Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Songs of Zion

Sam “Shazam” Payne (The Sam Payne Project)
“Coming Just to Go”

When I grow up, I want to be Sam Payne!

Well, not really. I’m happy being me. Really.

But, I WOULD like to put out a CD as good as “Coming Just to Go”. And that will be no easy task. One that I will work on for a very long time. In order to accomplish that goal, I’ll have to do three things:

One: I’ll have to learn to write songs better. This is difficult for me to admit in many ways, because I’m quite proud of my songwriting ability. But Sam is my hero. He’s capturing emotions and images and many multiple layers of meaning like nobody I’ve ever heard, and I’m including the big time.

In the past, I had a hard time understanding what his songs were about, but everything was clear on this collection. Maybe it was the short one or two sentences of commentary above the lyrics of each song, but probably it was just that the songs were clearer.

Some of my favorites are “Shazam”, which is about fantasies and realities, “Freight Train” about who’s really in charge of your life, or at least who should be, and “Holy” which actually brought this old man to tears.

He’s got some cool tricks up his sleeve, too, like rhyming “pajamas” and “ram us”, or “mystery” and “kissed her”. He’s a master.

Two: I’ll have to learn to sing a lot better. His voice is the centerpiece of this compilation. He can just do so many cool things with it. Without changing it too much, he’s got country and a bit of rock, and a bit of Sting-ish jazz in him.

Three: I’ll have to hire some killer musicians to back me up. Where “Railroad Blessing” was listed as a solo CD, this one is credited under “The Sam Payne Project”. The guys in the band really bring a lot of pizzazz to the recording. Precise, yet free, tightly arranged, yet improvised. It’s all there. The songs are all Sam, but the group turns him up to 11.

Now, in all the time I’ve been reviewing CD’s, I’ve never given any one 5 stars. I mean, that would make that CD out to be the best. The standard by which all others should be judged. I mean, what if a CD came along that was better? You gonna give it a "six"?

But giving a CD a 4.5 or a 4 would imply that there was something wrong with it. That somewhere in the bits was a flaw. What if a CD came along, and I couldn’t find anything wrong with it? Wouldn’t it deserve a 5 star rating?

So, with that in mind, I’m giving this one a full 5 stars. Your mileage may vary, but I think you’ll have as difficult a time finding the flaws as I did. Better still, don’t bother. Enjoy “Coming Just to Go” on its own merits and let other people worry about mistakes!

OH! One more thing I'll have to do—

Four: I’ll have to learn to scat! Sam, can you help me out, here?

Mark Hansen

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