It’s impossible to objectively review Only Visiting This Planet by Larry Norman. Without this 1972 release, contemporary Christian music as we know it would not exist.
It’s possible if not probable that CCM in some form would have emerged in the mid to late 1970s. But it would not have been the same. It would not, and could not, have addressed political, cultural, and relationship matters without Norman having led the way, letting people know that Christians are aware of what is going on in the world and have lives themselves.
Norman was a stubborn, solitary visionary, often if not always at odds with the music business both secular and Christian. The former gritted their teeth at his open proclamations of Christ, knowing that doing so would immediately strike him from any general public appeal. The Christians couldn’t handle Norman’s music, a mix of not-so gentle folk and roots rock minus the instrumental showmanship, his hair, his lyrics, or Norman himself. Only the few got it.
The cultural references on the album are necessarily dated, yet continue to ring true. Norman was no flag-waving conservative, nor was he a bleeding-heart liberal. He viewed both sides with a critical eye, letting his answer be Jesus almost regardless of the question.
Norman was the outsider’s outsider, the voice letting you know it was okay to admit hurt and pain and confusion without fear of a guilt trip. He didn’t so much expand the horizon of what a Christian in the arts could accomplish as create a new horizon. With Only Visiting This Planet Norman didn’t necessarily invent Christian rock, but he did make it something of value.
The album is available on the Larry Norman website.