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LARRY NORMAN

If you asked me to name my favourite artists, Larry Norman would be somewhere near the top. The last few years haven't been all that kind to Larry healthwise, and I think that he's taking comfort resting on some very impressive laurels - although he hasn't released much in the way of "new" releases, he's been very busy pumping out compilations of his "old" stuff.

I first heard Larry's music in the late 70's when I was in my mid teens. Songs like The Rock that Doesn't Roll, Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music, Shot Down, and I Wish We'd All Been Ready were songs that pretty much changed how I viewed "Christian" music. This was quality music, recorded properly and didn't sound like crap.

A lot of people have fun bashing Larry over this and that, and I've often wondered how much of it is true. A very good friend of mine was his sound man on one of his western Canada tours a number of years ago, and I only heard good stories.

Larry's released some amazing albums (and a few dogs too), and the man has a way with words. He's a wicked observer, and doesn't pull many punches. His later work is almost always compared to his early ground breaking records - not usually favourably. I've seen him in concert a few times, and he's a demanding performer. He has something to say, and he wants the audience to pay attention.

Lately Larry has been dumping a lot of material (the "old" stuff) out to the public making it hard to keep up with what's out there (and it's only going to get worse from what I gather - oh my aching wallet). My old vinyl sits in a box in the garage, including the infamous People! album. I try and snap up the reissues, but dang it costs money to do that . . . who knows maybe one day he'll see this site, and feel sorry for me and cut me a deal ... maybe.

Probably not.

Additional:

Larry Norman passed away February 24, 2008. The man was so far ahead of his time that he actually managed to become a part of history while he was still alive. Best known for his trilogy, and ground breaking Upon This Rock - Larry was a unique individual, who touched many lives, including mine. "I hope I see you in heaven"

Jevon

(Check out his site to see what's available)

Upon This Rock (©1969 no label designation)

upon this rockThe Songs: Prelude (1969 mix) / You Can't Take Away the Lord / I Don't Believe in Miracles / Moses in the Wilderness / Walking Backwards Down the Stairs / Ha Ha World / Sweet Song of Salvation / Forget Your Hexagram / The Last Supper (piano and vocal) / I Wish We'd All Been Ready / Nothing Really Changes / Postlude / Bonus Tracks: The Last Supper (1969 mix, orchestra and vocal) / Ha Ha World (1969 mix)

This is the album that started it all. Like him or hate him, Upon This Rock was a daring album released by a young man who had something to say, and Capitol records gave him a chance to state his piece. I wasn't really buying a lot of records in 1970, and I didn't get a copy of this until around 1980 when I got a reissued version on Impact Records (which was substantially different from the Capitol version - and for the better if the 1969 mixes are an indication of the original release - although it was great to have them as bonus tracks just to see what was changed. It's fun to hear Larry sounding like Jim Morrison). I'll admit to not thinking it was anything all that special at the time. Except for Moses in the Wilderness, which I thought was hilarious.

Now that I've had a chance to grow up (no comments please), it's a testament to the quality of the music how well this thirty year old album holds up. It is better and more important than I remember. I still think it's amazing that Capitol even released this album. If the public had been ready for Larry Norman history might be a little different. However, at the time this was too out there for Christians, and too Christian for those who liked rock. Perhaps this album should have been titled Between This Rock and a Hard Place.

Reviewed October 23, 2000

Upon This Rock (©2002 Solid Rock Records)

upon this rock 2002Disc One: You Can't Take Away the Lord / I Don't Believe in Miracles / Moses in the Wilderness / Walking Backwards Down the Stairs / Ha Ha World / Sweet Song of Salvation / Forget Your Hexagram / The Last Supper (piano and vocal) / I Wish We'd All Been Ready / Nothing Really Changes / Postlude / Bonus Tracks: You Can't Take Away The Lord (demo) / Ha Ha World (demo) / I Don't Believe in Miracles (demos) / Nothing Really Changes (demo) / The Day That A Child Appeared (demo) / Country Church, Country People (demo)

Disc Two: Powerline Interview featuring six songs from the Capitol version of Upon This Rock / Lion's Breath Interview featuring songs from the 1968, 1969 musicals

A few years ago I got a limited run CD run of Upon This Rock, and thought it was pretty good, if sonically muddy at times. Well, here it is a few years later, and Larry has been able to get his hands on the original master tapes. The whole thing sounds great, and really is superior to the original CD release. This is the Impact Records version, and doesn't include Prelude. It's hard to comprehend the turmoil of the late 60's and early to mid 70's. Everything he did that was so groundbreaking and new back then is old and clichéd by today's standards.

What really makes this edition standout is the care that went into the production, liner notes, and the extra material. The bonus CD is worth buying on its own. The Powerline interview is a great time piece, and you can hear a young Larry sounding, well - young. The Lion's Breath segment features a number of songs I'd never heard before, and truly hints at the wealth of material sitting around waiting to see the light of day.

This is well worth seeking out, and chances are it won't remain in print for too long.

Reviewed May 28, 2002

Only Visiting This Planet (©1972 MGM, ©1992 Solid Rock)

only visiting this planetThe Songs:I've Got To Learn To Live Without You / The Outlaw / Why Don't You Look Into Jesus / Righteous Rocker #1 / I Wish We'd All Been Ready / I Am The Six O'Clock News / The Great American Novel / Pardon Me / Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music / Reader's Digest / Peacepullutionrevolution (1971 single) / Righteous Rocker (rough mix) / The Outlaw / Digest (rock version)

There are very few albums in my collection that are truly excellent albums. This is one of them. Only Visiting This Planet is arguably the most influential "Christian" record ever made. Larry was at the top of his game in 1972, and his writing was amazing. Unlike the self congratulatory music that most Christian artists write about nowadays, Larry was tackling racism, prejudice, drugs, sex, relationship breakdown, alienation, and Vietnam. The Great American Novel is probably the best song he ever wrote, and it still leaves me in awe when I hear it. While Readers Digest is a reply to Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues. So I'll cut him some slack if his later work is more or less rehashed live albums, and unpolished jam sessions. He's earned the right to have some fun.

He was the classic angry young man, and I'm sure he pissed off more than his fair share of people along the way. I don't think he understood the meaning of the word compromise. I gather from various internet sites that Larry has as many fans as detractors - whatever. Until I can pull the big honkin' plank from my eye I'll reserve judgment.

Reviewed November 8, 2000

So Long Ago The Garden (©1973 MGM, ©1993 Solid Rock)

so long ago the gardenThe Songs:Fly Fly Fly / The Same Old Story / Lonely By Myself / Be Careful What You Sign / Baroquen Spirits / Christmastime / She's A Dancer / Soul Survivor / Nightmare #71 / If God Is My Father (rough mix) / Up In Canada (1973 single) / Dear Malcolm, Dear Alwyn (demo)

Back in 1980 I got the Phydeaux version, that was "almost" So Long Ago The Garden. Then a number of years ago I was finally able to snag the CD reissue.

This is probably the most overlooked of the trilogy. Like "Planet" this album was recorded in England at George Martin's AIR Studios, with many of the same musicians. Although it doesn't feel as meaty sonically as Planet, it still holds up pretty well. The early to mid 70's were probably the most prolific and important of Larry's career. He was saying things that very few other writers had the courage to voice.

