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Son of JayJamJah 06-29-2009 06:12 PM

Recaping to this Point
Here's a quick look back at the albums we've covered so far from the 1960's, 70's and 80's.

Blowin’ Your Mind (1967) – Solo debut complete with all-time fan favorite “Brown Eyed Girl” and the silky smooth “TB Sheets”; not the best place to start if you’re a new fan, but one you’ll really appreciate after you get through most of the 1970’s stuff. Total Score: 10.5\15

Astral Weeks (1968) – The precipitous powerhouse and mystical classic, the album Van had been making in his mind since he started to perform. Nine near perfect songs that transcend any album like it ever moving seamlessly together in poignant poetic motion. A must for all music fans and you won’t hear that from me much. If you’re familiar with his radio singles and greatest hits albums this is the next step. You’ll love it. Total Score: 15\15

Moondance (1970) – Popular rock music perfection; every song on the album is capable of being a hit single. Songs like “Moondance”, “Into the Mystic” and “Crazy Love” that are Morrison classics and lesser known but equally exceptional numbers like “Glad Tiding” and “These Dreams of You”. The most accessible and relatable album he’s made and one of the very best. Total Score: 14.5\15

His Band and the Street Choir (1970) – A sort of B-sides follow-up to Moondance and another very listener friendly album. First album to display the common Morrison bookends pattern with the first single as the opening track (“Domino” on here) and a stirring epic as its finale (“Street Choir”).I recommend this to anyone who liked Moondance. Total Score: 12.5\15

Tupelo Honey (1971) – Commercial success with a slower softer country side to it. Known casually for its popular singles “Warm Love” and the title track but I’ll take the bookends again “Wild, Wild Night” and “Moonshine Whiskey”. Mass appeal is a strength of this album, worth picking up for sure. Total Score: 12\15

St. Dominic’s Preview (1972) – A hidden gem in the Morrison catalogue, diverse assortment of songs all featuring a banner effort from Van the Man. Each side ends with an epic free lance improvisational arrangement and the first time he hinted at another song cycle album similar to Astral Weeks. If you like any Morrison you’ll really like this album. Total Score: 14.5\15

Hard Nose the Highway (1973) – The first Morrison album to really fall short, at least commercially and critically. I still love it and think it has a number of very good tracks. “Snow in San Anselmo”, “Hard Nose the Highway” and “Purple Heather”. An album of agony in many ways for a recently divorced Van. Make your own opinion, I think it’s one of his better albums overall. Total Score: 11.5\15

Veedon Fleece (1974) – A return to the song cycle album and though it draws mixed reviews it’s unquestionably a unique album in the Morrison catalogue. Some vehemently emotional songs again moving together seamlessly if it has a flaw it’s that it sort of peters out rather then finding a grandiose finale. The final album of the first era of Morrison’s music; a little off kilter but very enjoyable. Total Score: 13.5\15

A Period of Transition (1977) – Apropos titled album after a three year hiatus Morrison starts to trend towards Jazz more then ever. There are still elements of the R&B\Soul roots of course particularly in “Heavy Connection” a standout on the seven song revival. Probably not many people’s favorite Morrison albums, but a necessary one. Total Score: 11\15

Wavelength (1978) – A more electric and electronic album showing Van changing with the times rather then going it alone down the old familiar road. A collection of retrospective pop songs highlighted by loaded second side including the fantastic finale “Take it Where You Find it” one of the best Morrison closers there’s been. Total Score: 11.25\15

Into the Music (1979) – A steady start and finish sandwich a wonderful eclectic mix of songs in the middle of one of Morrison’s most critically acclaimed post-Veedon Fleece albums. Playful songs like “Rolling Hills” and dynamo’s like “And the Healing has Begun” demonstrate the variance of styles on the record. This is the album where Morrison started to have fun again, a worthwhile album for the casual fan and a gem for the ardent follower. Total Score: 12\15

Common One (1980) – The third and final album to closely follow the Astral Weeks song cycle pattern was by far the most critically disdained and a crucial point in Morrison’s career. It would take Van years to get over the scorn that hurt him so much in response to this very personal, much underrated album. Poetic and literally influences abound throughout a favorite of mine amongst Van’s 1980’s works including great songs like “Summertime in England” and “Spirit”. Total Score: 12.5\15

Beautiful Vision (1982) – A much safer and simpler album more in line with the three prior to Common One. Following the trends of the times and mixing it with some vintage Morrison soul, it’s a hit and miss compilation that’s mostly enjoyable throughout and wholly listenable even at its worst. Total Score: 11.5\15

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)
– The first real stinker of an album in my opinion, there are a few good tracks but mostly stuff that I never need to hear again. Soulless covers is what it feels like, not very Van at all. Total Score: 9.5\15

A Sense of Wonder (1984) – An inconsistent album but one that again showed a lsightly more daring Morrison willing to try the new and varied styles he familiarized himself with. Some great R&B tracks and improvisational Jazz and some really boring overly ethereal garbage on this lot. Total Score: 11\15

