4 of 4 thought this review was well written
Anyone who is familiar with the Canadian music scene is probably familiar with Sam Roberts. Ever since the Montreal native released the six track EP (three of which were successful singles) The Inhuman Condition
on Universal Canada Records in the summer of 2002, he has been receiving consistent air play on Canadian rock radio. This album, entitled We Were Born in a Flame
, (which lyric can be found in his song Where Have All the Good People Gone?
), is technically Sam's first full length album since the previous album had only six songs, three of which are included here. The Inhuman Condition reached success, much to the surprise of Sam and his band and he even saw himself winning a couple of Juno awards (Almost like Canadian Grammy's, for those who didn't know). So about a year after The Inhuman Condition
's release, the public were anxiously waiting to see what Sam could do next with a full length album. We Were Born in a Flame
was released in June of 2003, and was greeted with, for the most part, good reviews. Here, Sam Roberts expands on the simple roots rock, rock & roll, folk, and pop rock that he has done well in the past, but also incorporates new instruments such as the violin. This album spawned a new hit for the band, that being the album opener, Hard Road
, and it would spend some time on the Canadian charts. And just to point out, Sam Roberts plays every instrument on the album (even violin), with the exception of drums, which are played by Josh Trager.
We Were Born in a Flame
contains eleven new tracks as well as the three singles from The Inhuman Condition
. Those singles being Don't Walk Away Eileen
, Brother Down
, and Where Have All the Good People Gone
. The only differences is that Brother Down
is a slightly different version than the previous one, which I feel was unnecessary, seeing is how the first one was done just fine. The only noticeable difference in it being the cleaner recording and slight remixing. Both Brother Down
and Where Have All the Good People Gone
both demonstrate Sam's talent and ability to have a nice blend of acoustic guitar along with electric. Don't Walk Away Eileen
is one of the heavier tracks on the album, and also one of the best with its hard hitting drums and pounding guitar riffs complete with Sam's signature voice. It is a song that will be sure to have you tapping your feet or humming to yourself. All three of these tracks are highlights on the album and was a smart decision to include on the album. Hard Road
, the only new single from the album, is a strong way to open the album. With it?s acoustic strumming and steady drumming, it makes for an extremely catchy song. The song is not very heavy; rather mellow and flows very well. The song also has some of the best lyrics on the album which I will get into later in the review. Sam Roberts' influences such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan shine through in this song, as they do a majority of the album.
With a first listen of this you will notice that the album does start off noticeably strong, seeing as how three of the four singles are the first three tracks. This can work in a good way and in a bad way. It is a very good strategy because that makes you want more and gives a good first impression, but bad in the sense that the following tracks may not live up the expectations of the strength of the first three. But luckily, the other tracks do live up to the hype, for the most part. Sam's ability to make soft, acoustic songs to catchy rock tunes work quite well here and offer some diversity in the record. Songs like the piano driven ballad Taj Mahal
are done beautifully as he sings with emotion. He plays the violin in the song too, which is a perfect addition. Other songs like No Sleep
shows Sam's softer side. Built around a simple but effective guitar riff, and backing vocals in the chorus combine to make for a well done track. This song again features the use of the violin which is put to effective use. If you have bought the American version of the album, you will be without track number eight, the patriotic The Canadian Dream
(hmm...I wonder why it was left of the US version...). But anyway, it's too bad because it is really a good song. Sam's clean vocals are at his best here as they soar over the calm music in the background. Nothing amazing instrumentally here but the simplicity is used to its best which makes for an overall solid track and also a fairly long one too at nearly five minutes.
Other tracks like Higher Leaning
and On The Run
show more of Sam's rock material, and are both highlights of the album. On The Run features Sam belting out the lyrics over a funky bassline and a chorus that follows along the same lines as Don't Walk Away Eileen
. The lyrics aren't the greatest here, but that is not the song?s main focus or strong point. Dead End
is an incredibly catchy number with an almost rockabilly feel to it. Sam sings it very fast as he keeps up with the fast paced drums and piano. A very fun, upbeat song and a nice change of pace in the album. Dead End
also features some of the best guitar work on the album as Sam plays a few solos in between verses. The album closer, the ballad type Paranoia
, is another one of the softer track done acoustically. This song, almost clocking it at six minutes again features of use of piano, though not as much as others. Sam?s voice seems almost breezy and even more soft than usual here. The song remains calm throughout, but does pick up speed towards the end. I should also note that the acoustic intro sounds quite similar to that of Pink Floyd's Pigs On The Wing
As a duty of the singer/songwriter that he is, Sam writes his own lyrics here and does them well as they feel real and believable. In the opening track, Hard Road
, he sings some inspiring words about the hard times ahead and the 'hard roads' in life. May sound cliché*´o some, but Sam finds a way to pull it off without sounding really cheesy or silly as he uses clever metaphors like "And there's no desert sun that is hot enough to feed your fire"
and also in the chorus he sings: "Got lost on the way, but you found the road again; Stay true to your friends, cause they'll save you in the end"
. A good portion of his lyrics seem to be about reflections from his past like in Every Part of Me
: "My memories are in white and black"
or other ideas, like the fact growing up as he sings in No Sleep
; "I should do something with my life; But I'm old, I'm getting old"
. No Sleep
also has Sam singing some lyrics in French, which is different or interesting. Sam again writes some wonderful lyrics in the ballad Taj Mahal
referring to the title. But with all the brilliant lyrics, there are some parts that are clichÃ© like in On The Run
as he sings "Baby baby you're so cruel, You got me breaking all the rule"
. But they can just be looked at as fun lyrics rather than serious ones. Too make it short and sum it up, the lyrics are mostly done well, and sound believable and real. A definite strong point of the album.
So this shaggy-haired, former hockey player manages to put out a solid debut album. There is not much that is absolutely amazing instrumentally, but that is not the main focus of his music. I see him as one of Canada's premier rock singers/band's along with The Tragically Hipm Matt Good, and Our Lady Peace (no, not Nickelback) and I think he will be remembered along with Canadian greats like The Guess Who if he keeps this up. I would recommend a listen if you are into good ol fashion rock and roll but can be enjoyed by fans of folk or op rock too. Sam as since released his second full length album, titled Chemical City
which was just released recently, though I have yet to hear that one. If you get the US version of this, it won't have Canadian Dream
as I mentioned, but it will also have two other tracks that were on his EP, those songs being This Is How I Live
and When Everything Was Alright
. Anyway, We Were Born in a Flame
is an great album from a guy who has lots of potential and who I feel is often underrated.
The Four Singles (if you haven't heard them)
On The Run