There are so many excellent songs on here it's hard to pick out a favourite, but I always like a challenge so here goes: Lonely By Myself, Soul Survivor, Nightmare (". . . John Wayne and Billy Graham were giving breath mints to the crowd . . ."), and recently She's A Dancer has grown on me to the point where I really like it. For many years I thought it sucked, and oddly enough my tastes have aged to the point where I "get it" now. There weren't many songs like this back in 1973, and there aren't many like it now.

Reviewed November 7, 2000

In Another Land (©1975, ©1991 Solid Rock)

in another landThe Songs: The Rock That Doesn't Roll / I Love You / U.F.O. / I've Searched All Around / Righteous Rocker #3 / Deja Vu (If God Is My Father) / Deja Vu continued: (Why Don't You Look Into Jesus) / I Am A Servant / The Sun Began To Rain / Shot Down / Six Sixty Six / Diamonds / One Way / Song For A Small Circle of Friends / Hymn To The Last Generation / Looking For The Footprints / Strong Love, Strange Peace / Dreams On A Grey Afternoon / Let That Tape Keep Rolling (live from Greenbelt)

This was the first Larry Norman album I ever bought. I wore out two vinyl versions and a cassette copy. The album is 25 years old now and I can't believe that it's been that long (I was still in high school when I got my first copy - I'm not that old).

The CD version has a bunch of bonus tracks that are okay, but they're nothing to write home about. What really holds up are the other tracks. I still love listening to this album - with the exception of the Dudley Moore song The Sun Began To Rain (I wish I knew why this song irritates me so much).

When asked how people should listen to this album Larry replied, " With the volume up loud and their parents safely in the other room." Six Sixty Six is one of those songs that gives me chills, and Hymn To The Last Generation really does sound better turned up loud. Although I'm the parent, and I have to wait until my kids are in the other room.

The reissue is well packaged, but a lot of the great notes and interviews from (one of) my vinyl version are missing, and I guess to those of you who don't know any better, don't know what your missing.

Reviewed November 8, 2000

In Another Land (©1975, ©2000 Solid Rock)

in another landThe Songs:The Rock That Doesn't Roll / I Love You / U.F.O. / I've Searched All Around / Righteous Rocker #3 / If God Is My Father / Look Into Jesus / I Am A Servant / The Sun Began To Rain / Shot Down / Six Sixty Six / Diamonds / One Way / Song For A Small Circle of Friends / Hymn To The Last Generation / Looking For The Footprints / Strong Love, Strange Peace / Dreams On A Grey Afternoon / Let That Tape Keep Rolling / Delta Day Jam / Eternal Struggle / Miracles / Phantasy / Miracles Redux

The 25th Anniversary edition and I got sucked in (it's happened before and it'll happen again). Oh it's still an excellent album. It now has a total of 9 bonus tracks - or is that bone-us tracks? It's not that the extra tracks suck, it's just that most of them don't really fit with the CD. It's nice to have the extra extra songs, but I didn't need to shell out the bucks to get the few extra tunes.

If you're buying this for the first time buy this one, although I prefer the packing on the other release. This one has more photos. Hmm. Don't mind me, I need another coffee. But seriously to really appreciate the album program your CD player to stop after track 15. Once you've grown to love the album, listen to the rest of the songs.

Reviewed November 15, 2000

Streams of White Light (©1977 AB Records / ©1998 Solid Rock)

streams of white lightThe Songs: Spirit In the Sky / Put Your Hand In The Hand / Bridge Over Troubled Water / Let It Be / My Sweet Lord / Presence Of The Lord / I Think He's Hiding / He Gives Us All His Love / Stranger In A Strange Land / Prince Of Peace / Song For Adam / Shine A Light / The Road And The Sky / I Am Waiting

This was one of those albums that got a lot of play at my house in the early 80's. I still have the original AB release, and from the opening cut Spirit In The Sky was hooked.

Most of these songs are familiar, and Larry, Randy, Jon Linn and others do a great job of interpreting these "Christian" songs. Some of them get a great treatment, and others are taken apart. One listen to Spirit In The Sky is a good example - one guitar, and a bunch of silly noises and voices. Jon Linn does an excellent job on the guitar as always - check out his playing on Clapton's Presence of the Lord. Larry also does an impressive job with Randy Newman's songs. Mister Newman is another of my favourite writers. The Rolling Stone's Shine A Light features a lisping Larry, and musically it is a killer.

This was supposed to be part one, and it's coming on 25 years now, and there's no part two so I guess this was only a one parter after all.

Reviewed October 25, 2000

Starstorm (©1978, ©2000 Solid Rock)

starstorm1: I Don't Want To Lose You 2: Fly, Fly, Fly 3: I've Got To Learn To Live Without You 4: The Same Old Story 5: The Great American Novel 6: Christmas Time 7: Pardon Me 8: Righteous Rocker #2 9: Be Careful What You Sign 10: If God Is My Father

Originally released in Australia in 1978, this collection of alternate takes (mostly from Planet and Garden) contains what Larry refers to as the full length versions of If God Is My Father and I Don't Want To Lose You.

While Starstorm is a really good collection of songs, I find it hard to really make a case for getting this to the casual fan. Then again, I'm not sure Larry has casual fans. Oddly enough I bought this a few years ago, and forgot I had it until I was cleaning up around the office. "Hey, that's where that went ... "

I know this isn't much of a review. Hey, you try and find something new or clever to say about Larry's albums. After a while it gets pretty hard to describe the myriad collections, anthologies, definitive, remastered, rebalanced, reissued albums out there. I suppose I could try and talk about the sonic quality, or the subtleties each alternate version has over the originals - but that would be a lot of work, and for the most I can't really tell the difference anyway.

This one was special at the time, but since 1978 Larry has managed to perfect the art of repackaging. Which makes this one a bit of an anomaly since there's not much in the way of liner, or linear notes by Larry.

Only time will tell if Larry ever recorded Esperanto versions of any of his songs. If he did one day we'll know.

Reviewed May 22, 2005

Something New Under The Son (©1981 Solid Rock)

something newThe Songs: Hard Luck Bad News / Feeling So Bad / I Feel Like Dying / Born To Be Unlucky / Watch What You're Doing / Leaving The Past Behind / Put Your Life Into His Hands / Nightmare #97 / Let That Tape Keep Rolling ('69 Bio Version) / Twelve Good Men (demo) / Deep Blue (rough mix) / It's Only Today That Counts (rough mix)

Wicked. This is one of my favourite Larry albums, I've never felt so good listening to the blues. The music is raw, unpolished, and honest. If you're a Dylan fan there are a lot of wonderful nods to Mister Zimmerman. Check out Larry's Nightmare #97. The original vinyl had a lot more photos and notes that were painstakingly reproduced from Bob's amazing 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. Once again Jon Linn proves that he's one amazing player - check out the solo on Let That Tape Keep Rolling.

