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jeffAudio - The Music of Jeff Hentschel
CD Review: Relient K - Mmhmm [Part I] 
MmhmmMmhmm by Relient k
Genre: Rock, Punk, Christian
Released: November 2, 2004
Rating: 10/10

Rarely do I find an album that speaks the truth so beautifully as Mmhmm by Relient K. I recently purchased album from the iTunes store as something I thought I might try out. I heard their music was good, and that although the members were all Christian, their music wasn't necessarily what one might classify as "Christian Music." Honestly, the first time I played through the album, I thought that it was pretty good. But as I played it more, and started listening to the lyrics more closely, I began to ask questions as to what the words were about. Upon further study, they turned out to be beautifully and cleverly crafted - full of raw truth and double entendres. To any non-believer, the music might easily sound simply like good punk rock. However, without knowing the full meaning of the lyrics, the heart of the album is completely lost, thus relegating it to the shelves of all other standard punk rock music. Even in the most secular song, "My Girl's Ex-Boyfriend," there are undertones of Christianity. Songs such as "Be My Escape" and "I So Hate Consequences" are more clearly relating the singer to God in a way that I'm certain that any Christian, including myself are able to connect to at a deeper level than someone who does not fully understand their meaning. A more in-depth analysis of each song is after the jump .

The following is an in-depth analysis of each song in Relient K's album Mmhmm, at least as far as I am able to understand them. I am dividing this into two sections, one for each half of the cd. Feel free to comment about anything I say.

1. "The One I'm Waiting For" - This song reminds me of Proverbs 5, which talks about avoiding immoral women. The first stanza of the song says "The way that girl can break a heart / It's like a work of art / And this is the worst part / She knows it." While breaking hearts is a bit less severe than what Proverbs has to say about adultery, the basic concept - this girl introduced in the song is bad news - is the same.

We continue on with other references to Proverbs with lines such as "And just learn to listen / To those that have more wisdom than you," which is also talked about many times in the beginning chapters of Proverbs. The lyrics offer a further warning against such women by saying "Well she is such a threat." The main difference between this song and Proverbs is that while in Proverbs the woman is oblivious to her evil doings, the girl in the song is very aware of the fact. The singer starts off very optimistic, and rightly passes up the wrong path.

The final three lines, sung in the background serve as foreshadowing for the rest of the album, "Something tells me that this is going to make sense / Something tells me it’s going to take patience / Something tells me that this will all work out in the end," especially the last two lines.

2. "Be My Escape" - Just as with meeting a person, it's takes a bit for you to show your true self. The first song can almost see as the façade we see when we first meet someone. However, by the second song, the lyrics reveal the true self. This is definitely one of my favorites on this album, mainly because the lyric are so real.

The singer first sings about the state of the human race by saying "I'm blending in so you won't even know me / Apart from this whole world that shares my fate." It is clear that this fate is not a good one, but because of the culture we live in, he feels he needs to conform to the culture. He's tried everything, and has finally given in. Fortunately, he does recognize he has "one last shot at redemption." By giving his life away (as a servant to God) he can get away from this world and live a pure life, no matter how against the grain that might be.

The chorus of the speaks about our doubts and insecurities that we have when first trusting God with our life. It takes a leap of faith to finally trust God, and we may not know where exactly He is taking us (And even though there's no way of knowing where to go), but we need to follow Him anyways (I promise I'm going). The singer realizes his sins are fatal, and he needs to do something about it. He begs God to help him out of this "rut [called sin] that I fell into by mistake."

There is no way to save ourselves, which the singer has finally realized. He knows how to follow God, but he still has doubts and needs to trust God. (I've given up on doing this alone now / Cause I've failed and I'm ready to be shown how / You've told me the way, and now I'm trying to get there"). The singer repents of his sins, "And this life sentence that I'm serving / I admit, that I'm every bit deserving / But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair." and knows that no matter what he has done in the past, God's grace will save him and allow him to escape.

The last verse before the breakout, says "And I am a hostage to my own humanity / Self detained and forced to live in this mess I've made / And all I'm asking is for you to do what you can with me / But I can't ask you to give what you already gave." This again shows the state of humanity - one drenched in sin. The singer wants to ask God to help him any way he can, but realizes that God has been offering grace and forgiveness from the beginning. All we have to do is accept His gift.

One last cry of repentance is made ("I should have let you win / Oh, how we regret those things we do") and a finally epiphany that God wanted the best for him from the beginning.

3. "High Of 75" - This is probably my least favorite song on the album, but it is still well placed, and goes well with the other songs. It talks about that initial "high" that many of us experience when we first become a Christian. We can interpret "Be My Escape" as the singer making the first step of faith and accepting Jesus as his Lord. Now, he is so happy, that he is "Sunny with a high of 75 / Since you [God] took my heavy heart and made it light." As a new Christian, he feels newly reborn, and is simply enjoying his life.

The weather can be used as a metaphor for any relationship, including his relationship with God. There will be highs and lows, sunny days and rainy days, but he is continually looking for the sun. I can't be sure if the double entendre here is meant, but that line could also be taken as "Hoping that I'll catch sight of the son [of God]." We also have the theme of being in a personal relationship with God, such as when the singer misses God when he falls away. The overall light-heartedness of this piece goes well with the material.

