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Only Visiting This Planet (Remastered Bonus Track Version)

Larry Norman

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Album Review

When Larry Norman recorded Only Visiting This Planet in 1972 for MGM at George Martin's studio in London, there wasn’t place in the music industry for "Jesus Rock." MGM had no idea what to do with it. This meld of rootsy pop, gospel, and rock & roll songs about Christ had less than nothing to do with hymns, and was rejected by the Christian church at large at the time. In the 21st century, Norman is regarded as the “father of CCM” and that $450 million dollar a year industry, and this album is regarded by CCM Magazine as "the greatest Christian rock record of all time." It’s ironic. Norman died largely broke in 2008.

Only Visiting This Planet (Solid Rock Records, 1972) is the first part of a trilogy that included So Long Ago the Garden (MGM, 1973) and In Another Land (Capitol, 1976). This set (which ironically was the first one to be reissued) concerns itself with the present (So Long Ago the Garden concerns the past and Another Land the future). All three albums have been remastered and reissued by Solid Rock Records, a label Norman founded — he was well-known for his fiercely independent streak. The album is a masterpiece; one needn’t believe in God to enjoy it; it stands on its own as an enduring work of popular art.

Norman's studio band included bassist John Wetton, drummer Keith Smart from Wizzard, keyboardist Rod Edwards, and percussionist Roger Hand. These songs were expertly written and arranged, they spill across the rock, pop, and gospel spectrum, and they were gorgeously produced. “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” with its wash of strings and a backing choir, adds to the drama of Norman’s topic: the Rapture, when all Christians, living or dead, are prophesied to be reunited with Christ before the end of the world. Belief in this premise is not necessary — the song is delivered with such understated conviction and produced for maximum dramatic effect that it’s deeply moving. The hard-rocking “Why Don’t You Look into Jesus” addresses addictive behavior amid snarling guitars, punchy drums, and popping pianos. The opening track is a mysterious broken love song called “I’ve Got to Learn to Live Without You” that drips with longing. “I Am the Six O’Clock News” is a straight-out rocker that reflects the irony in the media’s coverage of the Vietnam war. The acoustic ballad “The Outlaw” is a poetic narrative pondering Christ's life and death. There is biting social commentary in “The Great American Novel” that reflects Bob Dylan’s early work but, “Righteous Rocker #1” is payback: it’s a lyrical precursor to — and was perhaps inspiration for — “You Gotta Serve Somebody.” The album contains two bonus tracks, and is well worth checking out by anyone interested in genuine rock & roll classics.

Biography

Born: 08 April 1947 in Corpus Christi, TX

Genre: Christian & Gospel

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The founding father of Jesus Rock, Larry Norman wed the rhythms of pop music with the spiritual and social outlook of Christianity to create a kind of flower-power gospel. While his efforts were instrumental in shaping the sound and themes of contemporary Christian rock, Norman never enjoyed the commercial success or acceptance afforded to his musical descendants, admitting his sensibilities were "too secular for the Christians and too Christian for the secularists." Born in Corpus Christi, TX on...
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Only Visiting This Planet (Remastered Bonus Track Version), Larry Norman
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