Monday, June 30, 2008

The Songs of Zion - LDS music

"Father to Son"

by Sam Payne

One of my biggest frustrations with all of the studio CD’s I get from Sam Payne is that if you don’t hear it live, you’re missing half the fun. Sam’s performances are lively, and very improvisational it’s true, but the real fun of a Sam Payne show is the stories. Sam is arguably the best storyteller in LDS music, and he sets up each song so, so well. In fact, sometimes the songs rely so much on the story that without hearing it the live setting, you end up kinda scratching your head and saying, “Huh?”

Some of my favorite Sam songs are like this. Once I see the show, and hear the stories, then the song falls beautifully into place, and its meaning is crystal clear.

So, Sam has now put out a “live” CD. I put that in quotes because it’s not really like a recorded concert, but it is. Rather than take a remote to a concert, they set up the musicians in the studio and invited in an audience. Then they recorded Sam, telling it and singing it like it is. Then they took those raw tracks and mixed them like a studio CD, along with all the audience.

I always have a tough time reviewing a Sam Payne CD, because as a reviewer I’m supposed to find flaws, right? I’m supposed to say, “Yeah, this was great, but he coulda dun this instead…” But I do have a difficult time finding things wrong with this one.

The recording and performance are excellent, the energy is there. The best tracks on it are “These Are My People”, Where to Find a Hero”, and his concert standard, “Autumn Leaves”. His religious references are not as blatant in the songs as they are in the stories, but they are powerful. “Brothers Road” and “You May Still Remember Me” are based on Old Testament stories. “All Comes Down in a Line” is all about the generations of the Priesthood. I know I'm listening to LDS music, but it's not beating me over the head, either.

After listening to it over and over, I have come to this conclusion: The only thing I have to complain about is that it doesn’t include many of my favorite Sam songs. “Big Time”, “Shazaam”, and “Space Man” are all missed. “Freight Train”, and “Holy”, two songs that actually make me cry, also didn’t make the cut.

Well, you can’t please everyone, you know…

Mark Hansen

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