Larry Norman - Stranded In Babylon

Wednesday 1st July 1992
Larry Norman - Stranded In Babylon
Larry Norman - Stranded In Babylon

STYLE: Jesus Music
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
LABEL: Spark CDSK7017

Reviewed by Rupert Loydell

The great man, now so sadly struck down by a heart attack, has never exactly made it easy for his loyal followers. For the last decade he has been releasing and re-releasing fragments of unreleased albums, best-ofs and re-released different versions in all kinds of limited, hard-to-get, and different, formats. He fell out with old-friends, recorded their songs without credit, popped up around the world doing acoustic concerts, told great jokes, made friends with Oliver North (!), and finally -last year - released a new LP 'Home At Last', a disorganised, half-produced, and ultimately unsatisfying hotchpotch of songs. And now, to top it all, after being categorized as a good-thing-that-was he releases a superb new album which sees a return to the form he showed to full effect on those classics like 'Only Visiting This Planet' and 'So Long Ago The Garden' back in the mid seventies. Larry finally seems to have lost pretensions to grandeur; these new songs (and yes, there are 13 totally new works here!) do what Larry does best, namely rock. It may still be seventies rock, but it's great stuff. Due credit must be given to Charly Norman, the younger brother. For only Charly and Larry play on this set. But with only two in the band there's a full spectrum of sound, the songs are cleverly arranged and produced, with plenty of pertinent lyrical imagery and the sly wit of yore amongst the electric guitar solos and breezy (sampled?) saxophones. The starter on this release is a ten second outtake of a (quite rightly) long-forgotten love song, and then it's straight into "God Pt III" which draws on John Lennon's "God" and the U2 riposte ("God II"). Like Bono, Larry has a nice line in couplets "..I don't believe in money the way lives are bought and sold/and when the world is ended bankrupt I'm gonna walk the streets of gold/l believe in God." Can't say much more direct than that can you? Larry somehow gets away with a directness that few can. Gospel cliches abound, but are coupled with real, human stories, like the prostitute he befriends in Shepherd's Market (sic) (Shepherd's Bush I presume!) when on a London visit in the second song, or the sexual and emotional complexities of a confused couple in "Hide His Heart", where "It's like a foreign movie where the lights are dim/He's in love with her but she can't see him." Despite claims to be trendy with samples etc, this music is old-fashioned rock that thrives on backbeat and guitar licks. Over this Larry declaims ("I Will Survive"), teaches ("Love Is A Commitment"), socially observes ("Step Into The Madness" - a superb indictment of modern America) and prays ("All The Way Home"). The album officially ends with Larry waiting for heaven, stranded in Babylon, but - despite liner notes which promise no more half-baked releases - the CD includes three 'bonus tracks', to be regarded as a separate entity from the concept set which precedes them... Here we have a boogiefied trip to grandpa's, a pure fun outing; a glorious (and long) rock prayer "Let The Rain Fall Down", a kind of Job-like song of acceptance and refusal to despair; and finally "Under The Eye" which tells how Larry has, despite the last decade, always been watched and cared for. Although the concept would work better without the additions, they too are strong pieces which make this new release a real delight.

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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