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coverpic flag Canada - Full Moon 84 - 08/12/03

Sam Roberts
We Were Born In A Flame
Universal

It is often very difficult to define what it is to be of a particular nationality; Canadians have had an especially hard time resulting from the cultural and economical proximity to the United States. Every single attempt to tackle the question by the average person would mostly lead to some mumbling about healthcare and gun control. In fact it is a bit like being an insomniac, you want to sleep, even very badly so, but you just can't.

So what does Sam Roberts' first album has to do with this? Well, mainly the fact that it's an answer to the question "What does being Canadian mean?", because in parts and as a whole it is inherently and unmistakably a product of Canada. In it Sam Roberts sometimes eloquently, sometimes bluntly tells the listener about the highs, lows, and in betweens of Canada. From the song "The Canadian Dream" concerning two central Canadian topics of cold and socialism with its chorus of "S.O.C.I.A.L.I.S.M. is here to stay / S.O.C.I.A.L.I.S.M. is the only way"; through the two early standout singles "Where Have All The Good People Gone?" and "Brother Down" dealing with peace and the brotherhood of all people; "Taj Mahal" with its 60s jam presenting a multicultural aspect of Canada; and to the last few songs of the album, all dealing with insecurities and fears, a negative aspect of Canadian existence (embodied in "No Sleep", half of which is sung in French).

Not that it is a strictly Canadian album, completely incomprehensible for anyone south of the 49th parallel. In fact it is almost exactly the opposite; Sam Roberts takes the roots from which he grew and produces a crown of instantly memorable and catchy tunes with clever personal-though-universal lyrics, ranging from various styles of folk/rock as in "Hard Road", the first track and the hit "Brother Down", to the 60s psychedellia of the closing track "Paranoia" with Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett time) and E6 bands influence, and to the all out Stones style rock'n'roll abandon of "Don't Walk Away Eileen" and "Dead End" with lines such as "Yeah She's blocking out the sun it seems / You're a pacifist with a gun Eileen" delivered with a classic snarl. Some might see the many styles as being too all over the place, but in fact it gives everyone something to like, and in addition to that exposing people to new styles that they might not hear otherwise.

So in conclusion, We Were Born In A Flame is a wonderful debut album from a very talented artist (who wrote it, arranged it, and played almost all of the instruments on every single track) that though not being revolutionary in any way, is diverse, entertaining, manages to capture the essence/atmosphere of the country where it was made and is a damn fine rock'n'roll record ("'Cause I bleed rock'n'roll" from On The Run). Such records are pretty rare and this one should definitely find its way to shopping lists (Canadian lists in particular). Maybe then some insomniacs will go to sleep content...

Copyright © 2003 Dan Ershov e-mail address

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