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Son of JayJamJah 07-17-2008 11:29 AM

A Period of Transition (1977)
 
Van’s first album back from hiatus following Veedon Fleece is 1977’s “A Period of Transition. Van was very reclusive during his respite from the music industry. His only live performances were alongside “The Band” at the Last Waltz and a few small shows with little if any promotion. Expectations were very high for the prolific songsmith who had already redefined “white” R&B music in America and the Western Europe. Perhaps Van summed up his feelings on the need for the break and the unwelcome pressure it brought to him best.

“I think I needed to break a lot of that expectancy down. I know from experience that I go to see some artists expecting a particular thing. If they don't come up with that then I'm disappointed, but if I have no expectations they usually do something I haven't heard before and I'm turned on. The moment you expect something, you never get it.”

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A Period of Transition (1977)

Van’s return to the forefront and to the critical eye of the public was largely greeted with mild to disappointed reviews and reaction. Morrison teamed up with Dr. John Rebennack to create a Jazz\Blues fueled album to signify a sort of transition both back to creating music and to a more up-beat positive outlook in the world of his songs. Featuring several good songs, but lacking a real stand-out it’s an album that gets better as it progresses and as I it ages but never elevates itself to elite status for most fans. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I still enjoyed a few tracks but almost tempted to skip a few listens on the review of some of the others. All and all here’s the nuts and bolts…

1. You Gotta Make it Through the World – Engineered to be a gospel blues number it starts with a funky Blues intro the opening track serves to further elevate the already colossal expectations of Fans for the return album. But that enthusiasm is tempered quickly as the song fails to live up to expectations. Mundane and ordinary, not flawed in a bad way, but not flawed in a good way either. Powered by horns and a heavy handed baseline it’s a climb that leaves you looking up at the summit. With sparse moments of glory every now and then it’s an overall good song that needed to be great. 7\10

2. It Fills you up – With punishing horns and producer Mac (Dr. John) Rebennack on the keys the subsequent number on “…period…” is another just short of complete composition, but a step in the right direction. A Jazzy Country-Blues gait gets your toe-tapping but the repetitive circular construction of the song fails to captivate you. Even as Van leaves us with a hearty growl and soulful final chorus there is still a sense of “what if” that is unsettling or perhaps disappointing. Borrowing from the acclaim of recent live performances, the improvisational feel of the lyrics and the drawn out endings of both of the first two numbers feels so much more rehearsed and tame then those of his previous works. Still a quality song. 7.5\10

3. The Eternal Kansas City – After a choir bellows out the harmonious tag line in ethereal fashion; the Jazzy rhythms continue to provide the albums atmosphere. Van and all the instruments in sync as that constant question “excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?” is pondered. All colliding and collapsing into a bouncy R&B verse. A song of inspiration and perseverance it continues a rather upbeat feeling that is present throughout all the opening tracks of the album. Combining several of the elements present throughout the record in one composition points to it as the vertex track for the album. 8\10

4. Joyous Sound – A quick stepping romp of a song. Simple musically, lyrically and thematically its beauty is its effortlessness. Piano’s and horns continue to stand out giving the music a professional but somewhat cold feel without the right mood provided. Van gives some of his most dynamic vocals screaming out the opening of an occasional chorus. This is Morrison let loose and just performing, centered on his musical roots; it’s a throwback with a new twist. A song that grows on you with time. 7\10

5. Flamingos Fly – More Jazz with an element of funky R&B as the keys back a snappy chugging guitar rhythm. Horns move the song into the mellow and melodic chorus. The Vocals are a perfect fit and for the first time on the album a song really captures that Van energy and enthusiasm. A song recorded in mid-tempo and at a slow pace as well before being released at a moderately quick gait. Van has never performed the song live. The song is loaded with creativity taking the scenic route to simplicity. It’s a joy to move through each note. 8\10

6. Heavy Connection – Horns introduce the song, mellow guitars and keys move the melody in lockstep with Van’s vocals. A Country-Blues number on the surface, but an oeuvre of a more personal nature as reveled in each note he hums throughout the chorus and when bellowing the title line. A song that builds with each movement, layered and elegantly constructed. The horn solo interlude is the standout musical moment of the album. Powerful and poignant for the first time on the album; a spiritual song about the pleasures of life and love. Van carries the music home with an improvised testimonial (“I can’t stop this rainbow in my Soul”) over the invigorating chorus as the song fades into the distance. 8.5\10

7. Cold Wind in August – The most ominous song of the bunch with a sort of Veedon Fleece element meets the optimistic demeanor of the album overall. More subtle horns and keys and a bluesy guitar lead accompanied by basic bass and drums. A noble song that sort of takes you for a final stroll to conclude the album. Following the rules from start to finish it’s an exercise in writing a sad song with an optimistic feel. Just a little bit too well constructed and without the evolution necessary to grab your attention. 7.5\10

…The problem with this album is that expectations were unrealistic, for the first time I found myself disappointed by the first listen. However as you step back from your initial hopes you realize this album stands tall on its own merits. The jump in enjoyment is noticeable from the second listen and only gets better from there. It’s another consistently exceptional musical opus. The lack of risk taking is significant only in that the theme and title ring true; it’s a warm-up album, a period of transition into the next phase of Van’s life and thus his musical career and persona. Gone (for now) is the somber Belfast Cowboy who silently stalked the music in Astral Weeks and Veedon Fleece most notably. The new Van is a more sanguine and insightful poet who aspires to create harmonies and melodies that hypnotize and soothe. “A Period of Transition” is a noble step in the right direction and a testament to artists’ perseverance and ultimately his destiny to create and perform music.


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Defining Track(s): “Eternal Kansas City” is the center of the album but “Heavy Connection” and “Flamingos Fly” demonstrate the two extremes of the album musically and are the best representations of a successful transition.
Line in my head: “Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City”
Christagu’s Take: "It Fills You Up" and "Heavy Connection" work on chant power alone, but even they go on a little too long, and in general this is an unexciting record--but not definitively. It's full of the surprising touches--the (borrowed) instrumental intros to the blues that opens side one and the jump tune that opens side two, a throw-in couplet about Amsterdam that might as well have Van's fingerprints on it, and even the can't-always-get-what-you-need chorus on "Eternal Kansas City"--that signify talent putting out. I don't know; maybe that's depressing proof that this isn't just a warm-up. But after three years, let's say it is. B

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) *** 1\2
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 7.5
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: Wavelength - 1978

Son of JayJamJah 07-21-2008 12:07 PM

Wavelength (1978)
 
After the mixed reactions to “A Period of Transition” in 1977 George Ivan Morrison went back to the studio and continued his evolution with what would become his more pop oriented album since “Blowin’ Your Mind” if not ever. Despite the relatively mild success of the previous album it nevertheless propelled Morrison into a prolific stretch of song writing. There was an optimistic sense to “…Period…” and that optimism has come to fruition within and all around Van’s tenth studio release “Wavelength”.

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Wavelength (1978)

With an influx of electric guitar sound as well as more modern production and synthesized beats, “Wavelength” is a new kind of Van Morrison album with the same soul as all the rest. Wavelength served to reenergize Morrison’s fan base as well as his drive to perform. Following the album’s unprecedented commercial success Van assembled a new band, (The Caledonia Soul Orchestra having been disbanded for the minimalistic Veedon Fleece) and began touring again. The sound is in its totality original, a new style for Morrison more reflective of the popular sounds of the era…

1. Kingdom Hall – Energetic and excited from the first note; the album opener is a nostalgic step in a spiritual direction that would probably best define Van’s music of the era. A full sound from start to finish, picking right up where he left off. The Piano keys are entrancing as they step between the slurred lyrical deliveries. Horns and electric rhythms back the scat-style post chorus refrain and lay a bed for the rest of the song. Has a sort of easy southern country-rock feel to it but with a synthesized shadow of sorts. A much needed strong opener. 7.5\10

2. Checkin’ It Out – Sort of clumsy out of the gates, the song builds a sincere message out of a seemingly playful melody. Clean and concise, with the necessary malleability to let Van and the band explore, but overall a rather self contained number. Described as a song of losing your way and finding a beacon of hope\help in the form of a spiritual guide. Morrison guides the listener through the music as the simple acoustic melody moves its way past organs and electric fills. A graceful number but ultimately one without the depth to stand out. 7\10

3. Natalia – Free flowing country R&B ballad; one of three consecutive pseudo-love songs to close side one of the album. Teeters on the edge of boring at times getting caught up in an overly clean circular rhythm. Electric guitar feels forced and the horns and back-up vocals while technically sound are lacking purpose and texture. Even the tempo seems uneasy. For the second straight song and partially the second consecutive album, Van flirts with “grey area” of the song on the outro only to fade away. One of my least favorite songs Van released in the 1970’s. 6\10

4. Venice, USA – With that southern jazz\blues sound more adept to fit in amongst the previous album, “Venice USA” bounces its way along with a delightfully contrasting simplified musical refrain and a complex but contemporary lead vocal performance. Van’s soulful delivery and the diabolically interesting construction and direction of the song are enough to elevate the song to enjoyable despite its otherwise mundane nature. Lyrically and aesthetically it’s as simple as it gets. The Chorus is a fun easy harmonizing chant, the verse is a chew it up and spit it out promenade, the whole is (along with Kingdom Hall) the highlight of side one. 7.5\10

5. Lifetimes – It opens like a TV sitcom theme, or maybe it’s just my brain jumping into 1980’s mode. “Lifetimes” is a subtle, smooth and solid number. Continuing the theme of electric guitar leads and synthesized rhythms; also a very limited role for the brass section. Easy to enjoy but hard to identify what element has charmed you. There is no denying the delicate suspense of the chorus’ opening line or the magnetic synthesizer humming brought to the forefront on the bridge, but more then that it’s the way it just feels like it’s reaching out to you. The side one closer is a personal favorite of mine on the album. 7.5\10

6. Wavelength – Is it possible to be ahead of your time if the music sounds dated 30 years later? This song has got 1985 written all over it; a moderate hit in its hey-day, a prevailing favorite of many fans who prefer post Veedon Fleece Van. A good song but obviously flawed and as mentioned somewhat dated sounding today, a rarity with Van’s music and my palette. The synth is the star of the show here, sharing the stage with Van’s vocals. In harmony both are first gentle as the music builds around them. The song has a wide open spaces feel, it follows the rules and breaks new ground simultaneously as it builds from intro to verse to chorus, from start to finish combining elements of new wave and gospel\soul music. The slow acoustic version of this song, to my knowledge not available except via bootleg is breathtaking. 8\10

