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Van Morrison

  • Astral Weeks,
  • Moondance,
  • His Band And The
  • Street Choir,
  • Tupelo Honey,
  • Saint Dominic's Preview,
  • Hard Nose The Highway,
  • Veedon Fleece,
  • A Period Of Transition,
  • Wavelength,
  • Into The Music,
  • Common One,
  • Beautiful Vision,

  • Album Reviews |

    Van Morrison

    Astral Weeks( 1969 )
    Astral Weeks / Beside You / Sweet Thing / Cyprus Avenue / The Way Young Lovers Do / Madame George / Ballerina / Slim Slow Slider

    In another world and in another time, coming home high. In another place, sits 'Astral Weeks'. No way to follow-up 'Brown Eyed Girl' of course, and no way to follow-up his early band Them, but the signs had been there. A utterly beautiful song from the Them era titled 'My Lonely Sad Eyes'. It was there, but everything is here. Almost too much is here. A voice rises through the blues, a heart seeping through - "beside you, beside you" - like a mantra. It stays with you, rain falls right on time. There's such devotion, emptiness, yet utter beauty expertly expressed. Little details, "a scrapbook stuck with glue" - distinctive, exotic guitar, yet delicate, then rising to meet Vans extraordinary vocal performance. Flute, superb jazzy bass lines - so very much going on, quietly, perfectly complimenting the vocal performance. My, my, my - tears of sadness, loss - mixed with memories of joyous happy times deepening the loss. Beauty and soul, that's 'Beside You'. 'Cyprus Avenue' seems like an impossibly magical place to be . You can be in the song and everything is real - yet glorious daydream. Romance. Imagine writing a song about a street from your hometown, describing it so evocatively and beautifully. People and feelings - a place. It's a place to be - a letter from the soul. Wait a minute.... 'Sweet Thing' makes me cry, 'Sweet Thing' makes me smile, 'Sweet Thing' is my post to lean upon when nothing is ever going right, everything is black - impenetrable fog - yet this sheer happiness comes through and again, evocative images and glorious vocals. These vocals.... and these vocals. Van Morrison sings so much from the heart here, that it's sometimes too much. Devotion to music, devotion to feeling and soul. A glorious place to be, and I love the strings, oh I love the strings! "Misty wet with rain"? I'm crying again. Oh, the title song has nice string sections too. It was no 'Brown Eyed Girl' and the album sold poorly at the time, but it's still here, all these years later.

    My tongue gets tied every time I try to speak and my inside shakes just like a leaf on a tree. The way young lovers do. The jazzy lines return, the exotic sunshine and magic is all here and the sound is fuller, with brass instruments, and the song just over three minutes long. Variety, lengthier excursions with the title song, 'Cyprus Avenue' and the sheer glory of 'Madame George' sat between shorter songs perfectly complimenting them. 'Madame George'? It's a folk song, yet extended with subtle, very subtle Jazz bass lines - flute and another extraordinary from the heart and soul vocal and lyric. I fall into a trance..... 'Madame George' captivates so much, poetry, love and joy - sadness - more tears. A masterpiece for each and every single one of it's five hundred and eighty five seconds. It could carry on all day - I could sway gently, but I know you've got to go. The blues is expressed, yet the bass and delicate exotic nature - this strange of its own nature - of 'Astral Weeks' is still right there all through 'Slim Slow Slider'. 'Ballerina' invites you to step right up, invites someone to step right up, but the imagery isn't quite as evocative, or beautiful lyrically, as elsewhere here. The sound is here, the vocal is more than here, but the heart isn't so much here - 'Ballerina' is just a beautiful painting in song. 'Astral Weeks' is one of those albums, timeless of course - disappointing if you walk straight into it as if blindly walking drunkenly into a wall, but that's only natural. 'Astral Weeks' is something to be unravelled, to tug at your heart and invite you to discover your soul - and the soul and deepness of feeling of others.

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    Readers Comments

    Ruth McNerlan ruthmcnerlan@yahoo.co.uk
    This is a excellent poetic review of a beautiful, emotional and highly underrated album. Van Morrison is someone who has never been given the credit he deserves and its good to see someone do him justice for once and rate Astral weeks so highly. I'd give it a 10, but being someone who spent her childhood just a few streets away from Cyprus Avenue and many of the other locations Van Morrison maps out in his songs, I think I have his music ingrained under my skin.

    Kevin Baker bakerspread@computron.net
    Your review totally captures the essence of the album---bravo! Astral Weeks, while I don't listen to it often, is a beautiful, poetic masterpiece of introspective, emotional songwriting. I give both the review (and your site as a whole!) and the album a perfect 10!

    agnesfrechette frechett@granite.mb.ca
    This is a 10. This album can take a listener through life, through friends deaths, breakups, withdrawal of all sorts. It can be listened to lightly, or very heavily - describing perspective, of course. This is the best album to listen to on a hot summer day when it begins to rain and thunder, much like the sound of Van Morisson's utterly poetic and magnetic muse. Rambling D.

    There's just something about this record, something beyond the individual songs, something about the atmosphere that runs through the whole thing that totally enchants me. After four or five listens I couldn't recall most of the melodies to save my life, but while they were playing they were achingly beautiful. The arrangements are wonderful too; the songs never get boring. The way he uses his voice is amazing. This record is so incredibly emotional, and perfectly beautiful. Your review captures this perfectly. This album is its own place, somewhere in the first days of spring where young love is blossoming just as innocence is dying. It's like Van captured a certain kind of melancholy joy, the feeling that goes with the excitement and uncertainly when your life changes and everything is apprehensive but also hopeful. I really don’t know how to explain Astral Weeks. This is why I keep listening to music, for these kinds of experiences. This is why I wade through en! dless reviews and lists and blind record store purchases. Astral Weeks completely validates my obsession with popular music. This is what art is supposed to do.

