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. dee

    dee Senior Member

    ft. lauderdale, fl
    Me too.

    And Motherless Children is a heartbreaker, a long way from home.

    I like listening to Van play the sax. I think he's playing it and making it sound just good enough, in his own modest way, imo, to think that he might have been listening to some Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, and Jackie McLean records for inspiration :) .
  2. dee

    dee Senior Member

    ft. lauderdale, fl
    :) :) :)

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    Yeah, I enjoy his sax playing too. He gets an interesting tone and you know its not his main talent, but nothing to be ashamed about. I love when he plays....just love when he sings even more...
  4. albert_m

    albert_m Forum Resident

    Atl., Ga, USA
    I love the discussion and own every cd, but I have to admit these long winded acronym's throw me off. I guess I am a minority, but reading posts flow a lot easier to my simple mind with reading "no guru" or a similarly appropriate abbreviated form of the title rather DRCXTWDTSW…. just me though....

  5. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    I'm with you on the acronyms, albert. I'm a marketing consultant working with mostly corporate clients. My assignments are short, 3 - 6 months usually, and I never quite catch up with the acronyms before they're over, it seems. Here, at least they're worth the effort.

  6. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Through the Morning, Through the Night Thread Starter

    Oakville, ON
  7. dee

    dee Senior Member

    ft. lauderdale, fl
    It can be confusing (although scanning through the last four pages of posts, use of acronyms seem to be much more the exception than the rule). FWIW. ;)
  8. elborak

    elborak Forum Resident

    Acronyms can be annoying, but ITLTSN... ;)
  9. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    A little sidestep whilst we're waiting for when that Avalon Sun go down...

    Any of you guys audiophiles as well as music lovers? I'm really not. My equipment has always been pretty modest. I'm a big headphone listener with some good cans - a pair of Senn HD580s and some Ety 6s, but I've done most of my listening of recent years from an iPod into the Etys or from a nice iRiver portable cd player through a Headroom Airhead.

    Not exactly esoteric audio in this crowd, but pretty decent stuff.

    I bought a big hard drive last week, though. I've been in the process of ripping cds to it, listening a lot through my Mac, and, as nice as the Senns sound straight out of the iBook's HP jack, I've been thinking about something in a dac/amp to get around the soundcard and up the ante in the resolution department.

    To make a long story longer, I'm about that far (holds up finger and thumb with very little distance between them) away from buying a serious piece of pro audio hardware, designed for digital field recording and mixing, as my headphone amp:


    It's the new Apogee Duet. I could catalog the many ways, both technical and aesthetic, that this big silver knob on a sliver of aluminum appeals to me, but even without going there, I already wonder if I'm losing it...

  10. dee

    dee Senior Member

    ft. lauderdale, fl
    Tim, I do most of my listening through Sennheiser's as well. The 540 HD Reference II's, that I bought in 1994 I believe. I love the way they sound and they're very comfortable.
  11. seriousfun

    seriousfun Forum Resident

    Apogee makes great stuff (do you know that the company is owned by mixing engineer Bob Clearmountain's wife?). I haven't tried the Duet but you probably can't go wrong.

    I just want that guitar!
  12. jiminiss

    jiminiss Senior Member

    western mass
    that's a prety picture...and a very cool looking, what does it do?

    btw you're already quite on the path vis a vis better sounding equipment. nothin shabby bout the etys or senns, or the airhead for that matter. you've certainly got a lot of room to grow (without much expense) when you want to, but i'd bet that the iriver thru the airhead is producing some very nice sound on both those cans.

    iriver was making the best sounding portable cdp's around til they stopped (last year I believe). they sound better than a lot of $300 to $600 home players that are acclaimed as being the "entry level" for audiophile cdps. so you may be more spoiled than you think.

    good luck on your swim upstream.
  13. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    What it does for musicians and producers is provide a digital to analog and back again interface that works with a Mac's operating system and all compatible software, so you can set up anywhere you can bring a laptop, and plug in mics, guitars, etc. and send out to a system or a set of powered monitors.

    Now, while I might have fantasies about laying down a few tracks, what it will do for me is give me a killer, pro-quality dac and very neutral headphone amp or dac to feed my house system that runs, via Firewire, off of a full 12 volts from my laptop. Great specs, good power, no noisy power supply, no batteries to change, no compromised sound card sonics. The specs are pretty insanely good for the money - $495. Really, the only drawback is you gotta have a Mac to play. This should be a big step up - not only from the headphone jack on my iBook, but from the iRiver and Airhead. Can you tell I'm psyched?



    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    Avalon Sunset is up next and its a glorious Sunday Morning listen...

    I'm sure somewhere in cold canada, Tom is writing away furiously.....:candy:
  15. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    I've listened to Avalon Sunset three times since Friday night. I can't stop myself...heeeuuhh! Mercy!


