Customer Reviews: So Long Ago The Garden
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on January 31, 2007
When "So Long Ago the Garden" was released in 1973, the people I knew who were aware of Larry Norman's music (mostly the Christian youth I hung around with at my high school who had heard "Only Visiting this Planet") didn't completely know what to make of it. Some church youth said that Norman was no longer a Christian, and their main evidence was the fact that the name of Jesus was not mentioned once, even in the liner notes, and most of the songs dealt with falling in love (Meet Me at the Airport--Fly, Fly, Fly), the loss of a lover (It's the Same old Story, Baroquen Spirits, Soul Survivor--well, most of the album covers that theme), or the haunted sense of abandonment in a world gone strangely wrong (Lonely by Myself, Nightmare, She's a Dancer). So the album didn't apparently sell until a few years later when it was presented as the second album in a trilogy and bookended by the more blatantly Christian "Only Visiting This Planet" and "In Another Land." Yet even without this context, when given a careful hearing, it is almost impossible to ignore Norman's tracing of the effects of the fall from the garden of Eden in some of the terms most immediately accessible to young listeners at the time. I've long suspected that Norman's title was aimed not at church kids, but perhaps at a larger youth culture whose main connotations for "garden" might have been "the garden" Joni Mitchell wrote of in her song "Woodstock." Norman's music usually had a context like this.

Plus, this is an album that rocks, with some fierce keyboards, brass, and guitar work provided (as I recall) by The Average White Band. And though the theme of unrequited love, when it appears repeatedly, can tend toward the maudlin and self-pitying, Norman's songwriting, though not so explicitly religious, is for the most part still edgy here, with some shrewd insights into relationships and the emptiness of life when the love of another is suddenly taken away.

Even in this context of pining for lost love, Norman's humor comes through, and he's not afraid of self-parody as, for instance, in the final song: "I dreamed I was in concert on the middle of a cloud./John Wayne and Billy Graham were giving breath mints to the crowd./ I fell through a hole in heaven,/ I'd left the stage for good./ And when I landed on the Earth I was back in Hollywood." And if you didn't quite get that landing in Hollywood is not preferable to Heaven, I remember Norman playing this song live and punctuating that last line with "Rats!"

Anyone doubting the Christian subtext of this work would have to ignore a number of indicators to the contrary. This is a fine work, a real musical and lyrical achievement rarely found among Christian artists, and certainly way beyond what anyone would have expected in the early days of "Jesus Music."
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VINE VOICEon December 6, 2009
My title is taken from one of the bonus cuts on this new release of this album, which is one of the best (mellow) songs I think Norman ever wrote, and that puts it far and away above most of the radio playlists, because Norman is the great unheard voice of a lost generation. This was the second album in the Trilogy, released in 1973 (yes, on vinyl!), after the amazing Only Visiting This Planet (1972). It was on the Verve/ MGM label. I found out about it when Norman was interviewed in a half page piece in the now defunct music paper, Zoo World. I ran down to the stereo shop (which is where you got records then) and bought this album and Billy Joel's Piano Man the same day. Two all-time great albums.

Some other versions of this album were released by Norman's company, Solid Rock, and a couple songs made it into The Anthology: Rebel Poet/ Jukebox Balladeer album released by Arena Rock after Norman's death (he was, after all, Only Visiting This Planet). There are a few Norman songs called "Nightmare number something" (a tribute to early Bob Dylan albums where that artist logged his nightmares and dreams), but this one is the astounding, really long one that starts: "last night I had the same old dream that rocked me in my sleep/ It gave me the impression that the sandman plays for keeps." This album rocks like another unheard Norman album, Something New Under the Son, which Frank Black of the Pixies covered songs from. It's got legendary guitarist Jon Linn and all the usual suspects, which is to say it's absolutely great.

Controversy swirled around Norman, who seemed torn between life as a rocker and a preacher. If anyone ever combined them, it was him. But you don't have to buy that view. Books will be forthcoming, and there's a very different picture in David DiSabatino's DVD/ film, Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman. But you don't have to agree with Mick Jagger's lifestyle of excess to like a Rolling Stones song, and you don't have to agree with Larry to like his music (I certainly don't agree with the anti-Catholic bits, being a Catholic convert, but Catholics are used to this).

That said, we hardly knew ye Larry. A genius who really did have the artistic temperament? A charlatan? I don't think that one will stick. Books will be forthcoming on the Norman conquest. At least two are being written in US and UK as we speak. Steve Turner also wrote one sometime back. Larry was taken away in the midst of his pursuits, as it were, and there remain treasures of unreleased music from Solid Rock, which hopefully, like this album, will see the light of day. Particularly Steve Scott's Moving Pictures.