    Bill Oberg boberg23@hotmail.com
    "And I will raise my hand up into the nighttime sky..." sings Van's soul in "Sweet Thing". And when I'm driving nights that's exactly what I do. Usually after I roll the window down first. Always after I check and make sure I'm alone. It's "Catcher in the Rye" set to music. It's indescribable. So much spirit bared. Thanks, Adrian, for hitting the review spot on (almost anyway –– it's a 10) and pointing this one out to me.

    Not a review just a thanks to Adrian for introducing this album to me via your great review, can't stop playing it 2 months after buying it. Same goes for Moondance. Cheers man, keep up the good work.

    R.L.Hynes richhynes@hotmail.com
    Every time I walk into a record shop I wish I could buy this again. I never need to hear any other music for the rest of my life. The greatest album ever recorded. By a mile.

    John john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    I heard this baby on c.d., wailing in tune with the funky rhythms of Mother Earth and all the fluffy clouds that hung overhead in competition for the sun, as Anne Marie and me drove through the Wicklow mountains, last Sunday in her brand new jeep. We had to stop on three occassions, as I was feeling rather queasy from her excesssssssssssive use of speed, hell it is a NEW jeep.... As I puked my guts up in a field near Punchestown (Kildare, NOT Dublin!, Christ paranoia is so boring....), She compared me to Richard E.Grant, and her herself to Paul McGann, driving up to Penrith to engage in God only knows what kind of tomfoolery. Yeah man, those sure were groovy days, all those hours ago. Thank you, George Ivan Morrison. 10/10.

    Brennan roebrennan@yahoo.com
    Five years ago while I was a senior in college, my older brother introduced me to this album. My brother and I are what many would consider "music snobs" or maybe just assholes, that is if you don't appreciate "good" music. Due to the fact Classic Rock radio stations "Brown Eyed Girl"'d me to death, I pretty much wrote Van Morrison off as "accessible music that the whole family could agree on" during that long trip to Wally World. After the first listen of this album, I was blown away. I honestly started to realize that my generalizations where causing me to miss out on so much in life. While owning and listening to this album countless times and always loving it, I had no idea what the songs meant. That summer my family and I took a trip to Ireland to visit the county of our heritage. Driving through the countryside of Ireland listening to this album was the most surreal experience of my life. I thought I had finally figured out what Van Morrison's poetic lyrics mea! nt. Just recently, my brother who had introduced me to this album unexpectedly died. While going through his things, I came across this CD. Having not listenting to it in years, I decided to play it in my car after the worst experience of my life. My interpertation of this album changed dramatically, and I realize this is the most beautiful, romantic, meaningful music I've ever heard. Perfect

    Ross rupchurch@agric.wa.gov.au
    Now here is a masterpiece! It gets better and better and better and better and ............ giving it a piddly 9 when your handing out 9's and 10's to all and sundry. Appreciate your site but Astral Weeks is a classic albums that you have overlooked with a 9. It retains it's majesty 30 years later. There are a few albums that manage that, but bands like Pulp, The Stone Roses, Squeeze and killing Joke (with equal or better ratings) aren't even close to the classic category. If pet Pet sounds and Revolver are 10's (The White Album missed out?) along with others through the decades,(Closer,The Boatmans Call, OK computer) hey Astral Weeks is easily a 10! PS. You need to slap a 10 on One of Dylan's Albums too

    GAZZA gary.hess44@hotmail.com
    Astral weeks eh ? Firsly vans previous band THEM were one of THE greatest rnb bands ever, rivalled only by the yardbirds and the animals. After being screwed again by another music biz mogul van got free and made this . I confess i still find it hard to listen to , theres a lot of pain here and vans voice is strained and abrasive in places , also the playing is rather one dimensional although the strings are nice . Good things are here too van singing "we are going to heaven" on the title track while the strings cushion him like a big fat cloud , sweet things euphoric existential joy. I dont like "lovers do" much, its supper club arrangement does it no favours either. What is great about this record is how it tries to articulate the impossible , like trying to describe a dream. Madam george finds a lonely transvestites story caught up with a dream of a childhood train journey to dublin - the incredible climax sounds just like van sobbing as the train vanishes int! o the distance , the arrangement again outstanding . cypress avenue is another great track vans schoolgirl love from the other side of the tracks watched helplessly from a car seat . Ballerina goes nowhere in particular rather prettily . Vans never returned to this sound and rarely plays anything from it live possibly because the record was so spontaneous (tracked in 2 days) and so personal to him .Maybe also cos hes notoriously difficult , hundreds of musicians have walked or been sacked after having to deal with vans ego . Ah well it was a start to a great career but im that rarity - a van fan who doesnt have astral weeks as one of his favourites !

    Stewart stly999@gmail.com
    A friend lent me this record in 1970 and I was knocked out by it. The album is not from this world and it remains, 37 years later, my favourite album and in my opinion deserves 10 (and a bit more).