    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    i been playing it all week...and where is that tamborine man....
  17. Planbee

    Planbee Negative Nellie

    Finished my homework just in time, DJ (haha). Poetic is a nice album. Really like the instrumentals, and "Someone Like You" is a very nice tune. I'm going to get points taken away for brevity, I know, but in school I wasn't a big fan of assignments where I had to write a certain number of words. :D
  18. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Through the Morning, Through the Night Thread Starter

    Oakville, ON
    We'll move on tomorrow morning; a little busy today. Patience, my friend.
    Until then, consider this: The cover of Avalon Sunset got me to thinking about this piece, which I'm sure our pal Van has read.

    The Wild Swans At Coole
    by William Butler Yeats

    The trees are in their autumn beauty,
    The woodland paths are dry,
    Under the October twilight the water
    Mirrors a still sky;
    Upon the brimming water among the stones
    Are nine-and-fifty Swans.
    The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
    Since I first made my count;
    I saw, before I had well finished,
    All suddenly mount
    And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
    Upon their clamorous wings.
    I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
    And now my heart is sore.
    All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
    The first time on this shore,
    The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
    Trod with a lighter tread.
    Unwearied still, lover by lover,
    They paddle in the cold
    Companionable streams or climb the air;
    Their hearts have not grown old;
    Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
    Attend upon them still.
    But now they drift on the still water,
    Mysterious, beautiful;
    Among what rushes will they build,
    By what lake's edge or pool
    Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
    To find they have flown away?
  19. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    Thanks for that, Tom. And speaking of the Avalon Sunset cover, that's two good ones in a row!
  20. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Through the Morning, Through the Night Thread Starter

    Oakville, ON

    "Whenever God Shines His Light" – 4:58
    "Contacting My Angel" – 4:57
    "I'd Love to Write Another Song" – 2:52
    "Have I Told You Lately" – 4:20
    "Coney Island" – 2:00
    "I'm Tired Joey Boy" – 2:29
    "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God" – 5:38
    "Orangefield" – 3:50
    "Daring Night" – 6:10
    "These Are the Days" – 5:08

    Van Morrison - vocal, guitar
    Cliff Richard - vocal (on "Whenever God Shines His Light")
    Arty McGlynn - guitar
    Neil Drinkwater - accordion, piano, synthesizer
    Stan Sultzman - alto saxophone
    Alan Barnes - baritone saxophone
    Henry Lowther - trumpet
    Cliff Hardie - trombone
    Georgie Fame - Hammond organ
    Clive Culberson, Steve Pearce - bass guitar
    Roy Jones, Dave Early - drums, percussion
    Katie Kissoon, Carol Kenyon - vocals


    It is impossible for me to write about my feelings for this album without first mentioning my initial take on it back in 1989. I had fallen head over heels for Van's music some two years before when a friend made me a cassette of Astral Weeks on one side (Kind of Blue was on the other:righton: ).
    Van's massive back catalogue was daunting even back in those days, and I felt a little out of my depth in terms of where I'd go next. I had the two acknowledged classics, Moondance and Astral Weeks, but only scattershot exposure to later works. (With this in mind, imagine my difficulty in reconciling Inarticulate Speech of the Heart with these other works; it was like reading the first two chapters of a book, skipping to the middle, and trying to make sense of it all.)
    And so in 1989, amid my immersion in all things Van, it was a no-brainer for my roommate to give me the Avalon Sunset LP as a birthday gift (one of my last vinyl acquisitions; 1989 was, in my own personal mythology, the year of "The Great Switchover" to CD).
    Back then I felt Avalon Sunset was wildly uneven: poppy-yet-proselytizing numbers sat alongside contemplative pieces like "Contacting My Angel"; a pedestrian blues run-through sat alongside an instant classic like "Have I Told You Lately", et cetera.
    I was also a little, shall we say, uneasy about the two "God songs" which opened either side, "Whenever God Shines His Light" and "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God." Certainly spirituality had always been an element of Van's music, but here I felt it was being foisted upon me, like a child being forced to take medicine. The presence of Cliff Richard served to intensify this feeling.

    Suffice it to say that almost twenty years of personal growth, mixed with several dashes of humility, an ounce of education, and an ever-evolving respect for Van as an artist, has led me to do a complete 180 on this one.
    I love the snappy, joyous sound;) of "Whenever God Shines His Light", although Cliff Richard's performance feels superfluous--like the prototype for every Brian Kennedy vocal that would soon come our way.
    There is a wonderful moment at the 3:03 mark, during the wordless "mmm-mm-mm-mm-mm-mm-mmm" tag line where Van slips in, rather awkwardly, what sounds like the word "glory." It has no business working, and yet it completely makes the song for me.

