Van Morrison


Band members                              Related acts

- John Allair -- keyboards (1979)
- Herbie Armstrong -- guitar  (1977-79)
- Bill Atwood -- trumpet (1973-74)
- Mick Cox -- guitar (replaced Herbie Armstrong) (1979)
- Tom Dolinger -- drums (replaced Peter Van Hooke)

  (1980-)
- Pee Wee Ellis -- sax (1977)
- David Hayes -- bass (1973-74)
- Mark Isham -- trumpet (1977)
- Mark Jordan -- keyboards (1977-)
- Jeff Labes -- keyboards (1973-74)
- Van Morrison (aka George Ivan) -- vocals, sax,

  harmonica, 

- John Platania -- guitar (1973-74)
- Jack Schroer -- sax (1973-74)

- Dagaud Shaar -- drums (1973-)
- Dave Shaw -- drums, percussion (1974)
- Peter Van Hooke -- drums, percussion (1977-80)

 

  backing musicians (1973)

- Theresa Adams -- cello

- Bill Atwood -- trumpet

- Jules Broussard --sax, flute

- Mary David -- bass

- Jackie DeShannon -- backing vocals

- Jospeh Ellis -- trumpet

- Nancy Ellis -- violin

- Michael Gerling -- violin

- David Hayes -- bass

- Gary Mallaber -- drums, vibraphone

- Zaven Melikeian -- violin

- Jef Labes -- keybaords

- John Platania -- guitar

- Nathan Rubin -- violin

- Ricj Shlosser -- drums

- Jack Schroer -- sax

- John Tenney -- violin

 

  backing musicians: (1977)

- Ollie Brown -- drums, percussion

- Gary Garrett -- backing vocals

- Marlo Henderson -- guitar

- Jerry Jumonville -- sax

- Roger Kennedy-Saint -- backing vocals

- Reggie McBride -- bass

- Toni McVey -- backing vocals

- Robby Montgomery -- backing vocals

- Candy Nash -- backing vocals

- Paulette Parker -- backing vocals

- Joel Peskin -- sax

- Joe Powell -- backing vocals

- Mac Rebennack -- keyboards, guitar

- Mark Underwood -- trumpet

- Carlena Williams -- backing vocals

- Gregory Wright -- backing vocals

 

  backing musicians (1978)

- Herbie Armstrong -- guitar

- Peter Bardens -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Mitch Dalton -- Spanish guitar

- Mickey Feat -- bass

- Mick Glossop -- 

- Peter Van Hooke -- drums, percussion

- Garth Hudson -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Kuma -- bass

- Bobby Tench -- lead guitar, backing vocals

 

  backing musicians (1978)

- Herbie Armstrong -- guitars

- John Allair -- keyboards
- Peter Bardens -- keyboards 

- Mickey Feat -- bass 

- Katie Kassoon (aka Katie Kissoon) -- backing vocals
- Anne Peacock -- backing vocals

- Bob Tench -- guitar
- Peter Van Hooke -- drums, percussion

 

  backing musicians (1980)

- John Allair -- keyboards

- Herbie Armstrong -- rhythm guitar

- Mick Cox -- lead guitar

- Pee Wee Ellis -- sax, flute

- Chris Hayes -- guitar

- David Hayes -- bass

- Mark Isham -- trumpet

- Mark Jordan -- keybaords

- Peter Van Hooke -- drums percussion

 

  backing musicians (1983)

- John Allair -- organ, electric piano

- Herbie Armstrong -- guitar

- Tin Donlinger -- drums, percussion

- Pee Wee Ellis -- sax, flute

- David Hayes -- bass

- Mark Isham -- synthesizers, trumpet

- Pauline Lonzana -- backing vocals

- Arty McGlynn -- acoustic guitar

- Chris Michie -- guitar

- Dave Spillane -- pipes, alto flute

- Annie Stocking -- backing vocals

- Bianca Thornton -- backing vocals

- Peter Van Hooke -- drums, percussion

- Mihr Un Nina Douglass -- backing vocals

  backing musicians (1986)

- Ginger Blake -- backing vocals

- Ritchie Buckley -- sax

- Laura Creamer -- backing vocals

- Linda Dillard -- backing vocals

- Martin Drover -- trumpet

- David Hayes -- bass

- Jeff Labes -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Chris Michie -- lead guitar

- John Platania -- lead guitar

- Kate St. John -- oboe

- Baba Trunde -- drums

  backing musicians (1989)

- Alan Barnes -- sax

- Clive Cultberson -- bass

- Neil Drinkwater -- keyboards, synthesizers, accordion

- Dave Early -- drums, percussion

- Georgie Fame -- organ

- Cliff Hardie -- tombine

- Ry Jones -- drums, percussion

- Carol Keyon -- backing vocals

- Katie Kissoon -- backing bocals

- Henry Lowther -- trumpet

- Arty McGlyn -- guitar

- Cliff Richard -- vocals

- Stan Sulzman -- sax

 

 

 

 

- Mick Cox Band

- Eire Apparent (Mick Cox)

- Them
- Van Morrison and the Chieftains  


 

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Blowin' Your Mind

Company: Bang

Catalog: BLP-218

Year: 1967

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: small punch out hole in middle of LP; mono pressing

Available: 1

Catalog number: not yet listed

Price: $40.00

Cost: $1.00

 

Having left Them in mid-1966 on the heels of a brutal American tour (see separate entry), singer Van Morrison returned to his native Dublin, Ireland. Having previously worked with Them, producer Bert Berns learning that Morrison had quit the group. He contacted Morrison offering a one way airline ticket to New York and an offer to finance a series of four singles. With nothing to lose Morrison accepted the offer. Signed to Berns' newly formed Bang label, the duo's first release was the single "Brown Eyed Girl" b/w "Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)" (Bang catalog number B 545). A massive radio hit, the track promptly went top-10, in the process creating a wave of controversy. In the wake of criticism that the original lyric was obscene (hard to image folks got upset over the phrase "making love in the green grass, behind the stadium" and "my how you've grown"), Bang released subsequent versions of the album with a censored lyric. 

Unknown to Morrison, in the wake of the single's success, producer Berns cobbled together material from the earlier sessions, releasing 1967's "Blowin' Your Mind". Given it's ragtag origins the set was surprisingly strong and entertaining. A reflection of different agendas, musically the album wasn't particularly consistent. Berns' interest in commercial success was clear on tracks such as "Brown Eyed Girl", "Spanish Rose", "Ro Ro Rosey" and the rocking "Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)". In contrast, tracks such as the dark and disturbing "T.B. Sheets", "Midnight Special" (almost a nod to his Them R&B roots) and "Who Drove the Red Sports Car" found Morrison taking tentative steps towards a more experimental (and personal) genre. In spite of occasional lapses, it's still one of our favorite Morrison LPs. Boosted the earlier single, the album eventually hit #182. Unhappy with the album; disappointed with Berns' willingness to capitulate to censorship and unhappy with Berns' ongoing pressure for a continued commercial approach, Morrison balked at recording a follow up. Holding a signed contract, Bern's responded by threatening to release another Morrison collection without the artist's approval. Ironically, before the issue could be settled Berns died of an unexpected heart attack. His death left Morrison (then living in Massachusetts), free of his contract and free to renegotiate a new deal.

"Blowin' Your Mind" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison) - 3:03
2.) He Ain't Give You None (Van Morrison) - 5:13
3.) T.B. Sheets (Van Morrison) - 9:44
4.) Spanish Rose (Van Morrison) - 3:06

 

(side 2)

1.) Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye) (Bert Berns - Wes Farrell) - 2:57
2.) Ro Ro Rosey (Van Morrison) - 3:03
3.) Who Drove the Red Sports Car (Van Morrison) - 5:35
4.) Midnight Special - 2:51

 

 



Genre: rock

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

Title:  Astral Weeks

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: WS 1768

Year: 1968

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog number: not yet listed

Price: $25.00

Cost: $1.00

 

Effectively stranded in the States, virtually penniless and left without a record contract, Morrison started shopping around for a contract, eventually finding a mentor in the form of executive Joe South who signed him to Warner Brothers. According to legend, working with producer Lewis Merenstein, Morrison recorded his label debut "Astral Weeks" in two days. Regardless of the time invested in the studio, the resulting collection stands as nothing less than a classic '70s album. While the set isn't particularly commercial (you can't label it a rock set), the combination of Morrison's unrestrained, freewheeling jazz influenced vocals and the music's seductive, mystical Celtic qualities combine for an album which is simply amazing. Apparently largely autobiographical (though the lyrics are vague), material such as the title track, "Madame George" (move over Ray Davis and Lola) and "Slim Slow Slider" (ah, another drug dealer tale) is both musically and lyrically dense and challenging (no you're not gonna' hear this on your local top-40 station). Anyone expecting catchy top-40 melodies had to be disappointed by these eight extended tracks. The thing is, if you can focus the time and effort required to get into the album, it's well worth the investment ! Simply a wonderful LP ... In spite of strong reviews, the set failed to chart in either the States or the UK.

