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VAN MORRISON Album by Album Discussion: Part 2 (Wavelength 1978 - Enlightenment 1990)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Clarkophile, Nov 26, 2007.

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  1. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC USA
    Tom,

    Maybe I'll break down and get that Heylin book as well. I hope reading it doesn't keep you from posting on the thread.;)
     
  2. JohnB

    JohnB Forum Resident

    Thanks for the insight Tom. I've been trying to find the Heylin offering in the bookstores but it seems a bit hard to find at the moment. Sounds like a good read.
     
  3. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
  4. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    When I am in the mood for "Common One" it is a great album. When I am not in the mood it isn't.

    "Wild Honey" and "Spirit" are my favorites. The slow/fast approach of "Spirit" is the blue print for grunge. ;)
     
  5. JohnB

    JohnB Forum Resident


    Yeah I've seen it online, just that I prefer to do it the old fashioned brick and mortar method. In fact at this time, buying anything online isn't even an option for me (long story), so I was hoping to be able to just go down to one of my favorite bookstores, hand them the cash and walk away with the book. I know, it's a pretty antiquated way of doing things, lol. Maybe book purchasing will one day be heading in the direction CD purchasing has. It used to be so much fun browsing around, *sigh* ...
     
  6. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    I hear you.
    Have you tried to get a local shop to order it for you? Not nearly as much fun as the "Woo-hoo!" moment of stumbling across it unexpectedly, I know, but it's an option.
     
  7. JohnB

    JohnB Forum Resident

    Yup that's probably what I'll do once things kind of get a bit more settled (I'm in the process of moving among other things). Thanks for the tip Tom! :righton:
     
  8. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    anyone care to post a few tidbits from this Heylin book then?
     
  9. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    Just for the sake of clarity, in reviewing Collis last night I found I had misquoted him. He did not, in fact, say that "When Heart is Open" is "unlistenable", as I had indicated; the exact quotation is that the song is "impossible to listen to.":p
     
  10. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    :laugh:
    and he's impossible to read.
     
  11. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    :laugh: :thumbsup:
    :biglaugh:
     
  12. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    :whistle:

    waiting for your post Tom.....I can feel the silence about to change....
     
  13. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    Can I do it tonight?
     
  14. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    sure, if you got the time, we got the time to read it....;)
     
  15. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    There is a moment at the 3:30 mark in "Haunts of Ancient Peace" where the backup singers, sounding like some Medieval choir immersed in their favourite hymn during a solemn rite, sing the title in a deliberately langourous fashion; they linger over the word "pea---eace" until the resolving note is finally, regrettably, reluctantly sung, as if the moment were so beautiful they didn't want to let it go.
    As moving as anything in Van Morrison's catalogue, the moment is interrupted by Van's terse direction for a sax solo: "All right." That moment, for me, encapsulates the overarching theme of Common One: to look back with fondness to ancient mystics, poets and historical figures as a means of solidifying the artist's spiritual quest in the present. Just as the choir of backup singers conjure images of pious antiquity, Van's direction for a sax solo keeps the listener equally engaged in the present. Common One is as ancient as it is an album recorded in a modern-day studio in 1980, and yet all the while it is timeless as a piece of art.

    "Summertime in England" focuses this theme as being England-specific. From the rumours of Jesus having set foot in England, through the Church of St. John's, constructed during the 15th Century, to the Romantic poets Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge, to Modernists like Joyce, Yeats and T.S. Eliot, Van is not so much name checking as he is tracing a history of personally influential figures for whom England became the nexus, the common ground which called out to all of them. Van himself returned to Britain after releasing the tepid Wavelength; one can assume it was for the purpose of drawing on the well spring, the same Holy Magnet, that attracted the names he rhymes off with such facility...to the irritation of some.

    What of the name checking? Is it, like Collis says derisively, merely a "reading list"? Is he attempting to confer upon his music an element of distinction beyond its rightful station by invoking names of the Great Poets?
    I think not. With a muse this good---remember, this is Van freakin' Morrison we're talking about here---Van has no need to resort to cheap tactics. One might argue it's instead a supreme act of humility being exhibited here; that Van is pointing us toward the Great Poets in a self-effacing way, as if to say, "Don't listen to me; listen to them." In "Satisfied," Van even says "sometimes I'm completely in the dark." Like Lennon, he doesn't profess to having all the answers; he can only tell you where he's been looking.