    "Contacting My Angel" is the song I used to have a great deal of difficulty with; nowadays it is one of my faves from the album. I swear, this song could be three times longer than its five minute length and I would still want more. It's too bad Van had, by this point, abandoned the Mystical Workout/Common One-era experiments, because, incredibly, this song feels too brief. I'm only getting in the neighbourhood of the mystic when the song ends and my reverie is broken by the perfunctory blues of "I'd Love to Write Another Song"---Mysticus interruptus. This song, previously thought of as filler, now seems like an ingenious bit of sequencing. Van writes of writer's block (again), but it feels like a put-on, considering what has preceded it. Nah, I don't buy it, especially when he writes of his desire to write another love song, and one is then presented with the exquisite beauty of "Have I Told You Lately," one can see canny and confident sequencing in the juxtaposition of frustration and fruition.

    The spoken word portions of "Coney Island" used to make my then girlfriend laugh, especially when Van's brogue lazily wanders over the line "I look at the side of your f-e-e-e-a-a-a-a-a-a-ce." She loved Van very deeply and it was a laugh of endearment, no disrespect involved.
    Back then I never really saw the purpose of this song, or "I'm Tired Joey Boy," but time has revealed to me the importance of simplest of moments. Indeed, almost twenty years later, I remember her laugh with the same fondness that Van recalls that special trip to Coney Island.
    The beauty in the opening notes of "I'm Tired Joey Boy" is beyond my ability to adequately describe except in synesthetic terms. Those opening notes are like a sharp and fresh intake of breath on a winter's morning: bracing yet invigorating.

    “Orangefield” is, for me, anyway, one of the most majestic songs of Van’s career. Like “Coney Island,” it documents a specific moment in time. Whether real, as in the boyhood moment of transcendence chronicled in “And It Stoned Me” or an idealized vision of lovers enjoined with Nature, Van looks to the past while retaining solid footing in the present: “How I loved you then in Orangefield/Like I love you now in Orangefield..” Van speaks about the past without ever resorting to the “It ain’t like how it used to be, I tells ya” mentality which characterizes some of his grumpier work that followed.
    He’s not speaking about past, present and future in “Orangefield,” he’s speaking about eternity.
    And by the way, is there anything more thrilling, uplifting, powerful and genuinely life-affirming than the moment when the song kicks into:
    “And the sun shone so bright
    And it lit up all our days
    You were the apple of my eye
    Baby it's true.”

    As this thread progresses, certain works have lost a bit of lustre for me when re-examined in the cold light of this Forum. But there are others, like Avalon Sunset, which have risen in stature, and which continue to thrill and delight, and, I expect, always shall.

    Attached Files:

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  21. Maggie

    Maggie like a walking, talking art show

    Toronto, Canada
    Great post, Tom!

    I always thought he was saying "Mmm, God," although it comes out sounding like "Mmm, Gord."

    Although I wonder whether I'll ever quite be old enough to be fully at home with Van's 'mature work', Avalon Sunset has some really wonderful associations for me. It was one of the two Van albums (the other was Wavelength) I took with me on a long road trip in the summer after my second year as an undergraduate, although I first bought it that spring and remember how ravishing "Orangefield" was from play one.

    The album lurches out of the gate a little - "Whenever God Shines His Light" is unforgivably stupid, definitely Van's most asinine single ever, and about three minutes too long - but it has an incredible run of songs from "Contacting My Angel" (sort of like Television's "Rhyme", but with vestiges of "Irish Heartbeat", and a really interesting and fairly unambiguous eroticization of Christian experience - lately I've been describing this album as a concept album about Van wanting to have sex with Jesus) through "Orangefield". "Daring Night" feels really limp to me - one instant where the stuffy (ie, "careful") arrangement doesn't suit it. I've always loved "When Will I Ever Learn", though - great synth bass, desolate atmosphere, chorus, organ solo (though I suppose I like the idea of the organ solo better than this actual organ solo, which, given the album's mix, lacks punch).

    I like "I'd Love to Write Another Song" even more than I like "Have I Told You Lately". "I'm Tired Joey Boy" could be a trad. - though the string part is indelible.

    The super-clever sequencing doesn't get nearly enough attention. "Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time" leading into that super-wistful string riff, like a bracing brush with reality; "I'd Love to Write Another (Love) Song" and then he goes ahead and writes one of his most unforgettable ones.

    And everytime I look through a car window at the side of someone's fyiss in the autumn sunshine, I think of swans and smile.

    Final verdict: a touch uneven, but my favorite late Van (except maybe Down the Road).

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    one of the best parts about doing this thread, though having a forum member shoulder half the work, has made it a joy thus far.

    Its interesting for me to note, I've not listened to all of Avalon Sunset in a mighty long time. some of the tunes seemed to escape placement on my ipod and squeezebox and that has been recently rectified.