    Captain Chaos al@nwarr.com
    When I first heard this album as a impresionable teenager in the very early seventies I thought WoW! what an amazing album. I am now in my early fifties and when I hear this album I think WoW! what an amazing album. This still remains my most favourite album of all times. Fantastic stuff in every track. Must be a 10 !

    top of page Moondance 9 ( 1970, UK pos 32 )
    And It Stoned Me / Moondance / Crazy Love / Caravan / Into The Mystic / Come Running / These Dreams Of You / Brand New Day / Everyone / Glad Tidings

    A change of pace, a change of tack. Has anyone noticed ( and i'm sure you have ) just how great this album sounds? Produced by Morrison himself and recorded with a variety of engineers and session guys - it just exudes warmth and groove. Warmth and groove, that's right! 'Astral Weeks' wasn't something you'd describe as 'groove' but 'Moondance' is. Just check out the title track for ample evidence. A jazzy rhythm is created by the bass and drums and half-way through it goes off gloriously for an instrumental break underpinned by this swinging Jazz rhythm. Growing up Van listened to Leadbelly and Duke Ellington, among many others. He had a great musical upbringing, you could say, and he puts it to good use. Whilst 'Astral Weeks' had lengthy songs rambling beautifully, 'Moondance' is a more concise album containing shorter songs with a more regular structure. Van sings and really sounds like he's enjoying himself. 'Moondance' is Summer compared to 'Astral Weeks' which could be said to be Autumn. Both are beautiful things. The first five or so songs here are all beautiful, glorious things. Check the release date right here. 1970. 'Moondance' appears so shortly after the masterpiece 'Astral Weeks' that you must just assume Van was onto something. Speaking of summer and warmth, 'Crazy Love' just exudes both. Laze, laze, lazy delicious instrumentation and a real mellow, beautiful vocal. We've got the up-tempo and very happy sounding 'Caravan' and the vaguely 'Astral Weeks' in structure mysticism of the glorious opening 'And It Stoned Me'. To close the first side, we've got 'Into The Mystic' which runs over a really nice bass line that repeats over and over as Van does his stuff. Great stuff it is, too.

    Moving through the remainder of the album, the final five songs share the great fidelity and warmth of the first five songs. The playing is exemplary and these are still more than decent songs. Maybe a notch down from the first side, though. Just a notch down. 'Come Running' is a pretty simple song and a nice driving country/rocksong, almost. Not exactly country/rock - this isn't the Eagles by any stretch of even the wildest imagination. Love the piano parts, by the way. Adore the bass-line. A guy called John Klingberg played bass guitar on this album and did a fine job! 'These Dreams Of You' is a nice song that like 'Come Running' is very easy to listen to and get right away. 'Moondance' sold well enough to break into both the UK and US album charts, by the way. 'Astral Weeks' sold next to nothing at the time of its release, so this moving into simpler song forms was perhaps a necessary thing for Van to have done. Still, he does it well and the songs are pretty much all great songs. Ah, a real favourite of mine on here is the relaxed beautiful atmosphere of 'Brand New Day'. When Van sings the chorus and stretches out, repeats and stretches and sounds so perfect - it gets to me. The closing song caps everything off perfectly, a happy jaunty sounding tune called 'Glad Tidings' and it almost sounds like a follow-up to 'Brown Eyed Girl'. 'Moondance' is so different from 'Astral Weeks' yet still so very good that it really is admirable.

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    Readers Comments

    skip poa01rj@sheff.ac.uk
    A remarkable album, every song superb (apart from maybe 'everyone'). A must for every music lover and at least par with the exquisite astral weeks.

    gazza Gary.hessett@dpd.csa
    Love it. brilliant soulful songs blending all the best things about van perfectly. The perfect fusion of black american music,mysticism,ireland and passion . This was vans best album of the late 60s not the horribly ovverrated and overrwraught astral weeks . side one alone is probably one of the best song sequences out there . Go buy folks .

    top of page His Band And The Street Choir( 1970 )
    Domino / Crazy Face / Give Me a Kiss / I've Been Working / Call Me up in Dreamland / I'll Be Your Lover Too / Blue Money / Virgo Clowns / Gypsy Queen / Sweet Jannie / If I Ever Needed Someone / Street Choir

    Well, the opening R&B heavy 'Domino' is a cracking little thing! It swings, it moves, Van sounds full of beans and suchforth. Ah, great tune. It even reached the heights of the US top ten, making number nine on the singles charts. So, there! Unfortunately, much else of what's here is Van by numbers. Well, not even that. The simpler forms of parts of 'Moondance' have seemingly been taken as a starting point and it's all downhill from there. Of course, Van being Van, some of the songs work very well. The album as a whole is certainly a nice listen, don't get me wrong. It was released a mere nine months or so after 'Moondance' which itself was released only six months or something after 'Astral Weeks' and maybe that's part of the reason the material isn't as great as before. Let's take 'Crazy Face' for example. Starts out really nice, soft and gentle with gorgeous piano. Then this wailing sound comes in, a little ugly sound. Blasting brass and the entire thing fails to hang together. 'Give Me A Kiss' is just a little strum, a happy one at that. Since when was Van meant to be happy? He's meant to be this curmudgeonly guy, right? Well, not here! "Only just one of your smiles / makes it all worthwhile" sings Van. It's a million miles away from 'Astral Weeks', truly it is. 'Call Me Up In Dreamland' has a nice energy and rhythm about it, 'I'll Be Your Lover Too' opens with Jazz sounding brass then goes off to be a fairly lightweight, almost music-hall ditty. Well, not quite music-hall. Gospel backing vocals come in, brass instruments come in.... I don't know. It's ok, but it's no more than that. 'I'll Be Your Lover Now' is very bluesy, and that's about it for side one.

    Things continue much as before. The simple, although accomplished R&B swing of 'Blue Money', the pretty soul flavoured vocals of 'Gypsy Queen'. 'Gypsy Queen' is a highlight here, actually, purely because of the vocal which reaches rare heights. Then we've got the blues simplistic groove of 'Blue Janine' and Vans ambition seems to have dropped and plummeted completely compared to just months before on 'Moondance', which itself wasn't as ambitious as 'Astral Weeks'. Well, 'Moondance' was a different thing to 'Astral Weeks' altogether, of course. The writing was strong whereas here the writing isn't so strong. Formulaic is a word that springs to mind. The closing 'Street Choir' benefits from a good Morrison vocal and makes for a reasonably enjoyable closing track. 'His Band And The Street Choir' is probably a Van Morrison album you can miss altogether, thinking about it, but it does have its moments and as I said earlier, is very easy to listen to. It's certainly not offensive or terrible or anything. That voice of Mr Morrison is the best thing about the album, certainly. The music doesn't do much for me this time round, but things would get better again for the next couple of records.