7. Santa Fe\Beautiful Obsession – Sante Fe\Beautiful Obsession is a slow, mellow R&B number in traditional Van style with a little country twist that harkens back to Tupelo Honey. It takes a hold of you as it moves along; the verse is narrative, progressing the rhythm, the chorus is comforting desperation, each word is holding on for dear life as the notes casual cascade across the melody. (“Do you need it, can you feel it?’) The Blues guitar is under stated and at it’s best in this number, simple but strong back and drums round out the resonance. The transformation to “Beautiful Obsession” is the casual conclusion of the journey to “Sante Fe”, explosive vocals over the same synthesized and natural rhythms that have guided you all the way. 8\10

8. Hungry for your Love – There is a song like this on every few Van Morrison albums, one of those raw, natural love songs that only the most clumsy of songsmiths would imagine and only the most brilliant could write. It’s a musical refrain and pure William Blake prose throughout the verses and that typical “cards on the table” chorus. Continuing to experiment with different combinations of instruments\sound Morrison plays the electric piano in lieu of acoustic guitar on this track. There is not a lot that you can say about the track, it’s the most natural number on the album, vulnerable and exposed it’s a reminder that what was, still is somewhere. 8\10

9. Take it Where you find it – The albums final track and ultimately the most important track on the record. Opening with a rolling snare and a mellow marching melody, moving into a patient verse and hurried chorus. The piano adds modishness and personality and the guitar cadence and humanity. The song is comprised of three basic movements, the aforementioned\described verse\chorus, and then an encapsulating chanted harmony with proclaiming horns that endures trapped in your mind and finally a third movement. There is no best way to describe the sort of impromptu third movement noted as “drift into the American dream” by critics and biographers. “I’m gonna walk down the street until I see my shining light” It’s this sort of ultra-victorious proclamation done with all the humility and humanity even the most virtuous of hearts can not readily rival. Musically and vocally very strong performances, collectively the pinnacle of the last two albums and a promising precursor for things to come. 9\10

…This one takes a little while to get going, to find its gait and really hit full stride. However the second is the most promising stand on its own collection assembled since Saint Dominic’s Preview. The Morrison of “wavelength” is an artist still in transition but more confident in his new persona, more poised and relaxed and able to let things come to him rather then forcing the pieces into place as in parts of “…Period…” and the first side of this album. It’s an overall eclectic sound, sort of contrasting variations on a theme. A victorious record but one that leaves a few rocks unturned.


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Defining Track(s): “Kingdom Hall” foreshadows the continuing move towards religious\spiritual themes within Morrison’s music. “Wavelength” captures the conceptual evolution of the sound, but “Take it Where You Find it” steals the show on the way out.
Line in my head: “Lost Dreams and Found Dreams in America”
Christagu’s Take: Unlike A Period of Transition, this is a good Van Morrison record, as up as any he's ever made, but it's certainly not a great one. You might pay attention to side two, an evocative reinterpretation of Van's America fixation, but side one is nothing more (and nothing less) than class programming. B+

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ***3/4
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 7.5
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: Into the Music - 1979

Son of JayJamJah 07-27-2008 11:01 PM

Into the Music (1979)
 
Wavelength became Morrison’s fastest selling album ever, still while the sounds we’re evolving there was a still an element missing, Van was still not natural as he had been during the earlier part of his career, critics had noticed and while not dismissing the music had rated it lower then his music from earlier in the decade. Morrison choose to leave the country and rediscover the joy of making music and this eleventh studio release was the result.

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Into the Music (1979)

The ninth and final studio album of the decade released by Morrison was written primarily on sabbatical in England. The album, again, has a carefree and contented feel from start to finish. Morrison included the likes of established stars Pee Wee Ellis, Ry Cooder and Herbie Armstrong, who Morrison had been staying with. Morrison describes being reenergized by their presence and even admits “It’s when I starting enjoying it again…that’s why I called it “Into the Music”…” The reaction from critics seemed to fall in line with Morrison’s assessment as many hailed it a comeback and an instant classic …

1. Bright Side of the Road – Peppy and positive out of the gate it’s a simple, safe and strong choice to open the album. Brass stands out backed by the rhythm section including piano and bass. Harmonica interlude by Morrison is a nice touch falling into the bridge. Overall the song is a good one but forgettable as it’s as run of the mill as any Morrison single to date. Even Morrison’s throaty final delivery of the “Brightside…” chorus is fairly average.7.5\10

2. Full Force Gale – Country Gospel is the essence of this spiritual ode which has become a favorite of fans and critics alike over the years. The upbeat tempo and full sound with harmonizing vocals and uplifting lyrics are a touching combination to even the most callus critic. The screaming violin is the essence of the song; and there is strength in the simplicity of the progression. The song has such a free and easy spirit; each verse, each chorus, each note is so effortless that the song moves by in the blink of an eye each time. 8\10

3. Stepping Out Queen – Exemplifying the transitionary sound of the era, “Stepping Out Queen” is a full powered punchy ballad atop a stirring epic which is as candid as it is condensed. Another full sound with triumphant horns and piercing strings behind a technically flawless rhythm. The Searing violin interlude and powerful bridge procession are the highlight of the song. If it’s to be criticized will be for not featuring a daring or dynamic enough approach, it sort of drags along at times rather then moving with the confidence of Morrison’s best work. 7 \10

4. Troubadours – Injecting needed energy and soul into the album is the appropriately titled “Troubadours”. Gliding from note to note, it’s a delicately composed number with a distinct Celtic influence. The nuanced sound is a product of the eclectic influence behind the album. A gentle marching beat is the backbone for the four-headed lead with woodwinds, keys, strings and brass sharing the spotlight. One of the musical highlights of this or any other album; such a full but self-contained sound is as relaxing an uplifting a number as the first side offers. 8\10

5. Rolling Hills – Continuing on the easy Celtic theme is the playful “Rolling Hills” a simple stomping circular number delivered in a semi-decipherable growl. The instruments have a novelty feel that breeds simple satisfaction and unconscious toe-tapping. The end result is a smashingly brilliant bit of Celtic-pop from the Irish sultan of Soul. This is the type of song that requires several listens over a period of time to fully appreciate. It’s complex construction but simple sound is one of many dichotomies among the song that make it such an interesting and satisfying cut. 8.5\10

6. You Make Me Feel So Free – True to form with the sound of the album, especially the early numbers. Piano punches out the melody and horns fill in the cracks of this predictable but prolific jazz\R&B number. Saxophone overlays and solo and a lively bass line highlight There is a sort of “yes and” feel to a lot of these type of Van songs; it’s just so structured and repetitive it almost borders on over-produced. It’s the conviction and confidence of Morrison alone that makes this song work for me. 7.5\10

7. Angelou – The Side two Suite opens with the eerie “Angelou” thankfully revisiting the Celtic influence in the intro and progressing into a delicate soulful plea. Stepping out of desperation (Angelou...oh, Angelou) into improvisation and back again as quickly and unannounced as before. Angelou is a casual confident declaration of an arrival. It’s Morrison’s personal expectation reaching manifest. A new more mature sound with the same old soul, maybe a litter safer but a little more refined for the journey. The melody sneaks up on you and wraps you up; it’s a fantastic introduction to what is one of Van’s most highly regarded album sides ever. More layered and inclusive then it appears at first listen, a really nice mellow number. 8.5\10

8. The Healing Has Begun – A particularly triumphant and significant song in Morrison’s career. This is old Van meets New Van. Making a literal reference to the metaphorical healing element that would become a recurring theme in his future releases. As the song opens that isolated acoustic sound accompanied by strings and keys sets a nostalgic and exhilarating mood as the song opens. The first line takes us “Back down the Avenue of Dreams” A Powerfully delivered song; forceful yet tender each note a journey through the love of the music and the melancholy of transformation. Such a beautiful and sincere energy; it’s more then enough to power the song. The full sound and the transcending melody do the rest. The music is distinctly similar to early Van as the vocal delivery explodes into its own sleeping monster on a bed of rhythm. The song becomes more and more signature as it moves, Van evolves the lyrics the band evolves the music and the cathartic element has never reached such heights; an insistent Morrison propels the song including a brief ¾ spoken dialogue from the Belfast Cowboy culminating with him insisting “We gonna stay out all night long” and “run across the field”. 9.5\10

9. It’s All in the Game – The penultimate number, a 1950’s pop cover, continues the side two suite with a mellow monster of a song; lyrically delivery from spoken, to whispered to shrieked and slurred. A love song without a subject to sing to; a sort of tale of life lessons taught, this is the final piece to the puzzle, Van is not the emotionally raw and explosive narrator of Astral Weeks, he is now a grizzled loved and lost veteran. A preface of a song really setting the final trap on the album. As the music shifts pattern not progression “It’s all in the Game” proceeds with such ease it goes almost unnoticed into the distance and usher’s in the album’s finale. 8\10

10. You Know What They’re Writing About – Opening soft and subtly the self aware finale is another restrained variation on the side two theme. The slow rhythm builds to a finally conclusive chorus. This song is and album are ready wrap after the first time through the sequence at the 2:50 minute mark but persists another two plus minutes trying to stomp its point home and losses a bit of the albums overall momentum, it’s one of two songs I can fathom criticizing on this album. 7.5\10

…Often described as the quintessential mid period Van Morrison album. For me it’s not considerably better then either of the previous two. However it has a more comfortable and natural sound with a more sincere confidence that leads to a more consistent and inspired vocal performance. It’s slightly more consistent though not considerably better then Wavelength and its debatable which side two I like better though Into the Music is the critic’s clear choice. For me most it’s the side two suite that stands out but for others it’s the energetic and full compositions of the first side and for me it’s an album built are “The healing has Begun” and very well built. I suppose that’s part of it’s strength’s having a broad appeal, I think most significantly it’s marks an eleventh straight album with well above average material for Morrison a type of prolific consistently few artists ever approach.


