Please read Scott Coates’s selection article of Sam Roberts: We Were All Born In a Flame before reading our reviews below.
Sam Roberts is a well-known Canadian artist that seemingly always has songs on the radio. That’s a good thing and a bad thing as it becomes like pop radio where all they do is kill pop songs until you can’t stand them anymore. If I hear Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling one more time I’ll explode! The 3 of us living in Canada all agreed the hits were too overplayed and it turned us away from Sam Roberts slightly.
The great news is that when we now go back and listen to this album as a whole, we almost all(looking at you Greg) agreed there was so much more to Sam Roberts and to this album. It was a great listen and we all picked up on different nuances about it. Enjoy the individual reviews below and please take time to appreciate this great Canadian artist.
What was cool about this album:
- The album was great beginning to end.
- Songs like The Canadian Dream and Higher Learning were amazing songs we had not heard before. Sam Roberts is so much more than just those overplayed hits.
- We get to post this review on Canada Day.
What we didn’t find so cool:
- Canadian radio stations absolutely overplayed Sam Roberts singles which turned some of us off his music years ago.
- Greg didn’t find the album that great. Sheesh Greg, you like Meatloaf and Skunk Anansie but not Sam Roberts? Ha ha…
We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 4
Would we recommend?: 4
Influenced our tastes: 2
Worth the hype? 3.5
Read our full individual reviews below.
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.
Our Full Reviews
Scott Coates’s Review
In the summer of 2003 I was visiting Canada (I live in Thailand) and it seemed there were two songs on the radio, both by Sam Roberts, Where Have all the Good People Gone and Brother Down. You couldn’t walk into a bar/restaurant without hearing at least one of these songs. I enjoyed the two tracks, returned to Thailand and that’s where my Sam Roberts experience ended.
This month was a highly enjoyable one, listening to We Were All Born in a Flame many, many times. This is a solid album from start to finish. And Canadian to boot! There’s such breadth and depth throughout. Truly an album for multiple occasions: over dinner, while working, reading a book, enjoying a bottle of wine, this is a very likeable and versatile collection.
While I like Where Have all the Good People Gone and Brother Down, the two biggest radio hits from the album, other tracks resonate more, particularly The Canadian Dream, which I’m still playing over and over. There’s a depth to this song that pulls me in each time I listen. Trippy guitars in the background, superbly Canadian lyrically imagery and an overall fantastic musical sound make this, easily the standout track of the album. Fantastic!
Debut albums are often artist’s best as they have a collection of songs they’ve honed for a long time, sometimes rendering follow-ups a bit of a disappointment. I’m not sure if this is the case with Sam Roberts but will be diving into his catalogue deeply in the coming months. We Were All Born in a Flame has captured my musical spirit, made me proud of Canadian artistry and seriously turned me on to Sam Roberts’ work.
Overall opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype?: 4
Darren Scott’s Review
When Scott picked Sam Roberts I was a little surprised. Scott Coates and our other member Greg Jorgensen have both lived in Thailand since about 1999. Even though both of them are Canadian it is obvious they would be a little removed from the Canadian music industry. For me, I had always liked Sam Roberts hits I heard on the radio and I bought most of the singles over the years. However, though I really liked Sam Roberts, I had not really bought an album or really dedicated much time to listening to his music. I would compare Sam Roberts to my wife Shaida’s hair. My wife has beautiful, exotic, curly, thick amazing hair and when people meet her they often comment on how much they love her hair. As we have been together since 1998 I see it every day and though I appreciate how awesome her hair looks I’m just used to it and don’t really think of it on a daily basis. Sam Roberts music seemed like that to me. When I started hearing him in the mid-90s on radio I liked it and knew who he was but listening to just singles it just came to a point where the music blended in with all the other music I listened too. I knew it was great music, I just heard it often and got used to it so I never thought of it day to day.
I owe Sam Roberts an apology. I’m so sorry Sam. As a proud Canadian and supporter of Canadian music I should have made time to really listen to his music. As soon as I got through the album for the first time I was blown away how great it was. Sure I heard the singles I knew and liked but the album was an amazing listen from beginning to end. When I finally reached the song The Canadian Dream I was fully converted. Wow, what a great song, and it spoke to me as a Canadian. So good.
The rest of the month I enjoyed this album each and every time I listened to it, which was often. I also took time and listened to his other albums which are also great. I don’t know how I somehow missed getting more into Sam Roberts the past 20 years but I won’t let that happen again. I now think he is one of the greatest Canadian artists I listen too and I’m actually surprised he didn’t garner more international fame.
As I sit here on Canada Day getting ready to go volunteer at the new National Music Centre here in Calgary, Alberta I feel proud that I got to rediscover such a great Canadian artist. Great pick Scott, great music Sam!
Overall opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype? 4
Scott Gregory’s Review
I think most of us had a superficial idea of Sam Roberts’ music coming in to this review. He received a good amount of airplay in Canada for many of his singles, and I think how we responded likely had to do a lot with what we were up to at the time.