"Astral Weeks" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Astral Weeks (Van Morrison) - 7:00
2.) Beside You (Van Morrison) - 5:10
3.) Sweet Thing (Van Morrison) - 4:10
4.) Cyprus Avenue (Van Morrison) - 6:50

 

(side 2)

1.) The Way Young Lovers Do (Van Morrison) - 3:10
2.) Madame George (Van Morrison) - 9:25
3.) Ballerina (Van Morrison) - 7:00
4.) Slim Slow Slider (Van Morrison) - 3:20

 

 



Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Best of Van Morrison

Company: Bang

Catalog: BLP 222

Year: 1969

Country/State: Belfast, Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG /VG 

Comments: minor ring wear; mono pressing

Available: 1

Catalog number: 5197 

Price: $10.00

Cost: $1.00

 

In the wake of Van Morrison's move to Warner Brothers and the subsequent critical and commercial success he enjoyed with "Astral Weeks", Bang Records reached into its archives releasing 1969's optimistically titled "Best of Van Morrison".  Given Morrison only released one album for Bang, the compilation was an odd hodgepodge pulling together five tracks from "Blowin' Your Mind" rounded out with five previously unreleased selections for the 1967 Bert Berns sessions. While none of the five new songs was earth shattering, propelled by some tasty slinky guitar (recalling something Bobby Whitlock might have recorded with Bonnie and Delaney) 'Send Your Mind' and the pseudo-psych-ish 'The Smile You Smile' were both pretty good.  Like the first Bang LP, this one was released without Morrison's consent.  


"Best of Van Morrison" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Spanish Rose   (Van Morrison) - 3:09
2.) It's All Right   (Van Morrison)  - 5:04 
3.) Send Your Mind   (Van Morrison)  - 2:54 
4.) The Smile You Smile   (Van Morrison)  - 2:55 
5.) The Back Room   (Van Morrison)  - 5:30 

(side 2)

1.) Brown Eyed Girl    (Van Morrison) - 3:0 
2.) Goodbye Baby   (Bert Berns - Wes Farrell) - 2:51
3.) Ro Ro Rosey   (Van Morrison)  - 3:07
4.) He Ain't Give You None   (Van Morrison)  - 5:11 
5.) Joe Harper   (Van Morrison)  - 2:53 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

Title:  Moondance

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: WS 1835

Year: 1970

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog number: not yet listed 

Price: $15.00

Cost: $1.00

 

Stylistically, Morrison's 1970 follow up "Moondance" was every bit as inspired as the predecessor, though this time he had the common sense to ensure the material was somewhat more mainstream and accessible. His first self-produced effort, the collection offered up a mixture of Morrison's own unique brand of Irish soul, brass arrangements and jazz shadings (particularly on the title track). Overall the album rocked harder than it's predecessor, but still exhibited a smooth and seductive quality (check out the beautiful "And It Stoned Me"). Lyrically it remained difficult to get a handle on Morrison's interests; selections such as "Brand New Day" and "Into The Mystic" (the latter one of his prettiest efforts), seemingly exploring the concept of spirituality and personal redemption ??? A return to the charts, the set hit #29 in the States. (The album was originally released with a gatefold sleeve.)

"Moondance" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) And It Stoned Me (Van Morrison) - 4:30
2.) Moondance (Van Morrison) - 4:35
3.) Crazy Love (Van Morrison) - 2:34
4.) Caravan (Van Morrison) - 4:57
5.) Into The Mystic (Van Morrison) - 3:25

 

(side 2)
1.) Come Running (Van Morrison) - 2:30
2.) These Dreams Of You (Van Morrison) - 3:50
3.) Brand New Day (Van Morrison) - 5:09
4) Everyone (Van Morrison) - 3:31
5.) Glad Tidings (Van Morrison) - 3:13

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Hard Nose To the Highway

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: BS 2712

Year: 1973

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 3

Catalog number:  13051

Price: $12.00

Cost: $1.00

When it was released, 1973's "Hard Nose To the Highway" was a critics favorite.  Even Robert Chirstgau gave it a B- rating (and Robert hates everything).  The funny thing is that over time the album's lost its sheen and reputation.  Today it's frequently labeled as one of Van Morrison's weaker albums.   I'll readily admit that's how I initially felt about the album.  Perhaps due to the fact his personal life was in a state of chaos (his marriage to Janet Planet collapsing amidst a nasty divorce), I remember thinking the album had kind of a rushed, disjointed sound; almost like Morrison was picking up odds and ends for a contractual obligation release.  I'm no Morrison scholar, but there was apparently some truth in the observation given 1972-73 was an extremely productive time for the man.  He apparently recorded tons of material and had a hard time deciding what to include on this album.  Ironically, this was the first Morrison solo album to include non-original material - in this case a cover of Joe Raposo's 'Green" (most of you will recognize it from Sesame Street) and revamped version of the traditional tune 'Purple Heather'.    The collection isn't perfect. 'Snow In San Anselmo' still irritates me and 'Wild Children' is too scholarly for my tastes.  Those criticisms aside, it's one of those albums that I've grown to enjoy more and more over the years which makes it extremely hard to pick favorites though the breezy ten minute ballad 'Autumn Song' was probably the set's one classic effort.  Also good were 'I Will Be There, the stinging 'The Great Deception', and the atypically commercial single 'Warm Love'.     

 

 

Wonder how many hours I spent staring at Rob Springett's cool cover art ...

"Hard Nose To the Highway" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Snow In San Anselmo   (Van Morrison) - 4:34

Fans rave about 'Snow In San Anselmo', but I'd tell you the opener is a mess, trying to blend  the Oakland Symphony Chamber Chorus with jazzy interludes, some of Morrison's goofiest lyrics "the pancake house is always crowded, open 24 hours a day" and an irritating, cat-in-heat vocal.  The funny thing is that for folks who were trying to read deep meaning into the song, Morrison himself described it as "just a sketch on when it snowed in San Anselmo (California). It's about the images that were happening when it was snowing there for the first time in thirty years.  Neither the tape, or sound quality are that great, but  YouTube has a live performance of the song.  The accompanying description claims it was a 1972 San Francisco performance with the local band Sound Hole: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puEyG5Uh8Sk    rating: ** stars
2.) Warm Love   (Van Morrison) - 3:22

For a guy who writes some of the most enigmatic lyrics I've ever encountered, the breezy and charming 'Warm Love' remains a source of constant amusement.   I always wonder how many people have been married to this track.  Added bonus - Jackie DeShannon on backing vocals.   Beautiful and clearly belongs in any Van Morrison greatest hits package.  The track was also tapped as a single.   YouTube has a wonderful 1974 performance of the song on the German Musikladen television program:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGxgQQmvw_Y    rating: ***** stars
3.) Hard Nose To the Highway   (Van Morrison) - 

Apparently a reflection on the ups and downs he'd experience in his personal and professional life, the title track was a breezy, slightly bluesy track.  Hardly the standout performance, the song was saved by the wonderful title track chorus and some tasty Pete Wingfield keyboards.   rating: *** stars
4.) Wild Children   (Van Morrison) - 4:20

An autobiographical tune that seems to have hit a chord with a certain generation ...  perfect example of Morrison's stream-of-consciousness lyrics; soldiers returning from World War II; Tennessee Williams, Rod Steiger, James Dean, and   wrapped in a soothing, quasi-jazzy melody.  rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) The Great Deception   (Van Morrison) - 4:51

So, Morrison biographer Richie Yorke has described 'The Great Deception' as: "One of the most stinging indictments from any observer, let alone a rock artist, of the tragic hypocrisy of so many participants in the sub-culture, in particular the big-time rock stars of this era."  Guess Morrison wasn't all that impressed by some of his rock and roll compatriots, but I'll tell you this one rocked with considerable energy, making it one of the album's standout performances.   rating: **** stars
2.) Green   (Joe Raposo) - 4:20