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    top of page Tupelo Honey 8 ( 1971 )
    Wild Night / (Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball / Old Old Woodstock / Starting a New Life / You're My Woman / Tupelo Honey / I Wanna Roo You / When That Evening Sun Goes Down / Moonshine Whiskey

    Van sounds full of beans, as well he might do, he was a happy soul for various reasons during the early Seventies, in a good relationship, etc, etc. 'Wild Night' starts out all rolling and tumbling and trumpets and Van going on about "Wild nights calling, whoo-eee!", etc, etc. It's good! Following this is the undulating clear melodies and simple country/folk song structure of 'Like A Cannonball'. Not really country/folk in sound, it sounds kind of strange the way it's been recorded, startlingly clear and natural, which is strange, as so few artists manage to achieve such a natural sound. It's clear however, even two songs in, that this 'Tupelo Honey' album is not likely to be another 'Astral Weeks', this is an easier going, less ambitious affair, but enjoyable? Why, yes! We all need a bit of easy relaxation and high quality writing and singing from time to time. We can measure ourselves by the kinds of music we're either listening to, or making, perhaps? Are you turning to deliriously life-affirming Polyphonic Spree or have you been listening to the latest Metallica album, for example. That kind of thing. You know what I mean. But, there is genius here amongst the easy going, pleasant listening of the bulk of the album. Oh, why yes, there is! The title song, naturally. I adore the flute, the organ - and I don't even know if they are flute and organ - with a song such as this, I don't want to find out every tiny detail, because it just seems like such a wonderfully impossibly magical thing, truly like magic - and certainly not explainable. So warm, so tender, so full of absolute love and adoration - that it brings out the same feelings in the listener. This isn't 'Lady In Red' by Chris De Burgh, a solemn song of adoration containing all the happiness present in a funeral. Why, no. This is clearly full of joy and love - and infectious it truly is. So there.

    The title song runs for nearly seven minutes. Every minute truly enjoyable. 'She's My Woman' is slow and bluesy and not bluesy - yet soulful and both of those things at the same time. "I want to thank you and no one else will do" sings Van, believably so - this is real. A great track, truly so. 'I Wanna Roo You' is a charming slice of inoffensive country fun, 'When The Evening Sun Goes Down' reminding me of Randy Newman's '12 Songs' a little, a little American. The closing 'Moonshine Whiskey' is just, well, it's full of smoke and whiskey! Full of sunshine and joy - and whilst this 'Tupelo Honey' album does border on the simple side of things a little - it's always delightful listening.

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    Readers Comments

    John john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    A lovely, charming album. Morrison is full swing is a joy to behold. So much variety, and so much more to discover. His music is the music of life, and the pulse of raw human emotion.

    GAZZA garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Another from vans "domestic bliss" period . Its a joy to listen to , the title track is one of his greatest songs , clearly influenced by curtis mayfield though . The other songs are warm and welcoming using country,skiffle and rnb stylings with van singing with real abandon across them . Songwise apart from the title track and "wild night" its not a patch on moondance but it creates and stretches out in lovely intimate mood which embraces the listener. Mention has to be made of vans producer ted templeman , hed produced several west coast bands (beefheart,little feat,randy newman) and his love of dense instrumental tracks certainly gave van a great sound helping him attain a lot of airplay in the US . It also still sounds crystal clear today . Its a nice romantic album too , Nice one van !

    top of page Saint Dominic's Preview( 1972 )
    Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile) / Gypsy / I Will Be There / Listen To The Lion / Saint Dominic's Preview / Redwood Tree / Almost Independence Day

    Seven songs, forty minutes or so of music - just right. Due to the space limitations on vinyl albums, artists tended to have material they would have otherwise included, left off. This was actually a good thing, though - and perhaps one of the reasons so many great albums came out in the Sixties and Seventies - and less good albums came out in the Eighties and Nineties. No filler, all killer - that's 'Saint Dominic's Preview', and if I have to type out that title again, i'll scream. I don't know why, I seem to have particular trouble getting the second word typed correctly, so forgive me if I get it wrong anyplace. Anyway, Van returns to the feel of 'Astral Weeks' for the two lengthier songs here ( 'Listen To The Lion' and 'Almost Independence Day' ) and otherwise, includes a pop song with 'Jackie Wilson Said' and sings as if his life depended on it throughout the entire album. I love the way he fills nearly all of the spaces in the opening two songs with his vocals. Scat singing, la, la, la's - dooby-de-doo's - it's all there. Both of the opening two songs are stellar, by the way. Dexy's Midnight Runners had a hit with a cover version of the opening tune, in the early Eighties. Their performance on Top Of The Pops was memorable when the BBC staff decided to put up a big picture of 'stout' darts player Jocky Wilson, as a backdrop to their performance.... 'Jackie Wilson Said' is a song full of joy, "I'm in heaven when you smile" becoming a perfect tagline. Saxophone and Trombone feature on the also managing to be joyous, 'Gypsy'. Ignoring the two lengthier excursions here for a moment, the other 'supporting' material all proves to be masterful and genuine. 'I Will Be There' moves in blues directions and does it well, aided by a soulful Morrison vocal. 'Redwood Tree' opens with piano and saxophone in an attractive jazz swirl, before the bass comes in, the piano continues and Van sings - we get ourselves a simple kind of song and another soulful song. The feeling of soul is helped in this case with the addition of three backing singers joining in.

