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Old 08-22-2008, 09:38 AM   #61 (permalink)
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amazing job JJJ
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Old 08-26-2008, 12:10 PM   #62 (permalink)
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Default 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.



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.



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
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Old 09-07-2008, 05:32 PM   #63 (permalink)
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Multiple reviews coming as soon as I get settled into the winter home.
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If you're posting in the music forums make sure to be thoughtful and expressive, if you're posting in the lounge ask yourself "is this something that adds to the conversation?" It's important to remember that a lot of people use each thread. You're probably not as funny or clever as you think, I know I'm not.

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Old 09-08-2008, 10:03 PM   #64 (permalink)
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choice stuff. whats with the overall rating?
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Old 09-11-2008, 08:02 PM   #65 (permalink)
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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.
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Old 11-01-2008, 04:55 PM   #66 (permalink)
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Default 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.



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.



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
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If you're posting in the music forums make sure to be thoughtful and expressive, if you're posting in the lounge ask yourself "is this something that adds to the conversation?" It's important to remember that a lot of people use each thread. You're probably not as funny or clever as you think, I know I'm not.

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Old 11-18-2008, 02:17 PM   #67 (permalink)
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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.
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:30 PM   #68 (permalink)
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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.
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If you're posting in the music forums make sure to be thoughtful and expressive, if you're posting in the lounge ask yourself "is this something that adds to the conversation?" It's important to remember that a lot of people use each thread. You're probably not as funny or clever as you think, I know I'm not.

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Old 11-25-2008, 07:50 PM   #69 (permalink)
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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.
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Old 11-30-2008, 07:17 AM   #70 (permalink)
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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.
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