The thought of Morrison watching Sesame Street makes me smile, but he had a young daughter at the time.  According to Wikipedia, Van Morrison described his bluesy cover as: That was just a statement that you don't have to be flamboyant. If somebody doesn't like you just because you're a certain thing, then maybe they're seeing the wrong thing."   About all I can say is Morrison simply kills the tune and everytime I hear it, the lyric reminds me to try to be more accommodating.   rating: **** stars
3.) Autumn Song   (Van Morrison) - 10:37

Who ever thought a ten minute song inspired by a season could sound so funky ?   I've actually spent 30 minutes playing this one back-to-back.  A Morrison classic, I almost hate to hear the tune because I can never shake it out of my head.   rating: ***** stars
4.) Purple Heather   (arranged by Van Morrison) - 5:42

 'Purple Heather' was an adaptation of the  Francis McPeake's traditional 'Wild Mountain Thyme'.  Given his mesmerizing, trance-ish reworked arrangement, you'd be hard pressed to recognize it as a traditional tune.  rating: *** stars

 

The single off the album was:

 

 

- 1973's 'Warm Love' b/w 'Wild Children' (Warner Brothers catalog number WB 7706)

 

In Europe the single had a different 'B' side with 'I Will Be There' replacing 'Wild Children'.

 

 While nowhere near as consistent as earlier efforts the album is a charmer and sold well, peaking at # 27. 

 

 

 


"


 

Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Saint Dominic's Preview

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: BS-2633

Year: 1972

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog number: not yet listed 

Price: $12.00

Cost: $1.00

For whatever reason, 1972's "Saint Dominic's Preview" has always been an aural challenge to us.  There've been times when the set's been almost unlistenable and times when we're convinced it's one of his top five albums.  So, other than we're dysfunctional, what's that prove?  Beats us.  

Musically the set's a little different than Morrison's previous offerings in that for the most part it avoids thematically dense structures in favor of what's basically a pop album.  Tracks such as the blazing R&B rocker "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)", the bluesy "I Will Be There" and the title track all sound as if they were written with an ear for top-40 radio.  Naturally there are a couple of exceptions.  While they feature pretty melodies, both "Listen To the Lion" and "Almost Independence Day" stand as vintage Morrison Celtic-styled inner mysticism - perfect Sunday morning listening ... 

 

"Saint Dominic's Preview" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)    (Van Morrison) - 

2.) Gypsy   (Van Morrison) - 

3.) I Will Be There   (Van Morrison) - 

4.) Listen To the Lion   (Van Morrison) - 

 

(side 2)

1.) Saint Dominic's Preview   (Van Morrison) - 

2.) Redwood Tree   (Van Morrison) - 

3.) Almost Independence Day   (Van Morrison) - 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  T.B. Sheets

Company: Bang

Catalog: BLP-400

Year: 1974

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog number: not yet listed 

Price: $10.00

Cost: $1.00

Van Morrison's recordings for Bert Berns Bang label have always struck us as being some of his most mainstream and commercial work.  That makes this 1974 compilation kind of a surprise.  Like previous Bang compilations, "T.B. Sheets" was issued without Morrison's participation or approval.  Unlike earlier compilations, this time around the focus was on Morrison's less commercial efforts.  (Congrats to Bang for coming up with one of the year's uglier album covers.)

 

"T.B. Sheets" track listing

(side 1)

1.) He Ain't Give You None   (Van Morrison) - 

2.) Beside You   (Van Morrison) - 

3.) It's All Right   (Van Morrison) - 

4.) Madame George   (Van Morrison) - 

 

(side 2)

1.) T.B. Sheets   (Van Morrison) - 

2.) Who Drove the Red Sports Car?   (Van Morrison) - 

3.) Ro Ro Rosey   (Van Morrison) - 

4.) Brown Eyed Girl    (Van Morrison) - 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  It's Too Late To Stop Now

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: 2BS-2760

Year: 1974

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: double LP set; triple sleeve cover

Available:1

Catalog number: 4784 

Price: $20.00

Cost: $1.00

 

 

1974's "It's Too Late To Stop Now" was an 18 track, double album concert set (one of the first in what was to become a seemingly endless stream of live two album sets).  Recorded at 1973 performances in London and Los Angeles with backing from the eleven piece Caledonia Soul Orchestra, Morrison came off as relaxed and almost playful (which was not always the case - I once saw him play a date where he never turned around to look at the audience).  Recorded when Morrison still had some interest in performing a set list that would please his audience, the collection offered up a mix of his hits and more obscure but no less interesting album tracks ('I've Been Working' and 'These Dreams of You' were two of the standout performances).  The collection was of further interest given Morrison included a series of blues covers.  Harkening back to his days with Them, R&B performances such as 'Help Me', 'I Just Wanna Make Love To You' and 'Take Your Hands Out of My Pocket' were simply killer.   Chronologically the album also served as a nice career retrospective covering a spectrum that ranged from the Them years (a great extended workout on 'Gloria' - check out the audience handling the chorus) up through 1973's "Hard Nose To the Highway" ('Wild Children'). 

 

"It's Too Late To Stop Now ..." track listing

(side 1)

1.) Ain't Nothing You Can Do   (Malone - Scott) - 3:44

One of Morrison's early-1970s secret weapons was the Caledonia Soul Orchestra - they injected high test fuel into virtually all of these songs - just check out the killer horns on the opener 'Ain't Nothing You Can Do'.  They also had a big hand in making Morrison's own performances seem so effortless.  rating: **** stars

2.) Warm Love   (Van Morrison) - 3:04

I have no idea how much post-production work went into this set, but 'Warm Love' was an amazing display of the man's live charisma.  At this point in his life he could have made the telephone book intriguing,    rating: **** stars

3.) Into the Mystic   (Van Morrison) - 4:33

Long one of my favorite Morrison ballads, this version of  'Into the Mystic' was pretty good, except for the intrusive strings.  The studio version had strings, but for some reason they really irritated me on this one.   Morrison's easy-going vamping vocal more than made up for the strings.  rating: *** stars

4.) These Dreams of You   (Van Morrison) - 3:37

While there wasn't anything wrong with the upbeat and bouncy performance, I just never liked 'These Dreams of You' very much.  rating: ** stars  

5.) I Believe To My Soul   (Ray Charles) - 4:09

Nothing to say other than side one ended with a killer cover of Ray Charles' 'I Believe To My Soul'.    rating: **** stars  

 

(side 2)

1.) I've Been Working   (Van Morrison) - 3:56

Anyone claiming Morrison couldn't really rock out only needed to check out side two's blazing 'I've Been Working '.  Kudos to lead guitarist John Platania.    rating: **** stars 

2.) Help Me   (Willie Dixon - Williamson) - 3:25

And anyone doubting his blues roots should listen to his cover of Willie Dixon's 'Help Me'.  Who said white guys couldn't sing the blues ...  Added icing, another blazing performance from guitarist  John Platania.  

3.) Wild Children   (Van Morrison) - 5:04

I've always liked Morrison when he's working with a well defined melody, or groove.  Not the case with 'Wild Children'.  Yeah, it was freewheeling and easy-going, but didn't do a great deal for me.  rating: ** stars  

4.) Domino   (Van Morrison) - 4:48

Judging by the audience reaction, I wasn't the only one who appreciated the tune-oriented Morrison.  My only complaint with this version of 'Domino' was that Morrison seemed intent on getting it over quickly, hence what sounded like a speeded up take on the classic tune.  I'm sure it gets old having to do the same songs night after night, but c'mon this one's such a classic ...  rating: *** stars  

5.) I Just Wanna Make Love To You  (Willie Dixon) - 5:16

Funny that after rushing through 'Domino' Morrison would turned in a slowed down, extended cover of Willie Dixon's 'I Just Wanna Make Love To You'.  Morrison's performance was dynamite, but guitarist Platania almost stole the show with his tasteful slide work.  rating: *** stars  

 

(side 3)

1.) Bring It On Home To Me   (Sam Cooke) - 4:42

It's suicidal for most artists to try a Sam Cooke cover.  Morrison was one of the few who had the chops to pull it off.  His cover of 'Bring It On Home To Me' would have done Cooke proud.  rating: *** stars  

2.) Saint Dominic's Preview   (Van Morrison) - 6:18

While the studio version of 'Saint Dominic's Preview' is a classic recording, this live version injects a sense of energy total missing from the original.  Morrison at his best and maybe the best song on the album.  rating: ***** stars  

