The Paynes – “God Wants You” (1989)

by | Jun 12, 2024 | LP Review, Reviews

For their second album with RiverSong (and their last recording before the group disbanded in late 1990), the Paynes went back with Vic Clay as producer. “God Wants You” goes back to that more rustic approach that made their “Rapture” album such a delectable masterpiece. While “God Wants You” may not be as edgy as “Rapture” was, I think it was a much better representation of who the Paynes were as artists than “This is War” was. I think “God Wants You” was a really great recording all the way around and was a wonderful body of work. Being completely transparent, when this recording first came out, I don’t think I truly appreciated what this album had to offer until several years later. When retrospectively looking at this album, I find it was a truly remarkable piece of work from a creative, musical, and lyrical perspective, and I’m sad it was the last album this group would make.

Before we dive into each song, I do want to mention the cover shot, as it was a stroke of genius (as all their covers were very unique). Given the title of the recording, it was a perfect shot with the group outfitted in military uniforms, and I feel that it made the cover really stand out from the average SG recording.

The recording kicks off with the electric guitar and harmonica driven title song, “God Wants You”, which charted for a few months during the first half of 1990, peaking at #25 in February of that year. Mixing patriotism with the evangelical call of the gospel, the song had a similar theme to the song, “This is War”, from their last album, and I think a lot of people may have associated both songs together, which may have played a role as to why the song may not have done as well in the charts. Personally, I thought “God Wants You” was going to make a better showing in the charts, as it had that old Paynes feel to it, but it didn’t happen. Additionally, as a way to promote the song, the group also made a concept video, combining a bit of comedy (thanks to Keith) with the urgent message of the song.

The tempo then slows down for the acoustic feel of “Make a Joyful Noise”, which is one of my personal favorite songs from this recording. Along with producing, Vic Clay is also listed as playing the acoustic guitar for this recording, and his guitar work on this song is simply beautiful, giving the song a bit of an earthy feel. When I saw the Paynes in the summer of 1989, this recording hadn’t been released yet, but Mike felt led to sing this song and beforehand, shared how he was inspired to write the song. If my memory serves me right, he was outside enjoying the beauty of God’s handiwork and the song came to him, and looking at the last verse of the song, you definitely see that inspiration…“let the trees applaud the almighty God, let the heaven’s declare His great love everywhere, let all creation proclaim His omnipotent Name, let’s make a joyful noise unto the Lord”. It’s a very worshipful and meditative song and is a highlight of the recording.

The jazz feel of “Don’t Be Caught Dead Without Jesus” follows, and it was a brilliantly written song by Mike and Vic Clay. This was a last minute co-write for the two and it was a perfect inclusion for this recording. I love the electric guitar work in the song, giving it a bit of a Roy Orbison vibe, and the piano fills are very cool too. Brian Free & Assurance also recorded the song a few years later, on their 1996 recording, “4 God So Loved”, but the Paynes’ version is the definitive rendition for me.

With several quick strikes of the fiddle kicking things off, we come to the Larry and Arlie Petree penned, “I’ll Just Start to Live When I Die”. Along with the fiddle, the song features some nice piano and electric guitar highlights, and it’s one of my all-time favorite songs by the Paynes (and perfectly sung by Mike). I personally think this could have been an excellent radio song for the Paynes, but the song never made it to radio. The Wilburns (a wonderful family group that was popular during the late 80’s into the early 2000’s) recorded the song a few years later, which featured Tony Gore, on their 1992 recording, “First Class” and they did a first-class job on the song.

Picking up the tempo, Bill steps up to sing the breezy, electric guitar driven, “Mission Accomplished”, which was penned by April Nye. In keeping with the theme of the title song, this was a perfect inclusion for the recording, before Loreen takes a moment to deliver a very heartfelt solo performance on the Betty Jean Robinson penned classic, “To the Glory of God my Father”. With just the acoustic guitar backing her up, Loreen does a really great job with her interpretation of this simple worship tune. I have always adored Betty Jean’s original version of her song, but Loreen’s version, though very understated, was actually quite stunning.

Kicking the tempo back up, Mike sings “Long Gone”, which features some great electric guitar work and harmonica highlights. The song recalls the sound of the Paynes during the early 80’s and was something Mike could really sink his teeth into in a live setting. It’s a fun and enjoyable song that was right up the Paynes alley.

