I count my enjoyment of film scores as my eccentric musical hobby. While others examine the credits of movie posters looking for actors or directors, I almost without fail look for the “Music By:” line. Some find instrumental or orchestral music terribly boring to listen to, but I feel that it grasps my imagination and makes me a part of the music in a way that typical radio tunes simply can’t.
I suppose that’s why I took such a liking to Brett Raymond’s album entitled “First Light: Scenes From the Restoration.” He explains that the album is is much like the soundtrack to a film—only without the film. It is rather the listener who is charged with the task of mentally generating the visuals to coincide with the sound. The 20 tracks follow the events of the early years of Joseph Smith’s ministry, track 1 beginning with a beautiful opening sequence where one might envision opening credits, and track 2 bringing us to a young Joseph on a quest for spiritual enlightenment. Track 3 continues with some poignant melodies that illustrate the “serious reflection” he went through as he pondered the words of James. Track by track, some in the form of songs, and others as simple instrumentals, this album paints a inspiring, powerful, and passionate picture of the ambiance and atmosphere of the early days of what we know as the restoration.
The album received the “Album of the Year” award at the 1998 Pearl Awards, and as far as I’m concerned, is certainly worthy of such an honor. The tracks are complementary and flow together well, and the album makes for an overall satisfying listening experience. There are certain highlights worth mentioning: The main theme is introduced in the opening sequence, and reoccurs in various forms and styles throughout the album. Raymond’s talent truly shines as we hear the same musical theme, expressed with different instruments and tones, conjure up a wide array of moods and emotions. Emma’s theme, which introduces a totally different tune, brings her to life with a sweet blend of woodwinds, strings, and piano, and creates a portrait that matches the woman to whom Joseph wrote the words: “Oh, my kind and affectionate Emma. I am yours forever.”
The story of the lost 116 pages also surfaces in the music, and Joseph’s agonizing experience with that is expressed in “Lost.” But the listener is soon consoled with “Still My Servant, Still My Friend,” which beautifully portrays the universal themes of fall and redemption, as expressed by a wise, loving and compassionate God.
There are a few tracks that I don’t particularly care for, as they seem to try to experiment with certain music styles that just don’t deliver what I imagine was the desired result. But all in all, I find that the album is a cut above others in its class, as it is for the most part devoid of the cheesiness and self-congratulation that seems prevalent in LDS media. The album is labeled as “Volume 1,” suggesting it is the first in a series, however, it’s been over a decade, and unfortunately, still no sign of volume 2.
In the meantime, here’s the track listing, and a few samples courtesy of ldsaudio.com.
- Main Theme/Prologue
- How Is a Boy to Know?
- Serious Reflection
- A New Day
- Who is this Joseph?
- Main Theme/Insults Reprise
- I Can’t Deny It
- Emma’s Theme
- Get the Gold/Chase
- Home at Last, Safe at Last
- The Work Continues
- Main Theme/”Still” Reprise
- Still My Servant, Still My Friend
- Days Never to Be Forgotten
- Sing With Joy
- Listen, Listen (Filling the Hunger)
- All That Was Given
- Main Theme/Epilogue