Thursday, June 24, 2010


When Larry Norman recorded Only Visiting This Planet in 1972 for MGM at George Martin’s studio in London, there wasn’t place in the music industry for "Jesus Rock." MGM had no idea what to do with it. This meld of rootsy pop, gospel, and rock & roll songs sung about Christ had less than nothing to do with hymns, and was rejected by the Christian church at large at the time. In the 21st century, Norman is regarded as the “father of CCM” and that $450 million dollar a year industry, and this album is regarded by -CCM Magazine as "the greatest Christian rock record of all time." It’s ironic. Norman died largely broke in 2008. Only Visiting This Planet is the second part of a trilogy that included Upon This Rock (Capitol, 1969), that dealt with the theme of creation, and So Long Ago the Garden (MGM, 1973) about the world's redemption. This set (which ironically was the first one to be reissued) concerns itself with the Fall. All three albums have been remastered and reissued by Solid Rock Records, a label Norman founded -- he was well-known for his fiercely independent streak. The album is a masterpiece; one needn’t believe in God to enjoy it; it stands on its own as an enduring work of popular art.

Norman's studio band included bassist John Wetton, drummer Keith Smart from Wizzard, keyboardist Rod Edwards, and percussionist Roger Hand. These songs were expertly written and arranged, they spill across the rock, pop, and gospel spectrum, and were gorgeously produced. “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” with its wash of strings and a backing choir, adds to the drama of Norman’s topic: the Rapture, when all Christians, living or dead, are prophesied to be reunited with Christ before the end of the world. Belief in this premise is not necessary: the song is delivered with such understated conviction and produced for maximum dramatic effect, that it’s deeply moving. The hard-rocking “Why Don’t You Look into Jesus” addresses addictive behavior amid snarling guitars, punchy drums, and popping pianos. The opening track is a mysterious broken love song called “I’ve Got to Learn to Live Without You” that drips with longing. “I Am the Six O’Clock News” is a straight-out rocker that reflects the irony in the media’s coverage of the Vietnam war. The acoustic ballad “The Outlaw” is a poetic narrative pondering Christ's life and death. There is biting social commentary in “The Great American Novel” that reflects Bob Dylan’s early work but, “Righteous Rocker #1” is payback: it’s a lyrical precursor to -- and was perhaps inspiration for -- “You Gotta Serve Somebody.” The album contains two bonus tracks, and is well worth checking out by anyone interested in genuine rock & roll classics. ~ Thom Jurek, All Music Guide

Tracks :

"I've Got To Learn To Live Without You"
"The Outlaw"
"Why Don't You Look Into Jesus"
"Righteous Rocker #1"
"I Wish We'd All Been Ready"
"I Am Six O'clock News"
"The Great American Novel"
"Pardon Me"
"Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music"
"Reader's Digest"
"Oh, How I Love You"


  1. thanks for this one, agree with your comments, musically very enjoyable. I see Larry did a blues based album later in his career called 'something new under the son'and was wondering if this was in your archives,can't find it here in the land of Oz. cheers

  2. The trilogy actually starts with this one. So Long Ago The Garden was second then In Another Land. Records I grew up on that I'll always hold dear.

  3. Have to agree with most of the comments about this wonderful's true that Only Visiting was the first of the trilogy. I'm listening to my original 1972 Verve vinyl copy of this album with its wonderful 3-way gatefold sleeve, as I write this. The sleeve notes include "special thanks to (Beatles' producer) George Martin for his personal assistance in organising this album" and all the lyrics to the songs are there. And the song list is very different to the one quoted in this review...not sure if the later reissues with different tracks and different running orders could possibly be as good as this original version, which is one great record!
    Original track list:
    1 Why Don't You Look Into Jesus
    2 The Outlaw
    3 I've Got To Learn To Live Without You
    4 Without Love You Are Nothing
    5 I Wish We'd All Been Ready
    6 Six O'Clock News
    7 The Great American Novel
    8 Pardon Me
    9 Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music
    10 Reader's Digest
    ..Now when this record is finished I'm gonna get out my original copy of "So Long Ago The Garden", second in the trilogy and nearly as good as "Only Visiting This Planet"..


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