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from my personal collection
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.
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"
The 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
Disc 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
The 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