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VINYL RECORD REVIEW:The Paynes – 30th Anniversary Reunion (2001)

On November 17, 2000, a historic moment occurred on the stage of the Dayton Memorial Hall in Dayton, Ohio…10 years after the group came off the road and a little over 15 years after the Paynes recorded their iconic “Fire on Stage” live recording, the Paynes returned to the same stage and created magic one final time!

Produced by Wayne Haun along with Keith Payne, this was probably the most anticipated release of 2001 for me personally.  This recording brings back the popular iteration of the group from the 80’s with Mike, Loreen, Keith and Bill, along with the added bonus of Mike and Loreen’s daughter…Sandra Payne!  Also included are former band members Bobby Prater, Reggie Grimmitt and Mark Payne along with Jason Webb, Wanda Vick and Anthony Neal as well as 2nd generation Paynes, Mark Payne, Jr., and T.J. Payne (Keith’s son).  Performing on stage with the Paynes are background vocalists Ray Davis (who also co-writes with Mike), Amaleia Ruble and Karen Morley, who did a wonderful job adding their touch to each song.  By the year 2000, most live recordings were done with pre-recorded music, as live music had pretty much become a thing of the past, but for this reunion, the group and the record company opted to use all live music, which added to the overall authenticity and excitement of the whole event.  You can’t create the kind of magic the Paynes did with tracks, and the group and record company obviously knew that and I’m glad they opted to use live music!  Kudos to producers Wayne Haun and Keith Payne for doing such a magnificent job capturing the essence of the Paynes with this live recording!

The legendary Norm Livingston took the stage one more time and in his own unique and robust way introduced the Paynes to an enthusiastic crowd, as they crank out “It’s Out of This World”, much to the delight of the crowd.  I always thought the unique musical intro with the 2 key changes was kind of neat, and thought it added to the excitement of the evening.

Next, they jump right into one of my all-time favorite Payne tunes, “I’m Not Gonna Wait (Until the Judgement Day)”.  When they originally recorded the song in 1988, Mike sang both verses, but for this recording, Bill Sizemore takes the first verse, and I am so glad they included this song.  Though it wasn’t a chart song for the group, it was a big concert favorite for them during the late 80’s.  You can tell the crowd hadn’t forgotten about the song and was definitely getting into what the Paynes were doing!

As the music kicks in with the intro for a bit of blues flavor on “God Delivers Again”, you can almost sense the anticipation from the audience, as Mike takes the first verse, before “the voice”, Sandra Payne, steps in for the second verse and just blows it out of the water.  It’s a high point of the program, and as they gear up for the encore, Mike jumps into “preacher mode” for a second before Sandra brings it home for the encore.  The audience is drinking in every bit of the song before Mike and Sandra tear into the Pentecostal shuffle of the classic Ronny Hinson/Mike Payne penned, “Who But God?”.  This too is a highlight of the recording as they flawlessly perform the song together.

Taking things down a few notches, Mike takes a second to briefly share the story behind “Oh What a City”, before Loreen delivers a heartfelt performance on the song, before they ramp it back up for an energetic and exciting performance on “That Same Spirit”. Featuring both Mike and Sandra, the song exudes all the Pentecostal emotion and excitement you’d expect from the Paynes.  When they get to the encore, they slow down the tempo allowing Mike and Sandra to take their time, and by the time they get to the chorus, the crowd is all over it and it’s just an exhilarating performance and it’s probably my favorite moment of the entire evening!

Mike takes a few moments to introduce everyone, including staff musicians appearing with the group, and Keith takes the opportunity to insert some well-timed humor before they settle in for some low-key, acoustic versions of some classic Payne tunes and they weave through the classics, “Ready or Not”, “He’ll See Me Home”, “Just in Case of Rapture” and “When He Was on the Cross”.  Interspersed between these songs, Keith continues to interject his dry sense of humor and begs Mike to let him sing a new song that he wrote, which Mike eventually relents, and we’re royally entertained as Keith and Sandra sing a comical duet paying tribute to Mike’s preaching, which is done to the tune of Patsy Cline’s classic country tune, “I Fall to Pieces”.  It’s absolutely hilarious and a highlight of the evening.

As they transition away from the acoustic set back to normal, Loreen takes a moment to testify before she sings one of my favorites of their later songs, “Still Standing After the Storm”.

As the evening comes to an end, Mike jumps into “preacher mode” once more and the crowd knows exactly where he’s going, and they are right in there with him, before the group closes things out with a rousing performance of their classic tune, “I’m a Jesus Fan”.

This live recording had all the elements that made seeing and hearing the Paynes in concert such an exciting and emotional experience; you had the live band, great songs, exciting delivery and just an overall genuine Pentecostal experience.  Along with all that, there was also an excited crowd that totally “gets” it and is completely zoned in with what is going on.  I don’t know if anyone knew at the time that this would be the final recording by the Paynes, but what an amazing way to capture the true essence of the group!  This evening was filled with wonderful memories and was a near perfect set list of great songs and great performances!

Since this live recording came out in 2001, the Paynes have reunited on a smaller scale at a couple of events through the years, but they’ve all pretty much settled into a life that doesn’t involve touring and recording.  Mike, Loreen and Sandra have made very few limited concert appearances over the years since, but for the last several years, Mike and Loreen have served as pastors of Cathedral of Life Ministries in North Ridgeville, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland).  Making it a family affair, Sandra also leads worship at the church as well.

Though their time on the mainstage was relatively short compared to a lot of groups, the Paynes made a huge mark on the industry, and I can’t imagine what our genre would have been like without their amazing contributions.  Our music would lack the color it has today had it not been for the music of the Paynes, and I appreciate all the wonderful music they made through the years, and I hope they’re not done yet and we see them on the stage again from time to time!  Mike’s songs have continued to resonate with artists and fans alike, and are continually being recorded today, a true testament to the power of his songs!

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be starting a new series with another group.  Stay tuned, as this is going to be especially exciting for me, and I have had such a great time getting myself prepped for this group.  Who could it be?  Stick around and find out in a couple of weeks!

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James Hales

James Hales, from Durham, North Carolina, has been a writer for since 2000. James is our featured reviewer and also contributes to monthly features periodically.
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