3.) Take Your Hands Out of My Pocket   (Williamson) - 4:04

Yeah, blues fans will rave, but other than a killer sax solo from  Jack Schroer, 'Take Your Hands Out of My Pocket' struck me as being a pedestrian effort.  rating: * star  

4.) Listen To the Lion   (Van Morrison) - 8:43

The wandering, mystic Morrison can be an acquired taste, but on this extended version of 'Listen To the Lion' those characteristics were showcased at their best - the end result was beautiful, calming, and thoroughly enjoying.  rating: ***** stars  

 

(side 4)

1.) Here Comes the Night   (Bert Berns) - 3:14

Side four was dedicated to Morrison's more conventional catalog, though this version of 'Here Comes the Night' missed the mark for me.  rating: ** stars  

2.) Gloria   (Van Morrison) - 4:16

Yeah, it's a classic song, but how do you make a chestnut like 'Gloria' exciting?  Well, have the crowd basically take control of the tune and sing the hell out of it for you is one way to do it.  Simply one of the best versions of the song I've ever heard and the crowd kills on the song.  rating: ***** stars  

3.) Caravan   (Van Morrison) - 9:20

Whereas 'Gloria' sounded like it had been recorded in a large arena, 'Caravan' has a small, intimate feel to it.  Another fantastic performance and along with 'Gloria' made the album worth owning.  Love the way Morrison scatted the chorus and pronounced it raaaaadio ...   rating: ***** stars  

4.) Cypres Avenue   (Van Morrison) - 10:20

The album ended with another shot of mystic Morrison and an extended Avenue Cypress'.  It took awhile for the song to come into focus, but when it finally did, it was well worth the wait.  For some reason the track listing mis-spelled the song as 'Avenue Cypres', rather than 'Cyprus Avenue'.   rating: **** stars  

 

Simply a great, if often overlooked, concert set and one of Morrison's most revealing releases.  For a double album set the collection didn't do bad commercially peaking at # 53.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  A Period of Transition

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: 4

Year: 1977

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available:2

Catalog number: 851 

Price: $10.00

 

Best time to listen to it:  Rainy Sunday mornings

 

1977's "A Period of Transition" was the first Van Morrison album I ever bought - picked it up at a Penguin Feather store for a dollar (I seem to recall stacks and stacks of cutout copies sitting in the store).  Overlooking sessions for a shelved collaboration with The Crusaders, this marked Morrison's first release in three years.  Co-produced by Morrison and Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack), the album title was apparently far more accurate than listeners realized. In interviews he gave at the time, the normally reclusive Morrison admitted the album was a reflection of personal transition (which might explain the ugly Ken McGowan album cover showing Morrison in different moods).  Interestingly, while he co-produced and played piano and some guitar, Rebennack's influences were far and few between - far less than you would have expected from such an influential musician.  About half of the seven tracks reflected previously written and recorded material and other than occasional funky horn charts, the only tracks that bore an obvious Dr. John stamp were 'It Fills You Up' and the  .  Having listened to the album dozens of times over the years, I'll tell you it isn't a must-own Morrison album.  That said, it was a Van Morrison release and had more than its share of interesting moments, with a couple of buried treasures (the pop-friendly 'Flamingoes Fly') and the slinky opener 'You Gotta Make It Through the World').  The album's overall feel was that of a warm,  lyrically enigmatic, occasionally dark, R&B soaked weekend. (The whole project clocked in at a stingy 34 minutes.)

 

"A Period of Transition" track listing

(side 1)

1.) You Gotta Make It Through the World   (Van Morrison) - 5:10

At least to my ears, the slinky, funky groove that opened 'You Gotta Make It Through the World' was a pleasant surprise.   I guess it makes sense in light of the title, but  Morrison has always described the tune as a "survival" song which makes quite a bit of sense given his personal life.   rating: **** stars

2.) It Fills You Up   (Van Morrison) - 4:34

Perhaps an autobiographical reflection on the creative process, 'It Fills You had an intriguing, almost trance-like melody that seemed to reflect Dr. John's New Orleans influences.   One of those songs that sneaks into your head and won't leave.   rating: **** stars

3.) The Eternal Kansas City    (Van Morrison) - 5:26

The album's "key" song, 'The Eternal Kansas City' opened up with a strange, but engaging female accapella chorus repeating the title over and over.  They sound nothing alike, but for some reason it's always reminded me a bit of Dionne Warwick's Do You Know the Way To San Jose'.)  Just as you were getting acclimated to the chorus, Morrison's bluesy vocals abruptly kicked in giving the song a completely mesmerizing pseudo-jazzy vibe.  Recorded  for a 1977 appearance on the Dutch Wonderland  television show, YouTube has a great live version of the song:  The female chorus is missing, but, Dr. John's there on keyboards.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEBetW7YbcU     rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Joyous Sound   (Van Morrison) - 2:48

Another track reflecting some Dr. John influences, side two opened up with one of Morrison's bounciest tunes - the Gospel-tinged 'Joyous Sound'.   Kudos to Reggie McBride's wonderful bass work, though the sax solo did less for me.   An inferior, alternate version appeared on Morrison's 1988 "The Philosopher's Stone" album.  YoTube has a nice performance of the song recorded a couple of years later at the 1980 Montreuz Jazz Festival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMPkFDFg37g     rating: **** stars

2.) Flamingos Fly   (Van Morrison) - 4:41

With a gorgeous and instantly catchy melody that may be one of the most commercial things he's written since Them, 'Flamingos Fly' was my choice for the album's best and most commercial tunes.   When the chorus hit ...   aural paradise.  The song was originally written in 1973 and recorded  by Jackie DeShannon on her album "Jackie ... Plus".   An alternate, slow ballad version of the tune also appeared on Morrison's 1988 compilation set "The Philosopher's Stone".  I'd tell you this up-tempo version is better. .Even stranger, Sammy Hagar covered the tune on his debut album "Nine On a Ten Scale".  rating: **** stars

3.) Heavy Connection   (Van Morrison) - 5:23

I'm usually not a big fan of horn arrangements, but have to admit 'Heavy Connection' benefited from the tasty horns.   Musically the song was another wonderful example of Morrison's unique "Caledonia soul" sound.  Maybe not the album's most immediately great tune, but one that gains momentum each time you hear it and it would go on any "best of" set I pulled together.   rating: **** stars

4.) Cold Wind In August   (Van Morrison) - 5:48

About the nicest things I can say about 'Cold Wind In August' are .) it sounds like a Van Morrison ballad, 2.) the enigmatic lyrics are interesting, and 3.) the plodding melody gets better if you give it a chance.  Also from the 1977 Wonderland performance, it takes awhile for the Morrison and the band (including Mick Ronson on guitar), to get it together, but it's worth the wait: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82Yo9CIQDsA   rating: *** stars

 

As mentioned, the album was tapped for a pair of non-selling singles:

 

  

 

   US release:

- 1977's  'Joyous Sound' b/w 'Mechanical Bliss' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8411)

 

   UK release:

- 1977's 'The Eternal Kansas City' b/w 'Joyous Sound'  (Warner Brothers catalog number K 16939)

 

Even though it lacked a hit single; had a hideous album cover, enjoyed little promotional support from Warner Brothers, and enjoyed lukewarm critical recognition, the set proved a decent seller, hitting # 45 on the US charts.

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Wavelength

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: BSK 3212

Year: 1978

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes original lyric inner sleeve

Available:  2

Catalog number: 1471 

Price: $10.00

 

"Wavelength" came out when I was a freshman in college and I can still remember buying a copy at a local Kemp Mill record store for $3 or $4.   Here's the funny thing about the album ...  I was already a Van Morrison fan, but was into the man from a perspective of teenage angst.  "Wavelength" was nothing like those earlier efforts.   I was bright, upbeat, bouncy ...  for goodness sakes a Van Morrison who was almost smiling on the cover photo, and  who seemed to actually embrace the thought of having pop hits?   What was the world coming to?

