226. So Long Ago the Garden – Larry Norman
SO LONG AGO THE GARDEN (1973)
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.