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Only Visiting This Planet (Remastered Bonus Track Version)

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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.

Customer Reviews

This album outshines all of the CCM that has followed it!

Larry was the original Jesus rocker and sang from the heart with his brain fully engaged and his artistic sensibilities intact. If you get only one Larry Norman album, get this one. (Actually, get more!) From the poignant ballads to the gritty and bluesy rockers to the folk, this recording sounds as good today as it did when it came out. It's lost none of it's timeliness unlike a lot of other music, Christian or otherwise. Recorded at AIR studios with George Martin of Beatles fame at the helm and top notch studio musicians from King Crimson and other bands, this disc sounds great and touches the heart and challenges the mind on so many levels. The track list reads like a 'greatest hits' list. Get it - you won't be sorry.

The Great American Artist

Easily considered Larry's best, this album truly shines even when put amongst the greatest of the greats ('Sgt. Pepper', 'The Joshua Tree', 'Pet Sounds', etc.) The production values are high, the lyrics are as sharp as Lennon and the music is diverse. The album's opener, 'I've Got to Learn to Live Without You', sounds like a lost Top 40 hit, with it's piano/rock/orchestration balladry. 'The Outlaw' is soft but beautifully effective. 'Why Don't You Look Into Jesus' and 'Righteous Rocker #1' are great blues and honky tonk tunes, respectively. 'I Wish We'd All Been Ready' is obviously the most well-known song on the album, and for good cause, beginning so subtly and slowly progressing into a gush of emotion, complete with Beatlesque harmonizing. 'I Am The Six O'Clock News' is the most progressive piece on the album, sounding very much like a precursor to Van Halen-esque hard rock. 'The Great American Novel' is best defined by it's biting lyrics, taking jabs at the government and religious freaks. 'Pardon Me' may be the softest song on the album, and the music is quite effective in the way it compliments the sensual wordplay. 'Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music' is another well-known song of Larry's, decrying the idea that rock and roll couldn't be used for good. It's a slick and rollicking 50s-era rocker. 'Reader's Digest' has a bit of a Bob Dylan feel, especially with the words, questioning many trends and icons, and featuring the classic line 'Beatles said 'All you need is love'/Then they broke up.' A must-own for any rock and roll fan.

Larry's best

If you are new to Larry Norman's music, start right here. Honest, edgy, and way ahead of his time, Larry set the standard for Christian rock before the genre existed. If you like this, also check out "So Long Ago The Garden" and "In Another Land".


Born: April 8, 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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