STYLE: Rock RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 918-13528 LABEL: Solid Rock SRD866 FORMAT: CD Album
Reviewed by Dougie Adam
Solid Rock's re-release programme continues to pick up steam as this package gathers together three of the rarest ever Larry Norman LPs (the original version of "Street Level" and "Letter Of The Law" and "Labor Of Love") and adds in one partially released project (side one of 'Rough Mix 3' was put out as the 'Barking At The Ants' EP in the early '80s). The price might seem high for a double CD which is probably aimed at collectors rather than selective admirers but it still works out cheaper than buying the bootleg CDRs which prompted this release, and you get better sound quality, a 12 page booklet written by Larry, and bonus tracks. All in all there 42 tracks here and only two have appeared on CD before, some have never been released anywhere before. "Street Level" is vintage Norman. Side one features a poem and three songs from a solo concert in 1969, while the five other tracks are studio demos from 1970 including an impressive pop song "Sigrid Jane" cut by Larry and Ray Charles' band. "Rough Mix 3" works quite well too. This is a collection of recordings from 1978 to 1985 and features enjoyable live versions of "Why Can't You Be Good" and "A Note From Mr God" alongside an early version of "The Tune", a cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman", and a version of "More Than A Dream" which has Larry and his Young Lions cohorts sounding a bit like Adam And The Ants. Quite a mix! Some of the other material leans towards praise and worship. The other two albums concentrate mostly on Tom Howard covers with a few short original instrumental compositions thrown in. It's easy to see why they were never released properly and why they gathered bad reviews when they are placed alongside Norman's best work. That said, I still find four or five of the songs and their performances from these two poorer albums rivetting.The stripped down versions of "Where His Soul Touches Down" and "Watch The Master Make It Right" will almost certainly hit the mark with fans of Norman's own ballads like "The Outlaw" and "I Hope I'll See You In Heaven". Before signing off I must say that two of the bonus tracks are absolute gems. The short demo of "Love On Haight Street" from the late '60s and the studio recording of "A Woman Not A Maid" from the unreleased 'Rough Mix 2' album, it's probably fair to say that over these two CDs you can find Larry close to his best and worst, but if you are a big fan or a collector you'll probably enjoy the collection and not mind the price tag too much.
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