Van Morrison - Album by Album discussion - PART THREE

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by DJ WILBUR, Feb 29, 2008.

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    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    Hymns To the Silence Disc One Discussion only

    1. Professional Jealousy
    2. I’m Not Feeling It Anymore
    3. Ordinary Life
    4. Some Peace of Mind
    5. So Complicated
    6. I Can’t Stop Loving You
    7. Why Must I always Explain
    8. Village Idiot
    9. See Me Through, Pt. II
    10. Take Me Back

    So Tom and I are carving this album up. I decided to be the forums Village Idiot for this one and take the lesser of the two discs in both our estimations. Realize Hymns was NEVER intended or created to be a double album a la The Wall, or Exile on Main Street, etc. This release comprises two finished Van albums. So we’ll talk about Disc One for a few days and then move on to Disc Two next week and then if you feel like it we’re going to ask all of you to create the definitive “Hymns To The Silence” single disc, if you care to. I think this could have been a very good single release and follow-up to Enlightenment myself….

    The reason Van started stock piling albums was because the “Best Of Van Morrison” CD just kept selling and selling and the record label did not want to stop minting money from that briskly selling title to thrust out yet another new Van album into the mix, besides Avalon Sunset and Enlightenment were still selling well based on a good amount of radio airplay. The Music Biz was in the stage known as the CD cash cow days. Lots of cd players in cars and homes by 1990 and everyone wanted Van hits in their collection. The Best Of sold and sold and sold, who needed anything else in the market place at this time was the business line? But this decision must have made Mr. Grumpy a little cranky.

    Van at this time in his career, would record an album with zero label involvement and just deliver it finished with artwork and he’d then want his paycheck, thank you very much. Still having his latest artistic creation put on hold to sell “Moondance” and “Brown Eyed Girl” etc., so he goes and records the follow up to the one not out yet, etc. so it was decided to release them both as a double album, and in a “deluxe” edition as well. How many of you have the long shaped book version of this title? Its at the bottom of this post. That was the first regular album I remember coming out in a fancy package as well as regular jewel cases. Maybe to appease Mr. not happy with the music business?

    Now disc one…for me, well, Van is pretty cranky on this disc, after several releases of joy and wonder….well I’M NOT FEELING DISC ONE NO MORE. This is such a marginal disc for me. The biggest offence though is the Smooth Jazz noodling at the beginning of “Some Peace Of Mind” which does not give me peace of mind, it makes my skin crawl, I mean makes me run to the next button of the remote…but silly me, as “I’m just a man but I can’t suffer through this” “faux jazz noodling”. I guess in the 90’s this sounded cool?

    These are “hymns" to the silence...and I wonder, if he means the silencing of his muse which led to this batch of material? …still, let me start at the beginning with “Professional Jealousy”….

    Professional jealousy, can bring down a nation
    And personal invasion, can ruin a man
    Not even his family, will understand what's happening
    The price that he's paying, or even the pain

    Some could take this to mean, with our “personal invasions” in this thread, our musing about his works, could we “ruin” him? Is this why that Van Morrison fansite was ordered shut down? I mean it could be taken that way in a literal fashion, though I can’t believe he’d really be torn down a la rimbaud about this sort of thing, but really such a lame lyric this song has. I nominate it for the worst opener to a Van album in a long time. It’s easily one of my least favorite Van opening tracks of all time. And this is the beginning of a two disc set.

    I’m Not Feeling It Anymore” up next…clearly, he’s not, but this track has a strolling piano line and its tres cool, so is “Ordinary Life”, another funky soulful bluesy groove, but this opening triumvirate are all Van by numbers (not a bad thing normally, but after the last four it is), nothing in the opening punches are even remotely on par with the last four releases!

    It’s like he’d had this great patch of serenity and higher power on the last four albums, but the “program” or whatever path he was on, maybe it wasn’t working anymore, or some demons take over, cause now we’re getting this very unhappy and complaining and none too “enlightened” material.