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Defining Track(s): “The Healing Has Begun”
Line in my head: “Backstreet Jelly Roll”
Christagu’s Take: The rockers are a little lightweight, the final cut drags halfway through, and that's all that's wrong with this record, including its tributes to "the Lord." You might get religion yourself if all of your old powers returned after years of failed experiments, half-assed compromises, and onstage crack-ups. Like that other god-fearing singer-songwriter, Morrison has abandoned metaphorical pretensions, but only because he loves the world. His straightforward celebrations of town and country are colored and deepened by his musicians--especially sprightly violinist Toni Marcus (feh on Scarlet Rivera)--and by his own excursions into a vocalise that has never been more various or apt. The only great song on this record is "It's All in the Game," written by Calvin Coolidge's future vice-president in 1912. But I suspect it's Van's best album since Moondance. A

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 8
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: Common One- 1980

Son of JayJamJah 07-28-2008 03:01 PM

Van Morrison Epics (Jayjamjah Compliations 1-3)
 
The Epic composition is almost a staple of Morrison's albums particularly in the 60's and70's. I've selected what I feel are the most grandiose tracks from each each of his first 12 albums (1 each) and compacted them into three four song compilations each about 30 mins long and organized chronologically.

Feel free and encouraged to provide comments and critiques and questions about the songs or overall compilations.

Here is the overall play list in case the order gets scrambled by the upload.

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1. T.B. Sheets - Blowin' Your Mind - 1967
2. Cypress Avenue - Astral Weeks - 1968
3. Caravan - Moondance - 1970 (Taken from 1974's Live album Too late to stop now)
4. Street Choir - His Band the Street Choir

Morrison Epics Comp Volume One (1967-1970)

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5. Moonshine Whiskey - Tupelo Honey (1971)
6. Listen to the Lion - St. Dominic's Preview (1972)
7. Purple Heather - Hard Nose the Highway (1973)
8. You Don't Pull No Punches and You Don't Push the River - Veedon Fleece (1974)

Morrison Epics Comp Volume Two (1971-1974)

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9. Heavy Connection - A Period of Transition (1977)
10. Take it Where You Find it - Wavelength (1978)
11. The Healing Has Begun - Into the Music (1979)
12. Summertime in England - Common One (1980)

Morrison Epics Comp Volume Three (1977-1980)

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Piss Me Off 07-28-2008 03:12 PM

Thank you! I'll dip my feet into these...

Son of JayJamJah 07-30-2008 08:38 PM

Common One (1980)
 
Having been reinvigorated by the commercial and critical success of “Into the Music” a confident calculated Morrison made a daring and ultimately untimely decision to release another conceptual song cycle album in the style of Astral Weeks and Veedon Fleece this time with a free jazz influence delivered by Pee Wee Ellis on lead.

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Common One (1980)

Recorded in nine days and eight nights in a French Monastery “Common One” was the exact opposite of what everyone expected from Morrison following the release on “Into the Music” one year prior. A dense more indeterminable though ultimately optimistic record Morrison implemented a free jazz atmosphere and stream of consciousness approach to the recording session, even performing three songs without and discernable melody and two tracks exceeding 15 minutes in length. It’s his most stripped down and raw album in more then five years but unfortunately quite possibly his most misunderstood ever. The critics smashed Morrison for being self absorbed and apathetic, describing his lyrics (based on American\English naturalist poetry) as pompous and trivial. This scathing epithet forced the natural reclusive Morrison into a 18 month hiatus from recording and prompted him to vow never to make another album quite so daring, a promise he’s sadly kept to over the years…

1. Haunts of Ancient Peace – Heavy, mega-mellow introduction to the album. Slowly and carefully progressing from the first note on through, each line is delivered with an undulating rhythm an escalating urgency. Simple and pure to its jazz origins and the theme therein the album. The rolling saxophone of Pee Wee Ellis copy cats Morrison’s punchy delivery and eventually takes center stage with the stand out instrumental performance of the album. Returning to it’s origins on the way out Haunts finishes as strong and slight as it starts. A fantastically melodic song. 8.5\10

2. Summertime in England – An amalgamation of free improvisational jazz, a work in progress poem and a full and devoted musical congregation. Throw in some literary influence name dropping a few dynamite diversions from the base melody and you an unforgettable 15 minute marvel and the most critically under rated Morrison number of all-time. An absolute show stopper for Morrison played live in the 1980’s and on occasion since. The song is so delicate at moments and then overwhelmed with sound later. It changes, evolves, returns and all along the way finds phrases which serve as guides or reminders of the overall concept. This is Morrison fully engorged in his influences musically, lyrically and conceptually. “Common One” the album title and catch phrase de jour of the number seems a persona and one that Morrison takes upon himself. He explains his confidence (“don’t stroke me, call me the common one”), perseverance (“high in the art of suffering one”) and acceptance (it ain’t why it just is”) all while exploding into holy music of a higher musical power. Conviction right until the end as Morrison provides ominous finality with “can you feel the silence” 9.5\10

3. Satisfied – The sort of antithesis “Summertime in England” in terms of structure and delivery, “Satisfied” is a number that has gotten better with time for me. It’s a mellow, bouncy jazz jumper that would have been a hit within “Into the Music”. Morrison sort of melts into the music throughout the verse before delivery a rousing fervor of a chorus between Pee Wee Ellis instrumentals featuring Van on accompaniment a nice twist for the album. The best line of the song is without question “I’ve got my Karma from here right to New York” which is senseless but brilliant. 7.5\10

4. Wild Honey – An endearing easy love song. As comfortably poppy and cliché as could be within the context of “Common One”. The song has a distant but unrelenting energy that sort of taps you on the shoulder as not to disturb. Musically the piano and the saxophone are breathtaking; the bass and drums are tactically and technically sound with flashes of flair. The strings are a narrative dynamo humming behind the enchanted confident pleas. A song that is so effortless it’s almost unprecedented, if only because I must to criticize it’s a safe choice for Morrison and the band, still it’s hard to fault them for this one considering the results. 8.5\10

5. Spirit – This song is so good that I have a sort of Pavlovian response soliciting uncontrollable giddiness in anticipation of “Spirit” during the final notes of “Wild Honey”. Starting with a crawl as Morrison to and fros’ his way through the inspirational repetitive progressions along with the beat; both leaving room for the music to grow. Then an explosion confidently ensuring the eternity of spirit; the music and the man crescendo at once for the most powerful and memorable moment of the album, the “Spirit” chorus. Musically Played with a relatively unscripted rhythm designed to fade in and out and create a sort of wave for the listener to ride. The determined nature of the verse is so wonderfully orchestrated and best exemplified late in the song with “And you keep walking on” etc. As powerful a healing song as any since Astral Weeks; A subtle but definite Morrison classic. 9\10

6. When Heart is Open – The most experimental song on the album completely devoid of any musically structure. The Musicians cautiously react to one another and their own interpretations of the song. This is the low point of the album sadly as the song, while at times interesting (near poetic lyrical moments, mirroring the opening track at one point) and consistently relaxing has little or no appeal to most fringe or outside fans and leaves even the most ardent supporters somewhat jaded. Still there is some credit to be given for the effort, especially in lieu of the album on its entire merits. 6.5\10


…In the past decade plus several critics have begun to revisit Common One and have called for a new fate fro the album. Citing an album that was years ahead of its time and very misunderstood. It’s Morrison’s most personally spiritual opus from his early years, and ultimately holy music. Several critics scorned Morrison for turning to religion, misunderstanding his convictions not as faith in traditional beliefs but in the mysticism of the enchanting healing nature of his music as it pertained to his personal experiences and those who can relate. This is a healing album for those whom it speaks to. The album contains at least two classics and features one of the most dynamic and dominant performances from a guest musician as Pee Wee Ellis plays the Cagney to Morrison’s Lacey. An example of how easy it is to overlook something we don’t understand at first glance or first listen. Thank goodness for this album.


http://farm1.static.flickr.com/50/11...9bb9b8.jpg?v=0

Defining Track(s): “Summertime in England” and “Spirit” and masterpieces of Improvisational Soul.
Line in my head: “Holy Magnet Give you attraction Yea, I was attracted to You”
Christagu’s Take: Sententious, torpid, abandoned by God, this six-song, fifty-five minute meander is Morrison's worst since Hard Nose the Highway--Astral Weeks fans even think so. He does have a direct line to certain souls, though, and they still hear him talkin'. As in fact do I, twice--on the only vaguely fast one, which goes "I'm satisfied/With my world," and on the truly nutball "Summer in England," which goes "Did you ever hear about/Wordsworth and Coleridge, baby?" B-

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 8.5
Overall Ranking: TBD





“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

William Wordsworth



“Resembles Life what once was held of Light,
Too ample in itself for human sight ?
An absolute Self--an element ungrounded--
All, that we see, all colours of all shade
By encroach of darkness made ?--
Is very life by consciousness unbounded ?
And all the thoughts, pains, joys of mortal breath,
A war-embrace of wrestling Life and Death ?”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Next up: Beautiful Vision- 1982

jackhammer 08-05-2008 02:04 PM

Another great thread worthy of an Editor's Pick.