I guess one day Larry will release the double album version of this album (he said one was coming, and I've no doubt it's in the works - maybe), and I'll get fished into buying it (I bought the 25th Anniversary version of In Another Land - ack). Oh well, who was it that said there was one of me born a minute?

Reviewed November 15, 2000

The Story of The Tune (©1983, 1995 Solid Rock/Phydeaux)

the tuneThe Songs: The Tune / Soul On Fire / Country Church, Country People / Swing Low Sweet Chariot / If I Got My Ticket

This was one the first albums that I ordered directly from Phydeaux, the little company Larry helped set up to counteract the flow of bootlegs that were floating around.

The first time I heard The Tune (almost) it was on a little 45 that Larry sent out to fans along with a song book to SNUTS (coincidentally the inside of the vinyl version of the Tune said it was "the continuation of Something New Under the Son"). So even though I enjoy the full version of the song, I keep waiting for Larry to let the dog out. I wish it was included on this CD.

Soul On Fire has never been one of my favourite songs, and it has yet to grow on me. I think Larry likes this song - a lot, as he's recorded numerous versions. The standout tracks are Swing Low, and If I Got My Ticket. Great songs. I've got nothing against (really) extended versions, but there was enough room on the CD to include the short versions too.

Reviewed October 25, 2000

Stop This Flight (©1997 Solid Rock Records)

stop this flightThe Songs: Finchian Etude / Stop This Flight / A Woman Of God / What's Wrong With This Body / Don't You Wanna Talk About It / And We Sing "The Tune" / Out Of My System #1 / I Hope I'll See You In Heaven / Messiah / Radio Interview

I got this on vinyl back in 1985, and it was one of the most played albums in my collection that year. This is a rare live album for Larry (live aren't rare for Larry, good live albums are rare) - it's almost all new songs and the production is crisp and clear. The band is tight, and dare I say sounds professional. With the reissue, I was hoping Larry would add some definitive linear (sic) notes about this one. Such as the musicians, where it was recorded, all that good stuff. At least there's an interview that offers some insight into the album.

Still, I have no complaints, this album is great. Stop This Flight, Woman Of God, the beautiful version I Hope I'll See You In Heaven (definitive in my opinion), and the surprising Messiah - which actually gave me a little tingle up the back of my neck when I first it.

Fifteen years later some of the sounds are a bit dated, but it doesn't feel like it's gone completely past the expiration date. This is one of my favourite Larry efforts to this day.

Reviewed March 14, 2002

Additional May 2003: So I ask myself as I reread this a year later why only four stars if it's no good. Don't ask me, I only write this stuff.

Down Under (©1986, 1996 Phydeaux Records)

down underThe Songs: Riding High / I've Got You On My Mind / Hasty Heart / Sweet Song of Salvation / What Goes Thru Your Mind / I've Searched All Around The World / I Hope I'll See You In Heaven / Soul On Fire (Nite Lite Mix) / Stop This Flight (First Demo) / Out Of My System / Why Can't You Be Good? / Why Should The Devil (Punk) / If The Bombs Fall / Galaxy

Subtitled The Documentary Collection the music on this anthology covers 1966 - 1986. From the distorted sound quality on a number of the early tracks I guess the songs were taken from old vinyl or cassette and burned to CD. Not that I'm complaining too much, one gets spoiled with the sound quality available on even really crappy tunes. Ack! Where was I?

It's interesting to hear how Larry's music has progressed from his early days in the 60's to the mid 1980's. There are some good songs here, but for the most part this is a collection of early mixes and ideas that never fit elsewhere. Down Under doesn't include "song by song" notes which is too bad, as it would be nice to know where these songs fit into Larry's career. A minor complaint.

Reviewed November 14, 2000

Home At Last (©1986, 1989 Solid Rock Records)

home at lastThe Songs: Lonely Boy / My Feet Are On The Rock / Country Church / Sitting In My Kitchen / Camel Through A Needle's Eye / Nightmare #49 (Part One) / Oh How I Love You / Queen Of The Rodeo / He Really Loves You / Here Comes The King / Letters To The Church / We Three Together / Somewhere Out There / Selah

Home At Last was unfairly savaged when it first came out. This was Larry's first "real" album in years, and I guess people and critics had raised the bar so high Larry would literally have to walk on water to meet their expectations (and if he did manage to walk on water they'd just chalk it up to his own inflated sense of self worth). I really liked this one right off. Of course there were songs like Country Church which had appeared on The Story Of The Tune, and Oh How I Love You which is a brutal tease, followed closely by Queen Of The Rodeo which fades in only to fade out again. But for every hiccup there were a bunch of really good songs. Here Comes The King is one of those weird surprises that still sounds great. We Three Together is a novelty song, but reflects Larry's peace at the time. The best song is Somewhere Out There - even with the groaning whoa whoa woes.

Sadly time never holds still, and Larry's personal life, always a target of much speculation couldn't hold to to scrutiny. He's a human warts and all, and has lived most of his life in a fishbowl with people tapping the glass to see if he's real.

Reviewed March 13, 2002

Live at Flevo with Q-Stone (©1989 Solid Rock Import)

flevo with Q StoneThe Songs: My Feet Are On The Rock / Nightmare #49 (Part One) / He Really Loves You / Letters To The Church / Medley (Everybody Work / Twist And Shout / Shout) / Twelve Good Men / Be Careful What You Sign / Why Should The Devil / Medley (Soon I Will Be Home / It's Only Today That Counts / I Am A Servant) / The Outlaw / Why Don't You Look Into Jezus / Rock That Doesn't Roll / Medley (I Wish We'd All Be Ready / UFO) / Messiah

This is one of the better live albums for Larry. I have enough rough and raw albums in my collection already without adding another one to the pile. Recorded in The Netherlands at the Flevo music festival, the sound quality is very good, and most of the songs you'd expect are here along with a lot of songs from Home At Last. Charly has come a long way since the early days working with his "big" brother. I miss Jon Linn's playing. The guy was a monster player. Whatever happened to him? (Update: Jon passed away recently, and he will be missed. He was an amazing player!)

Additional November 17, 2000

I just received my Solid Rock Records newsletter, and on the cover in bold letters were the words Jon Linn Memorial. He was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street. As you can probably tell I was a big fan of Jon's playing. He will be missed.

The Best of Larry Norman (circa 1991 Phydeaux?)

best of larryThe Songs: Soul On Fire / Righteous Rocker / Stop This Flight / Gonna Write A Song About You For The Radio / Don't You Want To Talk About It / If The Bombs Fall / Sweet Dreams / Woman Of God / Shot Down / Out Of My System / Messiah / I Hope I'll See You In Heaven / It Could've Been You / Why Do You Do The Things You Do?

Nicknamed "Confiscated" by Larry, Phydeaux made this available back in the early 90's. I managed to snag a copy, and was pleased by what I heard. This is a very good collection of tunes, and is mostly mid 80's Larry. A number of the songs are from Stop This Flight which at the time was not available on CD. Of course there's a version of Soul On Fire (still don't like it - the only version I ever came close to liking was on his live album Roll Away The Stone).

This is one of the better anthologies. As an added bonus there are a couple of Charly Norman tunes too at the end, which are very good. No packaging info, and no label or date designation, which is kind of to be expected since it was a "bootleg" of sorts.

