Album Review: First Light—Scenes from the Restoration

KC Kern Mormon, music 8 Comments

firstlight.jpgI 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.

For those interested. the album can be ordered from Deseret Book, or can be downloaded (or previewed) from the iTunes Store.

In the meantime, here’s the track listing, and a few samples courtesy of ldsaudio.com.

  1. Main Theme/Prologue
  2. How Is a Boy to Know?
  3. Serious Reflection
  4. A New Day
  5. Who is this Joseph?
  6. Main Theme/Insults Reprise
  7. Insults
  8. I Can’t Deny It
  9. Emma’s Theme
  10. Get the Gold/Chase
  11. Home at Last, Safe at Last
  12. The Work Continues
  13. Lost
  14. Main Theme/”Still” Reprise
  15. Still My Servant, Still My Friend
  16. Days Never to Be Forgotten
  17. Sing With Joy
  18. Listen, Listen (Filling the Hunger)
  19. All That Was Given
  20. Main Theme/Epilogue

Comments

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Comments 8

  1. KC,

    I enjoyed listening to the track excerpts. I hadn’t been aware of this album.

    One of my cultural vices is collecting soundtracks to the HaleStorm comedy films, although I don’t particularly enjoy the movies themselves. I just think Janice Kapp Perry and the hymns occasionally benefit from a fresh, updated hearing in a contemporary context with drums, bass, guitar, etc.

    I stayed away from albums like the one above because I had been disappointed with the schmaltz factor in the past. You’ve piqued my curiosity now to hear more.

    Who are your favorite film composers, by the way? Danny Elfman, Howard Shore? I’m tired of the John Williams knock-offs so many films nowadays seem to sport…

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    Author

    My #1 is Hans Zimmer hands down, though don’t ask me to name a favorite score of his–too many great ones. He shares a commonality with Danny Elfman in that he also started out in a 80’s pop band before getting into orchestral music (Hans was in the Buggles—remember “Video Killed the Radio Star”? He was the keyboardist for that—and Danny was in Oingo Boingo.) I also have a particular esteem for Alan Menken (father of all the 90’s Disney tunes) but I favor his instrumental pieces over the songs. John Williams is the worn-out cliché of film music, but I still have a ton of respect for him, and do enjoy much of his work.

    Another favorite is Alan Silverstri, the right hand man of Robert Zemeckis, with whom he did Back the Future, Contact, Cast Away, Roger Rabbit, and more. There’s plenty more that I enjoy, James Newton Howard, Don Davis, David Arnold, Randy Newman, Marc Mancina, Michael Giacchino, James Horner… I try to listen to each composer enough so that when I hear their music, even its a piece I haven’t heard before, I can identify them by their style. I can’t quite get it right all the time yet, but I’m getting there. 🙂

  3. I love the soundtrack to the 1980’s cheese-fest Flash Gordon. It was done entirely by Queen. Something about screaming electric guitars takes this otherwise terrible movie and turns it into a rock opera.

    Another favorite is John Williams’ score to Saving Private Ryan. The music is simple yet very moving.

    I grew somewhat jaded about LDS music ever since the mission and have not listened to much other then the Tabernacle Choir in a long, long, time. I will have to check out the Brett Raymond album you mentioned.

  4. This is a great blog! I love movie soundtracks too. I love the soundtracks and scores. They are both so great! And it’s a great way to hear a variety of music I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to by myself. I’m writing to you today about and LDS movie coming out, that has a great soundtrack done by the director with the score being done by the very talented Sam Cardon! (You may remember him from the “Work and the Glory” soundtracks.

    It’s a little project I’m working on with Chris Heimerdinger. He’s the author of the “Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites” books. He also has a new movie out you may be interested in blogging about…

    After a solid run throughout the state of Utah, Chris Heimerdinger’s first feature film, Passage to Zarahemla, opens outside of Utah starting this Friday. He will be coming to an area near you very soon.

    Chris is available for interview and would love to discuss with you his incredible journey from best-selling novelist to award-winning filmmaker. Many people do not realize Chris was a filmmaker first and received the Sundance Film Institute’s Most Promising Filmmaker award, and others awards as well.

    Feel free to contact me at tams8275@yahoo.com to set up an interview with Chris. You can also contact his PR manager Bettyanne Bruin at bruinpr@yahoo.com.

    I appreciate your consideration of this e-mail and look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

  5. Thanks for this post. The “First Light” album sounds great. I love soundtracks. The soundtrack from “Legacy” is one of my favorites. And I like almost everything by composer James Horner. Thanks for the samples from “First Light” album.
    I’m going to check the library for it.

    Your blog is fun and interesting! I’m adding a link to it on my blog “Day of Praise”.

    Blessings!

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  7. I have been watching music by credits forever. I’m glad to make your digital acquantence. I am getting “First Light Scenes” per your recommendation.

    My all time favorite composer for his craft is Alan Sylvestri. (“The Abyss” and others) For longevity andconsistent excellence, Jerry Goldsmith. Others include Danny Elfman, Henry Mancini, Henry Moliconi, and many more.

    The film I am most recognized for is “The Child” possibly the worst horror film ever with a cool soundtrack according to the LA Times, Google it, buy it, and you will regret it.

    Working on a pitch trailer for Robert Congdon for Universal at the moment. I love scoring film.

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