Reviewed by Dougie Adam
It would take a book to detail the chequered history of this album, to explain how this went from being a double album down to the single album of rough mixes housed in scribbled artwork that we have here. That story's for another time and place though. Unless I'm mistaken all you want to know, reader, is what is on this disc?; what does the music sound like?; what do the lyrics say?; and, if like me you live in Europe, is it worth the hassle of going to your bank and getting a cheque made out in US dollars and sitting for weeks waiting for the international postal services to deliver the goods. Right? First things first. This is a blues album. Walking blues, talking blues, rocking blues, storytelling blues, rhythm and blues. The production values, orchestral arrangements and variety of song types which made Only Visiting This Planet', 'So Long Ago The Garden' and in Another Land' so special are all absent here. This is different. The record stands or falls on the performances of Larry and the band and the quality of the material they are working with. It's the rough diamond among the studio albums Larry recorded and released in the '70s. And the first signs aren't promising. Things begin downbeat, depressing on "Hard Luck Bad News" and turn practically suicidal on "I Feel Like Dyin'". This is unpleasant, disconcerting stuff. Until something happens, a story emerges. These unbearable opening songs are part of a larger picture, a tale of a pilgrim who experiences the full depths of a life without Christ and comes to a point where he tries to kill himself and in so doing is rescued from the river by a stranger who shares the news of forgiveness through Christ, of a loving Heavenly Father and of he reality of our life having a meaning and purpose. Pilgrim's life is never the same again. The darkest hour is just before the dawn indeed. The rest of the album is either a joyous celebration of the Christian life or an impassioned appeal to the unconverted. On songs such as "Born To Be Unlucky", "Leaving The Past Behind", "Let That Tape Keep Rolling", Larry and the band sound like they are the Rolling Stones performing at the peak of their powers. (For younger readers think of Primal Scream on 'Give Out But Don't Give Up' except only this stuff sound superior.) 'Put Your Life Into His Hands" sounds like it could have been taken off the Beatles' 'White Album' and is loaded with classic lines from Norman, some of which refer back to his earlier albums and even to some of the most famous hymns ever written. Norman has never exactly been a shrinking violet when it's come down to sharing his faith but on this track in particular and the latter part of the album in general he's at his most direct in confronting his listeners with the claims of Christ. In addition to the nine songs from the original album, there are three bonus tracks on this compact disc. Five songs out of the 12 were selected for the recent compilation 'Footprints In The Sand' which was distributed in Europe's Christian bookshops by Spark Music. If you're already a Larry Norman fan, or if you're into electric blues then this is worth the effort of importing it all the way from America. Some critics and fans rate this as Larry's best work although I wouldn't go quite as far as that. The competition's pretty strong in that one! Maybe when the uncensored version is eventually released I'll change my mind.
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