Reviewed November 14, 2000

Stranded In Babylon (©1991 Spark Music / Solid Rock)

babylonThe Songs: Oh Lydia / God Part III / Come Away / Hide His Heart / Step Into Madness / Love Is A Commitment (sic) / I Will Survive / All The Way Home / Baby's Got The Blues / A Dangerous Place To Be / White Trash Stomp / Let The Rain Fall Down / Under The Eye

This marked a return to form for Larry. A real honest to goodness album and not just a collection of "hey look at what I found in the can" songs. Charly is all over this album, and he's come a long way from the guy with the weird hair that played bass for Larry.

Time may have softened Larry's bite, but there's an honesty to his songs that few artists are able to convey. I have friends that say he just whines a lot about how bad life has treated him (they may have a point). Songs like I Will Survive, All The Way Home (sample lyric: I've had my share of trouble as I've tried to walk this path, sometimes it's been so hard I've had to laugh. I've spent so many years in sorrow, much of my life in pain, but that's just the way it is, you get the sunshine and the rain), and Let The Rain Fall Down are great songs. Step Into The Madness is one of those songs that is so annoying that it actually starts to grow on you after a while.

Just as Larry was getting his collective shit (not very Christian, but it fits) together after recovering from a brain injury, he was just around the corner from major heart problems; once again putting his career on hiatus. Lucky for us he has no shortage of "hey look at what I found in the can" songs. Still it's been nine years now Larry, you can release another honest to goodness real album anytime now...

Reviewed November 18, 2000

Omega Europa (©1994 Phydeaux)

omega europaThe Songs: New Doctor / Song For A Small Circle / Reader's Digest / One Foot Toward The Grave / Death Comes To Us All / Goodbye Farewell / Why Don't You Look Into Jesus / Twelve Good Men / The Outlaw / U.F.O. / God Part III / It's Only Today That Counts / Put Your Hand Into His Hands / Hallelujah / Faith and Love / The Rock That Doesn't Roll

Back in '94 Larry was coming to grips with his health problems. Many of the songs deal directly with death, and his reluctant acceptance of the inevitable.

Odds are this was captured and released as a snap shot of what may have been one of his final concerts. Sonically this isn't great, and the band performance featuring the Judaic Vikings (uncredited musicians with a funky name) isn't great either. The best songs one the CD are the first few where it's just Larry and his guitar. The one redeeming song on the disc is Goodbye Farewell, in my opinion his most poignant song in a long time - this is a song I'd like to see recorded properly.

Reviewed December 19, 2001

White Blossoms from Black Roots - Book One (©1997 Phydeaux)

white blossomsThe Songs: The Man From Galilee (alternate rock remix) / Looking For The Footprints / Soul On Fire (alternate street rock remix) / I Wish We'd All Been Ready / Why Don't You Look Into Jesus / Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music / The Outlaw (L.A. acoustic remix) / The Sun Began to Rain (Dudley Moore version) / Watch What You're Doing (extended rock mix) / Out Of My System (live dance mix) / A Woman of God (extended rock & reggae remix) / Living In The 20th Century (neoprimitive dance mix) / Soul On Fire (Mark Heard's ghetto dub remix)

Also called the best of Larry Norman. This album came out a number of years ago with slightly different contents in 1989(?). This CD reissue is a pretty good collection of Larry's music. A number of the classics are here, and a number aren't. One day I'll burn my own copy of a best of for myself. The extended version of Watch What You're Doing is excellent - Jon Linn is sorely missed. Of course what collection would be complete without at least one version of Soul On Fire - included is not one, but two versions. The "street rock" treatment is almost good. It has Charly written all over it. This version would have been at home on Home At Last (pun partially intended).

His 80's work is more dated than his early work. Go figure. However, if you're new to Larry's music and can't afford the trilogy, this is a pretty safe bet.

Reviewed November 14, 2000

Gathered Moments (©1998 Howling Dog Records)

gathered momentsThe Songs:Without You / If I Were A Singer / You Got The Blues / Watch What You're Doing / Moonshine / Parson Brown / Stranger / Stop This Flight / If You Don't Love The Lord / What's Wrong With This Body / Unlucky Blues / I Dance Before The Lord / Slow Fast / Dove L'Etude / Standing At The Crossroads / Rock The Flock / A Woman Not A Maid / Talkin' 'Bout Love

There appears to be an inexhaustible supply of unreleased Larry Norman material out there. I'm always dumbfounded as to how people get their hands on the studio stuff. The live stuff is a no-brainer (I think just about every Larry show over the last decade has been recorded). As you'd expect the majority of this disc is made up of Larry's ubiquitous live material.

Still, this is a nice addition to my collection. The sound quality is marginal at times, but since every song here is either a new version, or previously unavailable it's worth having if you're a die-hard fan. As you can tell I fall into the Bruce Willis fan category.

Reviewed March 14, 2002

Copper Wires (©1998 Phydeaux)

copper wiresThe Songs:I Love You / In The Garden / Heaven Wants To Bless You / Oh Little Sister / Protect My Child / People Get Ready / Turn Turn Turn / Oil In My Lamp / I Am A Pilgrim / Sleepwalk / When He Returns / A Woman Of God / Watch What You're Doing / Why Don't You Look Into Jesus / Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music

The album starts off with I Love You (written by Chris White from the Zombies - it was the one and only hiy by People! Of course if you're a Larry fan this is a big "well duh.") and it's a great version with a wonderful flute solo (uncredited musician). Of course in the liner notes Larry takes credit for the song (sigh). Although I understand that later pressings have different cover art, and corrected notes.

The rest of the songs are pretty solid, and really suit Larry's voice. He really does fit with the 60's and 70's sound. His version of Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready is really good too, but sounds very much like the Beck / Stewart version. Overall though this is better than I expected, and a welcome respite from having to listen to another "live" rehash (okay, it's still live in a sense, but it was recorded off the floor, so it sounds pretty good).

Reviewed December 11, 2001

Rough Street Love Letter (©1999 Solid Rock)

rough love letter (Disc 1) 1: The First Time That I Went To Church 2: Peace Pollution Revolution 3: Right Here In America 4: I Wish We'd All Been Ready 5: I Am The Six O'Clock News 6: She's A Dancer 7: I Don't Wanna Lose You 8: The Price Of Living 9: Sigrid Jane 10: The Tune 11: Why Can't You Be Good 12: Just Like A Woman 13: Deep Blue 14: A Note From Mr. God 15: Phydeaux At The Beach 16: More Than A Dream 17: If I Have To 18: Letters To The Church 19: If You Don't Love The Lord 20: A Woman Not A Maid 21: Love On Haight Street 22: Excerpt From A Young Lions Session, 1985

(Disc 2) 1: I Found Love 2: Shine Your Light 3: I Am Your Friend 4: Danger In Loving You 5: Iron And Steel 6: Show Me The Shepherd 7: Strong Love 8: Whenever Sarah Cries 9: Where His Soul Touches Down 10: Watch The Master Make It Right 11: Waystair To Venhea 12: Come On In 13: Piano L'etude 14: Mansion In The Sand 15: Zone L'etude16: Higher Calling 17: Jesus Is The Song 18: Drum L'etude 19: One More Reason 20: Farther On

The music on the two CDs contains songs from 4 Larry Norman albums: Street Level, Rough Mix3, and the Tom Howard covers Letter of the Law, and its companion Labor of Love. It's been over 20 years since I've heard many of these songs. My cassette copy Street Level disintegrated years ago, and my copy of Barking at the Ants, and my 45 of The Tune (Phydeaux's version) were water damaged when my basement flooded. As to the Tom Howard covers, my buddy Sue had the white pressings of these, and I heard them a couple of times. So it's nice to have these in my collection at last.

