Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman lived from 1947 to 2008. In 1990 the bootleg THE BEST OF LARRY NORMAN surfaced. The next year Phydeaux Records released it as CONFISCATED. I had a t-shirt with the cover artwork on it.
The almost hour long CD begins with ‘Soul on Fire’, a funk-filled testimony song: “When I was a young man/Temptation was all around/You know when darkness finds you/It slips up behind you/And tries to knock you to the ground/But I just kept on walkin’/I was so inspired/Because Jesus, He set my soul on fire.” ‘Righteous Rocker’ has a rock and roll feel to it and draws from some of Paul’s words in the New Testament: “You can be a brilliant surgeon or a sweet young virgin/Or a harlot out to sell/You can learn to play the blues/Or be Howard Hughes or the Scarlet Pimpernel/You can be a French provincial midwife/Or go from door to door with a death knife/But without love/You ain’t nothin’, without love.”
‘Stop this Flight’ is an autobiographical song about the toll being on the road so much took on Larry’s body: “Sixteen hours from London, flying on a DC-10/You know, I wonder if when that plane sets down/I’ll ever be able to walk again/I spent thirty-five days in Europe/Singing ‘til my voice is gone/You know there’s never time enough to get a good night’s sleep/What is this road that I’ve been running on?/I’ve got to stop this flight/I’ve got to get back to earth/Hey, I’m a human being/God knows what that’s worth.” ‘Gonna Write a Song about You for the Radio’ is a fun old school rock and roll love song: “It’s hard for me to say the things I feel/I’ve been in love before but not for real/I love you baby, want the world to know/I’m gonna write a song about you for the radio/Oo-wee, baby, oo-wee/Love has finally come and got the best of me/Wee-oo, baby, wee-oo/My number’s up and I belong to you.”
‘Don’t You Wanna Talk About It’ is a plea for a reconciled relationship with a Christian brother, likely Randy Stonehill: “Kingdoms of earth, they don’t mean nothing to me/I’d give my life if it would help you be free/This ain’t the way that God intends it to be/Don’t you wanna talk about it?/I called your lawyer, but he said you were gone/I didn’t see you cause your headlights weren’t on/You shut the door and faded into the dawn/Don’t you wanna talk about it?” ‘If the Bombs Fall’ is a beautiful, vulnerable ballad: “You and I are still so very young/And with love the best is yet to come/God has let me choose you/I don’t want to lose you/Who can say tomorrow will find its way?/Who can say the sun will shine today?/Baby I adore you/That’s why I’m living for you.”
‘Sweet Dreams’ is a powerful duet with Mikko Knustonen that waxes cynical: “What about Cinderella and her glass shoe?/She lived happily ever after, yeah, but none of it is true/What about King Midas, when everything turned gold/It’s all right when we are children, but not when we are old/Sweet dreams/Fading before the dawn.” ‘Woman of God’ is a live cut that contains words of wisdom for single Christian men in their search for love: “I need a woman who knows the measure of what she’s worth/Stores up treasure but not on earth/Seeks God’s will in all that’s done/And keeps her eyes on the Holy One/I need a woman who’s kind and true/I haven’t found her but until I do/I’ll be looking for a woman of God/A woman with a righteous heart/You know I’m looking for a woman of God/Who doesn’t easily fall apart.”
‘Shot Down’ is a bouncy, pointed response from Larry to his many critics: “I’ve been rebuked for the things I’ve said/For the songs I’ve written and the life I’ve led/They say they don’t understand me, well I’m not surprised/Cause you can’t see nothing when you close your eyes/They say I’m sinful, backslidden/That I have left to follow fame/But here I am talkin’ bout Jesus just the same.” ‘Out of my System’ finds Larry saying goodbye to an unfaithful partner: “You ran around with other men/Ooh, you made love and kissed ‘em/But now you’re gone, do what you want/I don’t care/You’re out of my system.”
‘Messiah’ has a haunting sound musically and is highly prophetic: “Red clouds blotted out the sun/Darkness fell on everyone/Rivers of blood were running/I could see the armies coming/I could see their weapons falling/I could hear the angels calling/Messiah took this world by force.” ‘I Hope I’ll See You in Heaven’ is easy listening in nature but laments over a missed opportunity on this planet: “I was wrong to let you go/I was a child and I did not know/About the love that we both could have given/And now you’re gone so far away/I hope I’ll see you again someday/But if I don’t, I hope I’ll see you in heaven.”
The last two songs are Charly Norman rarities, he being Larry’s brother. ‘It Could’ve Been You’ features a Bowie-like delivery and speaks of the difficulty involved with breaking romantic ties: “So many years have passed/The time we had was brief/The faith I had in love has turned to disbelief/And someone different now who stirs me from my sleep/I think I love her but there’s thoughts of you I keep.” I can hear the Stones doing the last track, ‘Why do you do the things you Do?’ It is the song of a frustrated lover: “The problem never goes away/You always look the other way/But now you know I’m leaving and you look so surprised/Why can’t you get it/That we’re finished, we’re through?/I’m tired of hangin’ upside down/I got no time for sympathizin’/When I’m cloudin’ my horizon with you/Why do you do the things you do?”
What I like about THE BEST OF LARRY NORMAN is that it doesn’t go the predictable route and draw mostly from his highly acclaimed trilogy albums from the 1970’s. Instead, what we encounter here is an eclectic, interesting collection of songs, several of which are on par quality wise with Larry’s mainstream contemporaries. I’m rating this project 90%. For more info visit www.larrynorman.com.