    Further to my idea of being simultaneously immersed in the past while still firmly rooted in the present, Van's diction supports this idea. Quaint words like "tarry" featured on the same album which refers to the Great Poets "smoking up"? Whaddup with that? At times this juxtaposition is a little jarring, perhaps even awkward, but Van, I believe, likes this apparent contradiction. It deliberately calls attention to the antiquated language sitting uncomfortably beside modern phrases to reinforce the idea of looking back into the past without ever becoming trapped in it. Van's music has always thrived on slow-burning tension; this is where the depth and soul of it is born.


    ___________________________________

    In purely aesthetic terms, I do have some problems with Common One. The drums in "Haunts of Ancient Peace" are superfluous and clumsy. They give the song rigid corners instead of space to roam. I also strongly dislike the clicking sound of the bass on a few tracks. I'm unsure if this is because the bassist was using a pick, or possibly employing some technique of harmonics; either way I find it irritating.
    Also, there seems to be some kind of problem in the overall balance of the sound. Sometimes the drums are inappropriately invasive; other times strangely muted. I'm no engineer or producer---just a hack drummer:laugh: ---but at times the quietude that is established in songs like "Spirit" is completely ruined by the explosiveness of the chorus. I know this Van-the-Producer's doing as a means of establishing dynamic contrast, but it makes it difficult to get into the contemplative vibe of the verse, knowing that the bliss is about to be shattered.
     
  16. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid


    I hadn't noticed this before. but I think you're so on target here. I will listen with this new observation....:righton: ...
     
  17. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    This is a recent observation of mine. Van does it quite a bit, when you think about it. The one that comes immediately to mind is from "In the Forest":

    Satisfy the soul baby
    Birds sing all day long of the mother lode
    We can let it roll, in the forest

    With your long robes on
    I know where you're coming from
    By the big oak tree you've gotta come and go with me


    See what I mean? He's talking about wearing robes, presumably ritualistic
    in nature, like those in a religious rite of some kind, very formal, pious---and then he uses colloquial terms like "We can let it roll" and "I know where you're coming from."
    It shouldn't work, but it does. In the hands of a lesser talent, stuff like this could be laughable. But Van is Van, so it makes perfect sense.
     
  18. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    "Spirit" is probably my least favorite song on the album (although I still enjoy it) perhaps for this reason. I haven't ever really noticed the other flaws you cite, but then I'm not even a hack drummer, just a hack :p My curiosity is piqued now so I'll be giving this album another careful listen in the near future. . .
     
  19. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    I just think "Haunts of Ancient Peace" would be even dreamier, more free-flowing and airy, without drums.
    Does no one else hear the clicking in the bass notes? Does anyone play bass who might possibly explain what that is? To me it sounds like the click of the string against the fret board, which to me is like fingernails on a chalkboard.:laugh:
     
  20. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC USA
    The clicking on the bass does not bother me, but I agree about the drums. It is one problematic element in those "dreamy" songs.

    Likewise, I find the drumming on Period of Transition to be too four-square, on the beat. I think the album would have been better with a more loose fluid drummer, in the Ziggy Modeliste, or Idris Mohammed vein.

    I like your chronology analysis on the Jesus/English poets. As for juxtaposition of archaic lanaguage with modern slang how about "Jesus smoking up in Kendall." Sometimes I can't help but think Jesus who, and what was he smoking?;) :laugh:
     
  21. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    In the interests of generating discussion and demonstrating that we welcome all points of view in this thread:winkgrin: , here's what Collis says about "When Heart is Open":

    "This ['Spirit'] leads to the seemingly endless 'When Heart is Open'; the worst song Morrison has ever released. By the time he decides that he wants to go for a walk in the woods and issues the curt instruction to his 'darling', 'Hand me down my old great coat...hand me down my big boots,' the only possible response is, 'Fetch 'em yourself.' There is a philosophical base to the song, some sort of meditative healing process, but it is larded over in indulgence, and it can thus only remain obscure."
     
  22. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    Oh, yeah, he also calls "Summertime in England" "dire and self-indulgent", "meander[ing]" and "pretentious."
    "Wild Honey" is labelled "ponderous," and the album as a whole is deemed "frustrating."
     
  23. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    Erm, didn't have the time last night, but I'll do it first thing when I get in this evening.
     
  24. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    we'll still find the time whenever you can. crazy times in December.
     
  25. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    is it still evening in Nawlins? hahaha...

    just bumping up the thread really Jason....if you can find the time it'd be great...
     
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