These aren't necessarily great albums, but they are important timepieces. Street Level shows Larry in transition just prior to releasing his landmark albums. Sonically this is a tired recording, but it captures Larry live, and offers some alternate versions of songs that would become signature tunes.

Rough Mix is aptly titled, and assembles songs from between 1979 - 1985. Some of them would appear on Home at Last, and other compilations, others this was their only pressing. I've always liked a number of the songs on this collection - particularly the live version of Why Can't You Be Good. This was supposed to be from an upcoming live album. Larry has released more than his fair share of live albums, but this one has yet to see the light of day (I think) and is one I'd like to see.

Then we come to the Tom Howard stuff. I always wanted to like the Tom Howard stuff, it's all right, and there were a couple of really good songs, but for the most part it was okay, but nothing spectacular. I think a lot of people felt the same way, and were as confused as I was as to why Larry would make not one, but two records featuring Tom's songs. The liner notes were helpful in this regard: Larry liked his songs. Fair enough.

Larry is a strange and wonderful artist. Strange for a guy who really only released a handful of "real" albums he's amassed a catalog that could choke a horse, not to mention cripple a wallet. The guy is an audio packrat who must have literally truckloads of half and quarter inch tape in storage waiting for a chance to see light of day. What makes this wonderful is that there appears to be a healthy market for all of his collections of demos and alternate takes. There may never be a "new" album, but there's bound to be something.

Reviewed May 2003

Tourniquet (©2001 Phydeaux)

tourniquetThe Songs: Turn / Endless Life Of Dreams / Center Of My Heart / Rock The Flock / It's All Right / Love Is The Reason / Feed The Poor / Father Of All / Near

Sometimes you get a pleasant surprise when you put a CD on for the first time. Larry has been pretty spotty lately, and I wasn't sure I wanted to shell out for more of his stuff, considering the punishing exchange rate with the Canadian dollar. But I'd heard this one was pretty good. It wasn't a rehash, or live recording - so being the anal collector that I am I pulled out the old worn Visa and ordered away.

A few days later it arrived, and low and behold it turned out to be really good. Wow, what a surprise. No credits this time, so I assume it was primarily musically driven by his little brother Charles. Of course if you want to compare this to his trilogy it's going to fall short. So don't - listen to it for what it is - a pop record. Lyrically Larry is in his usual voice, although he's not as knee deep in wallowing self pity as he's been in the past. He even takes some subtle shots at himself too, which is fun. He does have a good sense of humour, and knows he's got an ego. There are some great tunes here I'd stack against his best work. A very pleasant surprise. Here's hoping this thing gets proper distribution.

PS I have to ask, what's with the dusty needle snap crackle pop on Love is the Reason? ( I'm not referring to the sample "scratching" of Jon Linn's guitar work on Rock the Flock) I suppose it's a retro funky sample feeling that's supposed to make me pine for my scratched records. Guess what? It's just a distraction.

Reviewed December 16, 2001

Rock, Scissors Et Papier (©2003 Solid Rock)

rock paper1: The Troubles 2: Be Careful What You Sign 3: Lounge Lizard Sings Raindrops 4: Children Of Lugoj 5: Rubie 6: Center Of My Heart 7: In The Garden 8: Rock That Doesn't Roll 9: Camel In A Needle's Eye 10: What's Wrong With This Body? 11: Near 12: Positively Like A Servant 13: Positively 4th Street 14: Soul On Fire 15: Rachel And Me 16: I Love You 17: Unborn Child

I got this one several months ago, and to be honest I had somewhat overdosed on Larry for a while there, so I put this one away for a while after listening to it a few times. So here I am sitting at my desk listening to this one again, and although it's not part of the Essential Series, it is companion collection of very good songs. Many of which appeared on the Belfast Bootlegs, which are essential.

The disc begins with the The Troubles; I like this song but am somewhat troubled by the hacking and coughing in the song. Is this deliberate, or just poor editing? It would seem that Larry's studio perfectionist days are behind him.

Still, I'm not going to be too hard on this one, as I said it is a really good collection of live and studio songs (mostly live). The band(s) he plays with here really flesh out the songs and provide better backing than I've heard in a while - heck, he even does a version of The Zombies, I mean er, People's I Love You. Another highlight is the duet with Cliff Richard. It really rocks, and makes me wonder if there's more of this concert around. Nice words of praise too from Sir Cliff.

Ooh look, Soul On Fire makes an appearance here as well. Sounds like the one from Roll Away the Stone. But I'm not that much of an expert. Although Jon's playing is certainly recognizable.

The one track that Larry could easily have left off is the embarrassing Unborn Child. I mean what was he thinking? This is the kind of poetry high school kids get failing marks writing. Ick. Not the best way to end an otherwise fine album.

Reviewed August 19, 2003

American Roots(©2003 Solid Rock CD-R)

american roots 1: Rubie - My Feet Are On The Rock 2: Down The Line 3: Jesus On The Mainline 4: Country Church 5: Leave It Up To God To Handle 6: Swing Low Sweet Chariot 7: Lord, If I Got My Ticket, Can I Ride? 8: Turn, Turn, Turn 9: Put Your Life In Jesus Nail Scarred Hands 10: Man Of Constant Sorrow 11: We Three Twogether 12: People Get Ready 13: When He Returns 14: Right Here In America

I think I'm close to, if not at my threshold for tolerating yet another disc of repackaged, remixed, remastered, rebalanced, and regurgitated Larry stuff (I've said that before). Considering he has the Essential series on the go, I would have thought a theme based collection such as American Roots would fit there - apparently not. Now, to be fair, American Roots probably has a lot more going for it than the loosely conceived Essential series. Most of the songs here have appeared elsewhere, except for Jesus on the Mainline, and Man of Constant Sorrows. I'm not sure what to thing of the latter - taken seriously it's pretty sad, it works better with a tongue in my ear, but it's not pretty. Still the songs work thematically for the most part. His experiment in splicing together two versions of My Feet Are On The Rock doesn't work for me at all.

If you've only got Larry's trilogy, this is a pretty decent overview of his more rootsy songs - then again there are a whole bunch of pretty decent overviews of his stuff out there. Over the years Larry has moved away from producing crisp studio albums, and grown into a comfortable "jam" oriented performer. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. He's earned the right to rest on his laurels, but for heaven's sake how many ways can you rearrange your laurels?