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986)
– This one was so close to being a masterpiece, but there was a part of Morrison that was just a little too grizzled to pull it off. Still a real memorable album and vital peace of the puzzle, it’s like “Into the Music” but far enough removed that it doesn’t have to be compared to Moondance and St. Dominic’s Preview. A really great album. Total Score: 13\15

Poetic Champions Compose (1987) – The critics say it’s just a little better then it’s predecessor, I say it’s a little bit too scripted, to refined to stand up as strong. There are some fantastic songs that give you chills, but then moments that make you cringe with how predictable, polished and superfluous they can be. “Mystery” however is a near perfect track and along with a few solid counterparts the album does hold up very well. Total Score: 12\15

Irish Heartbeat (1988)
– Marked the first time Morrison brought in an established outside band to record with. And while the album sold very well and was very accessible it’s an overall bland mix of traditional and Morrison originals done stereotypically Irish style, the way the Chieftains prefer it. I barely consider it a Van album. Total Score: 9.5\15

Avalon Sunset (1989) – He lays the God stuff on pretty thick here and though he’s still non-committal it seems like he’s found religion and this album is the most direct with the topic to this point. Shades of Wavelength after a nearly disastrous start turns into a strong side two finish including the fan favorite and album’s best “Orangefield” Total Score: 11.5\15

More to come...

Bulldog 06-30-2009 05:30 AM

Dammit, why I didn't I think of doing one of these for my thread!

I haven't had a proper dig around his discography, but I've had Astral Weeks for about a week. Just giving it a listen now - incredible album. To me he's got this very unique way of combining kinda soulful vocals with a folk backdrop, which makes things all the more intriguing for a first-time listener like me.

Son of JayJamJah 07-17-2009 02:25 PM

Enlightenment (1990)
Finally granting the rights to release an official best of, Morrison also begins touring more and making himself available for interviews again. His albums are commercially and critically successful for awhile and his first effort of the decade does not fail to live up to expectations…

Enlightenment (1990)

Ironically named album and probably the last album to contain direct and obvious links to the 1970’s side of Morrison’s music, one song was a leftover from Common One and several songs pay lyrical homage to the likes of Astral Weeks and St. Dominic’s preview. Still moving with the times largely, the influence of the era is all over this album for better or worse…

1. Real Real Gone – The horns and howls of Van’s early years stand out jumping on a bed of evolved adult contemporary rhythm from the grizzled vocalist. The downside of the song is that it’s simple and safe repetitive melody undercuts a passionate performance from Morrison dying to get out. Written 10 years prior to this album and its release. 7.5\10

2. Enlightenment – The mega mellow, self effacing title track is ambient jazz rock, with a mature Morrison on full display. The Harmonica instrumental break and Van’s occasionally forays into vintage vocal vestige. A likeable song from word one but without any sort of panache to make it stand out. 7\10

3. So Quiet in Here – Notable for being considered a continuation the legendary Moondance classic “Into the Mystic” the bellowing foghorns are where the musical comparisons end however and it’s more the feel that finds continuity then the actual notes. A casual charmer that I still enjoy almost 20 years out. 7.5\10

4. Avalon of the Heart – One of the absolute highlights of the album, a typical later years Morrison gospel tinged epic. Finding that same sense of urgency he’s always been able to conger, Morrison’s chant heavy lyrics make 8\10

5. See Me Through – A calm confidence and mystical jazz set a pleasant mood for a slow by satisfying walk down Morrison’s favorite musical avenue of the era. The somber romanticism with just enough optimism to keep you from apathy, it’s his forte these days and in a lot of ways has been throughout his career. 7\10

6. Youth of 1,000 Summers – Take em’ to church. This is that transcendental Morrison finding inspiration from all him and bottling it into a harmony and musical groove. It’s certainly not the most timeless piece of music, it like most of the album is very 1990, but that’s part of it’s charm, this song is about energy and expression and that’s where Morrison does some of his best work. 7\10

7. In The Days Before Rock’N’Roll – Paul Duncan provides spoken word vocals behind an orchestral R&B through the verses and Morrison provides a numinous and only semi-sensible vocal melody chorus. It almost sounds like a dream sequence from David Lynchs Twin Peaks at times, but behind it all it’s a fantastic, creative and outstanding way to pay homage to those who came before him. 8.5\10

8. Start All over Again – The gentle general vibe of the record continues very much in this one. With simple full sounding progression and transitions an a gentle jazzy build it’s just another musical piece of the puzzle this time around for Van Morrison. Take note of the Vibraphone. 7\10

9. She’s My Baby – No doubt about it from the first note. This is the evolution of “Warm Love”, “Tupelo Honey”, “Crazy Love” and all the other simple and sweet Morrison love songs. Violins emphasize the conviction of Morrison’s chorus chant. That same tender groove carries the melody throughout and more then any other instrument it’s Van’s voice which controls, escalates and resets the pace. 8\10

10. Memories – Maybe the most unique track on the album, and one that has as nice an opening as any. A little sappy and sentimental maybe, but that’s not always a bad thing. The contrasting musical elements make for an absorbing listen. The instrumental break is a little too much for me and sadly highlights the few elements of the direction of the album I do not enjoy. 7.5\10

…What it turns out to be is a collection of good, but certainly not great songs with a few relative high and low points and an overall enjoyable but uninspiring feel. There is some artistic foreshadowing as well it turns out. Morrison, never one to slight his predecessors, becomes more and more ardent in his affection for them with age. His later work will be largely inspired and adapted from the work of his idols.