    So Complicated” is a real highlight on this one for me. I love the jazz funk of this one, great mod organ sound…the “I Just Want To Blow My Horn” line captures the vibe on this album doesn’t it? No more thoughts about the cosmos, he just wants to blow his horn, collect his paycheck, Van by numbers, its right there in the words for me…..This song “So Complicated” must have come to fruition on the recent tours he’d been doing with Georgie Fame, it sounds like a Georgie Fame jaunt to me, so great this one….If the rest of this disc was only this fun…

    “I Can’t Start Loving This Album” with this cover version of “I Cant Stop Loving You”, now for me, this is an off key dirge, just horrible IMO. Could be the single worst track in his entire catalog for me…it sounds like Van walked in the studio, in a bad mood and barked out the title to the band and figured everyone just knew the song by heart and there it is forever on magnetic tape, man, those backing vocals, they suk. Did they spend all 3 minutes and 58 seconds on this one to get it just right? ….hard to believe this is the Chieftains on this. Real real gone to the dogs or the whiskey bottle this one.

    Why Must I Always Explain”, maybe the lyrical highpoint to this first disc. Its followed by “Village Idiot”, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”…they feel again like Van by numbers, the latter two songs do not sound very inspired to me, he wanted a Celtic number, a gospel number, a blues number, a jazz number, its like that for me all through this disc. The irony is when this album came out I LOVED LOVED LOVED IT, I probably would have said it was my favorite at one time. I remember being glued to this one for months and months… but disc one has not held up at all for. It did not take me back to the time when I loved it. And then we close with “Take Me Back”…opening line

    I’ve been walking by the river,
    I’ve been walking down by the river,
    I’ve been walking down by the river.

    So at least he’s back by the water, maybe looking for the muse he seems to have misplaced for a minute, as he’s now in “silence”. I do enjoy this song a great deal though but not much is really going on here, it "sounds" like a great Van Morrison song, but lyrically its a tad short shrift, isn’t it? So, I could say again, Van by numbers is closing out disc one….

    Take me back, take me back, take me back
    Take me way, way, way, way, way, way, way
    Back when I, when I understood, when I understood, yeah
    Oh, ah, take me way back, when, when, when, when, when, when
    When, when, when, when, when, when, when
    I was walking down the
    Walking down the street and
    It didn't matter
    `Cause everything felt, everything felt, everything felt
    Everything felt, everything felt, everything felt, everything felt
    Everything felt, everything felt, everything felt so right, ha
    And so good
    Everything felt, so right, and so good
    Everything felt, so right, and so good
    Everything felt, so right, and so good, ah
    Everything felt, so right, and so good
    Everything felt, so right, and so good, so good
    In the eternal now, in the eternal moment
    In the eternal now, in the eternal moment
    In the eternal now
    Everything felt so good, so good, so good, so good, so good
    And so right, so right, so right, just
    So good, so right, so right, in the eternal
    In the eternal moment, in the eternal moment
    In the eternal moment, in the eternal moment
    When you lived, when you lived
    When you lived, in the light
    When you lived in the grace
    In the grace, in grace
    When you lived in the light
    In the light, in the grace
    And the blessing.

    Ok then. I’ll leave you with this Van Morrison quote…. “Music is spiritual. The music business is not.”

    (Please hold comments about disc two until Tom begins it next Tuesday. He works so hard on these and I’d hate if we stole his thunder….I promise it’ll read like the counterpoint to my disc one rant).

    Attached Files:

  2. Craig

    Craig (unspecified) Staff

    North of Seattle
  3. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Through the Morning, Through the Night

    Oakville, ON
  4. butch

    butch Senior Member

    It's funny that during this period Van the Man brought a few of these "Hymns" songs to Tom Jones.Not only did he give them to Tom,he produced them.Tom did a decent job on these tracks,but I wonder if Van thought very highly of these songs.Or better yet that they were too "Vegasy".Nonetheless,Van's versions are better but Tom did a nice job of capturing the magic of these songs.Those songs are Carrying a Torch , I'm Not Feeling it Any More,It Must Be You and Some Peace of Mind from T Jones's Carrying A Torch album.
    PS I still love the first part of Hymns,more on that later....................
  5. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    Hymns To The Silence, another great ep, unfortunately this time spread over a double album :sigh:

    Well stated, Mr. DJ. Not much to enjoy on disc 1. I seem to recall liking the melody to "Professional Jealousy" if not the words, same with "Why Must I Always Explain". "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" is ok. The only track I really like is "Take Me Back". A lot of the rest is pretty dire. But I haven't played this particular disc in a loooong time. Will do this week.