I really caught the Sam Roberts wave when I went back to university, which worked out well for me. I don’t think Brother Down was quite as strong an album as We Were Born in a Flame, and luckily Flame was out when Roberts came to campus. I really got to appreciate him in the context of all the youthful energy of fellow students 10 years my junior. Don’t Walk Away Eileen is still one of my top-two favourite songs about women named Eileen.
Roberts is an incredibly gifted and diverse songwriter, and I appreciate how he can keep the instruments thrumming and have the lyrics thrive in front of it. He’s not afraid to let the guitars off the leash, but you get sucked back in by his measured vocals that include great transitions from solo to harmonizing. Truly a joy to listen to.
Already mentioned before, Don’t Walk Away Eileen is one of my all-time favourite songs, let alone by Roberts. You queue this up with Money City Maniacs by Sloan and you’re well on your way to a great air guitar session. It’s loud, it’s aggressive and it’s infectious without being coarse. If this makes sense, I think it’s an amazing example of a well polished unpolished song?
The start to Hard Road is my favourite part of this album. It’s fluid, low-key, and sits underneath Roberts’ vocal amazingly. You have to really be paying attention to catch the subtle shifts in the guitar as he moves through the various parts of the song. Once you’ve given it a couple listens, I highly encourage you to go back and listen to all the transitions.
It’s hard not to go with three of the singles as favourites, especially since half the album received airplay. Perhaps Rarefied? He lets the percussion take a larger role in this song, particularly the bass. The more-pronounced overdub on the backing vocals was fun and different as well. What’s better than Sam Roberts? Sam Roberts backing Sam Roberts of course!
It goes without saying that, patriotism aside, I really love this album and think it was a wonderful pick. I highly recommend anyone that likes a rockin’ time to give it a listen.
Overall Opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend: 5
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype: 4
I’d never heard of Sam Roberts before, which isn’t surprising. Living overseas for 15 years will remove anyone from the sphere of pop culture influence from their home country. I didn’t know what to expect from Scott’s pick, because while we share a lot of common tastes, we also really disagree on a lot of music. We Were Born in a Flame fell somewhere in the middle.
This was a really pleasant album to listen to, and everyone involved is obviously very talented and competent. But it didn’t grab me, and fell into the “starts strong but trails off” category of albums. Save for a few tracks, almost every song made me feel a bit listless, like it would be a perfect listen for a rainy day stuck indoors. There was enthusiasm but no energy. Rock but no roll. Spirit but no vigor. I listened to it half a dozen times but maybe I was just in the mood for something a little harder each time…?
It started off well, and Hard Road was a fun song. Don’t Walk Away Eileen was a good choice as one of the album’s singles, and Brother Down had me tapping my toes. Taj Mahal had a beautiful melody, but the rest kind of faded after that.
I don’t really have a lot to say about this album except that it was perfectly fine, but not something I’d specifically choose again. If it came on, I’d be happy to listen, but I don’t think it will be in rotation on my playlist.
Overall opinion: 2.5
Would we recommend?: 2.5
Influenced our tastes: 0
Worth the hype? 2.5
Alain Dupuis’ Review
I vividly remember when this album came out. As it was Canadian Content, the Calgary radio stations would play singles like Brother Down and Where Have All The Good People Gone ad-nauseum. I think it kinda left me sour about anything to do with Sam Roberts. Additionally, because his music lacked the aggressive guitars and snarling vocals that I really loved in my music at the time as well, he didn’t rank very high on my list of bands to give a shit about. But that was then, and this is now. How does it hold up against a matured musical palate?
Here’s the thing. This album came out in June of 2003. It’s been a long time since it was first released and I still can’t stand the singles. If I never hear Brother Down, Where Have All The Good People Gone, and Don’t Walk Away Eileen again, I will not be sad. I guess that’s the downside to the Can-Con regulations. (If you aren’t aware, the Canadian Government mandates that Canadian radio stations play between somewhere between 35% and 40% Canadian artists every hour. This should be a great exposure boost for emerging artists, however, in my observations, what actually happens is that the same few proven hit-makers see proportionally higher rotations on the air. That means a lot of repeated Nickelback, Sam Roberts, and Avril Lavigne tracks.)
The good news: The non-single tracks on this album are actually pretty good! I’m really happy Scott chose this pick. I wouldn’t have otherwise delved into Sam Robert’ discography.
I think my favourite track on the album was Higher learning. I enjoyed the energy. It sounded more rock n’ roll than the singles I’d heard before it. Frankly I’m a little surprised this song wasn’t picked as a single – it’s very catchy!
On the Run had a really rad base line and a sense of frenetic energy to it that had me moving my head to it. That song earns a spot on my permanent rotation for sure. Despite the fact it’s a pretty basic tune that features a whopping 4 chords, it’s a fun throwback to before music took itself so seriously.
Dead End, and No Sleep were also fun tunes to bump to. They sounded fresh to me, and again had me wondering why more tracks from this album weren’t getting radio play.
Overall I enjoyed We Were All Born In A Flame much more than I expected to, despite some of the tracks having worn themselves out on me from years of radio play. The album has a garage-band feel to it, but maintains a level of tightness that I appreciate. Lyrically, a lot of the tracks are relatable and totally reek of Canadiana, which I dig as a proud Canuck. It’s accessible, and fun overall. Go give it a listen!
My personal opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 3.5