    The title tune makes the point, if 'Moondance' already hadn't, if 'Brown Eyed Girl' already hadn't, etc, etc - that Van Morrison could write really great melodies. His vocal lines are also melodies in themselves, of course. The steel guitar that comes through, added to the trombone, the organ, the sax, bass and piano create a rich backing track for the 'Saint Dominic's Preview' title tune. Over which Van sings some fun, semi stream of conciousness, lyrics. Which leaves us with? 'Almost Independence Day' features Van on a 12 string guitar and a second player on a 6 string guitar. We also get moog sounds included, and the combination of the two guitars and the moog creates a really nice, hypnotic sound. Van goes back to his 'Astral Weeks' voice for this tune, as he also does, to a greater extent as well, for the glory that is 'Listen To The Lion', the central song of the album. 'Listen To The Lion' is one of those songs. A song that's over eleven minutes long, and after the first three minutes have passed - you're in heaven, riding along blissfully - even more blissfully given the knowledge there's another eight minutes left to enjoy. 'Listen To The Lion' is all about feel, emotion and texture. A gentle and beautiful repeating bass part, various light percussion, a vibraphone and a Van Morrison improvising all through the songs close. It's a wonderful song and joins the opening two songs and 'Almost Independence Day' to form the core of this album release. The other tunes are pretty good too, a fine thing. <

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    GAZZA garyhess44@hotmail.com
    I think adrians nailed the essence of this incredible album . Its probably his best work along with moondance . His questing spirit had returned after breaking with his wife and these songs are all about having the courage to break free and find a new life . On 2 epic occasions he returns to the astral weeks sound - and for a reason . "listen to the lion" is just an experience in itself , van growling like a lion in places as he tracks his ancestors arrival in scotland from denmark . Its a wondrous acoustic free form thing that only tim buckley could have come close to producing at the time . "Almost independance day" adds a synth drone to his 12 string guitar as it ebbs and flows. Both tracks are arguably better than anything on astral weeks . The rest is hardly filler "jackie wilson" is aural sunshine "i will be there" a joyous ray charlesesque groove. The title tracks soulful dylanisms are also incredible , the lyric is total widescreen stuff ranging from ima! ges of the troubles in belfast to his new life in san francisco and all points in between . The live performances van produced at the time were probably amongst the greatest given by a performer ever . Ted Templeman quit midway through the album though stating " id never work with morrison again not even for 2 million dollars cash" !!! and this was in 1972 ! What a guy and a 10/10 album

    top of page Hard Nose The Highway 8 ( 1973, UK pos 22 )
    Snow in San Anselmo / Warm Love / Hard Nose the Highway / Wild Children / The Great Deception / Bein' Green / Autumn Song / Purple Heather

    Six albums in six years, quite a spell of creativity, all told. The second song here is called 'Warm Love', it's an apt song title and a decent song, to boot. Warm is the key, a fairly laid back album, lacking the mysterious nature of 'Astral Weeks' or 'Saint Dominicks Preview', not quite as funky as 'Moondance' either, but retaining the gorgeous feel of the very best Van Morrison songs. Basically, he's on top vocal form here, top vocal form throughout. 'The Great Deception' shares all the vocal twists and turns of phrase that characterised 'Astral Weeks' or moments from 'Moondance'. The lyrics are great, the music is richer in a sense, but less rich in another. There is more straightforward music here, but the voice carries the show. Elements of both Jazz and the blues permeate this record, the blues for 'Bein Green', Jazz showcased through a good portion of the opening number as well as the likes of 'Wild Children'. Strings, a great relaxed feel that the entire album shares. Moving back to 'Moondance' territory for 'The Great Deception', and whilst there are no out and out classic Morrison moments here perhaps, whilst 'Hard Nose The Highyway' isn't as friendly or funky as 'Moondance' or as sheerly magical as 'Astral Weeks' - this sits nicely in his catalogue.

    "It's not easy bein green" sings van. He sings of autumn during the entirely relaxed 'Autumn Song'. Green to brown. Nature playing a big part, imagine a river flowing gently amongst the countryside - "relax" instructs Van. Desire? Oh, yeah, just drift away to the gently sweet autumn rain falling down. The final song is 'Purple Heather', a trad, arranged Morrison moment. It's a song rendered crass and cheesy by many artists. The Byrds did a fine version, and Van does a fine version that shares all the best qualities this admittedly unassuming, yet easily friendly and relaxing album displays.

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    top of page Veedon Fleece 9 ( 1974 )
    Fair Play / Linden Arden Stole The Highlights / Who Was That Masked Man / Streets of Arklow / You Don't Pull No Punches / Bulbs / Cul De Sac / Comfort You / Come Her My Love / Country Fair

    'Veedon Fleece' isn't as well known outside of the Van Morrison fanbase as 'Moondance' or 'Astral Weeks' perhaps are. Such things happen. In which case, 'Veedon Fleece' is a grossly overlooked gem in the Van Morrison catalogue. Van returns to weaving magical music themes via acoustic, bass, flute, piano, etc, etc. Following a relationship breakdown, his lyrics and vocals truly emote, are really genuine in the way they come across. You get the feeling he had something to get off of his chest. Contemplative, emotive and beautiful. Right from beginning to end. The six minute plus opener 'Fair Play' is so relaxed, riding lazily along little piano and double bass rolls. The should have been six minutes long, because it truly is right up there with the very finest moments Van has ever done, 'Linden Arden Stole The Highlights', sends chills straight through me. There is nothing pretentious here. Just softly rolling piano lines. Van steals the show, his vocals and lyrics weaving magically in and out of your imagination. The closing 'Country Fair' adds flute to the equation, another song that reminds of 'Astral Weeks', as a few of the finer songs here do, actually. But ah, 'Linden Arden Stole The Highlights', with its string sections, so subtle, with its sheer beauty.... only it needed to be longer. It ends after two or three minutes and you yearn for more.

