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Van Morrison - Album by Album discussion - PART THREE

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

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  1. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    Location:
    Charlotte,NC
    PS: One sound I'm not enjoying here is the sound of the acoustic guitar. I don't know if it's Van or someone else, but here, and on a number of recordings of this period, someone has made the choice to use the piezo pickup in an acoustic-electric guitar in the studio. Bad decision. The result is papery and brittle with very bad, distorted attack dynamics. It sucks bad. If you don't hear what I'm talking about or simply think I'm being an old guitar-playing gear geek (which would be fair enough), listen closely to the arpeggio that opens I Can't Stop Loving You, which I believe is a nylon string guitar (though it's a bit hard to tell through the electronic flatulence of that pickup); then go listen to the opening of The Lion This Time on Magic Time.

    The former sounds like bad amplification of a bad instrument. The latter sounds like wood and strings. But I digress...

    Tim
     
  2. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    Ain't that the truth though! Village Idiot with different lyrics could have been a classic, something really special going on there musically.


    Overall, its interesting to see the comments on Hymns disc one. I thought I'd have to hide under the chair. I guess thats because I once really loved this one, I figured most of you might still. but listening to all these albums, one after the other a week at a time, has been most illuminating.

    I hope you're all sequencing your single disc version of this one. I'd be really curious to see what we all collectively can come up with.

    Am I the only one with the "book" version packaging of this one?
     
  3. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    :agree: yes, I Cant Stop Loving You can be equated with electronic flatulence! I was wondering what it did compare to and now I know.

    See Tim, you gotta skip over that song completely....
     
  4. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    Location:
    Charlotte,NC
    I ran that path in the opposite direction, William. For a couple of years, Hymns just didn't get my attention, then it started to grow on me. I think perhaps the view, looking back from Days Like This, Too Long in Exile and You Win Again, made Hymns look like Into The Music. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

    Tim
     
  5. mighty_quinn

    mighty_quinn Forum Resident

    The ultimate one disc version of Hymns to the Silence is the second disc.
     
  6. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    Aha, that guitar sound may be one of the things I was unable to put my finger on last night.
     
  7. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    Location:
    Charlotte,NC
    There was much more of this than made any sense in the day. These pickups are built right into the acoustic guitar, why mess with microphones and all the trouble they cause - just plug that sucker right into the board.

    Sounds horrible.

    By contrast, listen to the organ parts. Warm, lush, forward. Hammond B3. Tubes. Mics. The way God intended it to be.

    Tim
     
  8. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    Yes, good call Tim, thanks to your great ears, I'm hearing this album yet another way. The organ is one of the best parts of this album. Georgie Fame is so cool and really made the shows from this period so great.

    he was also the guy on stage whenever Van left the stage doing the "Mr. Van Morrison, Mr. Hospitality, God Bless Van Morrison" guy. I believe you've heard the Beacon show in 89 yes? Lots of great Georgie Fame sounds on that disc. I need to get me some of his solo stuff...
     
  9. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    The Rolling Stone review

    THE ROLLING STONE REVIEW

    Like Bob Dylan, perhaps the only living rock songwriter who has matched the breadth of his vision and his impact, Van Morrison set an early standard that led followers to anticipate each new project with intense expectations. Like Dylan, too, Morrison has risked dashing such expectations with questionable choices – including the choice to make records with a prolificacy that would exhaust even the most persistent muse.

    Hymns to the Silence is a particularly ambitious move on Morrison's part, a double album of mostly original material that follows his most recent album, the excellent Enlightenment, by less than a year. Like Enlightenment, Hymns draws on such typical Morrison obsessions as nostalgia, wanderlust and the quest for spiritual and carnal fulfillment. "See Me Through Part II (Just a Closer Walk With Thee)" expands on "See Me Through" and "In the Days Before Rock 'n' Roll," Enlightenment's wistful reflections on Morrison's youth; the sequel sounds more didactic, though, featuring a sermonlike recitation about the purity of life "before rock 'n' roll, before television" shouted over a traditional gospel song. Hymns' opening track, the deceptively breezy "Professional Jealousy," is equally solemn and even more judgmental, asserting that those who succeed through hard work and perseverance are often subject to bitter resentment and "black propaganda."