Son of JayJamJah 08-06-2008 09:37 PM

Beautiful Vision (1982)
 
After a distressing experience following the release of Common One van took more then 18 months in the recording and releasing of his next album 1982’s Beautiful Vision. Living in England again, Van was a new man and one comfortable in his and his surroundings. At the time rumored and since confirmed to have been dating Ulla Munch during the recording phase she serves as a convenient muse and along with Morrison’s requited love for the United Kingdom and simultaneous push back towards the Into the Music formula create the structure of the album.

http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B0...CLZZZZZZZ_.jpg


Beautiful Vision (1982)

The sounds are charming and eerie, a very polished and spiritual feeling album. Every song’s sound is full and free. It’s as pleasant sounding an album as there could be, very easy listening but lacking any real stand out tracks. Morrison combines elements mostly of his recent history in finding his footing again on his second album of the decade. The particularly infatuated feel of the album is due to, as any feel of his albums are, to Van’s current state of mind…

1. Celtic Ray – Guitar rhythms, bagpipes lend a distinctly Celtic sound to the song which deals with Morrison’s spiritual connection to his homeland; a particularly ethereal opener, some what out of sorts for Van but still a very polished and powerful musical performance. With a few nice changes of tempo breaking the monotony and a vocal performance complete with background reinforcement and real conviction. Van has renewed his love affair with Europe. 8\10

2. Northern Muse (Solid Ground) – Most likely inspired by his girlfriend at the time. Cool country rhythm fuses sounds from Wavelength to Common One continuing to shine with confidence and conviction. A steady tempo soothes your spirit, but never steals your full attention. Very strong musical collaboration; notable performances by complimentary bass and horns sections follow the back-up enhanced vocals. Simple but soulful lyrics “if you see her”, “and she moves” delivered with fervor to spare help elevate the song. 7.5\10

3. Dweller on the Threshold – Very identifiable with the era of the music; no doubt this is an 80’s Morrison number. Short winded horns punch out the melody of the chorus as the constant rhythm of bass guitar, drums and synth marches on. Very strong musically including an excellent saxophone solo and an overall pivotal performance from the horns. Circular musical and lyrical pattern again with backing vocals just sort of pushes along. Its strength is it creators not it’s creation. 7.5\10

4. Beautiful Vision – The title track sways back and forth with a balanced sound and a just catchy enough rhythm. Intoxicating imagery fills the lyrics and the feel of the music. Guitars and percussion keep the rhythm and horns and electric guitar fill in the gaps with delicate progressions. Van confidently pleas to his or someone’s “Beautiful Vision” be it Heaven, Love or otherwise it’s a certain aspiration and inspiration for the song. A song that appropriately exemplifies what this album is all about. Holy, real spiritual music that is relatable to everyone from Baptists to blasphemers, atheists to agnostics, Christians and klingons. Real soul music. 8\10

5. She Give’s Me Religion – Marinating in the overall sound of the album, it’s another comfortable, easy going number. Harkening back to that “mystic avenue” from Astral Weeks gone by; it’s a simple song with a simple message at its core. The Chorus is a full and powerful declaration but still done with delicate delivery. This one is confirmed to about the new love and follows the pattern of Van’s love songs since Veedon Fleece being musically sound first and expressive second. 7.5\10

6. Cleaning Windows – A little bit jumpier then and more energetic then most of side one; a very evocative number calling back to his days literally Cleaning Windows in his youth. This one has all the characteristics of a Van Morrison classic, with the random vocals (“#36”) mixed in amongst an otherwise linear storyline and the nuanced musical orchestration. A nostalgic narrative lyrical dialog opens the number alongside flawless musical execution. Powerful punchy horns and groovy electric guitar fills highlight the musical melee. The first song on the album to really catch your attention; it’s a different sounding Van but one his roots are firmly entrenched in those same early R&B stars. It feels like Blowin’ your Mind almost two decades later. Distinctively 80’s and distinctively Van all at once. A funky sort of classic. 8.5\10

7. Vanlose Stairway – Slowing it down with this poignant, pleading composition of conviction. Van’s second love song on the album expressing his angst in longing for his new found love. True to this albums direction and the traditional formula used in Morrison’s more affecting numbers; Van highlights the moment’s necessary to set the mood with his vocal escalations and variations. Gradually growing melody relaxes the mind, body and soul with elegant excellence. It’s a good enough song to make me like it a lot in a genre I am typically apathetic towards. 8\10

8. Aryan Mist – The numinous side two midpoint is the humming hymn “Aryan Mist” Originally title “Among the Bridges” until the title line was added to give it an even more eerie element. The bass line buzzes along ass the backbone to song as guitars, drums and backing vocals round out the sound of the song. It carries itself safely enough but has threatening moments of exploration that intoxicate the more personally involved fans. The most casual confusion imaginable, a delightful display of delicate decadence. John Lennon suggested “God is a concept” I suggest it’s a feeling of relating. 8.5\10

9. Across the Bridge Where Angels Dwell – Musically and lyrically it’s a still even more spiritual and light hearted dalliance with a very touching chorus. Almost effortless throughout, it’s too safe for its own good, but still endearing enough and so well crafted that it offers a lot to like. This one is again about his new found love and has been, because of it’s placement accused of being overkill. On it’s own merits it stands nearly as strong as other love song of the era. 7.5\10

10. Scandinavia – Starting with a distant hum, then enter the piano keys as played by Morrison himself and eventually Mark Isham on the synthesizer and an array of filling rhythm instruments and you have the first complete instrumental track by Morrison to make an album. It’s an odd experience the first time through with the absence of Van’s signature vocals that had been the enduring highlight of his music, but in the end serves to provide an assured summation of the album and direction of his music to come. 8\10



…This is a very good album, it’s technically near flawless and without any evidence of filler. All the songs follow a theme and yet stand out as individual compositions. It could easy be rated with Moondance as one of his best mass appeal albums. It is also however a very safe and sometimes boring record. Van undoubtedly hurt by the backlash from Common One took the safe route here. He assembled very good musicians, most with experience with Morrison, and sang the songs with clear annunciation and confident conviction. He took time to write each song just so as to be sure it could not be criticized on its musical merits. This album is a 10 musically, but a 6 or 7 artistically. There have no doubt been times when it ranks last among his albums to date (1982) on my list.


http://www.rockpalastarchiv.de/gifs/morriss.jpg

Defining Track(s): “Cleaning Windows” is the fans, critics, and my favorite.
Line in my head: “Number Thirty-Six”
Christagu’s Take: After a period of transition, Van has finally achieved the eternal Kansas City--this music is purely gorgeous (or at times lovely), its pleasure all formal grace and aptness of invention. Only "Cleaning Windows," a cheerful, visionary, deeply eccentric song about class and faith and culture, stands among his great tunes. But every one of these songs makes itself felt as an individual piece of music. And every one fits into the whole. A-

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 7.5
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: Inarticulate Speech of the Heart- 1983

Ghostrider 08-07-2008 02:01 PM

Congratulations on the "Editor's Pick" for your excellent work on Van Morrison JJJ, I have started to check out your recommendations and will continue to follow your thread. Well written and detailed compositions like your discography are the highlight of MB, for me anyway.

Son of JayJamJah 08-08-2008 10:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Piss Me Off (Post 501693)
Thank you! I'll dip my feet into these...

Any thoughts on favorites \ least favorites most interesting tracks?

Son of JayJamJah 08-12-2008 08:47 PM

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)
 
As the decade progressed Morrison’s music became more and more inaccessible and the apex of that era is 1983’s “Inarticulate Speech of the Heart” Morrison was on a spiritual quest for clarity both in music and in life. He continued to embrace his European roots but still was fond of America. It was around this time that Morrison looked into Scientology and was for a while wrongly presumed a counselor for the organization. The music is moved toward jazz-fusion and went heavy on instrumentals and moved away from narrative or nostalgic lyrics to ethereal chants and transcendent themes.

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Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)

As the decade progressed Morrison’s music became more and more inaccessible and the apex of that era is 1983’s “Inarticulate Speech of the Heart” Morrison was on a spiritual quest for clarity both in music and in life. He was making “music for meditation” now. It was around this time that Morrison looked into Scientology and was for a while wrongly presumed a counselor for the organization. He has since consistently denied belonging to any organization, religious or otherwise. The music moves toward jazz-fusion and went heavy on instrumentals and moved away from narrative or nostalgic lyrics to ethereal chants and transcendent themes…

1. Higher Than the World – Jazz is the theme from note one in this light, unadorned opener. Guitar and synthesizer are the stars of the show out of the gate and carry the song into the chorus, which has Morrison sounded as grizzled as he had to date. The song from beginning to end is a bland, boring one that sets the tone for a moderately disappointing album. 5.5\10

2. Connswater – Heavy Celtic influence on this relatively upbeat instrumental that begins in very faint fashion. This is a sort of satisfying look into what Morrison’s instrumentals could, and at some of their best would become. They are musically flawless have a very gratifying way of mixing genres into their overall sound and while not the overwhelming experiences his best lyrical numbers can be, they are their own sort of undeniably enjoyable monster. 7\10

3. River of Time – Chant power lyrics and ominous feeling harmony propel this one which switches to a lighter more free tone intended to inspire. The first notable performance by the backup singers which are very good overall on this Lp. The electronic sound is just a little to heavy for me, even with the attempt to fuse it with celtic rhythms that I obviously relate to. A song on the verge of being real good that just never gets there. 6.5\10

4. Celtic Swing – Second instrumental track and again as the title suggests heavy with homeland influence. Again starting with a faint electronic hum and slowly emerging melodies, it’s the horns that first break the ice, trumpet, saxophone and percussion is next to the party then the full symphony jumps in providing a distinctly Morrison sound with almost a twinge of the orient. The electronic sound overwhelms the rest of the music however leading to a rather dull moment here and there. 6.5\10

5. Rave on John Donne – Synthesized jazz out of the gate. Morrison enters with poetry spoken throughout as a light Mark Isham Synthesizer plays along with a circular guitar rhythm. More then two minutes in Morrison begins to sing the words of the poem, saxophone and flute enter the music. Monotony with the instrumental outro, the synthesizer is the one constant throughout this song and the entire album. 6\10

6. Inarticulate Speech of the Heart No. 1 – Music that feels and sounds like a carriage ride through Ireland. It’s the first of two very individual but thematically identical parts of the title track the album was built around. The piano is brilliant setting a dulcet and appealing tone. An acquired taste to be sure. See No. 2 for total rating

7. Irish Heartbeat – Van makes it clear he intends to find a connection and clarity of this present by relating to his past. He is fully embracing his roots again and feels safe, confident and welcome “I’m going back to my own ones”. The music is melodic and the harmonious vocals as simple and safe as they are fully convey the message and feel of the song. The entire orchestra is a it’s most confident and free of any song on the album. A very pleasing song and a much needed highlight amongst an otherwise mostly bland album. 8\10

8. The Street Only Knew Your Name – The most upbeat number on the album; funky jazz guitar and a bass and drum backbone as Morrison punches out the lyrics. The electric sound carries into the piano and of course synthesizer. Morrison seems extra enthused for the song because of how rare its type is amongst this mystical theme. Confident and decisively delivered it’s a wonderful example of the formula Morrison perfected from “A Period of Transition to Beautiful Vision”. A personal favorite from the album at the time of its release. 7\10

