end. Nearly asked if you had lost your mind.

  14. Alex -- Staying upbeat on a Sunday morning.

    JoJo -- Tragically Hip are a great band.

    CW -- "Rocket Launcher" is the first Cockburn song that caught my attention. After I started buying up everything he ever did I discovered that I liked his earlier efforts the best, though he has remained consistently good.

    STMc -- Ali does have a lovely voice and her version is easy to listen to.

    Stephanie --No hippy dippy for you.

    Birgit -- Ari's version does have a sort ethereal Celtic sound to it.

    DG -- I thought the instrumentation on Nico and Ari's version was nice as well.

    Larry-- Okay point taken...but my favorites have been neglected. It's partially dictated by the market but too bad musical superiority doesn't get attention. And there have been a lot of darn good Christian artists who get ignored probably because of the label. Some really great Christian groups out there. Guess I'm just annoyed by a lot of the bad music that does get attention.


  15. CW-

    Well Jersey gets the same level of respect as Canada, so it's almost the same thing!

    One of the reasons I made the list as long as I did was after I'd come up with the handful of REAL obvious artists, I thought it would be funny to do a real long list and slip that in.

    Maybe I need to get out more....


  16. Larry -- One of the greatest injustices of rock 'n roll history has been the way Jersey's The Good Rats have been so overlooked. They are one of the greatest rock bands ever!


  17. Bruce Cockburn is a wonderful musician. I love 'Wondering Where the Lions Are' and 'Lovers in a Dangerous Time,' for which Barenaked Ladies did a swell cover.

    For this one I'm gonna go, just barely, with Ali. I like the lyrics to this song more than the composition or the execution by either.

  18. Loved them both, but I have to agree that Ali's is just a bit more spiritual - even without the awesome video.

  19. I preferred the second version. It just seemed to have a little more oomph.


  20. Ali Matthews versions gets my vote. For me it's an issue of tone being consistent with theme. If this is to be a tribute to the Christian belief system, then it should sound like it. You could change the lyrics to Nico and Ari's version and it could be about anything.

  21. Suze -- Good to hear the acknowledgment to Bruce.

    Donna -- Another vote for Ali

    Julie -- This is turning into a horse race.

    C.Lee -- Ali does add a meditative tone to her version.


  22. I don't know much about Cockburn, having bought only one album of his long ago, one I disliked and put away immediately. Perhaps I should go drag it out and have another go?

    Nah... Probably not.

    This song does nothing for me, though of the two I prefer Nico and Ari's version. As someone before me said: "It has more oomph." The first version is slow, monotonous, and I don't like her voice.

  23. Good song. Tough choice.

    I'll vote for the woman who sings like an angel.

    Tell me, would we have Justin Beiber if there was a real bias against Canadians.

    Larry's List, Ha, ha,ha!

  24. SBB6 -- After I bought my first Cockburn album Stealing Fire I didn't care for it all that much, then one morning driving through rural Illinois I put it in the tape player for another spin and it really hit me. From that point on I was a huge Cockburn fan. But as we've been discussing there is a matter of taste involved here and I wonder what it stems from?

    FAE -- When I was thinking of Canadians I guess I wasn't remembering all of the other artists they sent us and just thinking of my neglected favorites. Another vote for Ali.


  25. The first one was better for me. I like more upbeat normally but her voice drew me in.

  26. Hi Arlee,
    You know, I really like this BOTB thing!

    Were you previously familiar with Bruce Cockburn? - - no, but I did listen to the "original" and I liked it very much! I think I'll have to look at some more of his music.

    Are there any particular Contemporary Christian music artists that you enjoy listening to?
    - Hmmm. Tough question, because in general I like only a few CCM songs, and in general prefer the so-called "Old Standard" hymns for worship. Of course, even Fanny Crosby was considered "radical" in her day by some churches. Anyway, that being said, I find Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons" and Laura Story's "Blessings" to be great songs.

    Do you think there is a bias by the U.S. audiences or the entertainment industry toward a good many Canadian music artists?
    - After reading your previous commenter's list, I'd have to say no. It's just that often I am surprised to find that a certain artist/actor/writer is Canadian. I had a unique opportunity to hear Ron Sexsmith live at a festival that my husband and I stumbled upon in St. Catherine's about 12 years ago. Love this guy's voice, but I had never heard of him before that.

    - And finally, I thank you for bringing my attention to Bruce Cockburn's music and to this song.
    - I vote for Ali Matthews. I like the clarity of her voice and the pace of the song.

  27. Jennifer -- Ali is starting to take a comfortable lead.

    Fantastique -- Cockburn writes such intelligent lyrics and puts them to music so well. I'm surprised that more artists haven't covered his songs. When the first instruments were introduced to church music it was considered very radical. Music has evolved greatly over the past 500 years.


  28. All three versions are really nice. Normally, Christian contemporary I am either drawn to Bruce or Ali's style, but I was totally sold on Nico & Ari Neufeld's rendition. The upbeat tempo gave me a happier sense whereas the first two made me more solemn. BTW, I love the introduction to this piece. Oh yeah, feel free to link your musical posts up each week on Monday's Music Moves Me, if you want. We would love to have you join in the fun! Hope you enjoy your visit in East Tennessee. The weather forecast is looking better for next week. :-)

  29. Both of their voices are great. It's tough that they are against each other in this battle. But I'm leaning toward Ali's version. Her sweet, mystical vocals just won me over.

  30. Just played Nico/Ari again for Laurie and then played Bruce's original. Still go with the duo. REally starting to love that song!

  31. Cathy --I'll have to watch out for the Monday posts.

    Chrys-- This choice could go either way for me.

    CW --It is really a wonderful song. Definitely among my top Cockburn favorites.


  32. Hi Lee,

    I'm loving the Canadian theme, eh. I'm very familiar with Bruce Cockburn.

    Nico and Ari Neufeld get my vote. I don't think there is bias against Canadian musicians. I would reckon a lot of American wouldn't even realise that certain bands are actually Canadian. I know one of your commenters is a huge fan of a certain Canadian band named, Rush.


  33. Gary -- I like the music of Rush as well, but Bruce Cockburn's style is more to my liking. There have been a lot of Canadian artists who have had success in the U.S. Some of my favorites don't get much notice though.


  34. I agree with you, Arlee. I notice Blue Rodeo didn't make it onto Larry's list, for instance...


Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.