Larry Norman - So Long Ago The Garden: 30th Anniversary Edition

Published Monday 17th January 2005
Larry Norman - So Long Ago The Garden: 30th Anniversary Edition
Larry Norman - So Long Ago The Garden: 30th Anniversary Edition

STYLE: Jesus Music
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Solid Rock SRD006
RRP: £14.69

Reviewed by Dougie Adam

This should have been a 12-song strong follow up to the previous year's 'Only Visiting This Planet' but five songs which were the backbone of the album's message were removed by the record company who deemed that "I Hope I'll See You In Heaven", "Righteous Rocker #2", "If God Is My Father", "Butterfly" and "Kulderachna" were all too religious and uncommercial. Two tracks originally recorded as B-sides were added to make nine songs on the original release but 'Garden' was now literally an album which had lost its original plot and had its heart ripped out. That said, even the two filler tracks which don't belong on the project conceptually (the opening "Fly, Fly, Fly" and festive cracker "Christmastime") sound alright, while the songs which did see release capture Norman and the session players and production team at the height of their powers. As with other trilogy albums the central theme was love, and 'Garden' also dealt with the past and with our broken relationship with God the Father. So the omission of key conceptual songs meant that lyrically difficult songs like "Be Careful What You Sign" and "Nightmare" had no overall plot to fit into and the songs of broken love were often understood as commentaries on the condition of Larry's first marriage when many of the songs in question were penned in the '60s before he had ever met his first wife. Even though songs such as "The Same Old Story", "Lonely By Myself", "Be Careful What You Sign", "She's A Dancer" and "Nightmare #71" rank among Larry's best compositions and studio performances the songs have seldom featured in his concerts with the result that 'Garden' has remained an overlooked masterpiece. The 30th anniversary CD release is at my guess the fifth version of the album to be released (the original MGM version was later re-issued by Myrrh/Word, Phydeaux released two versions of 'Almost So Long Ago The Garden, and Solid Rock issued a 20th anniversary CD in 1993 which had more bonus tracks and more of the original MGM mixes). Collectors will no doubt wish that 'the compleat trilogy' version with the 12 songs Larry wanted on the album had been released instead, and no doubt some will also miss the original MGM mixes of "Baroquen Spirits" and "Christmastime" which have yet to be released on CD despite two Garden CD releases and the seven CD Essential series collection. There is talk that Larry is hoping to release this 12-song version soon. In the meantime the 30th anniversary edition keeps an important album available on CD and comes with a 16 page booklet and has also been re-EQ'd and features one previously unavailable track - an alternate version of "Soul Survivor" where Randy Stonehill drops by and trades some vocals as Larry and the band experiment with the song's tempo and phrasing. While the 30th anniversary edition may not be the version of the album that fans yearned to be released the fact remains that even in its only-partially-realised state 'So Long Ago the Garden' remains one of Larry's great albums so on that basis alone it's tempting to award it the perfect 10... however I'll make allowances for people finding it a tough album to understand.

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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Sample Track Listing:
1. Fly Fly Fly
2. The Same Old Story (Single Edit)
3. Lonely By Myself
4. Be Careful What You Sign
5. Baroquen Spirits (Single Edit)
6. Christmastime
7. She's A Dancer
8. Soul Survivor
9. Nightmare #71
10. Up In Canada (1973 single)
11. Soul Survivor (Alternate Version - never released)

This track data is supplied by the Cross Rhythms CD/DVD review library. Please note that CD tracks may vary according to release region or product version.

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