    I remember when it came out there was a lotta hoopla. Van coming out with a very important sounding double-cd on the tail of two recent hit singles and the hot-selling Best Of. The special limited edition numbered version in the cloth-bound case (I haven't seen one of those in years--anybody have that?). I remember seeing positive reviews, too. Naturally, I rushed out and bought it right away.
  6. conniefrancis

    conniefrancis New Member

    Brookfield, OH
    Reading Wilbur's post, doesn't sound like the same record I love. Maybe I'm better off not reading the lyrics! I just go by the feel and the words I do pick up, and as I've said, I love the album. I didn't know Tom Jones had recorded some of these. It would be a kick to hear them.
  7. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Through the Morning, Through the Night

    Oakville, ON
    What a killer opening salvo!:laugh:

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter


    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    Many great melodies to this one. I like the melody to Professional Jealousy as well as Take Me Back and Village Idiot...woulda been a killer instrumental release....:angel:
  10. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Through the Morning, Through the Night

    Oakville, ON
    Here is the spoken word portion of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" (I love it when Van repeats the Sidney Bechet line:

    See me through days of wine and roses
    By and by when the morning comes
    Jazz and blues and folk, poetry and jazz
    Voice and music, music and no music
    Silence and then voice
    Music and writing, words
    Memories, memories way back
    Take me way back, Hyndford Street and Hank Williams
    Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet on Sunday afternoons in winter
    Sidney Bechet! Sunday afternoons in winter
    And the tuning in of stations in Europe on the wireless
    Before, yes before this was the way it was
    More silence, more breathing together
    Not rushing, being
    Before rock 'n' roll, before television
    Previous, previous, previous
    See me through, just a closer walk with Thee
  11. butch

    butch Senior Member

    It is a kick,I bought the album for a buck(on vinyl no less) about 5 years ago.From what I know ,the Carrying A Torch album never came out domestically(US that is).
  12. mrbillswildride

    mrbillswildride Internet Asylum Escapee 2010, 2012, 2014

    Indeed, very handy, I second the thanks craig!

    Now playing side two, some good songs so far, but hardly overwhelming...

    (I just heard The Healing Game on Cd yesterday, and so far I like that better...)

    Mind you, I know that sides 3 and 4 are consider better...

    Is this beginning of "Van by Numbers" 90s releases?
  13. albert_m

    albert_m Forum Resident

    Atl., Ga, USA
    I feel the opposite. I like "Professional Jealousy," "Why Must I Always Explain," "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" a lot as well as "I'm not feeling it anymore" and well most of disc one. I don't care for Take Me Back or its length.

    I feel over all that this album was the transition of the smooth 80's era of very light spiritual and romantic tunes to more of his musical roots. Yes he explored his roots in the 80's and yes ballads and spiritual soul searching would be part of the 90's and beyond, but there is a definite shift from
    the 80's to the 90's in the style of his albums despite the similarities.

    Hymns was the bridge.

    As for the crankiness, it’s always there and frankly I don’t care. Songs like Why Must I always Explain just sound damn good to me. Van sounds great in general on Hymns. Yes we get the assortment of jazz, blues, country and ballad, and that's Van. The overt gospel of Just a Closer Walk (&Be Thou My Vision on the second disc) are a nice addition to styles and influences on a typical Van Morrison album.

    I will have to pull this one and listen to see which disc I might prefer, but yes this would have been one kick a s s single disc album, but I am ok with two very good ones nonetheless.
  14. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    I'd say we're definitely heading into last gasp territory. I'm fine with an ep full of Van goodness on a single album (even if it's a double), but as we head into the 90's its gets harder to find an album with even an ep's worth of good material. Yeah, Van's voice is still good (the proverbial he could just sing the phonebook), but I expect more out of Van. I expect to be moved. I expect glory and wonder. I expect transcendence. Give me my rapture, indeed!
  15. albert_m

    albert_m Forum Resident

    Atl., Ga, USA
    He saved his best for the end of the decade.

