Heavy Sun is a well-intentioned album that leans on Daniel Lanois’ long history with gospel. The lyrics preach a message of hope and love that cannot be preached enough. The production is beautiful, because everything Lanois produces is beautiful.
The album is boring though. It lacks everything that defines great gospel.
The opening is promising, with haunting organ and impassioned vocals. The second song falters when the background vocals sing a ridiculous arpeggio of the title, “Power.” The word choices in “Every Nation” border on embarrassing. By the time we get to “Tree of Tule” and “Tumbling Stone,” I’m reminiscing about the pre-programmed “songs” that oozed from my local mall’s organ store in the ‘70s.
I listened to an old Smithsonian Folkways gospel compilation to see how it compared. The production is awful but the love and passion and joy in these recordings is immeasurable. A few seconds of “Holy Ghost” by Juanita Johnson and the Gospel Tones or “Jesus Going to Make Up My Dying Bed” by Horace Stott—two very different takes on gospel—and one thing becomes clear: impeccable production cannot compensate for the lack of both gravity and light on Heavy Sun.
Released: March 19, 2021