    'Veedon Fleece' is forty seven minutes long, and varies from uptempo numbers, jazzy numbers, slow contemplative numbers. It's an album that doesn't send out as cohesive a feel as 'Astral Weeks', but manages to drawn a listener in, all the same. 'Bulbs' is little more than Van grunting at some stage, as the guitars roll nicely alongside him. He sounds in fine voice through the verses, through the entire album. The soul of the Van Morrison vocal all through 'Who Was That Masked Man' is just stupendous. He reaches into all sorts of places. Transcendent. These sorts of moments make this album.

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    Readers Comments

    Tom Shea tom.shea@gmail.com
    I couldn't agree with you more that this is Van's most underrated album - second only to "Astral Weeks." Comfort You beats out Tupelo Honey as his most romantic song. On Who Was That Masked Man, Van displays a magnificent, little-heard falsetto. The Street Of Arklow is eerie and haunted. Where as "Astral Weeks" magically captures a spontaneous moment frozen in time, "Veedon Fleece" meticulously paints a delicate and surreal scene, it's richness more tangible with each listen. By the way, I disagree with you about "Bulbs": it's a great, uptempto song lead not just by Van's grunting but also incredible lapsteel and rythmn guitar parts. It gives the rythmic weight to the slower, more dramatic songs on the album. I like every song on this album. I think the length of the songs are perfect. The yearning these they create is all part of the experience. The mellancollic way the songs and melodies dissipate into the ether perfectly accompanies the emo! tions he's expressing. I wouldn't change a thing.

    Markie markbradleyfield@btopenworld.com
    What does it mean...what is it about???? who cares! This song is so perfect...Van using his voice as a complement to the instruments works so well that, as you say, it needs to be longer. The best music is soothing and uplifting at the same time...and this works for me.

    Mick mjurd@hotmail.com
    when i first heard Astral Weeks i was carried away by the music to a better place... i swore i could never be so affected by music again.. then i heard veedon fleece.. to try to describe it would be an injustice... all i say is listen to it...you will know what i mean

    top of page A Period Of Transition( 1977, UK pos 23 )
    You Gotta Make It Through The World / It Fills You Up / The Eternal Kansas City / Joyous Sound / Flamingos Fly / Heavy Connection / Cold Wind In August

    The guy who sang 'Brown Eyed Girl'? That guy who sang with Cliff Richard back in the eighties? The lead singer for The Doors?? Van Morrison has never had a terribly impressive profile with the general public at large, and taking three years away from the limelight, such as it was, was hardly going to help him either. The title of this album suggests that Van was indeed in transition, and a mere 34 minutes of new music makes it easy for critics to dismiss this work. Yet, there is some earthy Van soul music on display here. It's a good little album without containing any real Van Morrison classics. I find reviewers everywhere slating this effort, yet Van and his team of studio session musicians ( including the mighty Dr John ) came up with a great sound, if not always great material. Yet, each song has a hook. The lyrics are not amongst the best Van ever wrote, but fast forwarding in time, in recent years, we'd kill for a Van Morrison album with a sound this real and down to earth, no matter what the quality of the material. The moral of this story is I wish reviewers would listen with their ears, and not base what they write on whatever reputation an album may happen to have aquired over the years. For example, whatever the risk of critiscm, i was quite happy to rank 'Sign Of The Times' amongst the worst Prince albums of the 80s, because I listened regardless of critical reputation. It's called being honest to yourself. It's something Van Morrison normally is too, calling his then new modest collection of songs 'A Period Of Transition'? He didn't dress the album up in fake artistry. Faced with a mere thirty four minute long record, he didn't needlessly stretch out any of the material to bulk up the running time. I appreciate that.

    So, seven songs only, yet none of them scream out 'filler'. The opening 'You Gotta Make It Through The World' is great night-time driving music. Faced with a night full of stars and lonely apprehension, this song will comfort you. It's simple and has a simple, repeated message. Make it through if you can. The music contains some effective brass embellishments and a solid rhythm section performance. 'It Fills You Up' is a song with a great Van lead and a backing with a strong gospel feel. 'The Eternal Kansas City' is joyously bouncy, 'Joyous Sound' a very simple two minute long happy piece with no message in particular. And so it goes on, through the funky groove of 'Flamingos Fly', to the brass assisted 'Heavy Connection' and the very magical Van Morrison moment that is 'Cold Wind In August'. 'Cold Wind In August' has singing most like Van circa 1969/1970, all 'shivers up and down my spine', as the lyric goes. It closes an effective, simple and enjoyable record, that it seems almost churlish to criticize.

