STYLE: Jesus Music RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 7427-8131 LABEL: Solid Rock SRD969 FORMAT: CD Album RRP: £15.99
Reviewed by Dougie Adam
At last! After three previous CD issues of 'Upon This Rock' one of CCM's first major albums gets the kind of CD re-release that its status deserves. All 11 songs from 1970's re-recorded version of the album are here and finally are digitally remastered from the original master tapes. The sound quality of the original album and the publishing demos from 1968 and 1969 is better than could have been anticipated. A 28 page booklet with the song lyrics, the story behind the recording sessions, photos and sketches from the time and Larry's explanation of the songs' meanings highlight the attention to detail which has been shown with this project. Three of the Beechwood demos sound like alternate mixes of tracks which showed up on the double LP 'Bootleg' - the sound quality here is better than anything previously released. It is a treat to hear the early demos of Larry performing "You Can't Take Away The Lord", "Nothing Really Changes" and, 20 years before it was re-recorded and officially released on 'Home At Last', "Country Church, Country People". The first CD also has a CD-Rom element where you can explore more photos and Larry related trivia. The second disc contains two interviews interspersed with more music. First of all there is the Powerline radio interview from 1970 with Larry answering questions about songs from 'Upon This Rock' over the top of radio edits of tracks from the original Capitol mix of the album. The second interview was conducted in 2001 and deals with Larry's rock musicals which were mostly written between leaving People and releasing 'Upon This Rock'. Larry sketches out the main themes of "Birthday For Shakespeare", "Alison", "Love On Haight Street" and "Lion's Breath" and best of all sits and plays some of the original demos from 1968 and 1969 and talks about their meaning and how they were recorded. Two of the songs have been heard before, "Strong Love, Strange Peace" and "Is God Dead", although both of these tracks are the original previously unreleased demos. Five other songs in the section have never been heard before. As Larry stresses during the interview and in the CD booklet, the views put forward in songs such as "Lost Kids", "We All (The Crash Pad)" represent the views of the drug-taking beatniks in the musicals rather than his own standpoint. The songs fall somewhere between the barmy and eclectic and eccentric style of Larry's days in People and his later more mature solo material. The sound collage "The Prayer Meeting" is short and beautiful and "I'm So Glad To Know You" is a gorgeous haunting piano ballad with a fine vaudeville vocal. Collectors will surely hope that more of the demos for Larry's musical will be released in years to come alongside the cast recordings which were also made and then left unreleased for decades. This double CD has now been on sale for over six months and is nearing sell-out. Fans of vintage Norman are advised to move fast to get hold of their copy before it goes for good. Seasoned Norman observers will no doubt be unsurprised to learn that word has it that Sparrow Records have plans to issue a different CD release of "Upon This Rock" in US bookstores in the near future. Unconfirmed speculation suggests that since Sparrow and Capitol are both subsidiaries of EMI that it may be even be the original Capitol mix which goes on sale next. Roll on CD re-issue number four. Long may the discographers' nightmare continue!
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