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Old 06-18-2008, 08:55 PM   #30 (permalink)
Son of JayJamJah
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Following another successful release in 1971 with the Country rock styled “Tupelo Honey” Morrison, despite his outward appearance was beginning to feel his marriage and the person he had become within it slipping away. It later be known that during the recording his relationship with wife Janet was falling apart and divorce had become a question more of when then if. This album he decided would focus on nothing more then music and exactly whatever kind at whatever moment he wanted to create...

St. Dominic’s Preview (1972)

Van’s sixth studio album features several firsts for the artist. It’s noted as his first album not to focus on Love as the central theme; it’s also the first to repeatedly combine elements from both Astral Weeks and Moondance. With his marriage falling apart behind the scenes, Van demonstrates his personal maturation by focusing his musical energy not on self loathing and pity but instead by embracing the chance to fully engorge himself in the music. Sometimes underrated and somewhat overlooked, by rarely disregarded, St. Dominic’s Preview is a shining example of all out effort and commitment to honest and personal music.

1. Jackie Wilson Said – The first song is always a radio song, usually the biggest hit commercially in the end, that’s Van’s M.O since “Blowin’ Your Mind” opened with “Brown Eyed Girl” Following a tried and true formula from the past two albums, Van leads off Saint Dominic’s Preview with a jazzy upbeat radio single paying homage to a childhood hero musically. Inspired by Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite” as the opening lyrics cite, a full band behind the peppy lyrics constructs the energy and atmosphere of the song. 8.5\10

2. Gypsy – Interesting songs are always favorites of mine and Gypsy is if nothing else interesting. Skittish and jagged it’s a haunting follow up and the best performance Van has turned in, in this style to date. The songs lyrics spell out the formula and necessary imagery to create the song’s transient and torrid mood. “Sway to sounds of two guitars around the campfire bright; then mellow out like violins in the morning light.” Despite its blistering chorus and choppy, crumbling half-broken verses and bridge it’s a rather satisfied and celebratory song. 8.5\10

3. I Will Be There – Old time R&B jazz style song featuring a youthful sound. Lyrically satisfactory if not ordinary but it’s all in the delivery anyway here. Rugged and ragged Van on vocals backed by piano and brass alongside the standards. With a definitively and distinctly full sounding bridge floating into the second piano solo backed verse and then into with a horn led instrumental and capped off with a powerful final chorus and all inclusive escalating outro it is again, two in a row, a high point within a genre\style for Morrison. 8.5\10

4. Listen to the Lion – Vocally driven hypnotic perfection. Beautiful and beguiling, one of the longer songs Van’s ever released at over 11 minutes; each one necessary to express the angst is clearly feeling over his internal revelation (“all my love come tumblin’ down”) Van and it’s impending consequences (“I shall search my very soul”). The song is not just an internal monologue but a plea to others to follow his ambition. Let the Lion inside yourself out, be as courageous and proud as you can, stand up for yourself, love yourself, and be true to yourself. Instrumental tranquility as bass and percussion create a bouncy pulse and swim in the stinging acoustic and vocal leads. Bells and triangles ring behind the scene as back up vocals reinforce the suffering artists plea to himself and all. Van himself spends a good portion of the song caught in the music’s wake and growling like a Lion himself. Infinitely relaxing and at some point of almost everyone’s life relatable, a very memorable cut. 9\10

5. St. Dominic’s Preview – The apocalyptic title track almost steals the show amongst a brilliant assembly of diverse and dynamic tracks. As soulful and nostalgic as the greatest gospel music, as melodious and entrancing as the most aesthetic pop music. Featuring a dominant performance from a backing brass section and as palpable and enjoyable lead guitar work as has been seen in a long time within van’s work. A brilliant lyrical performance scanning nostalgia, prophecy, mysticism and all with the natural ambiguity we’ve come to expect. The only song to embrace both the Moondance and Astral Weeks sides of the album. With my favorite cycle of verse, pre-verse and chorus ever as well as a poignant and cathartic personal sentiment it’s my second favorite stand alone Van song ever. 10\10

6. Redwood Tree – Morrison outdoes himself again as he reaches the pinnacle of country pop\rock with a powerful and peppy story telling song. Lyrically well assembled and with esoteric phrasing and emphasis throughout as well as obvious soulful punches. Horns and bass standout outside of the vocals and guitars and keys provide rhythm and occasional flair. A potentially pop hit that sort of faded into relative obscurity but also noted by fans as a fond memory, Morrison makes this song with a vocal performance that makes it believable and authentic. 9\10

7. Almost Independence Day – Ending side the album just as he ended side one Van feels his way through an eerie environment finding an esoteric and alluring dysfunctional landscape for his final gasp on the most overlooked and underrated album Van the Man has produced. The song is an amazingly celebratory extravagant venture as Van looks forward to a metaphorical (or maybe not so) Independence Day. The bellowing foghorn appropriately overwhelms the rest of the music and only the punchy portions and Van’s sharpest shrieks can be fully heard as played. There is emphasis on the acoustic guitar the one tie that has continued to bind throughout. 8.5\10

...This album has always stood out for me; it's the most consistent album outside of the big two and if maybe too rangy to fit most tastes at least technically sound and undeniably to itself and the artist true. The break-up and his impeding breakdown are inevitable at this point, what he hinted in "Moonshine Whiskey" is coming to fruition, this is the next natural progression as Van pours out his emotion putting himself first without being spiteful or petty. Brilliant production taking full advantages of a raised budget and technological advancements in the profession. An album I appreciate more and more all the time.

First Time I Listened to it: 1973
Defining Track(s): St. Dominic’s Preview, Listen to the Lion
Line in my head: "Meanwhile Back in San Francisco, trying hard to make this whole thing blend"

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) *****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 9.5
Overall Ranking: (Top 5)

Next up: Hard Nose the Highway- 1973

Last edited by Son of JayJamJah; 06-20-2008 at 05:23 PM.
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