Reviewed by Dougie Adam
Down through the years Larry Norman fans have been subjected to their fair share of compilation albums. I haven't checked the statistics, but it is just possible that the number of such compilations and live albums may even out-number the amount of studio albums of wholly new material that Larry has released. The song selection on this compilation is good, although it is aimed at fans and collectors rather than first time buyers. It kicks off with three songs recorded by Larry's band People. "Riding High", "I've Got You On My Mind" and "Hasty Heart" were all featured on 'Both Sides Of People' which was released after Larry had quit the group. The next three songs are Jesus Music classics culled from Larry's first three albums, 'Upon This Rock', "Street Level' and 'Bootleg'. From there we move into some rare cuts from the '70s through to the mid-'80s. The band version of "I Hope I'll See You In Heaven" sounds as though it may date from the 'So Long Ago The Garden' sessions. The arrangement with piano, bass, electric guitar, drums and harmony vocals takes the song in a different direction from the masterful guitar/vocal live versions released on 'Stop This Flight' and 'Totally Unplugged'. 'Down Under' also boasts studio versions of some of Larry's better songs from the '80s, the nite lite mix of "Soul On Fire", studio demos of "Stop This Flight" and "Out Of My System", a polished "Why Can't You Be Good?" and the pop ballad "If The Bombs Fall" in its original incarnation before its brilliant reworking on the 'Remixing This Planet' project. And just for good measure the live short, sharp, shock, punk treatment of "Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music" is included also. Lasting just under 50 minutes, it strikes me that there may be enough room on a CD to accommodate the six other songs which were on the original LP and cassette versions of this collection, but there may be legal reasons why the other four People songs have been dropped. I do miss one of the axed songs, "Letter To The President", a cute, insignificant novelty song. Despite the interesting selection available this CD does have its drawbacks and I'd be failing in my duties as a reviewer if I didn't mention the first one. Sound quality. This is the only CD in my collection which comes complete with scratches! On many tracks there is background noise which suggests this CD has been made from recordings from LPs or acetates of rough mixes rather than using the original master tapes. Worst of all, the opening bars and first word of "What Goes Through Your Mind" have been chopped off, presumably by accident! Phydeaux' other re-releases have been of a very high quality, but on this occasion they have disappointed a bit. My other negative comment is that I'm not sure how well compilations such as 'Down Under', "Rehearsal 4 Reality', 'Home At Last', 'White Blossoms', 'The Best Of The Second Trilogy' and 'Footprints In The Sand' actually do justice to Larry Norman as a recording artist. Generally speaking, these compilations don't hang together nearly half as well as proper studio albums like 'Only Visiting This Planet", in Another Land', 'Stranded In Babylon" or even any of Larry's live albums. A constructive suggestion to close with. Maybe the best way to compile and chronicle retrospectives of Larry's output would be to do some three CD boxed sets. There could be a 'Best Of compilation of songs from the proper albums, another dealing with live material and a final one dealing with unreleased songs, censored projects and rarities. Anyone familiar with the bulk of Larry's output from the last four decades will be aware that with the amount, quality and variety of material available it would be quite easy to put together boxed sets at least as impressive as 'Biograph" or 'The Bootleg Series' which serve Bob Dylan, or Neil Young's 'Decade' set. And it might just cut out the current situation where many compilations are patchy with unreleased material rubbing shoulders with old chestnuts that we might already own several times over!
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