Reviewed September 16, 2004

Christmastime (©2003 Solid Rock)

christmastime1: Christmastime 2: The First Noel 3: Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem 4: Do You See What I See? 5: O Holy Night 6: Jingle Bell Rock 7: Medley: Carol of the Bells, and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies 8: Let There Be Peace On Earth 9: Angels We Have Heard On High 10: Christmastime Is Here 11: The Day That A Child Appeared 12: Auld Lang Syne

I must say that for about a year I waffled about this one, and I finally gave in and shelled out my money. As they say, "You take your money and you take your chance." I must say that I was somewhat surprised in a good way with this album. Christmas albums can be a pretty mixed bag, and a lot of artists have succumbed to the holiday spirit and released things that are normally saved for the privacy of, oh - the shower where no one can hear you scream - wait, that's Alien. Still, I think you get the idea.

The album kicks off with Christmastime from Larry's So Long Ago the Garden, and it's really the only song that doesn't fit with this collection. Perhaps if Charles who was producing the album had pushed for a remake it would have worked. But it's a minor complaint. The song selection is nicely varied, and Larry tries his hand at the standards and a few more modern carols. The arrangements are interesting and in the spirit of the originals without straying so far away as to be unrecognizable. I was a little worried when I heard The First Noel: Larry does Dylan impersonating Mister Morrison. Thankfully it was only on this one song.

Since I'm going on about the singing, Larry's voice is something you either like, or not. Me, I like it and I was somewhat surprised by Larry's range on O Holy Night, he went for the big notes but didn't come off as a show off. There are some really tasty moments throughout, Do You See What I See is very cool, and the Medley: Carol of the Bells / Sugar Plum Fairies is all Charles. The album closes with Auld Lang Syne, and I'm not quite sure how to listen to this one. It's played for fun, and Larry does his best Robbie Burns midway through - perhaps he'd just watched Braveheart again, or been listening to The Proclaimers and figured he was an honorary Scot. The singing saw solo kind of puts this one is perspective.

Who said Larry was always serious?

Reviewed October 11, 2004

Larry Norman & Randy Stonehill

The Cottage Tapes - Book One (©1999 Solid Rock Records)

norman stonehillThe songs: Don't Wanna Lose You / Blue Shoes White / What Goes Thru Your Mind / Righteous Rocker / I've Searched All Around / Up In Canada / Why Don't You Look Into Jesus / Taking My Time / You knew What You Were Doing / Alright Now / I Love You / Norman's Kitchen / Song For A Small Circle / He's The One / I Ain't Gonna Sing The Blues No More / Christmas Time

Although it's billed as Larry and Randy this one contains mostly songs by Larry with Randy contributing vocals and guitar on the majority of the songs. Randy contributes lead vocals on Alright Now, I Love You, Norman's Kitchen, and Christmas Time. Randy's solo contributions are really interesting to hear as it captures a young man who was still reaching for his voice. Norman's Kitchen is particularly fun as it really has an innocence you just don't hear anymore.

The songs by Larry are raw, and mostly a little above demo quality. Half the fun is hearing early unpolished versions of many songs that would become signature songs. The liner notes are good, and Larry contributes a lot of observations about Randy and their early days together. It would be interesting to get Randy's perspective too, however, you can't have everything.

Reviewed May 30, 2002

The Cottage Tapes - Book Two (©1999 Solid Rock Records)

1: What Goes Through Your Mind 2: Why Doncha Look Into Jesus 3: I've Searched All Around The World 4: Sigrid Jane 5: She's A Dancer 6: Taking My Time 7: Six Sixty Six 8: Blue Shoes White 9: Even If You Don't Believe 10: Without Love You Are Nothing 11: With A Love Like Yours 12: Peacepollutionrevolution 13: Song For A Small Circle Of Friends 14: Dabbles/Pardon Me 15: Why Don't You Look Into Jesus 16: Lonely By Myself 17: I Am A Servant 18: Norman's Kitchen 19: Upside Down Outside My Head 20: Talking Intro. Blue Shoes White 21: Forget Your Hexagram

It's quite possible Larry Norman has saved everything he ever recorded, and kept a detailed journal of everything he ever said during the early 70's. The second volume of The Cottage Tapes contains material predating the material on the first volume, and like the first collection the songs are early drafts of familiar songs (there are a couple here that I'd not heard before). It's cool to hear how close lyrically and thematically many of these versions were to the finished product.

When I first put this on I was thinking how badly the tapes have aged, and then for some strange reason I was listening to The Rolling Stones More Hot Rocks, the ultra-remastered version, and dang it if their stuff didn't sound nearly the same as this stuff.

The second part of this album is a number of Larry Norman songs sung by Randy Stonehill. To be honest I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of hearing Randy doing covers. Man was I surprised ... Randy puts his spin on the songs, and the way he interprets the music is pure Stonehill.

Of course there are the album notes by Larry, and he fills page after page with his musings, thoughts, reflections - it's almost worth the price just to read his take on the world. I don't necessarily agree with all he says, but I wasn't there, and the man was at the forefront of a time that we'll never see again. If he comes across as having a small "m" messiah complex, I can live with that. Better a man with convictions, than a man without.

Reviewed May 25, 2005

The Essential Series

Instigator CD 1 (©2002 Solid Rock CD-R)

essential 11: Lonely Boy 2: Born To Be Unlucky 3: Moses In The Wilderness 4: Hard Luck, Bad News - single version 5: Walking Backwards Down The Stairs 6: Pardon Me - single version 7: Soul Survivor 8: Looking For The Footprints 9: Baroquen Spirits - single version 10: I Don't Believe In Miracles - single version 11: Sigrid Jane - shorter version 12: I Am A Servant - single version 13: Nothing Really Changes - single edit 14: Strong Love, Strange Peace 15: Ha Ha World 16: Forget Your Hexagram 17: Feeling So Bad - single Euro edit 18: Let That Tape Keep Rolling - single version 19: I Think I Love You 20: With A Love Like Yours 21: Up In Canada - 1973 single version 22: Lonely By Myself - single version 23: Christmastime - shorter single edit 24: Butterfly - unreleased studio recording 25: Kulderachna - unreleased studio recording

I'm hoping that CD-R's have a really long shelf life. If not I'm gonna be right annoyed in a few years.

The latest crop of Larry offerings are being offered under the guise of The Essential Series. I don't know how many volumes there will be, but if the first couple are any indication, they're pretty solid. A lot of the songs here are slightly different takes on the familiar tunes - which is very cool. This also marks the appearance of the fabled Butterfly which was supposed to be on So Long Ago the Garden. It's an interesting song, as is the other unreleased song Kulderachna.

I know I tend to bitch and moan about the number of Larry anthologies. However, it looks like this "essential series" thing might actually work itself into a fairly comprehensive look at one of music's true radicals; dare I say definitive?

if you're just turning on to this pioneer, this is a great place to start.

