Christian music pioneer Randy Stonehill released his debut album BORN TWICE on One Way Records in 1971. Over the years it has appeared in different versions. The one I am reviewing was released on CD by Solid Rock.
Five live tracks, each received with much applause, start off the album. Randy humorously introduces himself before singing the great Jimmy Owens ballad ‘I Need You’ from the musical SHOW ME! The song admits to a spiritual void in one’s life: “Well, God, it’s me/And I never thought I’d see/The day when I’d say ‘I need You’/But I know now it’s true/And I’ve come straight to You/Just to say that I want to meet You.” Next Randy gives us a nice acoustic version of the popular mainstream song ‘Hand in the Hand’ which has a catchy chorus: “Put your hand in the hand of the man that stilled the water/Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea/Take a look at yourself and you will look at your brother differently/Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.”
Randy puts his own twist on another popular song that we grew up singing as children. He slows down ‘He’s Got the Whole World’. This version includes these words I’m unfamiliar with: “You know, He showed it to me right in His hands/How real my life could be in His hands/He’s gonna set you free in His hands/He’s got the whole world in His hands/I’m so glad (2X).” Randy tells the crowd he is a baby Christian and wants to do more than entertain. He passionately delivers ‘Help me Lord’, one of his own songs that has him crying out to God for assistance: “You’ve got to help me Lord/Save my soul/Lucifer has control/And I’m a lost man/Yes I am (2X)/And I’m drownin’/Yes I am (2X)/But I’m not too far gone not to know/How bad I need You Lord/Set me free/Touch my eyes/Let me see/Cause I’m a blind man.”
Randy says he wrote ‘Thank You’ about a week after he was saved. He felt so alive! He jokes about his typing skills, saying: “I sat down at my typewriter and grabbed a pen.” This song gives all glory to God: “And in the times when I become impatient/The times when I feel angry or alone/I may be lost and blinded in those moments/But I know for sure You’ll bring me home/God, I know for sure/You’ll bring me home/Thank You Jesus (2X)/Your golden light shined down through the rain/Yes it did/Thank You Jesus (2X)/You took away my sorrow and my pain.” Next up are some studio recordings. ‘Never Can Repay’ by Stonehill is a rocker with electric guitar that should please fans of early Resurrection Band material. It is a song of gratitude for God’s all surpassing peace: “The things of the world may be all right/But I really don’t need ‘em since I’ve seen the light/People all runnin’ round getting’ uptight/Well, I’m okay-I sleep well at night/Thank You, Thank You/What can I say?/Thank You is not enough/There’s no way to repay/I can never repay.”
‘All Right Now’, a rocker with good bass, speaks of the evident difference Christ should make in our lives: “People look at me/Like they’re trying to figure out/Just what it could be/What it is that I’m smilin’ ‘bout/Ain’t it funny/Well, it’s a joy that I can’t hide/You love me/And it’s shinin’ from inside.” Randy quiets things down with the lengthy ‘Passing Stranger’. It makes me think of the crucifixion: “Searching for the footprints of the man who wears the sandals (2X)/Oh, Lord, look what they’ve done! Yeah…/Oh, Lord, look what they’ve done to You now/Look what they’ve done to You now (2X)/Can I believe my eyes, can it be true?/So gentle and wise/Look what they’ve done to You.”
‘I Love You’ would later reappear on Larry Norman’s IN ANOTHER LAND with lyrical variances. Here are some of the lyrics from Randy’s version of this warm pop song: “Brother and sister, Mrs. And Mr./I love you/I love you/He made me feel it, and I can’t conceal it/I love you, I love you/Jesus came into the world to show us the way/To set us all free, and when He died, He was sayin’/I love you.” A raw recording of ‘Norman’s Kitchen’ follows. Larry is on harmony vocals. The song begins on a humorous note, but goes on to speak of how unbelievers don’t understand the change one experiences when born again: “Now my parents they ignore me/They say I’ve gotten strange/But when you’re touched by Heaven/You know dat somethin’s bound to change/Well, I can see, I am free/And I’m who I want to be/Mercy me (3X).”
Two bonus tracks are next. A live recording of ‘Sunset Road to Nowhere’ is first. It contains these rather earthy lyrics: “I’ve done my share of hustling on the street/Well you know a man is judged by the shoes upon his feet/So I always made damn sure I got my share/Cause if you don’t clean up your plate someone’s bound to be there/But I’m old and I’m dying now/And I only have one care/I hope that where I’m going’s gonna be a better place (3X)/Than this sunset road to nowhere.” A faster version of the holiday rock number ‘Christmastime’, a song that would later appear on Norman’s SO LONG AGO THE GARDEN, is included here. The song hits hard against the commercialization of Christ’s birth: “Oh, now it used to be the birthday of a man who saved our necks/But now it stands for Santa Claus, they spell it with an ‘X’/Whoo…Christmas time, yeah!/Whoo…it’s Christmas time!/Now I gotta buy a present, can’t remember who it’s for/But I’ll see you in an hour when I get back from the store.”
BORN TWICE is a must have for Christian rock collectors! What makes it a true treasure is that the newness and excitement of Randy’s Christian faith comes through loud and clear. It is neat to hear how this now legendary artist got his start. I would love Randy to pen an autobiography, as he could provide great insight into the early days of the Jesus Movement and the music it inspired. I’m rating BORN TWICE 97%. Fans of Johnny Cash and the Rolling Stones should like this one. For more info visit www.randystonehill.com and www.larrynorman.com.