Glam rock had two crypto-Mormons: Mick Ronson and Arthur Killer Kane. The Osmond Brothers on the other hand were up front about their religio-sexual orientation. Five squeaky-teen heartthrob guys with gleaming teeth and big hair, they released their Plan in the middle of glam's greatest year.
White and shiny as mayonnaise, the Osmonds had been dominating the charts since 1970. After a run of massively successful albums, though, they wanted to stretch out and to tell the Latter Day Saint story through song. So they retired to their private musical sanctum (Kolob Studies in Los Angeles - named after God's home-planet) and came up with this Great Hetero Mormon Mini-opera Concept Album.
There's a lot less bubble-gum here than on their earlier records, which explains why it did so poorly with the fans. Not many twelve year old non-LDS girls with the hots for Donny wanted to hear about pre-mortal existence and the end of the world.
As a concept album, it starts predictably with the jingle of Asian bells, ancient flutes, mysterioso harp plinking and voices floating from channel to channel. Mostly though, the album is slick radio-friendly pop with a few nods toward glam.
God's mysterious plan keeps coming up, though it's never made explicit. Heaven gets mentioned. Heavenly Father and the Mormon prophet Joe Smith remain in the shadows, or are far above, orbiting around earth. Like Bowie's Aladdin Sane and Jobriath himself, the singer on "Goin' Home" is a "space man from a different land" and he needs to return.
The first track is "War in Heaven" and at the end we learn about "The Last Days." Even in the sappiest love song on the album, "Darlin,'" the Osmonds manage to slide in some LDS theology. Like other songs on this revelation-drenched slab of vinyl, "Darlin'" mixes up romance and revelation. "There's no end if I'm with you," the boys sing with their hormone-hyped voices. Clearly, they're excited about something. But what? True love? True religion? "Let Me In" is the most disturbing track. Twisting together spirituality and sleazy seduction, it's one of the best God-is-my-girlfriend songs ever recorded.
Some songs are so oblique that even Mormon initiates can't pierce their glistening surface. Featuring a funky Jew's harp and squealy harmonica, "Mirror, Mirror" condemns some nameless other-self who'll "step on those who kiss your feet," and ends with the warning "you can't fool me."
For those in the know, the line "as we would be, he once was" is straight out of Mormon theology. If we just accept the teachings of the whitest religion in the world, we all can become gods and have our own planet, as gloriously snazzy as Kolob. There's real endless power waiting for the Mormon faithful. When the Osmonds sing "we control infinity" they mean it as literal truth.