Larry Norman - The Vineyard

Tuesday 1st June 1999
Larry Norman - The Vineyard

RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Solid Rock SRD865

Reviewed by Dougie Adam

Larry himself wrote the latest Solid Rock Newsletter in which he tried to give accurate information on each release and restrict the use of hyper­bole, but alas, despite a valiant attempt to meet this criteria, he couldn't resist adding, "Risking the umbrage of 'hype' I think this is the best live concert I've ever put on CD", an astonishing claim when you consider the amount of live albums his audience have been subjected to since 1980. Many of them have been of excellent quality too, band projects like the two Flevo releases, 'Stop This Flight' with the Young Lions, while the solo 'Totally Unplugged' CD from 1992 was rightly com­mended in these pages. This reviewer would go a step further than Larry in praise of 'The Vineyard', it's the best concert album he's put out ever - I've heard every official release. So now that you've heard the opinion on this CD what are the undisputable facts'? This is an edited version of a concert from last March. This record of that performance contains no less than 30 songs which span Larry's entire career, four songs from Larry's latest studio recordings are among the 18 numbers performed on guitar, this segment of the concert also saw Larry perform his most direct and powerful protest song "Feed The Poor" and this release sees the first official release of Larry performing the lyrically stunning "If I Were A Singer". While I'm on the subject of performance I have to add my sub­jective opinion that once again Larry is on great form vocally, the con­cert sounds like it was recorded digitally, the sound quality is good throughout. The guitar set also contains excellent performances of some of his-best known songs from the '70s. During this part of the concert Norman also delivered a humorous poem I Am Is with some aplomb to the obvious enjoyment of the congregation. Anyone who has seen the man in the flesh will appreciate the good naturcd confrontation going on between the performer and the crowd at certain points in the evening. You just know that Larry shot them a look as soon as they started clap­ping along on "Twelve Good Men". Meanwhile the performance of 'Why Should The Devil" is abandoned at several points where he feels the need to chastise those who continue to clap. "You're clapping on the an beat and it's just not attractive!". "Really you shouldn't clap, 'causeyou're white. You need more soul!". Elsewhere, "Watch What You're Doing" is dedicated to Hannah, a little four year old in the front row, "Here's a song about a chicken and a ducky," he informs everyone. And he's not finished there, there's a Charlie Brown anecdote to slip in too. During one of the sermonettes Larry even follows a line of argument through to its logical conclusion - he actually has shortish hair. Sorry for getting carried away forks! The piano songs - there's 12 of them and just sitting at the piano seems to bring out another dimension in Larry Norman The Vocalist. Fantastic performances of the likes of "One Way" and "No More LSD For Me" follow, but the personal highlight is hear­ing him tackle the previously unheard "Endless Life Of Dreams" shortly after having delivered heartfelt versions of personal numbers such as "And We Sing The Tune" and "If The Bombs Fall" which leave the pre­viously-heard studio and live versions for dead. This is a superb docu-ment of an enlightening range of songs culled from five decades of song-writing. Sure, there's an occasional wrong note here and there, and a few instances where the memory almost goes, but it's fun to listen to how Larry responds in those situations. Good grief, this is a live album that's actually live, no studio overdubs to fix mistakes. 'The Vineyard' more than any other release witnesses to Larry's unique personality as well as to his well-chronicled gifts as a songwriter and captivating performer and uncompromising communicator. Here we have Larry in good voice, good humour doing the kind of things he does best and also getting away with murder, singing the guitar solos, forgetting the lyrics now and then. One of my favourite CDs ever because, while it's not always musically perfect, it's overwhelmingly endearing. Unlike many other '60s rockers who continue to ply their trade as 50-somethings Larry still has a lot to offer whether he's solo in concert or accompanied by a hot young band or whether he's got round to putting out a new studio project.

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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