Revisiting This Planet
(Old Bear Records)
Larry Norman lived and died a controversial figure. While few would dare question the quality of this Christian rock pioneer’s music (much of it was groundbreakingly great), many that worked with him were left with a bad taste in their mouths. Kevin Max (formerly of dcTalk) knew and worked with Norman, but instead of airing any dirty laundry, he’s instead rerecorded the man’s 1972 album, Only Visiting This Planet, which he’s inventively retitled Revisiting This Planet.
These ten songs (plus one new piece) stand up surprisingly well. Of course, lyrics that referenced the Vietnam War are far more historical than relevant now. However, many of Norman’s bravely vulnerable songs sound too-honest-for-Christian-radio today, as they did back in the Seventies. “Pardon Me,” with its lovely horn section here, sadly speaks about loveless sexual intercourse, while “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus” includes a harsh line about contracting a venereal disease on Valentines Day. Sin is not a pretty picture, and few captured its ugliness better than Norman. For Max—the most un-mainstream ex member of dcTalk—these still-shocking words sound perfectly natural when he sings them. (He’s not really a bad boy; he just sometimes plays one in the studio).
Although Max revisits Larry Norman, he doesn’t exactly reinvent the man’s music sonically. Instead, he tweaks the artist’s songs here and there. “Righteous Rocker #1” is updated with a T. Rex stomp, “I Am The 6 O’Clock News” is modified with The Call’s “Let The Day Begin” guitar riff on its intro and “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music” is given the swing band treatment. The album’s only misstep is “God Part IV,” Max’s newly penned response to Norman’s “God Part III,” which pales in comparison to Norman’s always especially good lyrics.
Kevin Max’s fun and inventive take on Larry Norman’s music is simply well worth the revisit.