4. "I So Hate Consequences" - This is quite possibly my favorite track on the album, but only because of the final verses. Nobody is perfect - we all are sinners and deserve the consequences. But when we finally come to that realization, we are guilty and ashamed. Especially as Christians, we not only feel bad for going against what we say, but our bad image reflects badly on God, which we certainly do not want to do since we are trying to bring people to God and not push them away.

The singer realizes all of the mistakes he has made and wants to run away from them. He knows that if God finds out about them (which He will), he is doomed, and so he tries to run away from God ("Running from You is what my best defense is"). The singers repents to God saying "I had no idea where my head was at / But if my heart says I'm sorry can we leave it at that" The act of tearing down the stop lights is a metaphor to tearing obstacles that you run into when trying to run away from God. Even though it is futile, the singer continues to try to hide despite his sin ("I'll get away despite / The fact I'm so weighed down"). Up until now, the song has a rather grim message - the singer is trying to run away from his consequences, mistakes, and God. The rest of the song, however, shows a powerful message about the way things really are.

"All of my escapes have been exhausted / I thought I had a way but then I lost it / And my resistance was once much stronger / And I know I can't go on like this much longer"
This stanza marks the singers epiphany that it is impossible to run away from God. He has no more energy, and knows that hiding from God is futile. He must face God, and beg forgiveness.

"When I got tired of running from you / I stopped right there to catch my breath / There your words they caught my ears / You said, 'I miss you son. Come home' / And my sins, they watched me leave / And in my heart I so believed / The love you felt for me was mine / The love I'd wished for all this time / And when the doors were closed / I heard no I told you so's / I said the words I knew you knew / Oh God, Oh God I needed you / God all this time I needed you, I needed you"
This final section shows God's love for us, and that He will always welcome those who come to him in repentance. The singer is shown the unconditional love of God - of God welcoming him back into His family without questions, without I told you so's, but with forgiveness and "the love I'd wished for all this time." He cries to the Lord, "I needed you."

For mainly musical purposes, the singer restates the chorus, however; I can also see some other reasons for including the chorus one more time. The singer's struggles with his sins are not complete, and he still struggles with them and how God will act. We are still sinners by nature, and only by accepting Jesus can our sins be washed away. When playing the album, we see this more clearly.

5. "The Only Thing Worse than Beating a Dead Horse is Betting on One" - The shortest track on the album, this song talks about politics and illusions. The overall theme is that you can't make something bad into something good by giving it another name. Things will always be what they are no matter how you cover them up. "Opinions are immunity to being told you're wrong" is one example of covering something up. "We will endure" the song goes on to sing, "But you just can't be too sure / How long this will last."

"We control the chaos / In the back of our minds / our problems seem so small / but they grow on us like gravity / but gravity still makes us fall." There are many points to analyze in these last few lines. Relient K bring in the excellent metaphor of gravity for sin. They sing how we are in control of this chaos in the back of our minds. The first part of the song is certainly rather chaotic and almost seems to be leaning towards a stream of consciousness type of lyrics. We also hear about our problems (also sin), in the back of our minds, and how they seem so small. When sin starts, it usually seems like it isn't even a problem. We relegate it to the back of our minds with the rest of the chaos. It might even be said that some of the chaos is formed because at some level we know that the sin is wrong and wrestling with it creates very unsure and chaotic thoughts about that sin. Sins also have a tendency to grow on us in several different ways. In one way, they grow on us by getting bigger, and enveloping us in a cloud of sin. But they can also grow on us into an unhealthy relationship. We start to actually enjoy the sin.

Gravity is used as the metaphor because it has all these excellent properties. Firstly, gravity is often taken for granted and not considered - much like early sin or a small problem. The song ends with "But gravity still makes us fall" showing what gravity literally does to us - pulls us down - and showing what sin does to our emotional and spiritual (and sometimes physical) self - makes us all. Of course, to use gravity as a more truthful metaphor for sin, we must assume that there is no escape velocity for said gravity. In the end, no matter how hard we try to get away from sin (or gravity), it will always be the death of us. You can even go farther by saying that the longer it takes for you to realize you are in sin (the farther you try to pull from gravity), the faster you are going to come crashing down (assuming there is no terminal velocity either).

6. My Girl's Ex-Boyfriend - This song says the least about Christianity and God on the CD, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good song. Plus, after all this heavy stuff, the listener needs a break with something lighthearted and happy. The song is very didactic and in the classic Relient K style. The singer thanks his girl's ex-boyfriend for breaking up with his (now) girlfriend. It's a rather different take on the classic love song, but I really like it. The song shows the singers humbleness when he says "me, / this undeserving mess / who would believe / my life would be so blessed." Other than that, he is kind of rubbing it in the guy's face that "I've got the girl and he's left with just a memory."