Self-produced, the album found Morrison working with a top notch band which happened to span his entire musical career, including guitarist Herbie Armstrong who he'd work with in various Irish show bands, former Them keyboardist Peter Bardens, bassist Mickey Feat, drummer Peter Van Hooke, and guitarist Bobby Tench.  As with all of his material, the songs were intensely personal and frequently inscrutable reflections on his youth, his life, and his relationships.   Morrison scholars (yeah, they actually exist), can probably provide a song-by-song analyses, but that's far beyond my limited skills.   Suffice it to say tracks like 'Kingdom Hall', 'Natalia', and 'the title track rocked with more energy than anything he'd done since his Them days.  Aside from the radio hits, there were plenty of winners on the album, including his collaboration with Jackie DeShannon 'Santa Fe', '', and ''.   Bottom line was that an upbeat Van Morrison was a helluva lot better than a bitter and dour Van Morrison.   ON those rare occasions I actually pull this one and give it a spin, it serves to remind me of what was a simpler time.  Ah, to be young again.

"Wavelength" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Kingdom Hall   (Van Morrison) - 5:59

Geez, almighty!  Who would have expected throwback Van Morrison - tuneful, highly commercial, and fun through and through.  Seriously, this was the most radio friendly thing he'd recorded in years.  Morrison was apparently inspired to write the song as a memory of his youth attending church with his mother who happened to be a practicing  Jehovah's Witness   Warner Brothers wasted no time releasing the song as a single:

- 1979's 'Kingdom Hall' b/w 'Checkin' It Out' (Warner Brothers catalog number ???)

To my ears the live arrangement doesn't come close to the studio original, but you can judge this 1980 Live at Montreux performance for yourself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2l6pgIBFssI    rating: **** stars
2.) Checkin' It Out    (Van Morrison) - 3:29

Even though it was seemingly written about a disintegrating relationship, 'Checkin' It Out' was a breezy, uplifting, and charming country tinged number.   Complete with Peter Barden's cheesy synthesizers, who would have expected to like a Van Morrison country tune?   Wonderful.   rating: **** stars
3.) Natalia    (Van Morrison) - 4:04

Probably the album's most commercial tune, 'Natalia' had hooks sticking out of every niche.  Warner Brothers tapped it as a promo single in the US, but inexplicably didn't do much on the charts.

- 1979's 'Natalia' b/w 'Natalia' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8743)    rating: **** stars
4.) Venice U.S.A  
   (Van Morrison) - 6:32

Morrison getting funky ...  Morrison getting a bit of Cajun flavor in his bloodstream ...   The Band's Garth Hudson provided the bubbly accordion.  Peter Bardens provided the wonderful organ.    rating: **** stars
5.) Lifetimes 
   (Van Morrison) - 4:15

The plodding ballad 'Lifetimes' was a brief return to Morrison's more introverted side.  

(side 2)

1.) Wavelength  (Van Morrison) - 5:44

Ah, thank you American taxpayers.  The title track was apparently based on Morrison's recollections of listening to The Voice of America as a child.  Ultimately who cared since it was one of the catchiest things he'd ever penned.  Released as a single, the track hit # 42 on the US charts.

- 1979's 'Wavelength' (short version) b/w 'Wavelength' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8661)   YouTube has a number of live performances of the tune, though this 1979 Belfast date seems to be the best of them:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsEdUH3j1KU    rating: **** stars
2.) Santa Fe/Beautiful Obsession   (Van Morrison - Jackie DeShannon / Van Morrison) - 7:04

Co-written by Jackie DeShannon (her version of the song finally appeared on 2004's "Jackie ... Plus"), 'Santa Fe/Obsession' was one of those Morrison tunes that just sort of bulldozed its way into your head and wouldn't leave.  Virtually every time I listen to it, I find the opening kind of plodding, but by the end of the song, the stupid thing is firmly rooted in my head.    rating: **** stars 
3.) Hungry For Your Love 
  (Van Morrison) - 3:45

One of his prettiest tunes and it had a lyric that's always made me smile ... "I love you in buckskin".   If you've ever wondered what all the fuss was about, check out Morrison's contented vocal on this one.  Kind of sad most people know the tune from the "An Officer and a Gentleman" soundtrack.   rating: **** stars
4.) Take It Where You Find It 
  (Van Morrison) - 8:40

A love letter to the US (the good and the bad)?   Another question for the Morrison scholars.   Opening up with a martial feel, the laconic ballad 'Take It Where You Find It' take its sweet time, but ultimately proves one of Morrison's best performances.  Always loved Mitch Dalton's Spanish guitar.    rating: **** stars

 

 

Kicked along by the hit single and positive reviews, the album proved Morrison's fastest seller, eventually hitting # 28 on the US album charts.

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Van Morrison Live At the Roxy

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: WBMS 102

Year: 1979

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo album

Available:1

Catalog number: 1572

Price: $80.00

 

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Van Morrison Live At the Roxy

Company: no label

Catalog: --

Year: 1979

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): NM/NM

Comments: still  in shrink wrap

Available:1

Catalog number: 2440

Price: $90.00

 

 

Part of a series of Warner Brothers Music Show radio promotional releases, "Van Morrison Live at the Roxy" was recorded during Morrison's 1978 American "Wavelength" tour.  Produced by Joel Fein and Ted Cohen, the ten track set included material spanning the breadth of Morrison's career, but focused heavily on his recently released "Wavelength" collection -  the title track, 'Checkin' It Out', 'Hungry For Your Love', and 'Kingdom Hall' were all off of "Wavelength".   Backed by most of the folks who supported Morrison on the album, the results were pretty impressive.  With the focus on new material, there wasn't a lot of time for visiting old classics, which meant 'Brown Eyed Girl' and 'Crazy Love' were given rather slapdash performances. In fact, Morrison turned 'Crazy Love' over to back-up singer Katie Kissoon (mis-credited as 'Katie Kassoon'). Luckily 'Tupelo Honey' and 'Caravan' faired better.  All-in-all it was a nice enough live document, but for a wider view you'd probably want to go with 1974's "It's Too Late To Stop Now".

"Van Morrison Live at the Roxy" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Brown Eyed Girl  (Van Morrison) -

Anyone expecting to hear the classic 'Brown Eyed Girl' was likely to be disappointed by the revamped arrangement.  Clearly you couldn't blame Morrison for wanting to try something a little different.  Unfortunately, this speeded-up, somewhat lackadaisical version (complete with irritating synthesizer solo), was a disappointment.  rating: *** stars

2.) Wavelength  (Van Morrison) -

The beginning was a little shaky, Morrison clearly wasn't in the best vocal form, and compared to the studio version, the synthesizer solo sounded tinny and cheesy , but when the tune got going, you started to overlook those shortcomings.   Kudos to Bob Tench for some killer guitar.  rating: **** stars

3.) And It Stoned Me  (Van Morrison) -

A tune off of 1970's "Moondance", 'And It Stoned Me' has always been one of my favorite Morrison "mystical" tunes.  Wikipedia has an entry that quotes Morrison talking about the song's inspiration: "I suppose I was about twelve years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he'd got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this 'other dimension'. That's what the song is about.  rating: **** stars

4.) Checkin' It Out  (Van Morrison) -

One of the "Wavelength" highlights, the live version of 'Checkin' It Out' sounded a bit stiff.  Nice (particularly the organ solo), but not nearly as good as the studio version.  rating: *** stars

5.) Hungry For Your Love  (Van Morrison) -

It was one of the prettiest tunes on "Wavelength" and was one of the standout performances here.  Morrison sounded deeply attached to the track, turning in a heartfelt vocal.   rating: **** stars

6.) Kingdom Hall  (Van Morrison) -

Another "Wavelength" tune and the live version was every bit as good as the studio version.  Tight and energetic, this one might have been enough to warrant tracking down this set.   rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Crazy Love (performed by Katie Kassoon)   (Van Morrison) -

Another "Moondance" tune, it was nice of Morrison to give Katie Kassoon a spotlight moment.  Shame folks weren't paying attention as they misspelled her name - this was actually Katie Kissoon of Mac and Katie Kissoon fame ('Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep').  Her performance was enjoyable, though it wasn't going to make you forget the Morrison original.   rating: *** stars

2.) Tupelo Honey  (Van Morrison) -

Of the handful of "classic" Morrison tunes on the album, 'Tupelo Honey' probably faired the best.  Morrison seemed fully engaged, making for a keeper performance with some first-rate Bobby Tench guitar.   rating: **** stars

3.) Caravan  (Van Morrison) -

Back to "Moondance" for 'Caravan'.  The vocals were a little rough, but the song was so good; particularly when Morrison started to get into his patented vocal trance, you didn't really care.  rating: **** stars

4.) Cypress Ave.  (Van Morrison) -

So why not turn to "Astral Weeks" for at least one song?  Another classic tune that came off well (complete with the "It's too late to stop now closing"), capturing Morrison's captivating live energy. ( I actually saw him around this time (1978) and guess he was in a crappy mod the night I saw him since he spent most of the evening with his back turned to the audience.)   rating: **** stars

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title: Irish Heartbeat

Company: Mercury

Catalog: 834496-1

Year: 1988

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available:1

Catalog number: 2301

Price: $20.00

 

ogy.