9. Cry for Home – Another clear message and a direct musical nod to Ireland. With pipes and flute’s behind the synthesized sounds laying a bed for the album’s top vocal performance. Morrison’s message is harmoniously reinforced by his back-up choir at all the right moments. Starting with an unsure walk and escalating into a triumphant promenade it’s a new take on Morrison’s traditional build the momentum as you go song writing approach. Shortly after this album’s release Morrison played Belfast for the first time in over a decade and opened with “Cry for Home” 8\10

10. Inarticulate Speech of the Heart No. 2 – This time adding chant vocals to right from the start to the soothing melodic sounds of this two part title track. The humming drone of the music’s maintains as various sections move their musical rhythms around it. An overall well composed but hard to get excited about nucleus for the album. 7\10

11. September Night – The closing track is an eerie instrumental with a relaxing feel built around wavy music and a lot of subtle crescendo. It’s typical of the album to be a little bit light in terms of immediate effect. This one has never really grown on me though either. It just seems like an unnecessary addition at worst and out of place at best. 5.5\10

…This is simple, easy, free music, but it borders on boring throughout and if not relatable is near intolerable. Morrison was now making music for himself, his most ardent fans and those who shared his spiritual quest. The result is what has become an almost forgotten album. The music while still very well orchestrated and performed is so faint and selfish and the production and synthesized backgrounds sound dated and dry. It’s among his worst albums of the decade in my opinion, lyrically it really lacks, most of that is purposely but still, and regardless it’s a worthwhile listen if you’re really digging the music.

http://www.wilson-benesch.com/upload...N_C-765709.JPG

Defining Track(s): “Irish Heartbeat” and “Cry for Home” are the best two songs and highlight the central theme of Morrison’s rekindled love for his birth land.
Line in my head: “Stay a while with your own ones”
Christagu’s Take:. In this troubled time, rock-and-rollers have every right to place their faith in the Jehovah's Witnesses or even Scientology when they discover that Jackie Wilson didn't say it all. But to follow one with the other appears weak-minded, like praising Omar Khayyam in tandem with Kahlil Gibran. A hypothesis which the static romanticism of these reels-for-Hollywood-orchestra and other slow songs bears out. B-

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ***
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 6.5
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: A Sense of Wonder- 1984

Piss Me Off 08-13-2008 04:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JayJamJah (Post 504948)
Any thoughts on favorites \ least favorites most interesting tracks?

Out of the few i've heard (haven't got round to converting the m4a's) Cyprus Avenue is my fave, a really nice acoustic song that builds up very well. I never thought he was much of a singer either but this surprised me. Astral Weeks is a priority on my 'to listen to' list.

jackhammer 08-13-2008 02:00 PM

Use foobar2000 to play M4a's and your usual player for everything else that's what I do. It is easy on the system, ad free and easy to use.

Piss Me Off 08-13-2008 02:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jackhammer (Post 506420)
Use foobar2000 to play M4a's and your usual player for everything else that's what I do. It is easy on the system, ad free and easy to use.

Yoiink. Yeah, i'm a bit bored of the hassle now, cheers.

Son of JayJamJah 08-13-2008 04:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Piss Me Off (Post 506265)
Out of the few i've heard (haven't got round to converting the m4a's) Cyprus Avenue is my fave, a really nice acoustic song that builds up very well. I never thought he was much of a singer either but this surprised me. Astral Weeks is a priority on my 'to listen to' list.

sorry about the M4a's as far as Morrison as a singer, he is probably my favorite vocalist ever, so I would hope as you explore the discography you'll get a sense for how talented and unique he is.

Son of JayJamJah 08-18-2008 10:17 AM

A Sense of Wonder (1984)
 
Van made the switch to PolyGram records following the Inarticulate Speech of the Heart album. This concluded a 15 year relationship between Morrison and Warner Bros during which time Van released almost all of his most significant works. At this point Morrison has transformed as a stage presence and performer, he is infinitely more comfortable and accepting of his place on stage and around his fans.

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A Sense of Wonder (1984)

Fully inundated in the sounds of thoughts of the majestic, “A Sense of Wonder” is Van’s not so bold foray into a potential new genre which I’d describe as Celtic Rock and Soul. The fires of his quest for spiritual enlightenment and the his return home have begun to cool and he is finding new inspiration in poetry, people and the exploration of one’s self. At times Morrison is searching for what it all means, but at others he gets it just right…

1. Tore Down A La Rimbaud – Opening with a sound that reminds you immediately of “Inarticulate Speech…” The Horns freshen up the sound as the attitude livens itself up. As the song advances it starts to really glide along as Morrison continues his delicate ode to the title idol, French poet Arthur Rimbaud relating to his pain in writers block. Morrison derived the song from one he was writing following his reclusion post Veedon Fleece. 7.5\10

2. Ancient of Days – A little lighter and peppier then the it’s predecessors (previous albums) It’s that sort of stock song that Morrison adds to the albums of this period, not bad, just not good. A song with a concept that was never really fully realized and just gets constructed around a safe and simple melody and progression. Punished for it’s lack of originality slightly. 6.5\10

3. Evening Meditation – Instrumental track that would have fit perfectly with th last album, which is not necessarily a good thing. Still it’s calm, relaxing and somewhat enjoyable; there is a nice melding of Celtic and Oriental influence. Morrison’s humming surprisingly becomes a distraction then a part of the overall sound, one of the songs worst features. Really a decent number but not what I’m looking for following the previous album. 6\10

4. The Master’s Eyes – A sort of updated throwback, easy electric rock and roll guitar meets the distant humming of the flute and sincere vocal performance. Horns grown and fade in the background along with the guitar completing the cavalcade of musical mastery. Sometimes it’s good enough to just have good musicians play a song real well. In this case it works for me, very well. There are so many elements of the sound that made me love Morrison mixed with what he’s doing at the time; it helped me understand better his vision. 8\10

5. What Would I Do – Written by Ray Charles, a somewhat overlooked song in fact, it starts with piano and a faint guitar. Morrison keeps true to the spirit of the song but makes it his own, emphasizing the instrumental only when the vocals are absent and utilizing the back-up singers in ways Ray really thought to. It’s good enough to make you forget it’s a cover; it just does enough to stay interesting all the way. [B] 7\10 [\B]

6. A Sense of Wonder – Side two opens with the title track and a fitting somber mood. There is an optimistic air however as the song begins to build and the background fills with synthesizer and back-up vocals. There is a dramatic pause before the harmonizing lock-step vocals and slightly escalated horns of the chorus; a highlight of the song. Its greatest strength is the depth of the music and the atmosphere it creates. As calm and mystical as the rest of the album fulfilling its charge admirably. 7.5\10

7. Boffyflow and Spike – Starting with a strong bass and drum line the second instrumental track on the album is a fun upbeat Irish-rock jam. The most exuberant instrumental by Morrison to date (at that time) is led by a punchy guitar and the uilleann pipes and the outstanding contrast they create. This number was turned in with the help of emerging Irish rock band Moving Hearts providing the instrumental feel Van had imagined. At three minutes and change it’s the perfect length for this type of song and keeps you interested the whole way through. 8.5\10

8. If You Only Knew – Pure vintage jazz on display here as Van makes his first dip into the Mose Allison well with this jazzy jumper. The vocals of Morrison add so much to the song that Allison could not, this version feels like a cabana caper soundtrack. The furious saxophone growl and psychedelic organ grind are the central spice in a bouquet of sound that does its originator proud. 8\10

9. Let the Slave (Incorporating the Price of Experience) – This is uncharted territory for Morrison, its larger-than-life from the start, an obvious epic by Morrison’s vision, by in a style so hauntingly bright it almost confuses the senses. This was Morrison needing to bring the words to life. This one is Morrison’s love of poetry, the recital of William Blake the makes of the second half of the song is the inspiration for it all. A very bold effort 8.5\10

10. A New Kind of Man – Far too simple and safe to follow the works of this surprisingly strong side two; but it finds it’s footing and proves it’s place amongst the album. A short and sweet horn humming promise to improve and love forever gives this one the happy ending it so clearly was headed for. 7\10


…This is not empty music; the concept of music is Van’s muse. There is still an air of the recent style but this one is moving away from the form of “Inarticulate Speech of the Heart” and side two suggests towards something new and bold yet again. Morrison constantly reinvents his music around who and what are in his life at the time and this album is another example of that. Morrison does not sing of his current or past loves, of friends come and gone but instead of poets and writers and in the words of his musical Inspirations taking from Ray Charles and Mose Allison. It’s a new sound and one that is far from refined, but it’s also a needed change of pace for an artist becoming complacent at times previous.

Defining Track(s): “Let the Slave” is how people judge this album. It’s so unique and so inaccessible that it becomes obviously divisive and defining.
Line in my head: “I call my Love Philosophy”
Christagu’s Take: By marrying R&B usages to Celtic mysticism in an art that honors both and then some, Morrison proved there was more to R&B than even Ray Charles had dreamed. But when inspiration fails him, he's left with uninspired art. At his most automatic, Charles still has R&B. C+

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ***1/2
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 7.5
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: No Guru, No Method, No Teacher- 1985

Piss Me Off 08-18-2008 11:35 AM

Took the video out, can't you find it on youtube?

First listen of Astral Weeks by the way, sounding really good. Great voice and some interesting compositions which work really well.

Son of JayJamJah 08-18-2008 12:51 PM

Yeah it's not on youtube

It was a video of a 1985 performance of "Tore Down a la Rimbaud" the opening cut from the above reviewed album.

If people want to see it, it's available on vanmorrison.com in the members section.

Membership requires nothing more then an email address and a confirm email.

There are always live performances available there that you can not get on youtube

Thanks for the quick post PMO, Music banter employee of the month?

jackhammer 08-18-2008 01:37 PM

I am going to check out the compilations later tonight and give you my thoughts.

Piss Me Off 08-18-2008 01:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JayJamJah (Post 508132)
Thanks for the quick post PMO, Music banter employee of the month?

