© Larry Norman Lyrics 2013
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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.
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