    Look past tirades like these, however, and you'll find moments of bittersweet longing and abundant joy. "Carrying a Torch" has the makings of a classic, with a stately chorus and shining verses that tie the flesh to the spirit: "You're the keeper of the flame/And you burn so bright/Baby why don't we re-connect/Move into the light." "Green Mansions" alludes to a similar kind of deliverance, envisioning a metaphoric haven "high upon a hill/In the countryside ... Free from the glamour of the world ... Where my baby can be found." And the gently ticking "Quality Street" sees such desires coming to fruition: "I thank God for sending me you," Morrison sings, with a restraint that conveys both serenity and awe.

    Musically, Hymns taps into most of the varied sources that Morrison has incorporated through the years. A Celtic strain runs through much of the album, becoming prominent on "Village Idiot," a poignant ballad with lyrics evoking "Fool on the Hill," and on a version of the traditional hymn "Be Thou My Vision" featuring members of the Chieftains on pipes and whistle. "Ordinary Life" is straight-ahead blues, though, and "So Complicated" and the ebullient "All Saints Day" offer swinging R&B in the spirit of Ray Charles (whose Don Gibson-penned hit "I Can't Stop Loving You" is covered, also with the Chieftains). "It Must Be You" has a light-jazz feel, but Morrison's rapturous vocal imbues the track with vitality.

    Morrison's emotive singing cannot, unfortunately, rescue "Take Me Back," which strives for urgency through repetition – something Morrison achieved radiantly on Astral Weeks and Saint Dominic's Preview – but ends up merely sounding repetitious. The spoken meditations "Pagan Streams" and "On Hyndford Street" feel similarly overwrought. Still, even in its weaker spots, Hymns to the Silence brims with the consistent passion that continues to make Morrison fascinating. (RS 615)



    ELYSA GARDNER
     
  10. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    Location:
    Charlotte,NC
    I have. The band on that record is hot as a firecracker and they (and Van) avoid most of the show-band cliches that weaken the Opera House and San Francisco live sets for me. It's a great performance on the part of the band, and Van seems spirited and engaged throughout. He's not in good voice, though. He's hoarse, and seems to be running up hard against the top of his range. Still a strong show overall, in spite of that.

    But enough of that. Now I'm going to listen to disc two of Hymns again...

    Tim
     
  11. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    IIRC, it was the fourth show of a four night stand, so that might have something to do with it. I prefer this one to the various live albums for the most part though, I've not revisited the San Fran live one in a while, but I don't recall ever loving that one at all and barely reach for it. so it'll be interesting to listen to it again, after listening to this show and a 91 Beacon show I also happen to have and also which i was in the house for. I think the man needs to release a NYC live album.

    I know he's playing in NYC on March 15th but i'm not going. Its the fifth show in a row and he could be hoarse again by then and he could even be in a grumpy mood after all those days in a row traveling and performing. I'm sure he'll be back in a 5-6 months as per his usual....
     
  12. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    I've been battling a virus on my home computer (unsuccessfully) all weekend, so I haven't really had much of a chance to contribute to this thread...or anything else for that matter. Very upsetting. Imagine Van at his absolute surliest: that's me.

    At lunchtime today I'll post my thoughts on disc 1 and then maybe tomorrow we can move on to disc 2, if that's okay with everyone. If you need more time to go way, way back and listen to "I Can't Stop Loving You" a few times, we can even hold off until Wednesday.;)
     
  13. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    I'm no gearhound, just a hack drummer, but something tells me Gene Clark was using something similar to this for live shows in the late 1980's. Not sure if it's the exact same thing, but I recognize the same sort of brittleness that you describe in Van's work here. Here's a photo from that period.
     
  14. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    Welcome to the Van Morrison Cliche Festival

    I guess the ball is is my court and, since I'm firing on all cylinders, I thought I would up the ante and tackle the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is Van's transformation into cliche-spouting grumpitude (a coinage), a regrettable occurrence to be sure, and one which would characterize much of his writing from here on in.
    I never thought the day would come when a line like "too many cooks are trying to spoil the broth" would pollute a song by Van Morrison, and yet here we are.

    My quick review of this album is that, apart from the clumsily worded yet musically gorgeous "Village Idiot," there isn't anything on disc one of Hymns To the Silence which would make any Van comp I'd ever make.
    I have no problem with angry songs, mind you, but the lyrics on this album are just so incredibly bitter and obvious that sitting through it is like those times when you've offered your ear to a drunken friend who is suddenly down on his luck, whether through romantic disappointment or some other reason of his own device: his arguments are vitriolic, self-serving and unfocused, but what makes them interminable is the fact that they are, most of all, boring, but you will sit through them anyway because he's your friend.
    Van ain't my friend, so I don't know why he thinks I'd want to listen to this stuff. Enough whinging already. Go sleep it off and I'll talk to you in the morning.