Maybe the least busy :D

NoseClams 08-22-2008 09:38 AM

amazing job JJJ

Son of JayJamJah 08-26-2008 12:10 PM

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986)
 
In between “A Sense of Wonder” and his next studio release featured below Morrison took time to try something new, he composed the musical score for the Movie “Lamb” staring Liam Neeson. He also spent a good amount of time further investigating the link between music and its effects on the mind, body, heart and soul. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the “No Guru…” album featured no instrumentals and several chants or mantras mixed into the music.

http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B0...CLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986)

Hailed by many critics as “A return to form” it is an improvement from “A Sense of Wonder” and a very good album, however it is far a return to any form Morrison has ever taken. Several tracks have a fresh and fun sound to them and are almost like discovering a new band with that same old voice behind and acoustic guitar at the bare soul. There is a more mature approach to these songs and a more full sound as a result of having more confidence and trust with his surrounding musicians as well as perhaps most importantly in himself. Morrison had made a habit of denying both conventional and new age thinking and methodology when it came to making decisions in his music and his life and this album and this time in his life were no exception…

1. Got to go Back – Opening casually with a mood reminiscent of Veedon Fleeces’ “Fair Play” but the vocals are a more nostalgic growl. This song a mix of the old and the new more plainly expresses an emerging theme in Morrison’s music of the era as the introverted isolationist vocalizes his need to reconnect and make peace with his past. The humming of the saxophone and the dancing piano keys orchestrate the simple verse while the entire ensemble escalates for the chorus. Light and lovely and a well designed opening track. 7.5\10

2. Oh The Warm Feeling – A familiar ethereal feel encompasses this song write out of the gate and at first listen feels like a been there done that number. However further examination reveals a very sweet acoustic rhythm and a staggering vocal delivery of sweet and simple poetic lyrics. Maybe a little to tame for the horns, and better served as a minimalist piece but certainly a good song. 7\10

3. Foreign Window – Some of the best lyrical work on the album as Morrison compiles another list of ways to weave themes into each other carrying a central lyrical core with the atmospheric theme of the album. There are parts of the album feel like they’ve grown out of the epics of Morrison’s late 70’s albums. Songs like “Take it Where you Find it” and “The Healing has begun”. He also mixes in another nod to Rimbaud and a mystical catch phrase “In the Palace of the Lord”. All this amongst another escalating horn and drum driven number with eloquent backing vocals and acoustic guitar spasms. 7.5\10

4. A Town Called Paradise – The slightly more exuberant and equally exotic “A Town Called Paradise” watches Van address with his woman, his lord or perhaps both or even neither. The piano pushes the acoustic strumming rhythm daring it to keep up as the horns and harmonies of the choir enter during the interludes. Making way for Van to build the energy needed to deliver the next verse. The complex arrangement of the song takes several listens to fully appreciate and the splendor of it’s culmination even overwhelms Morrison as he departs speaking of “going down to the river…down to paradise” This songs begins the heart of the album and one of the strongest runs of music Van has created before or since. 8.5\10

5. In the Garden – – This is a definite throwback; starting with a lyrical illusion to Astral Weeks, “…fields all wet with rain”, reinforced by the acoustic arrangement and growl-heavy vocal performance. The piano delicately duets with the acoustic strumming in this for all implicit purposes title track. Morrison wrote the track as a meditation aide and it’s easy to see this is the case. The transition from Morrison’s distant vocals to the front and center piano sound all the while the guitar setting the tempo behind creates a undeniable hook within the song. Closing with the album title mantra, a response to critics and cynics trying to pigeon whole Morrison’s motivations and inspirations. “No Guru, No Method, No Teacher. A definite winner closing side one and probably the song with the greatest lasting legacy from this now more then two decade old effort. 9\10

6. Tir Ni Nog – Another highlight of the album and perhaps the most singularly beautiful melody of the decade for Morrison. Tir Ni Nog or “Land of the Eternal Youth” is another part of Morrison’s continuing attempt to go back to the days of his youth that have shaped him and still seem to haunt him. The triumphant nature and feel to this music, to this song suggests a sort of coming to peace with the issue as well as the cathartic line “We took each others hands and cried like the rivers”. Joseph Edelberg turns in a wonderful performance on the violin (reminiscent of Sweet Thing) and overall the strings make this song; the cello and bass are breathtaking as the beat chugs along confidently and Morrison narrates in his most sensational style. A truly moving song and one of the Van Morrison highlights of the decade for me. 9.5\10

7. Here Comes the Knight – Morrison puns at his own work, the nearly twenty year old “Them” and their second most famous number ‘Here comes the Night” the horns and the bass push this melody with the piano and drums keeping time. Back-up vocals emphasize the insistent chorus line and help reinforce the song. This is an example of the consummate song writing displayed on this album, each movement is precisely the same length and the timing mirrors itself from start to middle and back to the end. 7.5\10

8. Thanks for the Information – The ominous social commentary track with a distinct sound that seems out of place on this supposedly more evolved Morrison effort, but it shows it full repertoire as it moves into its crescendo and elevated chorus. The saxophone and trumpet banter back and forth with the electric guitar plucking filling in the little gaps. The Most dynamic and effective use of the back-up choir is unquestionably from this track. Another thoughtful piece that fits the puzzle exactly right despite a few atypical adjustments to the musical arrangement. The lyrics are filled with ironic meaningless clichés when contrasted with the title and opening line “Thanks for the Information” a song that emerges as a surprise charmer. 8.5\10

9. One Irish Rover – The soft Celtic charm of Morrison’s nostalgia is on full display in this light, simple and rhythmic penultimate pleaser. With a faint melody made by the synthesizer and the cor angelis Oboe. A simple circular pattern with gently conveyed lyrics of a traditional nature make this a simple but satisfying song to help bridge the gap from the core of the album to it’s energetic finale. 7\10

10. Ivory Tower – Electric guitar and rhythm this one that becomes the piano powered energetic closer in which Morrison further expresses his lack of comfort in stardom and his lack of patience and understanding for those who embrace it. The harmonica hides behind the lead vocal as the horns blare in the background of the country electric guitar rhythms which only help enhance the energetic gait that characterizes this formidable finale. Another lasting success from the album, still a favorite at the live shows reminding fans of the Tupelo Honey, Hard Nose days. Again thoughtful construction and placement make this song a perfect fit on an album with songs sharing very few fundamental characteristics otherwise. A great way to end a great album. 8.5\10

…This is not necessarily a song cycle album; at least it was not hailed as one, but listen to a few times in succession and tell me it doesn’t feel like one piece. It’s not Astral Weeks, but it’s a close as Morrison ever came, the acoustic guitar is at the core of 90% of the music and the violins, horns and strings are used more for crescendo then rhythm or tempo throughout. There is a constant stream of pain in the music contrasted by the optimism and confidence in the vocal deliveries of Morrison. An emerging classic for me, doing this review has allowed me to rediscover how a time of my life and how much I enjoyed the music and the people in it then. One of the top 10 albums of the decade you probably haven’t heard.

http://www.rockpalastarchiv.de/conce...morrison00.jpg

Defining Track(s): Really hard to say, the two side closers “In the Garden” and “Ivory Tower” are the fan favorites. I personally think that tracks 4-8 are a great section of music.
Line in my head: “It doesn’t matter what they say, it doesn’t matter what they do, all that matters is my relationship with you.
Christagu’s Take: No soap radio, no particular place to go, no man is an island. No spring chicken, No-Doze, no can do. B

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 9
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: Poetic Champions Compose- 1987

Son of JayJamJah 09-07-2008 05:32 PM

Multiple reviews coming as soon as I get settled into the winter home.

NoseClams 09-08-2008 10:03 PM

choice stuff. whats with the overall rating?

Son of JayJamJah 09-11-2008 08:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NoseClams (Post 516056)
choice stuff. whats with the overall rating?

After I finishing the discography I'll rank all the albums (the 33 I studio albums I'm reviewing) just to give it a further personal touch. Thanks for the nice comments.

Son of JayJamJah 11-01-2008 04:55 PM

Poetic Champions Compose (1987)
 
By 1987 Morrison had shed critics and doubters and continued to improve his new format and method. The shift into a being a contemporary artist was complete. Just brief flashes of rugged, raw nature of his earlier work; a mostly refined polished sound was now the norm. His fascination with music and its healing power was still at the forefront of his mind and his lyrics along with a new fascination with philosophy.

http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B0...136393976_.jpg

Poetic Champions Compose (1987)

Often regarded as his finest work of the decade, Poetic Champions Compose is the culmination of Morrison’s transformation. While I’d debate it’s standing in terms of greatness there is little doubt this is most well composed and executed collection based on technical merit. The sound is soft and clean and at times moving in it’s elegance but other then a few fantastic moments it’s nothing more then a high end sort of easy listening album…

1. Spanish Steps – Cautious instrumental opener, horns are front and center as cautious keys and silky strings provide a Smoky underbelly for the music to swim and slide. A more formal welcoming then we are accustomed to from Van Morrison and one true to the albums original intent. Highlighted by a pure jazz piano bridge just past the two minute mark that raises the songs pulse for a moment. 7\10

2. The Mystery – Breathtaking, reminiscent of a younger, hungrier Van Morrison. Violins elevate dramatic elements as the song soothes and heals. A mature and majestic Morrison propels the song with a lyrical tirade and a delivery crowded with conviction. The songs strength is its title line and the surrounding instrumental accompaniment. Each instrument perfectly finds its place in this one; the backup vocalists, the piano, the violins and the bass guitar all find chances to briefly take center stage along Van’s vocal lead. A strong and compelling number that satisfies more and more with each listen. 9.5\10

3. Queen of the Slipstream – Gentle, charming number is among the most enduring numbers on the album. A perfect melodic ballad with a nimble and free flowing ambience and a restless but easy gait. An accidental title track with subtle lyrical companion. It embodies the albums innocence in honesty. This is Morrison comfortable in his own skin. Nothing daring or embolden, just a smooth, easy, elegant number that feels exactly right. It’s a perfect example of the direction of the music in the past 6-7 years; possibly the most popular song from the album. 8\10

4. I Forgot that Love Existed – Piano moves a confident jumper song behind an exotic and entertaining bass track. Morrison whispers a simple title message and flushes out empathy and enthusiasm and then embraces these presumed lost attributes. Philosophy heavy lyrical content and the instrumentals interludes are outstanding elements of the song that both point towards its original design as an instrumental. Electric guitar utilized as it rarely is in Morrison’s music, safe but satisfying a solid number. 8\10

5. Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child – A completely individual rendition of the traditional classic made most notable by Ritchie Havens at Woodstock 17 years earlier. Sonic drama devoted to each moment; an eerie backdrop behind familiar lyrics in a unique delivery are the elements that make up Morrison’s ominous interpretation. The harp and horns carve the melody carefully and creatively shaping the song formaticly. A fine song. 7\10

6. Celtic Excavation – The Horns are diplomatic as the set the pace for this distinctive ace of an instrumental piece to close side one. The Piano provides a breathtaking accompaniment that glides around each measure with precision and poise. A song that makes you feel light and care free, ultimately relaxing. It’s easy nature also breeds an instant familiarity and an accompanying comfort. 8\10

7. Someone Like You – A love song without question, a gentle number that builds just to a flutter and eases into a beautiful state of mind. Still despite its natural broad appeal and numerous cinematic cameos it quickly becomes a mood piece and an otherwise rather boring and repetitive song. This is really the only element of Morrison’s music I’ve never fully enjoyed or understood. Even the best of this breed score low on my scale. 7\10

8. Alan Watts Blues – Mystic Jazz is the phrase that comes to mind as it did the first time I heard this one. It quickly evolves into a toe-taper as the melody seduces your soul. Rhythm is the core and the gentle guitar fills add an element of excitement and provide foreshadowing of the more energetic chorus. The piano acts as a guide from section to section taking center stage in the in-between and instrumentals. The almost ironic title is a nod to Morrison’s philosophical influence of the time. “Whereabouts unknown”, the payoff line, is Morrison’s homage to his own mood and understanding. A very enjoyable song from beginning to end even if a little circular and repetitive. 8.5\10

9. Give Me My Rapture – A sort of curious, almost playful melody drives the song through the opening measures as the piano and vocals prepare to provide the soul of the song. A song with clear direction and a mellow twist on a major request. This is another song with an ultimately confident Morrison at the wheel. The happy go lucky atmosphere of the song only benefits it’s core request. 7.5\10

10. Did Ya Get Healed – Layers of light lounge style horns line the opening of the song making way for Morrison muse to guide him again. It’s fashionable façade is done with delicate consideration for the style and purpose of the music. To entertain and inquire or profess or desire, in general to improve. Morrison whispers away the songs final moments. 7\10

11. Allow Me – As subtlety and elegantly as the album had opened, so it closes with some of most spot on placement in recent memory. Each note acts to tighten the loose ends the final number serves to tie. Just pure and simple, easy jazz with a persuasive and prodigious pulse. Aptly titled and enduring as any instrumental from the period, there is no better way in music to say good-bye then these careful selected notes in this four minute farewell. 8\10

…As mentioned the album was imagined as a Jazz Instrumental collection, however Morrison found the lyrics coming naturally. He credits almost all of the lyrics to stream of consciousness a tactic similarly humiliated in his earlier works and live performances. And while some of the original songs were scrapped in favor of the more contemporary classics others like “Did Ya Get Healed” and “I forgot that Love existed” are clearly cut out to be stand alone instrumental numbers. Overall the album moves freely and confidently and is a well crafted enjoyable listen.

http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/van-glasto-87-cover.jpg

Defining Track(s): “The Mystery” is easily my favorite, but “Someone like You” and “Queen of the Slipstream” better represent it as a whole.
Line in my head: “Let go into the Mystery”
Christagu’s Take: B+ His first interesting album in five years sounds best as a CD for the same reason it isn't all that interesting--in his current spiritual state, which could last until he rages against the dying of the light, he doesn't much care about interesting. He just wants to roll on, undulating from rhythmic hill to melodic dale. If only he'd resequenced the third-stream instrumental "Celtic Excavation" so that it closed the full-length digital work instead of opening its nonexistent second side, he'd have framed his dinner music perfectly. Yeah, dinner music--I figure if it doesn't make me want to vomit, it must have something going for it.

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ***1/2
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 8
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: Irish Heartbeat- 1988

Dr_Rez 11-18-2008 02:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JayJamJah (Post 488177)

This was the first Van Morrison album I ever listened to, ever bought and ever loved. Almost the anti-Astral Weeks in the sense that the songs stand out individually much more then collectively, still there is a tremendous consistency in quality and a unique nature that is somehow more soulful and sincere then much music of similar styles. Poppy and brash at times, nostalgic and optimistic throughout. Every song is a celebration of either a good time had or bright things to come. From the opening track’s “Rain let up and sun came up” till the finale “Glad Tidings” Morrison shows that the dark side of Astral Weeks which deals with the agony of life at times is worth the struggle because of the beauty and happiness displayed in Moondance…

Well I listened to this album last night instead of a compilation since you stated this was the first you listened to. I don't think there was any track I disliked. Although I was disappointed in the title track Moondance. Did not stick out on the album at all, possibly even being my least favorite song. (still very good though)

I think I will work backwords on the albums from here.

Son of JayJamJah 11-18-2008 08:30 PM

Great choice Rezz

If you'd like any albums, I have them can put them on digital format and could send them to you.

I also think the title track is a weak link on Moondance. What was\were your favorite(s)?

I still think the comps are worthwhile, I'd also recommend, St. Dominic's Preview, Tupelo Honey or His Band and the Street Choir as a next listen.

rer830 11-25-2008 07:50 PM

awesome
 
You are doing a great job here. My favorite Van is live, by miles. I heard he is getting ready to put out another live one and I can't wait. Looking forward to your take on some of his more recent releases.

Ghostrider 11-30-2008 07:17 AM

Been a while since I stopped by to read your amazing reviews of Van, I see I have some catching up to do.

Belated congratulations on your Moderator promotion, I would have recommended you and Rezz for the vacant position, I hope it works out for you.

Sorry to hear about your fire, I had one about 9 years ago and most of my vinyl albums were destroyed, and most of my photographs as well. The music I have replaced but the pictures are gone forever. I was going to offer some albums for you to consider, but I see in your Ashes to Ashes thread the generosity of the MB community is already taking care of that.

Good luck JJJ, hopefully you have nothing but good fortune from here on out.:)

Son of JayJamJah 11-30-2008 03:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sasquatch (Post 554926)
Been a while since I stopped by to read your amazing reviews of Van, I see I have some catching up to do.

Belated congratulations on your Moderator promotion, I would have recommended you and Rezz for the vacant position, I hope it works out for you.

Sorry to hear about your fire, I had one about 9 years ago and most of my vinyl albums were destroyed, and most of my photographs as well. The music I have replaced but the pictures are gone forever. I was going to offer some albums for you to consider, but I see in your Ashes to Ashes thread the generosity of the MB community is already taking care of that.

Good luck JJJ, hopefully you have nothing but good fortune from here on out.:)

That's one of the nicest and most flattering posts I've had directed at me, thanks Sasquatch! I'm sorry we both had the misfortune of our experience, I hope you were as lucky as we were not to have any harm come to our family or pets. Best wishes and I am glad you enjoy the Morrison reviews, probably do another one tonight or tomorrow night oddly enough.

Ghostrider 12-05-2008 07:55 PM

Yeah nothing was lost but some possessions everyone including the pets escaped without a scratch.

I finally got my hands on some serious Van Morrison albums, from 1968 to 1983 about 15 of them altogether, and they are hard to find, took me a while. I will go through them and read your album reviews as I play them, then I may be able to offer an intelligent observation or two on this subject.;)

I certainly hope you continue to provide your in depth reviews, now that I have some reference material to enjoy along with your thread.

Son of JayJamJah 04-27-2009 09:44 PM

Irish Heartbeat (1988)
 
Recorded in Dublin, Ireland in the Winter of 1987, after the group and Morrison had discussed recording an album together a few years prior. Recalls Paddy Maloney of the Chieftains: “I think at that time Van was searching for his Irish roots. It was this man of blues, of rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and more importantly soul, coming home to his Irishness with The Chieftains and the music we’d been playing for so many years. Musically we were going to meet each other half way.” The union culminated in the album release and a concert for the BBC on St. Patrick’s Day 1988.

http://www.paulmt.com/Linked%20Pages/arm/img1/1946.jpg

Irish Heartbeat (1988)

Comprised of eight traditional Irish numbers and two reworkings of previously released Morrison originals, the album is distinctly Irish but still with noticeable Morrison panache woven in. The album was welcomed to warm critical reviews and became on the most critical acclaimed and best selling albums of 1988, still in retrospect it does not hold the same esteem or place in my memory that much of his less ballyhooed earlier and later original albums…

1. Star of the County Down – Distinctly Irish traditional with a lighthearted gait through the verse building towards the resounding chorus and it’s subtle at first then obvious harmonies. An easy song to enjoy and be annoyed by, I happen to like this filth so it meets my approval. 7\10

2. Irish Heartbeat – The soft and welcoming Morrison original is re-imagined in a delightful way. Originally released on 1983’s “Inarticulate Speech of the Heart” it harkens back to a time of Morrison’s longing to return and reconnect with his roots and thus is appropriate in it’s inclusion on this album recorded in Ireland with the traditional giants. 7.5\10

3. Ta Mo Chleahnas Deanta – This traditional March number features a back and forth between Kevin Coneef and Morrison on lead vocals and a harmony through the chorus with Mary Black, the combination of vocal styles paired with the distinct and charming sounds of Ireland help this song work comfortably into flow of the album and make it an enjoyable addition. 8\10

4. Raglan Road – Inspired and based on a poem by Patrick Kavanaugh, this gradual builder is a heavy handed number as much an acquired taste as any on the album. Well delivered by limited in terms of appeal, instrumentally as tame and predictable as any on the album thus far and maybe the weak link through the albums first side. Morrison’s lyrical bellows are not the same when the pain he sings of is not his and this is evident on many parts of this album. 6.5\10

5. She Moved Through the Fair – One of the most creative and individual renditions of this number closes side one with a detailed soft introduction welcoming Morrison’s vocals which carry the verses almost alone throughout as the pulse never raises much above a whisper from beginning to end. 6.5\10

6. I’ll Tell Me Ma – Side two opens with more energy but it’s not necessarily a good thing this one falls on the wrong side of the thin line between charming and annoying a little two often as the feeling of an Irish square-dance is not one I need to revisit. Still innocent enough it’s over as quick as it starts and is probably pretty good if you’re drunk. 6\10

