Reviewed by Dougie Adam
It's 2005 now and more than ever before I think the world still needs to hear Larry Norman doing a new thing. Just over half of this CD features rare music by other luminaries of the Jesus music era; Randy Stonehill, Keith Green, Daniel Amos, Tom Howard, Steve Camp and Dave Matson and decades after their songs were recorded many of them sound fine if a little dated. But the big news with 'Sessions' is that there are six new Larry Norman recordings, 100% fresh and found on no other Larry CD anywhere else on the planet. How very Larry-like it is that some of his finest recordings, some of his most potentially life changing music is given away as a gift to the small number of fans who donated $100 or more to his medical fund and this after a few years where much of the back catalogue has been recycled and the Jesus music veteran has stood accused of taking advantage of fans' loyalty. And how ironic that some of his best lyric writing is reserved for a collection of cover versions! Witness the transformation of Bono and Daniel Lanois' "Falling At Your Feet" (from the 'Million Dollar Hotel' soundtrack) as it morphs into Larry's earth-shatteringly good "All Fall Down" and you'll know what I'm trying to say. If some of these new tracks ever made it onto mainstream radio you feel certain listeners' worlds would stop and hearts would change and turn to God. You feel certain that if only people heard the quality of "Everything Is Broken", "Time In Babylon" and "All Fall Down" in particular, then even yet, at the age of 57 and recording from his sick bed, Larry Norman might become an overnight success. 'Sessions' was recorded after Larry lost his voice following on from a bad bout of bird flu. The voice sounds different and yet familiar. Today occasionally you can hear cracks in Larry's voice but those cracks are in all the right places and add impact to the lyrics (their content and emotions) and in some ways on some of these songs he has never sounded better to my ears. The songs covered are an old hymn ("Farther On") which is given a country treatment, a half-forgotten folk song ("Follow The Drinking Gourd"), an underestimated gem hidden away on a film soundtrack ("Falling At Your Feet"), Emmylou Harris's "Time In Babylon" and two Dylan classics, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and "Everything Is Broken". Fans of the originals may quibble here and there with some of the arrangements and lyric changes but overall there is a clean, rootsy sound with Softcore yet again providing much of the musical backing augmented by some fine acoustic slide guitars from Mark Lemhouse. The crisp, clean production and well delivered cover versions makes Larry's contributions to this disc reminiscent of his own 'Copper Wires' collection from 1998. Given Larry's contribution to contemporary Christian music over nearly four decades it would be sad if there were only a couple of hundred people around who were willing to contribute enough money to his medical fund to qualify for this fine gift from Larry and the Solid Rock gang.
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