    In any case he likes do his thing and he likes do it often.

    I never got the impression he ever focused on sculpting a masterpiece. He is so gifted that he has and more than once, but more often than not, at least what he does is much better than most.
  16. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

    I bought this (on vinyl at full price) when it came out and played it a couple of times, then filed it away. About a year or two ago I saw a movie which used "Take Me Back", and enjoyed it so much in that context I Googled to find out what record it was on, and was surprised to find that I owned it. Then I played it and found out why I'd filed it. I do like that song, though.
  17. conniefrancis

    conniefrancis New Member

    Brookfield, OH
    If you'd like to part with that vinyl, remember me!
  18. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

  19. mrbillswildride

    mrbillswildride Internet Asylum Escapee 2010, 2012, 2014

    I think you've hit the Van with the phonebook here... This is the rub. When someone has such trascendental albums as Astral Weeks, St. Dominic's Preview, Veedon Fleece, Common One, and No Guru, No Method, No Teacher in his canon, we tend to have very high expectations from him for another masterpiece (I'm sure many are hoping that for Keep It Simple...)

    But, with such a volumous output, quanitiy destroys quality, and in this case, Van is no exception. Hymns may be better than 80% of the dreck released in 1991, but that's not saying it belongs in the same camp as those offering named above (or your faves)

    I have now played sides one and two (that's disc one to you CD lovers...) twice in a row, aternating which goes first, and here are my preliminary impressions.

    Pro. Jealousy ~ A nice melody, but I too was taken to a space wherein I remembered Van's railing against all the imposters "ripping him off", maybe not the intent of this song, but it sounded disgruntailed to me, and as such was not a keeper in my book.

    I'm Not Feeling It Anymore ~ Van theme song since Guru? Ironic this, and I ike this song the best on side one, but that's not saying all that much.

    Ordinary Life ~ did not move me in (m)any ways

    Some Piece of Mind ~ was all starting to sound samey until the second half with the nice fame organ break and pee wee solo, and then the song picked up the pace a bit and seems to be half way decent, but hardly revealitory...

    So Complicated ~ Boring...

    side two:

    I Can't Stop Loving You ~ I'm a big fan of covers, especially those that transcend the original (all along the watchtower etc... but this isn't one. A stock cover, I thought I'd put on an Elvis album. Cover by numbers, a wasted space for an original, or padding to fill out a double cd set?

    Why Most I Always Explain? ~ Steve's theme song? More Van whinning?

    Village Idiot ~ I like the title, but I honestly can't remember the song...
    Maybe next time around...

    See Me Through ~ OK, I DID put on an Elvis album!!! I was about to puke when all of the sudden this got good. I love the spoken word bit, the decline of western civilization, the lack of hymns (or time) for the silence... nice!!!

    "before this was the way it is..." (why is this in the middle of THIS song?)

    Tae Me Back ~ I liked this the best of the first ten tracks. It had that nice mellow lead in, build up, maybe not wholely (holy) unique in Van's catalog, but compared to the rest of these two sides, I found it the most pleasing...

    I like Van's guitar leads, meanderings on this track too... but my vinyl keeps skipping, making Van repeat himself over and over and over and over again...

    Overall, not the strongest Van album (or even half album) by far. I can thinks of at least a dozen preivous Van albums I'd rather play, or play before, this one... But it has a couple of songs I liked enough to want to hear again.
  20. drewslo

    drewslo Forum Resident

    Here it is, my first post! I've been a longtime lurker and have actually read this entire thread (all three parts)! I've finally caught up so now I can participate. A little background - I own all of Van's albums with "Common One" being my first. I heard "When Heart Is Open" on the radio (KTYD in Santa Barbara) thinking it might be Gil Scott Heron. I was only familiar with radio hits like "Wavelength", so I was immediately struck by the epic spirituality of the song and Van's rich vocal. Over time I caught up with Van's back catalogue and bought all of the new releases as they came out so I've really enjoyed reading the comments on all of the albums. ALso, thanks for remaining so respectful of all is so rare for things to remain so civil on a discussion group!
    I am friends with Mr. Bill who has recently become involved in this thread. We do a weekly radio show together and we'll do a 4 hour Van special (as he has noted) when "Keep It Simple" comes out.