7. Carrickfergus – Another traditional ballad and proclamation of love as this song rocks back and forth on its own harmony. Morrison sings with candor but without conviction, it’s simply a well tuned instrument playing a song as to form as it can. Still a few moments of Van’s signature shriek and the natural lure of the song are enough to make the experience an enjoyable one. 7\10

8. Celtic Ray – The second Morrison original, Celtic Ray, originally released just five years prior finds itself right in the middle of side two and finds a more comfortable home in 1988’s Irish backdrop then it did in it’s synthesized resting place a few years ago. The chorus is still the catchy and signature moment of the song; and the only missing element is the desperation of the more agonized Morrison. 7.5\10

9. My Lagan Love – Tedious, especially at this point of the album. This is the point where I start to get disinterested every time, this time is no exception. 5.5\10

10. Marie’s Wedding – The Closing number is a joyful song from start to finish and does a nice job of sort of encapsulating the albums best qualities without putting a false face on it. A toe-tapper you’d call it, simple and safe enough and just short enough to stay charming. 7\10

…As the album wears on it’s easy to lose interest a pure Morrison fan, it’s not his world you’re in, it’s his reconnection to his roots your witnessing, or at least the symbolic re-embrace that culminates his quest to go back as he first mentioned directly in “Irish Heartbeat” after hinting at it time to time throughout the 1970’s. A solid musical compilation, but lacking the energy or individuality to be a lasting gem.

http://www.rockpalastarchiv.de/conce...morrison00.jpg

Defining Track(s): “Carrickfergus” and “Ta Mo Chleahnas Deanta” are my favorite traditional covers and that’s the album’s concept.
Line in my head: “She’s the wee Lass that’s left my hear broken”
Christagu’s Take: C+ Having finally met up with the jet-setting Irish traditionalists, known the world over for sitting down with anybody who'll look good on their résumé, the blocked poet essays a few jigs in a misguided attempt to prove he hasn't lost his rebop. Instead he should take another cue from the bluesmen who taught him his ****--once you settle into other people's songs, the secret of an honorable senescence is your own sense of rhythm.

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ***
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 6.5
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: Avalon Sunset - 1989

Son of JayJamJah 04-28-2009 03:31 PM

Avalon Sunset (1990)
 
Continuing his quest to fill the uncertainly of his Spiritual side Morrison goes to work on his most devout and mystical effort to date.

http://cdn.7static.com/static/img/sl...201962_350.jpg

Avalon Sunset (1989)

A major commercial and critical success, it features a major hit, a major standard composition and my least favorite and most confusing Morrison track ever. An album better then I remembered but not as good as others remember…

1. Whenever God Shines His Light – Like most atheists I just love a good God heavy song and this sure is one. It’s as pretentious and as adoring as its title suggests, but that is not to diminish the music which is if not unique certainly well executed and enjoyable. The vocal duet with Cliff Richard and the playful peppy beat are a winning combination despite there more then a little cheesy nature. A solid choice for the opening number on the album. 7.5\10

2. Contacting My Angel – Smooth Jazz walk at a slow and steady gait through the Celtic roots Morrison continued to embrace. Never gains much stem, as Morrison sort of builds the mood of the album too come without giving away too much in foreshadowing. It’s just not what you’re looking for as a long time Morrison fan, but it certainly found it’s audience and I’m as guilty as anyone my age for enjoying it a bit too much in the sentimental department. 6\10

3. I’d Love to Write Another Song – An up-tempo romp with an ensemble arrangement featuring full band, horn section, piano and back-up vocals. The Black Sheep of the album that seems to be a bit of inspiration for Morrison work of the late 2000’s decade. It’s Morrison lamenting the inability to just “write another song” This is one that would work better on a different album then it does here amongst the ethereal mist. 6.5\10

4. Have I Told you Lately – One of Morrison’s many adult contemporary standards written in the 80’s and 90’s. This number was made a huge hit five years later by Rod Stewart. A lot of the thoughts I have about “Contacting my Angel” fit for this song, yes it’s a bit tacky a loaded with cliché but lyrically and musically, but it’s still beautiful when the right voice and the right arrangement belt it out. 7.5\10

5. Coney Island – Morrison starts in poetic narrative monologue and for two minutes that an almost humorous Irish\Scottish accent is all you get. I still haven’t let this one slide. 3.5\10

6. I’m Tired Joey Boy – This is what Coney Island should have been; there is a nice progression here and a subtly delightful melody complete with perfectly anticipated and executed fills. Opening up the second side with new reason for optimism in both the message and the music: It’s a traditional number with a modern twist and at under three minutes it’s the perfect length. 7.5\10

7. When Will I ever Learn to Live in God – Morrison at his most anxious and involved on this album as he breaks cadence to set the mood even more mystical then the music can reveal. The chorus is a reminder of his finest moments of the decade finding the right notes and the right words to relate the desperation of his uncertainty. It’s Gospel undertones are another theme prevalent on the album. “Avalon Sunset” is often considered Morrison’s most spiritual album. 8\10

8. Orangefield – Orangefield is a song of hope and belief of faith really and one that I instantly liked. It has the distinct sound of 1989 allover it and yet overcomes that to persist as a touching number. The song builds very well and the subtle adjustments in arrangement including the more preeminent use of the strings in the final verse and chorus set this composition apart from the rest of the album. 8.5\10

9. Daring Night – The most sensual track on the album, “Daring Night” was actually intended as an Instrumental for an album earlier in the decade, but Morrison’s impromptu lyrics in one studio session led to a lightly scripted arrangement that eventually became this track. With the acute attention paid to the musical cadence the combination with Morrison’s powerful growl and desperate anxiety elevate this number above its base merits. Morrison even slows it down and turns instruction into lyrics in-between chorus lines. The drawn out ending is a highlight of the album. 8\10

10. These are the Days – The final track is another inspirational celebration of the present despite the futures uncertainty. A far cry from the Morrison of 15 and 20 years prior, but yet still a musical giant with a great voice he’s still displaying at anytime his message needs it. A restful, seductive rhythm and the hopeful lyrics melt into a mystical menagerie of all the albums elements and a fitting closing chapter. Morrison feels this music as sincerely as any he has in quite sometime and this in my opinion is what drove the success of this album, the second biggest seller of the decade.. 8\10

…Christagu is accurate in describing Van’s experimentation in various genres to be a bit boring despite the quality often times. Overall however I am not as kind to the album as he is. It is boring overall, again it fails to consistently capture me the way Morrison always had, not then and still not now. There is no doubt that it is a strong finish, but at this point that’s more the expectation then the exclamation for Morrison.

http://www.cjmarsicano.com/images/spts/vanmorrison.jpg

Defining Track(s): “Whenever God Shines His Light”, “Have I told You Lately” they are the biggest hits and speak directly to Morrison’s most prevalent theme and most prolific style of songwriting.
Line in my head: “One Four, One Four” (calling for the chord pattern in the ending of Daring Night)
Christagu’s Take: A- Like it or not, Morrison's genre exercises are kind of boring. Having long since sold his soul to his Muse, he's her slave for life, and though he keeps importuning various gods to loose his chains, the best they can offer is extra inspiration once in a while--now, for instance. Cliff Richard's support on his liveliest tune since "Cleaning Windows" suggests that Christ the Redeemer is lending a hand, but on the first side Van prefers to find the divine in the blessed present--folk lyric, poem about birdwatching, song called "I'd Like To Write Another Song." Side two comes out more today-is-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-Van's-life--that is, his own genre exercise. And for a side he gets away with it.

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ***1\2
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 7.5
Overall Ranking: TBD


Next up: Enlightenment- 1990

Ghostrider 04-29-2009 09:41 AM

Nice to see you back JJJ and updating your magnum opus. I'll put Van back in my rotation now.;)

Son of JayJamJah 04-29-2009 10:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ghostrider (Post 648806)
Nice to see you back JJJ and updating your magnum opus. I'll put Van back in my rotation now.;)

Thanks for all your support all along, it's nice to have time to devout to something I so thoroughly enjoy once again. These albums are not his best, but I'll still take them over 90% of the music I hear on the radio and in general in public.

Son of JayJamJah 05-19-2009 01:26 PM

So now we've traveled through three decades of Van Morrison music and still have two more to go, however before I continue I have a few things I'd like to do. First and foremost I'd like to ask anyone here who has been following or is currently reading this thread to share their thoughts as many or few as you have on Morrison; Obviously my viewpoint is biased, but the MB community has always been one to have an open and thoughtful mind and your contributions could greatly strengthen this thread and it's value to those who are interested enough in the subject manner to read it.

To sum it up:

What are your thoughts on Van Morrison, his career to date and his place in music history?

Thanks,

Jack, Jackie, 3J, Jayjamjah

Bulldog 05-19-2009 02:49 PM

I'll be honest and say I don't really have an opinion on Van Morrison - I've just never come across any of his music before. That said, this is a really well-written thread (and one I took a few cues from for my own discography thread), so I'll get a few albums based on your reviews soon, give this thread a good read and get back to you on that question a bit later in the week.

S. Flavious Mercurius 05-20-2009 09:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JayJamJah (Post 662098)
So now we've traveled through three decades of Van Morrison music and still have two more to go, however before I continue I have a few things I'd like to do. First and foremost I'd like to ask anyone here who has been following or is currently reading this thread to share their thoughts as many or few as you have on Morrison; Obviously my viewpoint is biased, but the MB community has always been one to have an open and thoughtful mind and your contributions could greatly strengthen this thread and it's value to those who are interested enough in the subject manner to read it.

To sum it up:

What are your thoughts on Van Morrison, his career to date and his place in music history?

Thanks,

Jack, Jackie, 3J, Jayjamjah


I like Van Morrison, I got the Moondance album when I was in high school becuase my friend said I'd like it. I really like the horns and the vocals, I never got into most of there albums on this thread, but it is an amzazing thread and I think I should. Is there anywhere to download them or sample them for free.

Guybrush 05-20-2009 04:30 PM

Wow, interesting .. I hadn't noticed that this thread had been revived :) I have a few Van Morrison albums (Astral Weeks, Moondance, Saint Dominic's preview, His Band and the Street Choir, a "best of" if that counts), but I don't have any kind of clear opinions on any of them. Still, I just wanted to make a post and say that it's nice to have you back and I'll see if I can read some of your reviews while I listen to him tomorrow. Maybe I can contribute with with some viewpoints later on.


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