With the feel of an old country song, Mike and Loreen share lead duties on the song, “When He Reminds Me of My Past (I Remind of His Future)”, which Mike co-wrote with Milton Ostrander (aka-Big MO). With the feel of something Conway Twitty would have sung, the song features the familiar country strains of the steel guitar along with some nice fiddle highlights, before the tempo is kicked back up as the group revives one of their earlier tunes, “Standing in the Presence”, which features Loreen and some step out lines by Keith on the chorus. This is the 3rd time the group recorded this song (originally recorded in 1980 and again in 1982), and with an excellent piano, banjo, electric guitar, and dobro track, it’s my favorite rendition of the song.

The acoustically driven “The Good Shepherd” slows the pace back down and the song was a collaborative effort between Mike, Loreen and Reggie Grimmett (who was the Paynes’ utility musician at the time). The song is a very heartfelt and genuine song of worship to the good Shepherd…“He’s the good Shepherd, watching over my soul, He sees my tears, He knows my fears, if I stray from the fold, I love the good Shepherd, He cares for His own…he laid down his life to bring me back home.” While not a chart song for the group, it was a concert favorite and one that would be a great tune for someone to bring back today!

The rustic feel of the up-tempo faith-filled tune, “I Need a Miracle Right Now” finishes out the recording with a bit of a blues flavor. With its dobro and guitar driven track, Loreen’s soulful vocals are a highlight of the song and was something a little different for her, as well as the Paynes, and was a unique song to round out the recording.

Unfortunately, this would be the last studio recording by the “original” group, as by the end of 1990, the Paynes had disbanded, with Mike continuing as a soloist, focusing his efforts on preaching and singing the gospel. At the Payne’s Homecoming concert in 1990 in Lorain, Ohio, the group recorded a live album titled, “Finale”, which by all accounts, was originally planned as a national release as there are background vocalists, additional musicians and even a newly written song (“Heaven Knows My Name”) that was slated for a single release, but it appears that the recording did not really see the light of day until 1992 and was never truly released nationally. It’s a really great sounding live recording that has all the excitement you expect from the Paynes, but it’s a little quirky too. Mike generally has the lead for most of the songs and much of the recording sounds like Mike Payne backed by a great stage band and background vocals. Loreen does take a moment to testify, and the recording ends rather oddly and abruptly, as while Mike is taking a moment to preach and testify, the recording fades out and concludes just as he mentions they are going to sing a couple more songs (and those songs are not included). There are some real gems on the recording as there is an extensive medley featuring 9 hits by the Paynes, as well as a great performance of Mike and Ronny Hinson’s penned classic, “The Search is Over”, which Gold City cut back in 1987. There are also live cuts of such songs as “I’m Not Gonna Wait (Until the Judgement Day)” (which is my favorite song on the recording), “The Good Shepherd” and “I’ll Lay My Crown (at the Master’s Feet)”. The recording is a rare find and is a highly sought after piece of history for true fans of the Paynes.

As I already mentioned, Mike went into a solo ministry for a few years and recorded a couple of outstanding solo recordings that were released independently, but eventually he, along with Loreen and their daughter, Sandra, re-formed the Paynes as a family trio later in the 90s, releasing a couple of recordings for Daywind Records. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll talk about Mike’s solo recordings as well as the re-formed version of the Paynes, capping off our journey with the Paynes as we talk about their phenomenal reunion recording by the entire group that was recorded live in Dayton, Ohio back in November 2000!

Please check out my music page on Facebook for more content related to Southern Gospel Music including more discography reviews on other groups, we well as other thoughts and discussions related to Southern Gospel Music.  Please like and follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/James-Music-Page-102612571620560.

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James Hales

James Hales

James is a lifelong fan of Southern Gospel Music. Being exposed to the music through his dad's record collection as a 7 or 8 year old boy in the late 70's, James grew to love the music of the Happy Goodmans, Kingsmen, Inspirations, Rambos, Florida Boys and others. James has been a staff writer for Absolutely Gospel since 2000 writing music reviews and various articles, and he has contributed to Musicscribe and SGHistory.com for several years as well. James also writes for his own music page on Facebook as well, via James' Music Page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063484056683).

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