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226. So Long Ago the Garden – Larry Norman

SO LONG AGO THE GARDEN (1973)

Larry Norman

Though So Long Ago the Garden is the second release in the famed “trilogy” of Larry Norman albums, it is the first listed here. All three will be included on this list and though many consider it the weakest of the trilogy, it remains a classic and an incredible record on its own.

The album also contains Norman’s most controversial cover and least “evangelical” lyrics. The cover shows an apparently naked Norman with a lion superimposed over his body. There is some symbolism there that shouldn’t take too much to decipher. The back cover sported a pair of snake skin boots next to an apple. Christian bookstores complained that lyrically the album was relational and not very “religious” in content. The truth was several songs that would appear on subsequent releases were dropped by MGM in favor of more “mainstream” options.

The album is also very melancholy and at times sad sounding. This feel appears to perfectly match the lyrical content as songs deal with loneliness and the desire for human companionship. I have read that Norman considered SLATG his favrotie album and one of his true artistic achievements.He would compare it to Ecclesiastes thematically.

There are no Shot Downs, I Wish We’d All Been Ready’s or Rock That Doesn’t Roll’s, nor are there any of the common Norman humorous ditties. Rather, the album is somber, serious and very earnest. It is also one of Norman’s most consistent offerings with the musical expression staying within a framework that is not all that dissimilar from Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic” with the songs seeming written on piano, or at least the piano takes on a much more prominent role than on other Norman releases.

The album does contain more than a just a handful of true classics like Christmastime, Baroquen Spirits and Fly, Fly, Fly. It alsol contains one of Norman’s finest and haunting melodies in “She’s a Dancer.” This “tip of the hat” to the Beatles is just beautiful!

I remember being told when I managed a bookstore that even some 15 years later I could not carry the album. I did anyway.

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  1. Brett C
    December 1, 2010 at 8:41 am

    I have been diggin’ the list so far but, David this does not bode well for the rest of this list if this fantastic album is at no. 226.
    I have been following the list from the start and I haven’t disagreed with too much so far with the exception of Mark Heard “Stop The Domino’s” at 348 (should be much higher) and the ludicrously placed Randall Waller “Midnight Fire” at no. 485. All three of these albums should be in the top 50. We shall see I guess.

  2. TMc
    December 1, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Santa Claus is coming and the kids are getting greedy!

    I still need to listen to that before I get together with the family during the holidays

  3. TopekaRoy
    February 5, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Love the list! I check it everyday to see what you have added and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s to come.

    This is a great album, but I probably would have ranked “Something New Under the Sun” higher than this one. It’s funny. I didn’t care much for it when I first heard it, but the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me. Now, when I look at the track listing I think, “That’s a good song. And that one, and that one, and so is that one!…”

    Knowing the concept behind the trilogy – that the 3 albums represent the present, past and future of a Christian – has given me a greater appreciation for the artistic merit and context of the songs here.

    While this is my least favorite album of the trilogy, ironically, it does contain my favorite Larry Norman song! I’m a bit surprised you didn’t mention “Nightmare #71” in your review. The song is at once hilariously funny, thought provoking, a scathing indictment on America, and somewhat prophetic. His concerns about abortion, infidelity, environmentalism and global warming, abortion, drug abuse, violent crime, urban decay, and government waste (all in the same song!) are even more true now than when it was written! Every line is great and it shows Norman’s song writing skills at his very best.

    The song was also very controversial at the time and there was a rumor that record stores wouldn’t carry the album because of the line, “Now I’m stuck with my own cooking, ?? I’m lonely can’t you see?” I’ve listened to it over and over, and I STILL can’t tell whether he says “Well, I’m lonely,” “Hell, I’m Lonely,” or “Hey, I’m lonely.” That just adds to the mystique and (in my mind) the appeal of the song.

    Keep up the great work. I can’t wait to read your coming reviews.

    • Josh Simpson
      January 14, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      I have various versions of this album, because though Larry’s site you can get outtakes and all you want. If I’m remembering correctly, some versions very clearly say, “Hell, I’m lonely,” while others just say…. “I’m lonely…” leaving it out. Larry may have just been stirring the pot a bit, as he was known to do. This may be my favotie of the trilogy.

  4. June 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    An increduble record indeed. It has some funny songs but also emotional ballads. I love Larry Norman’s albums – I have seven of them. Still, “Upon This Rock” and “Only Visiting This Planet” are the strongest releases in my opinion.

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