    I loved this album when I first heard it and the opener, "Whenever God Shines His Light" blew me away. I loved this duet with Cliff and its jaunty piano, percussive arrangement. At the time I wasnt the most "spiritual" cat on this planet, but the performances and melody and vocal counterpoints were all brilliant and I've always counted it as a top Van track for me.

    I know this track was worked fairly heavily to radio in the US, Adult Contemporary radio but man, they wouldnt play it, couldn't play a song with "god" in the title. I dont think that'd be the case these 20 years later in this country...

    Both of their vocals are quite amazing here, like there was competition, but some of the growls outta Vans mouth are the best I've ever heard....and when they are both humming, now thats beautiful and when Van is doing his "you can use his higher power" and Cliff is circling around Van's vocal, its an amazing performance.

    Knowing what I know about Vans recording techniques, ya gotta believe this was grabbed in one take, though I'm guessing on this so I could be wrong...anyone know in these books you're all quoting....

    as Van whispers out at the end and the drum sticks bang together and Cliff comes in while Van is humming and hits thaat "whoooooooo" note, i get goosebumps....

    man this song puts me on a higher ground every time....

    ok, thats enough for the first song.

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    Contacting My Angel feels for me like something resurrected from his new age era and back in the day when this album was new, this was not a favorite of mine...but it is a lovely mellow Morrison cut with some of my favorite lyrical (visual) cues to Van Daydream with, pure streams of water, mountain sides, eternal summers and ultimately "in his soul"....

    The shuffle flow and organ notes of "I'd Like To Write Another Song" is fine and dandy (one of the songs that had escaped my ipod for a long time) tune and doesnt make or mar this album in anyway...and I think its a nice distraction from the Angel before it, and set up the the lush and beautiful Have I Told You Lately...which IMO is really a classic classic song that is just beautiful. How this became a huge (treacly) hit for Rod and not Van is one of the biggest radio crimes of all time. I'd never of thought Van could write the ultimate "wedding" song, but man, I dont think I've ever attended a wedding where I havent heard this one.

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    Coney Island is a great atmospheric impressionistic moment, not so much a song really as a spoken word thing...into Joey Boy, a gorgeous tune, much too short I like the way he sort of starts out talking the song, like in Coney Island and he starts to pick up the singing vibe....

    the other God song "When Will I Ever Learn To Live in God"...a classic Van tune...IMO

    And up on the hillside its quiet
    Where the shepherd is tending his sheep
    And over the mountains and the valleys
    The countryside is so green
    Standing on the highest hill with a sense of wonder
    You can see everything is made in god
    Head back down the roadside and give thanks for it all

    forever dealing with the Sense of Wonder of the world he lives in, and this song just delivers for me, I love the background soul singers and the organ solo and what a fantastic melody this song has....a song that keeps me humble and keeps me thanking my lucky stars for the life I get to lead in this world full of wonder....just a stunner...and blam into ORANGEFIELD.

    Tom, I have to agree with you, it is one of the most majestic songs of his career (though there are loads of those :eek: )....its a perfect track to follow the sentiment set up in "When Will I Ever Learn To Live in God"

    "On a gold autumn day
    You came my way in Orangefield
    Saw you standing by the riverside in Orangefield
    How I love you then in Orangefield
    Like I love you now in Orangefield"

    thankful for all that his higher power, his sense of wonder gives him. Really when you sit and listen to an album by Vans, ready to analyze it and his work....its amazing how he really puts his life, his soul, his whole being out there. he's a simple guy and this is how he lives and thinks....I'm not sure there are many other artists that are as raw and human and exposed as this guy is....

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    (I'm actually writing about this album as I sit and listen to it, normally i've taken my time and honed my post, but thought it'd be fun to fly by the seat of my pants, though its my 7th listen in a week)....

    Daring Nights...its a fine track, a take it or leave it track for me (another left off the ipod for no apparent reason)....I guess when he's dealing with "the flesh" its not as interesting as the spirit for me....:D . Daring Nights is a very Van by numbers track, its quite a big production, lots of strings, backing vocals and soul and grit, but lyrically, its not stirring my soul at all....

    We close out with "These Are The Days"....I love this song....could be the real stand out track on an album full of stand out tracks. Wraps up all the themes on this album perfectly...

    These are the days by the sparkling river
    His timely grace and our treasured find
    This is the love of the one magician
    Turned the water into wine"

    the one great magician turning water into wine (Tom we have to figure out a way to count how many water mentions he's got in his catalog) we begin and end in the magic, the mystic, the mystery, the mother nature, the mother swan on the cover (on a body of water...)

    I have to now give a special nod to Georgie Fame who really adds something to Van during this period live. This is around the time I started going to Van Morrison concerts and Georgie Fame really brings something to the table on these next few recordings and years of concert recordings I've been fortunate enough to hear.....

    (sorry to be so wordy, but today is a national holiday and yet I'm "working", but none of my clients get me instead....sorry if i went on too long....)
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