Back to the Trilogy. The third album, as Normanphiles know, was In Another Land, and the three albums don't sound very much alike. However, the last line of the last song is the album title (another witty Normanesque pattern). As with the Beatles, with Norman's albums you always got more: liner notes as big as a book; pictures or drawings, things to send in for. The covers opened up (OVTP originally opened up twice). In the halcyon days of the early seventies, at the tail end of the Jesus Movement, these albums sparked the interest of numerous musicians (like Frank Black) to scribble out some lyrics and pick up a guitar. Flawed human being that he may have been (who isn't?), he left us a legacy. Journey back to that decade and those days when "we left it oh so long ago the garden".
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on February 29, 2008
I'm probably in the minority, but I like this album better than Planet. I just wish that it was presented without the remixes of Christmas Time, Soul Survivor and Nightmare (even though the last two songs are minimally affected) and the chopped-to-ribbons version of Baroquen Spirits. The Christmas Time remix is awful. If you haven't heard the original, you won't understand, but the original sounds like part of the album and rocks much better. I'm not sure why Baroquen Spirits got sliced and diced, but the original sounds like a proper piece of work. Still, Be Careful What You Sign is a classic piece of psych, and Fly, Fly, Fly (even if Larry did hate it) and It's the Same Old Story are two of the best songs he ever did (even if they are emotional polar opposites). The musicians are great, and the CD makes the production sound that much better. This and Planet were Larry's zenith, as far as I'm concerned, mostly because he wasn't at the stage where he thought he had to have total creative control over EVERYTHING, so the stuff sounded really professional. RIP, Larry. Have a great time up there.
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on May 13, 2013
This review is for the 12 song expanded edition.This cd is Volume 2 of Larry Normans rockin Jesus music trilogy.He was the best in the business.Nothing but in your face early 70's rock n roll with way more than a Jesus message.Buy,listen,and your favorite artists.
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on May 31, 2010
After "Only Visiting This Planet", Larry Norman made this album which was not so important for Christian rock as "Only Visiting This Planet" was. Larry's sense of humour, his touching lyrics, rocking sounds, and his great voice - they were the reasons why he made such good albums. Although "So Long Ago the Garden" has never been as famous as it should be - there are many tracks that are so fantastic. The opening track "Fly Fly Fly" is an upbeat rockin' track. After that there's two very touching songs "The Same Old Story" and "Lonely by Myself". I like them both very much. The humorous tracks "Be Careful What You Sign", "Christmastime", and "Nightmare #71" are also great - and without them this wouldn't be a Larry Norman album, or at least it wouldn't be that great. "She's a Dancer" is maybe the greatest track in this album - it's a touching ballad. "Baroquen Spirits" and "Soul Survivor" are the tracks that are great rock'n roll as it best. Larry Norman was the true pioner of Christian rock music. The whole Trilogy is worth having. This is the part two of The Trilogy.
Stars: She's a Dancer, The Same Old Story, Soul Survivor
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on January 3, 2012
Larry Norman / So Long Ago The Garden / Part 2 of The Trilogy: Larry Norman was part of "People" when they had a hit in the mid 1960's. Soon afterwards, Larry put his faith in the resurrected Jesus and made what is credited as the first `Jesus Rock' album for Capitol records. He soon left Capitol (who just did not get the whole Jesus Rock thing) and started his own Label to release his music. In 1972 Larry released "Only Visiting This Planet" which is the first album in this Trilogy. In 1973 he released this album, "So Long Ago The Garden", which is the second part of his great Trilogy. Although this album is not as heralded as the other two albums in the Trilogy, there is no doubt that this has some of the most joyful and funny songs of the trilogy (even though it's about the Fall of man...that's Larry for ya!). This album deserves Five Stars. If you are interested, the third album in the Trilogy is Larry's "In Another Land".
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on December 22, 2012
Part 2 of the Trilogy may be the least commercial one, but it is actually the most satisfying musically! The original MGM version on LP is the best version. Just an amazing piece of work from someone who loved the Lord and also knew not to mask his humanity. A blessing and a 5-star classic rock album!
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on January 23, 2015
this- the 2nd lp of the trilogy- then u r more appreciative of purity than most. Granted its probably the least lauded of the 3- but its better than 90% of all ever released. U love HIM? - GET ALL 3.
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on April 28, 2010
So Long Ago The Garden followed on quickly from the fantastic Only Visiting This Planet.
The cover is good, but the content, to my ears at least, is very disappointing.
Good songs are Fly Fly Fly and Up In Canada.
Nightmare #71 is greatly influenced by Bob Dylan and it works reasonably OK.
Best track is Christmastime, a huge swipe at the commercialism of Christmas.
Casual enquirers bewhere, other albums are of a far higher standard.
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on January 7, 2015
Prompt shipping time. Item exactly as described.
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