 

"Irish Heartbeat" track listing

(side 1)

1.) Star of the County Down   (Traditional arranged by Van Morrison and Paddy Moloney) - 2:30  rating: **** stars

Okay, it's a standard slice of Saturday night Irish pub fair, but there's just something relaxing about hearing this one.   Morrison and company sound like they were having a blast.  YouTube has a live performance of the tune at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ende0pCRL-E 

2.) Irish Heartbeat

3.) Ta M Chleamhnas Deanta

4.) Raglan Road

5.) She Moved Through the Fair

 

(side 2)


'H

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Common One

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: 23462-1

Year: 1980

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes original inner sleeve

Available:2

Catalog number: 2509

Price: $15.00

 

Best time to play: tough day at work and dinner will be a bag of chips and a beer

 

Co--produced by Van Morrison and Henry Lewy, 1980's "Common One" was recorded over an eight day period at Super Bear Studios near Nice, France.  The album's notable for featuring one of Morrison's most impressive line-ups of supporting musicians, including keyboardist John Allair, guitarist Mick Cox, bassist David Hayes, and drummer Peter Van Hooke.  

 

So, in the interests of full disclosure, anyone hoping to hear a collection of Them styled rockers, or even "Wavelength" styled, radio friendly material was liable to be disappointed by four of these six extended, pseudo-jazzy numbers.  With a breezy and funky melody, 'Satisfied' and the slinky 'Spirit' were very much the album's exceptions. Apparently a reflection of Morrison's growing interest in English poets and writers, and far more typical were extended, pseudo-jazzy tracks like 'Haunts of Ancient Peace' and 'Summertime In England'.  That also meant Morrison's always obscure lyrics were going to be even more obscure for the rank and file listener.  If you weren't a fan, this stuff was likely to come off as pretentious, self-serving, and smug.  And if those tunes were challenging, the vague, rather tuneless 'When Heart Is Open' was liable to send many folks off the deep end.  Even as a fan, this one was going to take some time to warm up to.   I can clearly remember buying it; spinning it a couple of times and moving on.   Geez, it only took me thirty years to decide I liked parts of it ...   And that probably goes a long way to explaining why the album was clobbered by the critics and ignored by the buying public.  

 

Certainly not the place for a casual fan to start, but a nice addition to a dedicated Morrison fan.

 

"Irish Heartbeat" track listing

(side 1)

1.) Haunts of Ancient Peace   (Van Morrison) - 7:07   rating: *** stars

Inspired by a book by English poet laureate Alfred Austin, hardcore fans swoon over 'Haunts of Ancient Peace', but I've got to tell you I find it slow, ponderous, and ultimately dull.   Yeah, I'm sure there's something to be said for the song's jazzy feel - I do like David Hayes' melodic bass, but man, this one is ultimately somnolent.  If you're a fan of Morrison's Celtic jazz moves, YouTube has a June 1980 performance of the song taken from a concert at Montreux.  It's even longer than the studio version::  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6G34zJzcAU

2.) Summertime In England   (Van Morrison) - 15:35   rating: **** stars

Well, at least 'Summertime In England' showed Morrison could stitch together a funky groove and his unique lyrics - in this case the song was apparently inspired by English poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth.  Yeah, clocking in at over 15 minutes meant it was way, way too long, but no matter how strange, Morrison's stream-of-consciousness lyrics were a joy to hear ...  ah smokin' up in Kendal.   YouTube has a clip of Morrison performing the tune at a 1980 date at Montreux: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMLaHEwEX7Y    Who know why, but Warner Brothers actually tapped this one as a US 12" single:

- 1980's 'Summertime In England' b/w 'Haunts of Ancient Peace' (Warner Brothers catalog number PRO A-911)

3.) Satisfied   (Van Morrison) - 6:01  rating: **** stars

Kicked along by John Allair's funky keyboards and the giddy group call-and-response vocals, 'Satisfied' was easily the album's most commercial and joyful tune.   Besides, how could you not smile at a lyric that included a line li e "go up to the mountain, look back at the city, things don't look so pretty ..."?   Another Montreux performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBPO4337AUg    Pee Wee Ellis and Mark Isham jammin' out on horns.  

 

(side 2)

1.) Wild Honey   (Van Morrison) - 5:49   rating: ** stars

Hum, Morrison takes a stab at supper club soul ...   Yeah, his voice remained an amazing instrument and  I know hard core fans love this one, but other than a mesmerizing Pee Wee Ellis sax solo, I've never heard the charm on this one.  Morrison re-recorded the tune with Joss Stone on his "Duets" album.

2.) Spirit   (Van Morrison) - 5:10  rating: **** stars

With a slinky melody and some tasty Mark Isham trumpet, 'Spirit' was another album highlight.  Great example of how good Morrison could be when he simply vamped his way through a tune.  And here's the Montreux performance with a stunning, Gospel-tinged John Allair opening segment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GVDviCD1HE  

3.) When Heart Is Open   (Van Morrison) - 15:05   rating: ** stars

So, if you wanted to be generous, I guess you'd say 'When Heart Is Open' was pastoral and calming - something you could put on while you contemplated the pros and cons of picking up the dust bunny growing in the corner of your living room.   If you weren't in a generous mood, you couldn't be blamed for seeing this one as a vague, self-indulgent slice of tuneless, new age ambience.  Call me shallow and insensitive, but I'd lean towards the latter view.   And this one seems to go on and on and on ...

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Inarticulate Speech of the Heart

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: 23802-1

Year: 1983

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available:1

Catalog number: 1770 

Price: $15.00

 

Best time to play: cold, rainy nights

 

I have to admit "Inarticulate Speech of the Heart" was one of those Van Morrison albums that escaped my attention when it originally came out in 1983.  I actually bought a copy, but other than a quick spin, it took me about a decade to actually listen to it with any real attention.  When I did, it simply didn't make all that much of an impression on me.  Pretty, but a tad too relaxed and adult contemporary for my tastes at the time.   Another twenty years and while cleaning out albums I stumbled across it in the stacks.  Time to give it another spin ?  Yes and I'm glad I did.  The interesting thing was those initial adult contemporary impressions were actually quite applicable, but had I given the album a chance, it's relaxed charms might have sunk in far earlier.  'Higher than the World' was one of the prettiest things Morrison had ever written, while 'River of Time' came close.  Elsewhere as the album was surprising for the inclusion of four instrumentals (three which were quite good).  Speculation on my part, but the album marked the end of Morrison's longstanding recording relationship with Warner Brothers.   I'm not trying to imply this was one of those contractual obligation sets, since the album (even with all the instrumentals), had a fascinating, almost hypnotic feel.  On the other hand, Morrison may not have felt the need to trot out his best material (check out the new-age tinged 'September Night').. Not to sound stupid, but it's one of these album's that grows on you with time.  And given the right time and place, it could well end up on a personal top-10 list.   No, that start-of-summer party would not be the time or place.    Regardless, Warner seemingly did little to promote the collection, though with minimal support the album still managed to hit # 116 on the US album charts.

 

I won't even ask why Morrison's liner notes included a thanks to L. Ron Hubbard, the Morrison seems to have at least briefly flirted with Scientology.

