Larry David Norman was born on April 8, 1947 in Corpus Christi, Texas and passed away in Salem, Oregon on February 24, 2008. After a stint with the mainstream band People! he released his solo debut UPON THIS ROCK on Capitol Records in 1969. Many consider his greatest work to be the following trilogy of albums: ONLY VISITING THIS PLANET (1972), SO LONG AGO THE GARDEN (1973), and IN ANOTHER LAND (1976). In 1977 he recorded SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SON. Word Records thought the album was too negative and a downer, so they wouldn’t release it. Norman finally released it on his own Solid Rock Records in 1981. On the album Norman is credited with vocals, guitars, percussion, piano, harmonica, and saxophone. Other musicians used were: Jon Linn, Alex MacDougall, Peter Johnson, Dave Coy, Billy Batstone, Tim Jaquette, Randy Stonehill, and Tom Howard.
‘Hard Luck Bad News’ is a blues/rock song with a cool electric guitar break. These opening words set the tone for the album: “I’ve been having some hard times all my life/I hope things change pretty soon/Hard luck and bad news has followed me from town to town/All my life my luck’s been down/I am getting so weary/I don’t have one friend/Folks turn their backs when I’m around/And where I walk the grass turns brown/No one will come near me/Hard luck and bad news (2X)/If you were in my shoes you’d die”. On the slow blues track ‘I’m Feeling So Bad’ Larry suspects the worst: “Well, I’m feeling so bad in the middle of love/And it’s easy to see that it isn’t quite me that you’re thinking of/Must be somebody else, but I’m wondering who/I can’t seem to recall anybody at all who’s in love with you/Every night you’ll hear me say/’What a day’”.
‘I Feel Like Dying’ is a short, woeful blues ballad. You can feel the hurt in Larry’s voice as he sings: “I feel like dying/I’ve done all I can/But I 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.../Oh, I think I’m dying and this is the end/I need an answer/Oh, I need a friend”. ‘Born to be Unlucky’ is a great, upbeat story song: “I jumped into the river to try to put myself away/A man jumped in and saved me and 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.../So I repented of my sin/Then he said I must be baptized and he threw me in again”.
‘Watch What You’re Doing’ is one of Larry’s iconic songs. It’s a funkified blues/rock song that begins with these humorous words: “Mama killed a 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...” The song later waxes spiritual: “Some folks say that the good Lord’s dead/That He doesn’t exist ‘cept inside your head/I wonder how many gonna be surprised/When they look straight up and see Him coming through the skies”. ‘Leaving the Past Behind’ is a happy, danceable blues/rock selection. These words encourage us to be a witness for Jesus: “Man is born in trouble/Everybody’s got the blues/People praying for an answer, people hoping for good news/So if you know the answer, there is one thing you must do/You must walk, you must talk/You must hurry up and beat the clock/You must tell them to be ready/So they can leave the past behind”.
The next two songs are two of my Dad’s favourites. ‘Put Your Life Into His Hands’ is a magnificent gospel ballad: “I was blind but now I’ve learned to see/I was trapped but now I’ve been set free/I was lost and alone, so far from home/I was losing sight of me/But now I’m warm and safe as I can be/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”. ‘Nightmare #97’ starts off with Larry laughing vigorously as he delivers these lyrics: “I was standing on a 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”. The song ends with great spiritual advice: “Don’t be standing in the darkness like a man who’s lost his way because he let his lamp go out/Because he wasn’t prepared for the undeniable arrival of the Judgement Day”.
‘Let That Tape Keep Rolling’ is a fun, autobiographical, all out rocker about recording: “Well, I woke up in the morning/I said a morning prayer/I washed my face with soap and ran my fingers through my hair/I went down to the studio on Hollywood and Vine/The clock said eleven thirty/Well, I made it just in time/I greeted the musicians/I grabbed the nearest chair/I started playing my guitar and told the engineer/Come on, let that tape keep rolling/Come on”. The 2009 CD re-issue of the album includes three bonus cuts, the first of which is ‘Twelve Good Men’. It’s a cool blues track that includes the following thoughts: “Well, a man with a woman is like a lizard on a rock.../I can’t remember what I had here.../Well, I don’t say I understand it/That’s the way Solomon used to talk”.
‘It’s Only Today that Counts’ is a comforting, easy listening song that warns against worrying: “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 (2X)/Well, it never helps to worry and it never hurts to pray/Tomorrow will come soon enough/You better take care of today/You got to learn to trust your life to God/You know the future’s in His hands/And only faith will help you meet your life’s demands, yeah”. Closing things off is an over eight and a half minute extended version of ‘Watch What You’re Doing’.
SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SON contains several story songs told to the tune of blues music, which is unique for Christian music. Being mistreated, heartbroken, and lonely are explored here, as are being in a state of despair and feeling sorry for oneself. Many Christians like to sweep these feelings under the rug as they feel guilty for experiencing them. They are though, a natural part of being human! The electric guitar work is raw and earthy on this project. Larry does ultimately offer the listener hope, touching on themes of salvation, trusting in Christ and living for Him, and Christ’s return. If you are a Rolling Stones fan you will appreciate this standout blues/rock album. I’m rating it a perfect 100%. For more info visit: www.larrynorman.com