Defining Track(s): In The Days Before Rock’N’Roll, Avalon of the Heart
Line in my head: “We let the Goldfish go”
Christagu’s Take: B+ Only a perverse mother****er would choose such a title for an album whose title refrain goes "Don't know what it is." What's he trying to do, fake out the satori market? Also: orchestras, the names of r&b singers, a weird recitative about the radio, and other tried-and-trues, all executed with faith, hope, and charity. Inspirational Verse: "In my soul, in my soul, in my soul."
Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 7.5
Overall Ranking: TBD

Next up: Hymns to the Silence- 1991

SATCHMO 07-17-2009 03:43 PM

Great thread Mr. Jah. A few weeks ago I managed to acquire Astral Weeks. It was my first Morrison album, and I have to say I've become quite fond of it. It's good to have this thread so that i might see where to go from here. Keep it up.

Schizotypic 07-17-2009 05:22 PM

Great to see how consistent effort in a thread can really inspire. Hearing the youtube video on the first page kind of made me not want to venture into such a decorated and long catalog, but your reviews definitely show the progression and development of an obviously influential figure in music. I'll for sure check him out as soon as I get the chance. Keep it up, I'm really looking forward to the completed product.

Son of JayJamJah 07-17-2009 07:11 PM

That's great, I'd follow the chronology if I were you. The best and most accessible stuff for fans like us is in the 1970's stuff. Moondance, His band and the Street Choir, St. Dominic's and Tupelo are all good albums to check out next, I would love to send you a comp if you are interested enough to really dive in. Just give me some of your thoughts on the Astral Weeks tracks and overall elements of the album you liked didn't like and I'll be your guide.

Schizotypic 07-19-2009 03:05 PM


Originally Posted by JayJamJah (Post 705531)
That's great, I'd follow the chronology if I were you. The best and most accessible stuff for fans like us is in the 1970's stuff. Moondance, His band and the Street Choir, St. Dominic's and Tupelo are all good albums to check out next, I would love to send you a comp if you are interested enough to really dive in. Just give me some of your thoughts on the Astral Weeks tracks and overall elements of the album you liked didn't like and I'll be your guide.

I'm not much for compositions. It'd prolly work best for me if I just picked-up a really good album by him, if it isn't accessible that's fine (I actually prefer it). If you PM me a link or even just a recommendation I'll pick it up asap and be sure to give it a few spins and get back to you. If I like it enough I'll just throw it on my list and pick up the discography once I get the chance.

Looking forward to the next read.

Son of JayJamJah 07-19-2009 05:28 PM

Van Morrison performing Astral Weeks Live on the East Coast

Aug 4: Boston, MA

Aug 6-7: Washington, DC

Aug 8: Atlantic City, NJ

I will be attending the shows on the 4th 6th & 8th.

I am 6'6" and 52 years old, I'll be the only one; track me down and drinks on me all night.

robjekyll 10-26-2010 06:53 PM

I adore Astral Weeks. It speaks tons to love loss, redemption and alienation not to mention the musicianship of the people that played on the classic album

Basil C. Thurston III 12-21-2015 09:32 PM

I know it's not a favorite among Van fans, but I really like Wavelength....not so much Irish soul but a little more rock 'n' roll....I remember watching him sing it on Saturday Night Live and it really cooked...

bob_32_116 04-02-2016 11:39 AM

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart is the only Van Morrison album I own, and the reason I like it is probably also the reason you don't: - because it does not sound like Van. :D

Sorry, but I never liked his bluesy vocal delivery style at all, and that cloese the door to most of his albums for me. It's less off-putting on his more bouncy poppy songs like brown Eyed Girl, Come Running to Me, and Domino... and of course half of Inarticulate Speech is Instrumental, so no problem there.

I'm particularly jolted by your putdown of Celtic Swing, which I love and consider the centrepiece of the album, a track whose title describes itself perfectly. Oh well, different strokes as they say.

Paul Smeenus 04-02-2016 02:33 PM

Check out "Poetic Champions Compose"

Stephen 04-03-2016 07:16 PM


Originally Posted by bob_32_116 (Post 1689030)
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart is the only Van Morrison album I own, and the reason I like it is probably also the reason you don't: - because it does not sound like Van. :D.

Haven't heard that one. Looking at this thread I realise that applies to 90% of his catalogue. Veedon Fleece is my favourite out of those I have heard. Never been a huge Van fan but that album hit the spot for me.

Jem 02-28-2017 02:35 PM

Wonderful thread. I'm sorry I have only just joined the forum as I would have enjoyed sharing my thoughts and feelings. It is always interesting hearing other opinions on albums which you absolutely love. Unless they only give Troubadours 8/10. Then it is just distressing.

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