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    Readers Comments

    Bobby Darin daringbob@hotmail.com
    Dude, thanks for putting it straight on Van Morrison's "Period of Transition". Over time, this one has become one of my favorites of his, although there's no doubt that it doesn't hit the heights of some of the more widely acclaimed albums. Production's somehow a little flat, or thin, or something, too. But the songs are great, with fine horn charts, solid backing vocals . . . ! It Fills You Up is my favorite, and Cold Wind in August, though weak as a pure melody, is one of the most moving "Quiet Moping in the Garden" Van Morrison songs. I've never understood why this gets the pans it does.

    top of page Wavelength( 1978, UK pos 27 )
    Kingdom Hall / Checkin' It Out / Natalia / Venice U.S.A. / Lifetimes / Wavelength / Santa Fe/Beautiful Obsession / Hungry for Your Love / Take It Where You Find It

    A voice as beautiful as ever, but we've a few sounds almost MOR contempory to the day in which this album was released. The music is fairly uninteresting then? Well, yes. Still, his magnificent voice remains. Not that the lyrics are particularly interesting either, but the cumulative effect of good and bad errs just the right side of bad to send the enjoyment levels to be had from listening to 'Wavelength' to be better than average. What?? Deep draw of breath from reviewer! Ooh, groovy little bits of guitar work through the catchy title song, check it out! Hand-claps, seventies keyboards, a solid rhythm section. On paper, absolutely nothing wrong with the musical performance. A good track, but not a magical or special track. It ends up a nice thing to listen to, but not something you would ever seek out to listen to, if that makes any sense at all? I'm damning the album with faint praise? Well yes, actually. 'Lifetimes', like the title song, like nearly every song here, is extremely easy to listen to. Nothing at all unpleasent, but surely nothing to compare to the mans finest works? Even a different kind of artist/song-writer, Leonard Cohen? Well, he'd make several god-awful albums in the late seventies, but at least they were interestingly bad. Van makes an album that is neither good or bad, but somewhere inbetween in a state that long-term fans will find easy to enjoy, but surely won't place on the turntable in preference over Van's earlier works?

    We've a couple of extended tracks here, a couple of those eight/nine minute long tracks that Van usually does so well. The first on this album is 'Venice USA', a track with a slightly awkward vague reggae feel, a song that seems not to go anywhere at all, seriously. Several seaside, low rent resort sounds enter the fray. It's not entirely pleasant. The closing song, 'Take It Where You Find It' you would hope would be something special, with its carefully prepared and delicate musical track, with its impassioned vocal and fairly mysterious lyrics. And, indeed it is something fairly special, yet I hate the plodding rhythm section and the sound of the music and production, and the overly slick little session muso guitar fills. Yet, it remains a reasonably, damn it with faint praise, impressive track. Much like the album as a whole. An album whereby it seems almost petty to pick faults with it, yet when comparing it directly to the mans finest works, or indeed any quality singer/songwriters finest works, comes up slightly lacking in places.

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    Readers Comments

    Magic Shadow North Carolina
    Although not a particularly good Van album, one song breaks into the cosmic zone of his best stuff. I'm talking about "Natalia". Another man's wife was walking into my periphery one spring morning while listening to this song . I was fastened to the music while musing upon her gait, her smile, and the wind blowing her auburn hair. I wasn't really all that attracted to her but Morrison's "Natilia" put me where he was aiming- the peaceful yet exciting part of the soul that dares you to breathe it in.

    top of page Into The Music( 1979, UK pos 21 )
    Bright Side of the Road / Full Force Gale / Stepping Out Queen / Troubadours / Rolling Hills / You Make Feel So Free / Angeliou / And The Healing Has Begun / It's All In The Game / You Know What They're Writing About

    Holding onto his burgeoning Christianity, but not ramming it down your throat, Van released 'Into The Music' after a couple of ho-hum kind of releases. I mean, the very title, 'A Period Of Transition' didn't exactly bode well. Thankfully, Van's creative juices were back in full flow for this LP right here. Even the standard of the muscianship and the actual sound of the LP are improved. There's piano, flute, violin and brass, all adding texture and feel. His voice is a blast of joy, nothing less. In some ways, 'Into The Music' is an approachable 'Astral Weeks' for those who find that album a little difficult to get into. Although it's a different kind of soul and spirituality here, it's rarely less effective than the classic 'Astral Weeks'. I personally don't think the writing is of a par with 'Astral Weeks', although it's pretty good all told, you know? This will all be reflected in the rating. On side two of the album in particular, Van just seems to be evoking pure soul and it's an addictive, happy thing to hear and listen to, infectious, indeed. Leading by example rather than Dylan's preaching.

    The album kicks off with one of Van's breeziest and catchiest songs, the simple melodies of the approachable 'Bright Side Of The Road', a near hit in the UK. It's still to be found on pub jukeboxes the land over and always gets people singing along. At least it does in my town. This 'pop' opening is continued with 'Full Force Gale' and we suddenly find Van writing more directly than he had done since possibly 'Moondance'. Indeed, if you like, see the first half of this album as a 'Moondance' and the second half as an 'Astral Weeks', in the bluntest of terms. The first half of the album is consistently strong, leading upto the silly and joyous 'Rolling Hills', made by the bouncy tune and Van's appropriately rolling vocals. 'Angeliou' is a good example of the second half of 'Into The Music'. Nearly seven minutes of music, opening with violin and a delicate, built up intro before Van opens his mouth, singing 'Angeliou, oh Angeliou'. Violin continues as the song repeats and repeats, the chorus becomming hypnotic. 'And The Healing Has Begun' is even more hypnotic however and witnesses Van getting lost inside a song aka 'Besides You' ( or name your own example ).

    A common sound prevents 'Into The Music' being an album of two halfs. Rather with the lengthier songs near the end, the album seems to reach a logical conclusion. 'And The Healing Has Begun' with a weaving in and out violin, with piano and a solid, repetitive rhythm.... as Van goes 'Whoa', 'Yeah' and sounds spritual, is the kind of thing only he can do. A superb album and a great comeback when he needed one.

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    John, County Kildare john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    A nice review of a highly impressive album. I have the original Polydor version on vinyl somewhere. Do you think I can find it.... Not a chance!

