Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Songs of Zion

The Whole Armor of God
Produced by Greg Hanson

When I review a CD, I sit down and I listen to all the tracks and I take notes. I think about the music, I think about the words, the craft, the meaning, the impact. When I finally begin writing the review, I have to take into account four fundamental questions:

· Was it well done? Was the recording good and clear? Was the singing well done, were the songs well written?
· Did it fulfill its purpose? What was the artist trying to accomplish? Who was the audience they were trying to connect with? Did it succeed in appealing to that audience?
· Will you, the reader, like it? I can’t really know, but I can tell you enough of what it’s like so that you can tell if it’s something you might want to buy.
· Did I, personally, like it? What’s my own gut reaction? Did it move me?

The challenge with this particular CD is my own mixed feelings. After listening to it, I felt like it was incredibly well done. The singing was spot on and clear. It served its purpose well, and it will probably connect very effectively with its target audience. And I’m certain that there will be many members of the church that will love this CD.

I’m just not one of them.

“The Whole Armor of God” is full of the soft and soothing sounds that bring the Spirit and the message of the Lord to many. But which has always put me to sleep. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when a song touches my spirit, teaches me, or renews my testimony. It’s just that it’s usually other kinds of songs that touch me, speaking personally.

This CD is extremely well crafted. As I was listening, the musician in me was hearing some very intriguing arrangements and excellent singing. There were even a few that rose up and stood out among the gentleness of the rest. “One by One”, for example, was done as a choral work with the accompaniment of a chamber orchestra. There were some delightful things done with modulations and shifting tonal centers that really perked me up. It had a form that was almost sonata-allegro instead of purely verse/chorus/verse/chorus like almost all the others. Great stuff.

“Across the Plains of Eternity”, sung by Sam Payne was another one that stood out. Sam’s voice, in the first place, is a very rich and unique sound, very different from most LDS vocalists. The lyrics in this one were also very different, rich with imagery and not as preachy as the others.

The recording and the mix are pristine. This is an extremely well made collection, and my hat’s off to Greg for his expertise.

The purpose of the CD was to reprise some of the favorite songs of the old Seminary soundtracks of the late 70’s, through the 90’s. In that, it succeeded very well. The lyrics and songwriting did sound very much like a seminary lesson set to music. But then, they should, because, in fact, they were originally written to BE seminary lessons set to music. So, even though most of them come across kinda preachy, that’s what they were designed to do.

I’m presuming that its target audience is the now-grown-up church member looking fondly back on his or her seminary experience and remembering the songs anew. In that, this CD also succeeds very well. Will it reach today’s youth? The student in the third row of the seminary class of today? I don’t know. But then, don’t think it was intended to. I think it’s more aimed at his parents.

Will you like it? This CD will fit perfectly into the Sunday radio shows currently popular here in the Salt Lake Valley. It sounds like it will fit easily onto the shelves of Deseret Book or Seagull Book. If you like soft, soothing, traditional LDS music, you will love this CD. Because it’s full of soft and soothing done very well.

So, for that I’m giving it four stars. Why not five? Because it might be your style, but it just isn’t mine.

Mark Hansen

1 comment:

  1. Another great post, thanks! About that third row of seminary students. I once asked everyone to group up, and give themselves a "Book of Mormon" name. We had Sons of Moroni, Abish's Sisters, Warriors of 2000, etc., and Pearl Jam. "Pearl Jam?" "Yeah, they're cool.", "O.k., but how are they "Book of Mormon"-ish?" "huh?" The rest of the class is rolling right about now. But the responce from the group was dead confused silence. "O.k. guys, see me later and we'll talk." After class, it was changed to "If Joseph was here now he'd like Pearl Jam" Tough to say at 5:45 in the morning, but better than "Dust on the Cover".



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