 

"Inarticulate Speech of the Heart" track listing

(side 1)

1.) Higher than the World   (Van Morrison) - 3:42
'Higher than the World' came as a total surprise.  The synthesizer washes gave the song a distinctive '80s flavor, but it was still one of the prettiest things he'd written in years.   For anyone interested, YouTube has a 1984 performance of the tune recorded for the German Rockpalast television series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RBqDsKoww4     rating: **** stars

2.) Connswater (instrumental)   (Van Morrison) - 4:09

Pastoral, Celtic jog-flavored instrumental that thanks to Dave Spillane pipes would not have sounded out of place on a Chieftains album, or a television theme song.   rating: *** stars

3.) River of Time   (Van Morrison) - 3:02

Another pretty, almost narcotic mid-tempo ballad that served to showcase Morrison's special voice.  YouTube has another 1984 Rockpalast performance of the tune at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf3YjkwBsFk    rating: **** stars

4.) Celtic Swing (instrumental)   (Van Morrison) - 5:03

Showcasing Pee Wee Ellis on sax, to my ears the jazzy 'Celtic Swing' opened up sounding like an outtake from Mark Knopfler's "Local Hero" soundtrack.  Very much a mood piece which meant you had to be in the right frame of mind for this one to click.   Always wondered about the odd static that seemed mixed in the song.   Interestingly, Morrison opted to make a promotional video (quite a strange one) for this tune:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLRP8Oqsj0s    It was also released as an English 12" single:

- 1983's 'Celtic Swing' b/w 'Rave On, John Donne' / 'Mr. Thomas'  (Mercury catalog number MER X 141)   rating: *** stars

5.) Rave On, John Donne   (Van Morrison) - 5:12

Okay, 'Rave On, John Donne' remains a mystery to me.  Fans fawn over it, but what I hear is basically Morrison sing-talking his way over a rather tuneless supper club melody, that's saved from oblivion by Pee Wee Ellis' sax solo.   He name checks an impressive collection of intellectuals, but I have no idea whether it was meant as anything more than a tribute to the namesake English cleric and poet ...   rating: ** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Immaculate Speech of the Heart No. 1 (instrumental)   (Van Morrison) - 4:53

The title track was another beautiful instrumental, but it's always sounded incomplete to my ears.   That's not to imply there was anything wrong with the tune (in fact I've found myself humming it at unexpected times), rather you were left to ponder what a "completed" version might have sounded like.   rating: **** stars

2.) Irish Heartbeat   (Van Morrison) - 4:40

His version with The Chieftains (on the "Irish Heartbeat" album), is the one that most folks know.  And while I love that version to death, I think this slower, starker arrangement might be even better.   If there's a better tune dedicated to family, I'm unaware of it.    rating: **** stars

3.) The Street Only Knew Your Name   (Van Morrison) - 3:36

Probably my favorite tune on the album - certainly the best melody and the most commercial (yeah, I'm using the term in a loose sense).  Love Morrison's voice on this one.  The way he spits out the vocals was simply amazing.     rating: **** stars

4.) Cry For Home   (Van Morrison) - 3:44

'Cry For Home' was a  perfect example of why Morrison remains such a mystery - on the surface 'the song didn't seem to have a great deal going for it.  Ordinary country-tinged ballad with a pleasant, if unexceptional melody ...   Not exactly a ringing endorsement.   That said, there was something about the song that snuck up on you and wouldn't leave you alone.   Here's another Rockpalast performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBTmKFcM6uo   A couple of years later Morrison redid the song as a slower, bluesier duet with Tom Jones.  Well worth checking out.    rating: **** stars

5.) Immaculate Speech of the Heart No. 2   (Van Morrison) - 3:35

Technically the second part of the title track wasn't an instrumental, but Morrison's vocal was largely limited to repeating the title and "I'm a soul in wonder" time after time.  Like Part 1, it was pretty enough, with a breezy, almost hypnotic feeling, but you were left to wonder why the song would have sounded like with a little more effort.   rating: **** stars

6.) September Night (instrumental)   (Van Morrison) - 5:16

The album's only real mis-step, the new age-ish instrumental 'September Night' sounded like a pure throwaway.   Hearing Morrison squealing in the background certainly didn't help matters.   rating: ** stars

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  No Guru, No Method, No Teacher

Company: Mercury

Catalog: 42283 00771

Year: 1986

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes original lyric inner sleeve

Available:1

Catalog number: 348 

Price: $15.00

 

Best time to play:   when you need to drop your blood pressure 

 

I remember 1986's "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher" getting wide spread praise from critics who'd  trashed Van Morrison's most recent release ...  Those reviews caught my attention and while I was a big Van Morrison fan, I recall being less than enthralled by the single 'Ivory Tower' (which I actually remember hearing at least once on a local radio station).  The single's lack of commerciality combined with a butt ugly album cover effectively stopped me from investing my spare cash in a copy of the album.  Shame it only took me twenty years to rectify that mistake.   

 

So let me warn you this wasn't what you'd term an easy listening experience.  Complete with reference to Lord Byron, Ribeaud, and W.B. Yeats, the album was musically and lyrically dense and typically enigmatic; literally bursting with Morrison's world of personal tragedies and issues.  Lots of folks have labeled it "spiritual".  I'll readily admit I don't have a clue if that's accurate, though I can tell you that anyone hoping to hear Them-styled rockers was going to be in for a tough time.  If my experience was typical, then it'll take the average listener a couple of spins to warm up to the album's considerable charms.   Those charms were certainly there - Morrison's instantly recognizable voice really sounded great on most of the songs.   Add to that a crack backing band and the fact at least half of these tracks had melodies that snuck up on you and wouldn't leave ('A Town Called Paradise' and 'Tir na Tog') and you were rewarded with an album that rewarded patience and persistence.  Call it one of his best '80s releases.  It's an album you can put on after a stressful day, pop a cold beer, and feel your blood pressure drop a couple of points in a matter of minutes (yes, I've done this a couple of times.)

 

"No Guru, No Method, No Teacher" track listing

(side 1)

1.) Got To Go Back   (Van Morrison) - 

Morrison at his autobiographical best ...   clearly a very personal track reflecting on his Irish childhood.  It certainly won't attract everyone's ear, but I've always found it lovely (particularly Kate St. John's oboe) and the lyrics were quite thought provoking.  It's one of those songs that can drop my blood pressure 10 points in the span of a couple of minutes.  rating: **** stars

2.) On the Warm Feeling   (Van Morrison) - 

With a drowsy, jazzy vibe, 'On the Warm Feeling' has always reminded me of a continuation of 'Astral Weeks'.  Once again, it won't appeal to everyone, but hardcore fans will lap it up.    rating: *** stars

3.) Foreign Window   (Van Morrison) - 

One of the album's prettier tunes  (loved the flamenco-influenced acoustic guitars), though lyrically it's pretty dense slogging.  rating: *** stars

4.) A Town Called Paradise   (Van Morrison) - 

Thankfully an up tempo track and even though Morrison sound like he was spitting nails, 'A Town Called Paradise' was a blast.  With a killer Ritchie Buckley sax solo, this was easily one of the album highlights.  Morrison actually sounded like he was having fun on this one and sitting still through the track is impossible.  Long live Caledonia soul ...    YouTube has a clip of Morrison performing the song at the 1986 Self AID concert.  Check out the hysterical opening segment:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvo03k_VP0k   rating: **** stars

5.) In the Garden   (Van Morrison) - 

In interviews Morrison described 'In the Garden' as being inspired by some sort of meditation process he was then into.  Lots of fans point to this as Morrison's best '80s work and while there was no denying the song was pretty, I guess I'm in the minority here.  While I liked the melody, I've always found the song long and self-indulgent.   Yeah, the melody was nice, but there were at least three songs on the album that were catchier.  By the way, the album title comes from this song's lyrics.   YouTube has a 1989 New York performance of the song.  The live version benefited from an arrangement that speeded the song up a bit, though Morrison's vocal was dicey.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFystPbb2dI   rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Tir na Tog   (Van Morrison) - 7:19

Like most of the album, 'Tir na Tog' was a fascinating song in an odd and slightly disturbing way.   Having the lyrics on the inner sleeve certainly helped you try to navigated through Morrison's gruff, slurred vocals, but ultimately the song's laidback, charming melody was what won you over.   A beautiful and somehow calming number.  I have it on my iPhone and have occasionally played it after a crappy day at work.   rating: **** stars

2.) Here Comes the Knight   (Van Morrison) - 3:49

Always wondered if Morrison was making a nod to the famous Them song with the title ...  Given he didn't seem to have much of a sense of humor, I'd guess he wasn't.  Regardless, 'Here Comes the Knight' was another languid ballad with some of his sweetest vocals ...  It'll sound strange, but it's akin to experiencing one of those wonderful laidback summer evenings where the sun seems to take forever to go down..  Morrison apparently borrowed some of the lyrics off of W.B. Yeats gravestone.   Great trumpet too boot.  YouTube has an enjoyable live performance of the song taken from the 1986 Self AID concert: : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHsCuwSISCs    rating: **** stars

3.) Thanks for the Information   (Van Morrison) - 7:13

Unlike much of the album, 'Thanks for the Information' reflected a distinctive '80s sound and vibe (along with some era appropriate lyrics).  That wasn't meant as a criticism since the song was also one of the album's most mainstream efforts (recognize I'm using the term in a broad sense).   It actually sounded like something that would have fit on the soundtrack for a Miami Vice episode though clocking in at over seven minutes it would have benefited from a bit of judicious editing.  Taken from the "Born To Sing: No Plan B" album, as you can see from the attached YouTube clip, the live version of the song is even better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGXNr5fDWkk    rating: *** stars