    Great album - side 1 has 3 songs that are classed as van classics destined for any of his greatest hits compilations , welding together rnb and folk with pretty joyous results . The fiddle up front recalls dylans work on "desire" but with a much lighter feel . side 2 sees van stretch out with some epic vocal workouts ,eulogising the healing qualities of sexual love with real abandon . You can hear van grunting and shouting his approval when the band plays something good - best moment ? "and the healing has begun" dissolving into a cover of the 4 tops "its all in the game" . Vans vocals are top notch here from intimate whispers to passionate roars , hes clearly back at the top of his game here after 2 uncertain albums following his sabbatical after "veedon fleece"

    top of page Common One 8 ( 1980 )
    Haunts of Ancient Peace / Summertime in England / Satisfied / Wild Honey / Spirit / When Heart Is Open

    'Summertime In England' is the albums center-piece, stretching out over fifteen minutes 'Astral Weeks' style, as if to prove Van still had that special something when the muse hit him. Trumpets and strings decorate parts of the song and the lyrics are of course mystical sounding. 'Haunts Of Ancient Peace' and 'Summertime In England' add upto some twenty-two minutes of music - clearly Morrison wasn't about to make it easy for fans by delivering a 'Brown Eyed Girl' or anything at all to ease a listener gently into his new music. No, the spiritualism is present right from the start. 'Haunts Of Ancient Peace' is musically a slowly driven thing with gentle, spaced-out bass lines, delicate drums and a really rather fab Saxophone break in the middle of the tune. Backing vocals pipe up singing their own kind of hymn and Morrison's voice is spellbinding, naturally. There are many forms of love and contentment and Morrison seems surrounded by the search for it - the feel of the music also suggests he's found it, at least for now. All in all, 'Haunts Of Ancient Peace' is utterly spell-binding and even better than the sometimes schizophrenic ( attempted ) epic that is 'Summertime In England'. 'Common One' essentially lives or dies by how much you enjoy 'Summertime In England'. Me? Well, i like that glorious Sax led climax. I like the slightly nervy energy of the first part of the tune. Repeated listens ultimately make more sense of the tune although Van does sound disturbingly like a sheep at one point, but we'll forgive him that for the ambition he displays here.

    'Common One' arrived in the middle of Van experiencing a renewed sense of religion, but this isn't a finger-pointing, preaching album aka Dylan's religious LPs. In the true sense of the believer, Van tries to impart wisdom through energy and being a role-model. Well, hard to believe I know, but judging the music and words alone, he sounds so full of energy and a sense of wonder. This is certainly true of 'When Heart Is Open', a fifteen minute trance of a song that does have the ability to transport you. Elsewhere, tracks such as 'Spirit', 'Wild Honey' and 'Satisfied' all sport such great playing from the musicians Van surrounded himself with at this time that you can almost ignore the vocals and words and just concentrate on the music, wallowing in it like a pig in mud. It's great stuff and although 'Common One' is a very intense album that requires concentration, it's also a pretty damn fine album that showcases passion, love and intelligence in equal measure.

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    top of page Beautiful Vision 7 ( 1982 )
    Celtic Ray / Northern Muse (Solid Ground) / Dweller on the Threshold / Beautiful Vision / She Gives Me Religion / Cleaning Windows / Vanlose Stairway / Aryan Mist / Across the Bridge Where Angels Dwell / Scandinavia

    Regular Morrison bass-player David Hayes features on the majority of the tracks here and he also plays on 'It's Too Late to Stop Now', 'Veedon Fleece', 'Into the Music', 'Common One', 'Inarticulate Speech of the Heart' 'Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast', 'A Sense of Wonder', 'No Guru, No Method, No Teacher', 'Down the Road', 'What's Wrong with This Picture?', 'Magic Time', 'Keep It Simple' and 'Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl'. The reason I mention this man is that 'Beautiful Vision' has a slick, accomplished sound, too accomplished in that it often sounds sterile to my ears compared to the earthiness and mystical magic of the best Van Morrison works. Immediately though you pick out the melodic and pleasingly deep playing of David Hayes. I do have a thing for a good bass part so there you are. That's all, just thought he deserved a mention, especially as Van apparently can be an awkward blesser at the best of times and David Hayes has played with him live more than any other musician, so he clearly has something Van really likes. Van sounds happy and contented throughout much of the LP and a song like 'She Gives Me Religion' is a clear nod to this. The bass gently rolls, the backing vocals add the soul and gospel to underpin Van's own soul and gospel. The mighty spiritual blues of Van's voice sounds utterly wonderful here and really this is the first wholly satisfying track on the LP. Don't get me wrong, none of the preceding tracks are bad, just ever so slightly dull as Van seemingly settles into a very comfortable groove. Perhaps being happy and content wasn't all that great for creating friction and sparking something within his music that the very best Van Morrison albums seem to have, an otherworldy sense of wonder. At times, 'Beautiful Vision' is just far too straight-forward. It's a comfy old pair of slippers rather than a lovely, sparkling dress that wows and hushes a room.

    'Cleaning Windows' was released as a single and has lots of charm. It's musically straightforward although the added parping trumpets are a nice addition. Lyrically the song is autobiographical taking Van's first full-time job and turning it into a reflection upon his muse. Even better is 'Vanlose Stairway', a very special Van Morrison love-song. His vocal reaches a place, that 'Astral Weeks' place for want of a better term. The gospel backing vocals are subtle, adding an extra layer of vocal beauty as musically the song is very unassuming. Yes, this is all about the words, the emotion and feel of the voice. 'Across The Bridge' is mellow with nice flute playing. Yeah, flute - Rock n Roll! Also not very rock n roll is the closing new-age instrumental 'Scandinavia'. Like much of the LP, it's very nice and pleasant, just not very striking - too comfortable. Van's voice is the reason to purchase the LP, alongside a couple or three fine tracks contained alongside 7 or so average tracks that merely sound very nice indeed. Sometimes that's enough though, isn't it?

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    top of page this page last updated 24/7/11

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