7. More Than Useless - Sometimes we can feel like we're completely worthless and wonder if we're ever going to do anything right. We get to a point were we realize there is absolutely nothing we can do but praise the Lord and be thankful for His grace and forgiveness. This song talks about that by confessing that "I'm just scared, so scared that I'll fail you" to God. The singer says "I wonder why, why I'm even here at all / But then you assure me / I'm a little more than useless." God loves us and we don't need to be scared of failing Him. As long as we accept Jesus as our savior, God forgives us for whatever we do. And when we get so down, "You [God] promise me that I'll get through this / And do something right / Do something right for once."

iTunes (Not on iTunes as of 07.03.08)
CD Universe

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Concert Review: Hilary Hahn plays Goldmark 
Tuesday night was the last performance by Hilary Hahn with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit, and she was determined not to disappoint the audience. The program opened with Wagner's Flying Dutchman Overture. The orchestra did an excellent job on this short introductory work.

Hilary Hahn, a violinist who has won numerous awards for her artistry took the stage with a commanding presence. While perhaps not as flamboyant as other violinists of her generation, she played the Goldmark concerto with amazing technical prowess and impressive intonation. The audience was certainly overjoyed by her playing that many of them stood up as soon as the piece was over. Hahn then proceeded to appease them by announcing she would play "Andante from Sonata No. 2 by Bach" in a voice sounding like the exact opposite of her playing. This piece was performed just as well as the concerto with spectacular intonation.

After a brief intermission, Dutoit led the orchestra to play Tchaikovsky 6th Symphony. The first two movements were filled with emotion, although the later movements seemed not to have the full vigor of the previous pieces. Still, it was a great performance.

Overall, the concert was excellent. The three pieces seemed to compliment each other making sure not to give the audience too much at once.
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Shaham Plays Elgar 
This incredible concert showcased three very different pieces highlighting the talents of both Zinman and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

It's not often a composer is at the concert of his piece, but Saturday night Golijov was there to congratulate the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on their phenomenal performance of his Last Round. This Argentine piece for string orchestra and small ensemble envoked enough emotions to keep you on the edge of your seat. And while the second half may have been of a completely different tune, the Zinman changed beats seamlessly from "macho, cool and dangerous" to a much more intimate sound. The entire piece was excellently crafted and the CSO did their first performance of Golijov's work justice.

After a short set change, Gil Shaham took the stage in his normal exuberance to perform Elgar's flamboyant violin concerto. Such a difficult concerto can be extremely tiring on both the soloist and the orchestra, but neither Zinman nor Shaham backed down, Shaham maintaining a close connection with the conductor to keep a tight performance.

Following two amazing pieces is always hard, but the CSO didn't disappoint by an astounding performance of Schumann's second symphony. The entire orchestra was in step with Zinman and met his lofty demands of greatness. The adagio expressivo gave the audience a short chance to catch their breath and reflect as they were soon sent back to finale which ended triumphantly.

While the orchestra did a great job, the only thing that could have made it better were the seats. While buying the student tickets saves a lot of money, we were seated in the terrace section which is oddly located behind the orchestra. Concert halls are designed however to project sound away from the orchestra and so you get a different sound in that area. I felt that being located directly above the basses and percussion resulted in an overall "bassy" tone that may have been remedied by a different location. Another concern of mine was the soloist. A great testament to Shaham's violin, it was able to be heard, but it would have been nice if the orchestra was a bit softer. Sitting on the terrace did provide a unique view of Zinman and the orchestra and allowed you to follow his movements more closely.
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Album Downloads 
I have recently added my music onto the website Jamendo. This site is an amazing site with a ton of good free music in all different genres. I have downloaded many different albums from here and always pleased at the quality of work people are willing to do because they love music. You can choose the format you want the album in (mp3 or ogg) and download it via bittorrent or eMule. After that, you can star the album, rate it, or whatever. You can also listen to the complete albums online if you want to listen before you download. My latest album Wormhole should be available within a few days. In the meantime, check out all of the other albums they have to offer. Jamendo recently passed the 2000 album mark and is gaining in popularity.
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CD Review: Mahavishnu Orchestra - Inner Mounting Flame 
Inner Mounting FlameInner Mounting Flame by Mahavishnu Orchestra
Genre: Jazz, Rock, Fusion
Released: August 14, 1971
Rating: 8.8/10

The debut album of the Mahavishnu Orchestra brought John McLaughlin's vision of what fusion should be to world. This album maintains a forceful presence throughout the entire album giving each member of the band a chance in the spotlight. All of the members are high caliber players, so this is no dissappointment whether it be Jerry Goodman's violin playing or Billy Cobhams's rock solid beat.

Even the quiet "You Know, You Know," (I have done a version of this piece) there is still a special energy that is present in the music. McLaughlin, however, doesn't like to sit still. Most of the pieces include super-fast solos and themes. Throughout the pieces, McLaughlin will run a line in unison with Goodman or Hammer (on keys) that creates an especially unique tone that I've come to love in all of his music.

This is an amazing album and along with Birds of Fire, it is one of the band's best. If you are looking for a representative album of some of the style of Mahavishnu Orchestra, this is a great place to start. It also exemplifies the rock oriented side of the fusion genre and is an imperative addition to any fusion library.

CD Universe
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