    Here are my thoughts on "Hymns To The Silence" (I'll try to focus on disc 1):

    The essential Van track for me is "Take Me Back" (anybody see Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance of this in the film "Georgia"?). I put it up there with "Listen To The Lion" and "When Heart Is Open" as classic spontaneous Van performances. It's hard to imagine more than one take of this. I like how he questions religion (in contrast to the Christian imagery of previous albums). I'm also not bothered by the "complaining" songs. Van had put out so many "spiritual" allbum in the 80's and early 90's that I found it refreshing that he was focusing on more everyday autobiographical "Professional Jeolousy" and "I'm Not Feeling It Anymore" are winners in my book...very catchy hook filled songs that humanize our image of Van...he's is a man, not a mystic. This album also hints at his return to R&B and Blues music that will become more fully realized on future albums. It's Van's reappraisal of himself and a reflection of his musical influences..a key transitional album.
  21. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    Welcome aboard, drewslo. I am highly suspicious of anyone who doesn't have a transcendental experience listening to "When Heart Is Open", so you have passed the first test :laugh:
  22. drewslo

    drewslo Forum Resident

    Thanks, Curbach. I'm a Graham Parker fan too. Many similarities with the Man.
  23. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    I've been listening to this one a lot this week, and while I can find a lot to agree with in the criticism here, I've thoroughly enjoyed the listening. Once you get past the dreadful covers of A Closer Walk With Thee and I Can't Stop Loving You, once you get past that sax upchuck opening (is that Candy Dulfer? Did he ever just sleep with her and get over it so he could call Pee Wee back?), once you turn off the part of your brain that registers the dreadful lyrics of Professional Jealousy, it's a really good listen. Great melodies, great arrangements, great sound. Except for the aforementioned blonde joke of a sax opening. Georgie Fame's Hammond organ work is particularly tasty.

    I'll admit, I reach for the remote when the covers come on. But I can make it through the sex, er, sax thing, and Pro Jealousy? Yeah it's another stupid anti-biz rant, but it's a great tune.

    Yeah, I really enjoy listening to Hymns, even this lesser disc, but there's more going on here than a couple of crappy covers and some uninspired lyrics. Van is not feeling it anymore. And it's not coming back. More on that with disc 2...

  24. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    Well, I just gave disc 1 a full listen for the first time in a long time. While it is much more enjoyable than I remembered, "Take Me Back" is still the only song I would miss if the disc disappeared from the face of the earth. It's a disc full of supporting songs with nothing to support. "Village Idiot" is especially frustrating because the melody and arrangement could have made for a great song if Van wasn't singing about a village idiot.

    The only songs I thoroughly dislike are "So Complicated" and "I Can't Stop Loving You". However, they are somewhat interesting in hindsight as they point the way directly to How Long Has This Been Going On and Pay The Devil respectively.

    I'm not too crazy about the sound of this disc, but I can't quite put my finger on what's bothering me. May be it's a little cold sounding. May be there's something funny going on in the higher frequencies. May be it's the drums. For some reason I think "Take Me Back" sounds better than the rest of the disc. It was partially recorded at a different studio with a different engineer, but may be my perception is colored because I like the song. I also note that this album marks the first credited mastering appearance for Ian Cooper on a Van album (he would later be responsible for most of the first round of Polydor remasters).
  25. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    I've been enjoying the sound of it, but that could be my equipment. I'm in limbo, having ripped my collection to hard drive but not yet picked up a good dac/headphone amp. So I'm listening straight out of a Mac laptop into Senn HD580s. The Mac is a better source than you'd imagine, if you're used to most PCs, but its lack of power probably softens the Senns and rolls off the highs a bit.

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