4.) One Irish Rover   (Van Morrison) - 3:31

The acoustic ballad 'One Irish Rover' was probably the album's prettiest and most accessible number, but came off as kind of trite and forgettable compared to some of the other tunes.  I will admit to loving the multi-tracked Morrison vocals and the chiming acoustic guitars.  Recorded as Part of the BBC's Four Seasons series, YouTube has an extended live performance of the song at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC14pZQ2nyA   rating: *** stars

5.) Ivory Tower   (Van Morrison) - 3:31

With some wonderful soul horns and a kickin; melody, 'Ivory Tower' was the album's most rockin' performance which probably went a long way to explaining why it was tapped as a single.  Nice to hear that Morrison could still rock out when he wanted to.  rating: **** stars

 

The album spun off a pair of singles.  In the States the 45 was:

 

 

- 1986's 'Ivory Tower' b/w 'New Kind of Man' (Mercury catalog number 884 842-7) # 21 pop 

 

In the UK and the rest of Europe the singles were:

 

- 1986's 'Ivory Tower' b/w 'New Kind of Man' (Mercury catalog number 223) 

- 1986's 'Got To Go Back' b/w 'In the Garden' (Mercury catalog MER 231)

 

The strong reviews helped the album hit # 70 on the US album charts.

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Avalon Sunset

Company: Mercury

Catalog: 422 839262-1

Year: 1989

Country/State: Ireland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD 

Catalog number:  SOLD 1994 

Price: SOLD $15.00

 

In typical Van Morrison form, 1989's "Avalon Sunset" was rehearsed and recorded over a four day timeframe.   His backing band, including Georgie Fame, were apparently unsure if they were cutting a real album, or just demos for a forthcoming album.   

 

When I bought the collection the combination of Morrison's religious fervor and Celtic moves didn't immediately rock my world.  In fact I can remember playing the album two or three times and filing it away.  I clearly remember thinking Morrison had turned preachy and lost his ability to write catchy and commercial songs.  It may have been choke full of insight and adult themes, but it wasn't something this thirty year old was looking for.  Over the years I'd occasionally pull the LP out and give it a spin, but it wasn't until I heard Rod Stewart's dismal cover of 'Have I Told You Lately' (included on his "Vagabond Heart" album), that I gave the album a real chance.  I remember hearing Stewart's cover and thinking it was pretty dreadful and pulling out the Morrison LP to see what the original sounded like. End result was Van Morrison 1; Rod Stewart nil.   Anyhow, listening to the album proved a real surprise.  Perhaps one of those early indications I was turning old ...  As exemplified by tracks like 'Whenever God Shines His Light', 'Contacting My Angel', and 'When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God', I'll readily admit Morrison' spiritual edge took a little getting accustomed to.  Luckily, even if the message didn't always resonate, there was no denying Morrison wrapped those "message" songs in some of his prettiest melodies.   'Have I Told You Lately' is a classic love song.  He may have written it for God, but it's a song people play at their weddings and funerals.   The man also had an amazing voice which seemed to have improved with the years. It was even string enough to survive the waves of  string and horn arrangements Fiachra Trench dumped on the tunes.

 

The album attracted favorable reviews from the critics and returned Morrison to the US top-100 charts where the album peaked at a respectable # 91.  

 

(side 1)

1.) Whenever God Shines His Light   (Van Morrison) - 4:58

I have no idea what Morrison's stance is on organized religion.  I believe he was born and raised in a Seventh Day Adventist household and was at least briefly associated with Scientology.   Ultimately those things simply didn't matter since this tune was an amazing testimony to whatever you believe in.  As for the unlikely collaboration with  Sir Cliff Richard - well I like Cliff Richard and their voices blended surprisingly well, but have to tell you Richard was largely wasted on this one, basically spending most of the song echoing Morrison's lead vocals.  Regardless, it made of one of the catchiest things Morrison had recorded in a decade.  The tune was released as a single in the UK and various other countries, though not the US:

- 1989's 'Whenever God Shines His Light' b/w 'I'd Love To Write Another Song' (Polydor catalog number 889 960-7)

Morrison even released a promo video for the tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--XE4CYGRSY   rating: **** stars

2.) Contacting My Angel   (Van Morrison) - 4::57

There are a lot of Morrison folks who are charmed by Morrison's pseudo-jazzy, stream-of-conscious compositions.  'Contacting My Angel' is a perfect example of the genre.  Part of me can understand the attraction.   If you let it, the song's drowsy scatting repetition eventually gets to you - like listening to a boring professor drone on.  Eventually you feel warm and cozy; ready to take a nap.  Ultimately this one just seemed plodding and dull, going on and on and on.  rating: *** stars

3.) I'd Love To Write Another Song   (Van Morrison) - 2:52

Bluesy, big band  shuffle which was nice in showing off Morrison instantly recognizable voice. Apparently a reflection on the pains of writers block, it was almost enough to make you think Morrison had a sense of humor.  Unfortunately it sounded like just another bluesy big band shuffle.  rating; ** stars

4.) Have I Told You Lately   (Van Morrison) - 4:24

No idea if Morrison wrote it as a tribute to his God, or to a woman in his life.  Again, it probably doesn't matter since no matter what the inspiration was it stands as one of the prettiest songs he ever wrote. The tune was tapped as a single in a couple of countries; though not the States, or the UK:

- 1989's 'Have I Told You Lately ' b/w 'Contacting My Angel' (Polydor catalog number 889 474-7)

Ironically, the tune did nothing commercially, but Rod Stewart did a cover version in 1993 which proved a major chart success, leading some smart folks back to the original version.   For anyone interested, YouTube has a live performance of the tune.  Morrison's supported Pee Wee Ellis and his band, including Candy Duffer on sax, and Katie Kissoon on vocals.  Morrison's not exactly in top form, apparently forgetting some of his own lyrics "blah, blah, blah", but it's still  worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKnVLa986cs   rating: **** stars

5.) Coney Island   (Van Morrison) - 2:00

Who knew Morrison was available to write travel commercials ...  Nah, he isn't singing about the New York City suburb.   This Coney Island was/is a Northern Ireland resort area.  Funny story - a buddy of mine wondered why Morrison was talking about drugs on the tune ...   I knew instantly what he was talking about -  "I went bird watching and the craic was good"   Craic (sounding like "crack" when Morrison sang it), was an Irish slang term for fun or enjoyment.   It isn't any better than the studio version, but YouTube has a 2014 live version of the tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd4whJtReQA    rating: **

6.) I'm Tired Joey Boy   (Van Morrison) - 2:29

Another pretty melody cloaked in heavy orchestration.   To my ears it sounded like a cross between a traditional Irish tune (lots of harp) and a kiddy tune.  Classic Morrison vocal though the song wasn't all that memorable.  rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God   (Van Morrison) - 5:38

The religious overtones may be a bit heavy for some folks, which is unfortunate since this was one of his most impressive compositions.  Never thought a harp could sound so good on a rock tune., though Georgie Fame's Hammond B-3 was even better.  YouTube has a mesmerizing November 1989 performance of the song recorded at New York's Beacon Theatre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omO0lCsOdPM    rating: **** stars

2.) Orangefield   (Van Morrison) - 3:50

Sporting one of the album's stronger and more conventional melodies, 'Orangefield' was seemingly a reflection on first love.  To my ears it was another album highlight and was tapped as the third single:

- 1989's 'Orangefield' b/w 'These Are The Days' (Polydor catalog number VANS 3)

No idea when or where it was recorded, but YouTube has a nifty live performance of the song, complete with orchestral backing.  There's also a great Arty McGlynn guitar solo too:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpOwVWFOo3Y   rating: **** stars

3.) Daring Night   (Van Morrison) - 6:10

Another tune that had a nice melody and a decent melody.   It also underscored Morrison could still sing his ass off.   rating: **** stars

4.) There Are the Days   (Van Morrison) - 5:08

Every heard Mark Knopfler's soundtrack for the film "Local Hero"?   'There Are the Days' sounds like an outtake from that beautiful album.   This is one of those cases where Morrison's mixture of religious moves and Celtic moves actually worked.   rating: **** stars

 

 

 

 

 

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