Whether they first gathered a hint during one of Kevin Max’s live shows when he performed a cover of Larry Norman’s song “The Outlaw,” or whether they a social media posts he wrote indicating his desire to do so, many fans of Kevin Max’s solo career have known about his desire to record a tribute cover version of Larry Norman’s 1972 album Only Visiting This Planet for some time. But, if you’re somebody who grew up during the years that Max performed as part of DC Talk in the 90’s like I did, you may not even know who Larry Norman was. But, the fingerprints Norman left on music and the world are definitely notable.
Long before there was a contemporary Christian music industry or Christian bookstores peddling CD’s by the likes of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, the Newsboys, or TobyMac, Larry Norman released music as a major label artist, touring, and trading notes at shows with the likes of The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan. Norman embodied a new and unique blend as a musician who could write and perform music with a level of artistic integrity that held its own ground with other mainstream artists of the day, but, with lyrics that reflected the light of Norman’s faith. Norman’s music and career had a profound influence on many ranging from Bob Dylan to Bono, not to mention the hundreds of Christian musicians that would try to follow in his footsteps in the 80’s, 90’s, and beyond, more often than not, failing to deliver music with the integrity to warrant attention outside of Christian bookstores or Christian radio.
With the imminent release of REVISITING THIS PLANET, Kevin Max is out to remind the listening public’s awareness of the Larry Norman legacy with an album that, is genuinely worthy and reflective of the rare and unique blend of spiritual perspective and artistry that characterized Norman. A prolific and uniquely creative musician in his own right, Kevin Max teamed up with John Mark Painter to create a truly impressive interpretation of Norman’s original album.
Painter’s ability to play on and produce the tracks of Revisiting This Planet in a manner that preserves their natural character and amplifies the rock and roll soul that Norman originally poured into Only Visiting This Planet, is truly remarkable. Max’s vocal performance of Norman’s words, against the backdrop of Painter’s sonic textures, revives the early 70’s spirit Norman originally intended while leading the listener through a thrilling dynamic that engages the ears, heart, soul, and mind, making it possible for the listener to realize that Norman’s lyrics still carry relevance in 2020. Some might even think that they were meant for 2020.
Max and Painter deliver in a big way for rock fans like me on tracks like “Righteous Rocker #1,” “I Am The 6 O’Clock News,” and “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music.” But, Max’s performance of “The Outlaw,” (a long time favorite of his to perform during live shows) just feels right, each time I hear it. Max delivers a warmth and assuring perspective that is unmistakable. I almost can’t imagine anybody else singing it. Likewise, “Reader’s Digest,” and “The Great American Novel,” are flawless.
But, what I’m truly blown away by are the bulls-eyes that Max landed with “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus,” and “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” Painter’s instrumentation and arrangement (including perfectly flavored backing vocals by Flemming McWilliams) really bring both tracks alive while Max’s performance of the latter makes me instantly forget his prior band DC Talk’s cover version of it.
Whether you’re a Kevin Max appreciator, a DC Talk fan, a longtime Larry Norman listener, or simply somebody who appreciates great music, REVISITING THIS PLANET is certainly worth a listen. If you’re like me, you’ll find that it is worth of many listens on a near-daily basis. For those who got in on the crowdfund for this project through Generosity Rocks, digital versions of the album have already been sent out and they’ll receive the vinyl release as soon as it’s finished.
But, everybody else will be able to get their hands on it soon, too, with pre-orders for the vinyl release now available through Old Bear Records and the streaming/digital release for the general public is slated for November 20th.
The True Tunes Podcast recently aired an episode featuring a previously unreleased interview with Norman and, also, a recent interview with his son that lends some insight to how this album came about, too. So, be sure to check it out.