Larry Norman - So Long Ago The Garden: 20th Anniversary Edition

Thursday 1st February 1996
Larry Norman - So Long Ago The Garden: 20th Anniversary Edition

STYLE: Jesus Music
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Street Level

Reviewed by Dougie Adam

The sequel to 'Only Visiting This Planet' was recorded in 1973 and examined the past and focused on our relationship with the Father. Many people were confused by this album on its release as very few of the songs proclaimed an overt evangelistic message. Instead the bulk of the album featured songs about broken relationships, loneliness and sorrow whilst the religious songs like "Be Careful What You Sign" and "Nightmare No 71" were surreal visions and nightmares and even their meaning wasn't crystal clear. To top it all Larry appeared naked on the front cover! Garden suffered at the hands of the record company executives at MGM who censored five songs "If God Is My Father", "Butterfly", "I Hope I'll See You In Heaven", "Righteous Rocker No 2" and...) which they deemed too negative or too controversial and replaced them with B-sides such as "Fly, Fly, Fly" and "Christmastime". This interference ruined any coherent message that Larry intended this concept album to have. This CD has the nine songs from the original MGM release plus three bonus tracks which are the full length demo version of "If God Is My Father", the 1973 single "Up In Canada" and the unfinished demo "Dear Malcolm, Dear Alwyn". Despite the censorship problems which butchered the album 'Garden' remains a beautiful record. Ballads such as "It's The Same Old Story", "Lonely By Myself" and "She's A Dancer" all have well crafted arrangements devised by Larry alongside George Martin and the Triumvirate Productions team, and in "She's A Dancer" you can detect the same quality that marked George martin's work with the Beatles on songs such as "Yesterday", "Michelle" and "For No One". Larry's vocals fit the songs perfectly and the combined effect of the songwriting, arrangements and performances is a strong one. In addition 'Garden' also has the wonderfully eerie "Be Careful What You Sign" and the grooviest apocalyptic song ever written in Nightmare No 71". My only regret about the re­issue is that all five censored songs have not been included now. Once again Phydeaux and Street Level deserve a medal for a great CD booklet.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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