Reviewed May, 2003

Agitator CD 2 (©2002 Solid Rock CD-R)

essential 21: Sweet Song Of Salvation 2: You Can't Tak Away The Lord 3: I Wish We'd All Been Ready 4: What Goes Through Your Mind 5: Even If You Don't Believe 6: Taking My Time 7: Lonely By Myself 8: Righteous Rocker 9: Song For A Small Circle Of Friends 10: Why Don't You Look Into Jesus 11: Diamonds 12: One Way 13: Peacepollutionrevolution 14: U.F.O. 15: I've Searched All Around 16: Six Sixty Six 17: Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? 18: The Great American Novel 19: Reader's Digest 20: Be Careful What You Sign 21: Nightmare 22: Sweet Silver Angels 23: God Part 2 24: People In My Past

The second in the essential series. Once again a CD-R offering. I know he's trying to save some bucks but I'm somewhat skeptical of the whole CD-R thing. They're more susceptible to clicks and pops and defects (at least from my experience with the Belfast Bootlegs). Or maybe I'm full of horse pucks and should leave audio formats to the experts, and people who know what the heck they're talking about.

Whatever. I'd prefer a real duplicated CD. They hold up better (judging by the shoddy state of most of my homemade stuff, and I'm careful with them too) and are likely to last longer. Please Larry reconsider if you run more pressings. Your stuff is worth keeping.

With Agitator we take the familiar road, and don't get a lot of new things under the sun. However, as an anthology the Essential thing is really shaping up nicely. He really has included a lot of great stuff while still leaving room for future volumes - considering how many great songs (in my opinion) weren't included this time around (There's only so much room on a CD, it was pretty full).

The bonus material is interesting, more for the archival value than as great songs. I'm not taking an unfair shot, just stating an opinion. It must be very strange for Larry to live so much in the past. I know that I have a hard time not thinking of him as a living time piece. It doesn't help when most of what I hear musically from Larry was released twenty or in some case almost thirty years ago.

And you know what? He's earned the right the sit on his laurels and take a well deserved rest. He doesn't have to keep fighting windmills his entire life does he?

I'll be watching for the next one ...

Reviewed May 2003

Liberator CD 3 (©2004 Solid Rock CD-R)

essential 31: My Feet Are on the Rock 2: Country Church, Country People 3: When All My Dreams Are Ending 4: Sitting In Kitchen - San Francisco Version 5: Soul On Fire - San Francisco Version 6: Blue Shoes White - San Francisco Version 7: Hymn To the Last Generation 8: Come Away 9: If You Don't Love the Lord 10: Letters to the Church - Bi-Polarized Version 11: Here Comes the King - European Version 12: You Shall Be Saved - Studio Version 13: When the Son Comes Back - Edited Version 14: Children of Lugoj - Unreleased Edited Version 15: Down the Line - Unreleased Video Synch Version 16: Give it Up 17: Everybody Work 18: Leave it Up to God to Handle

Well here I am, shelling out the big bucks to assuage my completist tendencies. For whatever reason, these are being released out of sequence. I guess it's to keep people guessing as to how much he has in the way alternate mixes, lost tracks, and unreleased "gems" lying around in shoe boxes in his garage. There are a number of songs from Home at Last, which is fine with me - I really liked that album. I suppose there are enough people who want to hear everything our man Larry has ever recorded to justify releasing them to a mostly unsuspecting public. Still it would be nice if he had more in the way of notes or explanation as to what the story arch is for this series, why certain songs fit, and others don't ... you know, more blabbing from the guy.

Of course, what album would be complete without at least one version of Soul On Fire? - thankfully it's the rock version (sounds like Mark Heard's mix) which is the closest thing to listenable I've come across over the years. There are a bunch of little treats here and there. His lounge lizard Michael Franks impression When All My Dreams are Fading is kind of interesting. He also pulls out some early vintage Norman on Blues Shoes White. Less appealing are Larry's foray into harder rock: You Shall Be Saved is okay, but not really Larry's style.

Overall, nothing especially outstanding here, but for the collector there are some interesting pieces. Chances are it'll get played a few times and then sit on my shelf.

Reviewed September 15, 2004

Collaborator CD 4 (©2002 Solid Rock CD-R)

essential 41: God Part Three 2: I Want It All - Bonus Track 3: Father Of All 4: Turn 5: Step Into The Madness 6: Rock The Flock 7: In The Garden 8: A Dangerous Place To Be 9: Protect My Child 10: All The Way Home 11: Living In The Twentieth Century 12: Feed The Poor 13: I Will Survive 14: Let The Rain Fall Down - Edited Single 15: Down To The Water - Bonus Track 16: Perfect World 17: Don't Wanna Be Like You 18: Jesus Is God

Leaning heavily on songs from Stranded in Babylon, and Tourniquet - Collaborator features the musical influence of little brother Charles Norman, or Normal (as he’s now called). The two Wondergroove songs are okay, but pale compared to the original versions, which by the way were the two better songs on that album. Oddly enough Larry tagged them onto the end of that album much like what he did with Hound of Heaven on Horrendous Disc. So if DA fans thought he was picking on them relax, he did the same thing to his own brother.

There’s a lot to like here, but if you have those albums there’s not a lot new here to justify the hefty price tag. Oh wait, there are a few new songs tagged on at the end of the CD that are said to be from his now to be unfinished album Scalpel. They’re not just cast off rejects either these are great tunes. It was worth it to get these songs, but for the casual fan it's a tough call.

I’m surprised that Home at Last was shut out, but in a way it was a smart move, as they wouldn't have fit together as nicely. Collaborator is a surprisingly consistent CD. It actually sounds like an album and not just another Larry montage.

Reviewed May 20, 2003

Emancipator CD 5(©2004 Solid Rock)

essential 51: The Man From Galilee 2: Ridding High 3: Nightmare #49 4: Be Careful What You Sign 5: The Outlaw 6: Shot Down 7: The Sun Began To Rain 8: Watch What You're Doing 9: Letters To The Church 10: Galaxy 11: It's Only Today That Counts 12: Under The Eye 13: Put Your Life Into His Hands 14: White Trash Stomp 15: Goodbye, Farewell 16: Selah 17: The Troubles 18: He Is A Friend - Ln+Rs Studio 19: I Love You - Ln+Rs Live 20: Is God Good - Studio 21: Dear Malcolm, Dear Alwyn - Studio

As far as collections of songs go, this is a really good stuff. I'll be honest, I've lost any sense of objective perspective regarding Larry's seemingly inexhaustible capacity to repackage his music without having to resort to actually creating anything new. What's missing from this whole Essential Series are cohesive thematic linear notes. It's nice to have "A few words" but they don't really pull it together ... and it's not like Larry can't be wordy when he wants to be.

I get the sense that at some point all of these discs will be gathered into one substantial box set with a monstrous book of notes describing the songs, musicians, anecdotes and all the usual Larryisms one gets used to reading.

With number 5, I'm guess this series is now complete (using the new math Larry refers to in his rambling Cottage Book II notes, 5 comes after 6 and 7) ... after all, these discs run over an hour. I'm really not sure how much more can be done. Well, I guess he could do Excavator: Lost Songs / Revelator: Songs for The End Times / Excrementor: Really Crappy Songs (an hour of Soul on Fire remixes and out takes) / Dementor (oh that's just mean and uncalled for) / Rejuvenator: Remastered and Totally Worth Buying Again.

Sheesh, what a tangent.