    "So Complicated" is fun, but it is sandwiched between two awful songs ("Some Peace of Mind", the dreadful cover of "I Can't Stop Loving You") which undermines the fun vibe, through no fault of its own. It's just guilt by association.
    "I'm Not Feeling It Anymore" would normally be my choice as the next in a tradition of fine singles from Van, and a worthy follow-up to "Real Real Gone," but, whether because of a punchless production or rote performances, never takes off like other singles in Van's past. It feels middle-aged, flabby and lazy, when it should be lean and emphatic. The aforementioned cliches drag it down too.
    "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" sounds cheesy to me, like a Bible-thumping preacher accompanied by a Bontempi organ on a Sunday morning service airing on a local TV station.
    "Take Me Back" is, on paper, anyway, a welcome return to the Mystical Workout style that Van had left behind on album since the failure of the Common One experiments. It's repetitive, long, and he's talking about going way, way, way, way back...so what's not to like, right?
    For me, it just doesn't work in this version. I have the sense that it might be the kind of piece that Van could breathe some life into onstage, but it just doesn't get into the mystic for me here. It just irritates me. I guess, in the end, I don't find it as compelling as some of Van's other long works because it feels--as someone has already said, I'm sure--like Van By The Numbers.
    Van veers dangerously close to self-parody on that one, I think.

    "Village Idiot," as I said, is a fine song which is bogged down in awkward lyrics. I like the idea of the character study, and Van might very well be using the village idiot as a metaphor for himself, but in the end the lyrics seem forced, like they maybe needed a little tightening up or something. Some subtlety would help too.
    The music, however, is one of Van's most beautiful melodies, and in the end is moving enough to ennoble the lazy lyrics.
     
  15. mrbillswildride

    mrbillswildride Internet Asylum Escapee 2010, 2012, 2014

     
  16. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    No, I didn't mean that Common One was a failure--in fact I love it, as I think I made clear in my review! But Van largely abandoned the long-song format shortly thereafter, except in concert.
    What I meant was that to the public and critics at the time it was a case of "WTF? This ain't Moondance!" when given two 15-minute epics (one of which was a mood piece more than a song) on one album.

    I meant a failure to catch on. Sorry I wasn't clearer in my post.
     
  17. crisscross

    crisscross New Member

    Location:
    portland, oregon
    Carrying a Torch is an absolute classic in my book.

    I listened to it fifty times in a row one weekend.

    The dame didn't come back but the flame still burns...
     
  18. mrbillswildride

    mrbillswildride Internet Asylum Escapee 2010, 2012, 2014



    Right, got it. That all makes sense now... and I'f I'd gone back to VMABA thread part two, sum odd 1,000 posts ago I'd have known better... :)
     
  19. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    I'll try not to write in that kind of shorthand again for the benefit of those who have recently joined the thread (very good to have you and other newbies aboard!:wave: ) The more the...Van-nier.:laugh:
     
  20. BluesDaddy

    BluesDaddy Member

    Location:
    Atlanta, GA, USA
    Seems to be the reaction to each new Van album. Hey, a bad Van Morrision album is better than most anyone else's!!
     
  21. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    :shh: Hold that thought. We'll be getting to disc 2, shortly ;)
     
  22. mrbillswildride

    mrbillswildride Internet Asylum Escapee 2010, 2012, 2014

    No worries mate, sound like your computer is acting up, so its all good.

    best of luck, great thread, thanks to the co-hosts and players... :)
     
  23. mighty_quinn

    mighty_quinn Forum Resident

    My only regret about Common One is that he recorded Summertime in England before it was ready. In 1985, I experienced a live version in London that was a near religious experience and sent me on a five-year exploration of every recording Van had every made. Oddly, after Hymns to the Silence he lost me. From there on, the music seemed uninspired. Besides it isn't much fun to hear Van constantly bitch about fame and the heavy burden of being Van.
     
  24. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    There is some truth to that, to be sure, but if you keep reading/posting in the weeks to come, William and I will do our level best to convert you.
     
  25. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    And this coming from the man who just posted the nastiest thrashing yet of disc 1 of Hymns :D

    Best of luck, gentlemen :righton:
     
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