Reviewed by Alastair McCollum
The late, admittedly great, Larry Norman's music is often mentioned in hushed tones and with a reverence and awe by CCM fans and reviewers alike so that each re-release of a Norman classic comes complete with a weight of history that threatens to overwhelm any hearer! It is easy to see why this 1969 album caused controversy in a the US and UK Christian worlds, as Norman's prophetic and powerful songwriting combined with so-called "worldly" musical styles which many saw as bound up with immorality, drug culture and the rejection of decency. With 40 years of Christian music culture since these songs were first released there is, though, a certain amount of "datedness" to the album. For those of us born in the years following this album we can appreciate the quality of the songwriting and see how many of the issues still affect the Church, yet we might not choose to sit and listen to this album too frequently. Lyrically it is quite a dark collection of songs, with a focus on the negatives of both Church and secular culture, musically it is guitar and piano-based rock with echoes of any number of bands of the day. This isn't to dismiss it, and there are some very fine and enjoyable songs here such as the opening acoustic guitar and piano based "You Can't Take Away The Lord", the poignant string quartet "Walking Down The Stairs", the best arrangement of "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" by far of any available, and the somewhat surreal "The Last Supper" with various bits of slightly odd piano crashing. This 2008 release also contains three bonus tracks of which the highlight is an uplifting live version of "Sweet Sweet Song Of Salvation" with some great honky tonk piano. A good album, a testimony to a courageous and visionary artist, a great Christian musician and a talented songwriter.
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