Larry Norman’s voice probably wouldn’t have won him American Idol. He shares that distinction with other influential singer-songwriters such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Norman’s greatest achievement was founding what later became known as Contemporary Christian Music and then finding ways to expand its definition. In 1977 Norman recorded SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SON. The record label would not release it, in part, because they deemed it too dark and moody. Norman would release the album on his own Solid Rock Records, but not until 1981. The album is influenced by Bob Dylan’s BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME and EXILE ON MAIN STREET by the Stones.
‘Hard Luck, Bad News’ is upbeat musically, but begins with these depressing lyrics: “Hard luck and bad news/Has followed me from town to town/All my life my luck’s been down/I’m getting so weary/I don’t have one friend/Folks turn their backs when I’m around/Where I walk the grass turns brown/No one will come near me.” ‘Feeling So Bad’ has a slow groove to it and finds Larry again down in the dumps: “Well, I saw you last week/You went out on the sly/You walked into some church/I suspected the worst/Bet you met some guy/Then I waited outside/But you came out alone/With a satisfied look/And a little black book/Then you went straight home.”
Larry delivers a haunting vocal on ‘I Feel Like Dying’. Those who have lost in love will be able to relate to these words: “I feel like dying/I’ve done all I can/But I’ve lost my woman/She ran off with another man/I think I’m dying/I’m feeling such pain/My life is trouble/And I cannot take the strain...” ‘Born to Be Unlucky’ would be a fun song to dance to with its musical mixture of rock and roll and blues. It is a story song about one realizing Someone powerful cares about them: “I jumped into the river to try to put myself away/A man jumped in and saved me/Spoiled a perfect day/He dragged me to the river’s edge/He said he knew I had a need/Then He pulled out a soggy Bible/And that man began to read/Well he told me things I did not know/I’m glad I did not die/’Cause he told me God’s my Father and my real home is in the sky.”
‘Watch What You’re Doing’ is Norman’s most well know song from this CD. It begins with some of most unique lyrics to a CCM song ever: “Mamma killed the chicken/She thought it was a duck/She put it on the table/With its legs sticking up/Papa broke his glasses/When he fell down drunk/Tried to drown the kitty cat/Turned out to be a skunk/You gotta watch what you’re doing/Didn’t you know?” ‘Leaving the Past Behind’ is a fast paced track. It reminds us not to hide our Light under a bushel: “Man is born in trouble/Everybody got the blues/People looking for an answer/People listenin’ for Good News/So if you got the answer/Then there’s one thing you must do/You must tell them what you know/And you must live a life that’s true.”
‘Put Your Life into His Hands’ has a catchy sing-a-long chorus that continues the theme of witnessing: “So put your life in Jesus’ nail scarred hands/Put your life in Jesus’ nail scarred hands/You have heard the wondrous story/Now go and tell it ‘cross the land/Tell ‘em put your life in Jesus’ nail scarred hands.” ‘Larry Norman’s 97th Nightmare’ is one of my Dad’s favourites. It showcases Norman’s humour: “I was standin’ on the corner/When I heard my bulldog bark/I looked up into the sky/And saw lights moving through the dark/They were coming down from Heaven/Each one was brighter than a star/And I said to my bulldog/I wonder what they are.../I was standing at the gates of Heaven/When a hand reached out to touch my head/Then I fell through a hole in Heaven/I landed back in my bed.”
‘Let that Tape keep Rolling (’69 Bio Version)’ has a party feel to it musically and has Norman reflecting on getting his start as a Jesus music artist: “Well, I started out ten years ago/My guitar in my hand/I took the music in my heart/And played it with a band/I went down to the tower/To record UPON THIS ROCK/I sang it like I felt it/I just let the music talk/I know where I am going/And I know who I must be/Don’t care how long it takes me/Cause there’s lots of things to see/C’mon let that tape keep rolling!” A feel good demo version of ‘Twelve Good Men’ follows.
‘Deep Blue (Rough Mix)’ is a wonderful song that again finds Larry lamenting lost love: “I’ve been thinking about you for a long, long time/I’ve been sinking in deep blue and my future’s black.../The days and weeks fly by/And I watch my feelings slowly die/I can feel the hope inside me pass away/I lost my health, I lost my love/I lost my will to live/I’m a heartbroken fugitive.” A rough mix of ‘It’s Only Today That Counts’ is laid back and closes off the album. It offers us timeless good advice: “There’s no use dreaming of a perfect future/Or regretting a troubled past/It’s only today that counts/So live it like it might be your last.”
SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SON is to be applauded for its blues guitar licks. Larry Norman is responsible for vocals, guitars, percussion, piano, harmonica and sax. Jon Linn is credited with guitars and flaming fingers. Randy Stonehill and Tom Howard are responsible for loose strings and lost paperwork, while Billy Batstone is one of the bass players. This album is artistic and innovative. Larry did not shy away from exploring the emotional highs and lows one experiences as he/she walks through this life. Refreshingly, these songs don’t sound like they were written to fit on Christian radio. Larry Norman marched to the beat of his own drum and we are all the better for it. This record garners a 95% from this critic. For more info visit: www.larrynorman.com