Back on topic - like I was saying, this is a really good collection, and spans a wide cross section of Larry's music. For all the cheap shots and wanking about his propensity to mine his back catalog he really has created an unbelievably robust body of work. If he wants to try and group his work into thematic chapters, why not? No one put a gun to my head and forced me to buy this. In fact, I'd go so far as to say if you want a comprehensive look at Larry's work the Essential Series is just that.

Go figure.

Here's hoping one day you find Fehrion Mister Norman.

Reviewed May 25, 2005

Infiltrator CD 6(©2004 Solid Rock)

essential 6 1: Oh, Lydia 2: Righteous Rocker - Fast Version 3: She's A Dancer 4: I Don't Wanna Love You - Video Synch Version 5: Deep Blue - Studio Version 6: A Camel In A Needle's Eye - Alternate Version 7: The Same Old Story - Alternate Vocal Version 2 8: A Keeper For My Heart - Edited Version 9: He Really Loves You - American Version 10: A Woman Of God - Extended Alternate Studio Version 11: Somewhere Out There - Edited Version 12: Baby's Got The Blues - European Version 13: Hide His Heart - European Edit 14: Center Of My Heart - Sudio Version 15: Love Is A Commitment - European Version 16: Waves Of Grace - Bonus Track 17: Stranger Won't You Change - Bonus Track 18: Endless Life Of Dreams 19: Talkin' 'Bout Love - Edited 20: A Woman Of God - Alternate Version, No Vox

Number 6 in the Essential Series. This is whole “essential” concept is truly an unusual “best of” project. Larry is really putting everything out that he’s ever done in any way shape or form it seems. I’m guessing that when the whole thing is said and done it’ll amount to one monstrously huge box set. If he was smart (and by all accounts he’s no dummy) he’d then sell the collectors box to put the CDs in, as well as a sell a comprehensive set of liner notes that lists the musicians, session dates etc. The notes for the series so far have been minimal and not up to Larry’s usual verbose standards. Then again, these are also CDR releases so who knows how long they’ll last before melting, or becoming unreadable.

There, that’s off my chest. All that and nothing about the disc at hand. First off I’m almost numb to the impact of these songs now, they’ve become so familiar and so much a part of my musical landscape over the last 20 years that it becomes very difficult to remain objective. I would have to guess that this whole series is aimed at the serious fan, and collector – or someone like me who has a genetic predisposition to collecting bric-a-brac. Not that I’m comparing Larry’s stuff to little porcelain figurines.

This isn’t going well at all. If I was a smarter man I’d erase all this and start all over again. But then I’d waste all those pretty words, even if they don’t make sense. Besides, this is my page, and I can pretty much do whatever I want to with impunity. I AM THE MASTER HERE (followed by maniacal laughter).

There, that’s off my chest too. Okay, task at hand. Infiltrator is another in the seemingly endless series of best of anthologies. I would love to know the overarching theme Larry is going for. He’s obviously going to a lot of effort to collect his back catalog and sort them into thematic bundles. This one I guess refers to the infiltrating power of Love. Larry mentions agape in the notes, and the whole notion of agape and it’s relevance to our lives and relationships is best left to those smarter than me. However, it’s interesting to hear how many of Larry’s songs tackled matters of the heart, both in terms of longing, but in terms of acceptance, and plain old “boy meets girl” songs. They run the gamut from the early 70’s standards to the Stranded in Babylon era. There are even a couple of unnecessary instrumental versions of A Woman of God. One was enough thank you - still your albums are like my webpage. YOU ARE THE MASTER and can do what ever you want (you can do your own maniacal laugh).

Considering how many actual albums (Barking at the Ants hardly qualifies) Larry has released I’m amazed at the sheer volume of edits / alternate tracks / and unreleased songs the man has recorded over the last few decades; moreover, I’m always pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the releases.

Of course if you’re only a casual fan this whole essential series is probably too much for you, but don't worry, Larry has a best of for you - he's got something for everyone.

Reviewed January 12, 2005

Survivor The Essential Larry Norman CD 7 (©2002 Solid Rock CD-R)

essential 71: Dark Passage 2: Bombs — N'Soul Remix 3: If God Is My Father 4: Messiah 5: Kepper For My Heart 6: If You Don't Love The Lord 7: I've Got To Learn — video edit 8: Why Can't You Be Good 9: Out Of My System 10: Stop This Flight — original demo 11: What's Wrong With This Body - studio version 12: Baby Out Of Wedlock — previously unreleased 3rd verse 13: Watch What Your Doing — non-album mix 14: One Star Remains 15: The Tune — previously unreleased radio version 16: Epitaph — previously unreleased demo

Here were go with number 7. Although at this point, numbers 3, 5, and 6 aren't out yet. This must be the new math (of course depending on when you read this I may have all of the missing numbers).

This one is actually another good collection of tunes. Many of which I’ve already got, but some I haven’t heard before. Dark Passage is a much better song than I expected and was a great way to start the CD. Hint hint to Larry, this is what you're best at. Your forrays into hard rock just don't quite work sometimes. You're a troubador, and it's something you are very good at (what I'm saying is more of this please). Of course it was followed by the dance mix version of Bombs, which quite frankly is, uh, well, terrible. There I said it. Ick. The selections tend to run from the exceptional to the “interesting”. Messiah still makes the hair on the back of my neck standup after all these years.

It’s better to listen to much of this for its historical significance as a lens into a rare an unusual artist, rather than cuting edge music. Need proof, listen to lounge lizard version of If God is My Father (I'm not being fair, since I never really cared for this one anyway).

I’m not knocking the songs too much here, as I said, I liked this one. It gets harder and harder to keep up with all of the “this series” and “that archive” stuff that is being mass dumped to the market. Especially considering that for a CDR the near 23 dollar American price tag is more than a little expensive.

It is still absolutely amazing to me how much stuff Larry has packed away on tape over the years. Mind boggling is probably more accurate.

Reviewed May 16, 2003

Tributes

One Way - The Songs Of Larry Norman (©1995 Forefront)

one wayU.F.O. (Geoff Moore & The Distance) / Sweet, Sweet Song Of Salvation (Rebecca St. James) / The Great American Novel (Big Tent Revival) / Why Don't You Look Into Jesus (Holy Soldier) / Shot Down (Michael Anderson) / Righteous Rocker #3 (Audio Adrenaline) / One Way (Serene & Pearl) / The Outlaw (Dana Key) / Nothing Really Changes (Code of Ethics) / Six O'clock News (Grammatrain) / Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music (Geoff Moore & The Distance) / The Rock That Doesn't Roll (Larry Howard) / If God Is My Father (E.T.W.) I Wish We'd All Been Ready (DC Talk)

An interesting tribute. The living tribute is becoming more popular - which is kind of cool for the artist. One Way for the most part consists of good versions of songs from Larry's early body of work (nothing represented past his trilogy). Although there's nothing overtly adventurous or outstanding about many of the versions. Although the Code of Ethics version is wicked - it's the best song on the album. There are some interesting moments I don't care for, but can appreciate the effort. Larry's strength has always been his writing, and it's cool to hear how many of the songs wear over two decades of use. As far as tributes go this one is pretty good.

Reviewed May 2, 2002

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