Oldies But Goldies: Van Morrison’s Solo Work Reviewed And Graded

Written by | October 26, 2017 15:16 | No Comments

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(I repost this every coupla years, updated with four new releases in two years -IL)

Blowing Your Mind (1967) – If you want the Bang Sessions get the Complete Bang Sessions and not this taster Grade: B

Astral Weeks ( 1968) – A mystic document about love, death and renewal – Grade: A+

Moondance (1970) – Written for the radio, turn up these classic AOR songs. All the way – Grade: A+

His Band And the Street Choir (1970) – he first side kicks off with “Domino” and doesn’t miss a beat. The second side opens with his ode to a glamor model “Blue Money” and does miss a beat – Grade: A-

Tupelo Honey (1971) – Domesticity with Janet Planet never sweeter – Grade: A

Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972) “Jackie Wilson Said” and “Listen To The Lion” and that’s just first side – Grade: A

Hard Nose The Highway (1973) – Cmon, “Being Green” is here… and “Warm Love”. Grade: B+

It’s Too Late To Stop Now (1974) – “Turn it on on” an audience member shouts on this live double.”It is turned on” is the reply – Grade:A+

Veedon Fleece (1974) – “Linden Arden Stole The Highlights” does not an album make – Grade: B

A Period Of Transition (1977) – Slab dab in the middle of punk, after three years silence, Morrison releases a dog – Grade: B-

Wavelength (1978) – There you go! A pop album, first side an “A+”, second side an “A-“. Put em together and get Grade: A

Into The Music (1979) – Wow, an unimportant Van album – Grade: B

Common One (1980) – Give him all fifteen minutes of “Summertime In England” and ignore the rest – Grade: B

Beautiful Vision (1982) – Nee Age Van and lives up to its name. Don’t miss “Dweller On The Threshold” – Grade: A

Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983)- More New Ageism, less strong songs – Grade: B

Live At The Grand Old Opera House (1984) – What does it mean when the best moment is a cover of “It’s All in The Game”? Grade: B

A Sense Of Wonder (1985) – Sure it has “Tore Down A La Rimbaud”… and then? Grade: C+

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986) – Sure it has “In The Garden”… and then? Grade: B-

Poetic Champions Compose (1987) – More of the same but better – Grade: A-

Irish Heartbeat (1988) – Traditional with the Chieftains – Grade: B+

Avalon Sunset (1989) – His born again album? I remember listening to this over and over again on my walkman – Grade: A

Enlightenment (1990) – A coupla second tier tracks – Grade: B+

Hymns To The Silence (1991) – A double CD, and not a dog in the lot… though the only masterpiece, “Quality Street”, Van didn’t write – Grade: B+

Too Long In Exile (1993) – And back to the blues – Grade: B+

A Night In San Francisco (1994) – I saw him on this tour and was blown away, so maybe I have a soft spot for this liver – Grade: A

Days Like This (1995) – Coupla blues jams, coupla pop tunes, coupla covers. That and genre exercise is all he has performed for the past 12 years. The keeper is “Raincheck” – Grade: B+

How Long Has this Been Going On (1996) – Jazz songs with the eternal Georgie Fame on keyboards. The tour was even better – Grade: B+

Tell Me Something: The Songs Of Moses Allison (1996) – Sister album to How Long and excellent for those (like me) who were not in the alright – Grade: A-

The Healing Game (1997) – Van likes it, he often plays tracks on stage Ike the way Dylan gravitates to “Down in The Groove” – Grade: B

The Philosopher’s Stone (1998) – Astounding bootleg tapes a la Van – Grade: A

Back on Top (199) – Actually, exactly where he always is Grade: B+

The Skiffle Sessions Live In Belfast (2000) – Yes, Sir: that IS LONNIE DONEGAN Grade: B+

You Win Again (2000) – Another genre exercise, this time the genre is rock and roll with Jerry Lee Lewis’ kid sister. Gail rubbished Van’s reputation after the recording and he appears to have deserved it. the ornery cuss – Grade: B+

Down the Road (2002) – Nostalgia for the corner record store and van’s most ordinary album ever – Grade: B

What’s Wrong With This Picture (2003) – On Blue Note! Check out the “St. James Infirmary” cover – Grade: B+

Magic Time (2005) – Around about now it feels like he can produce an album at will – Grade: B+

Pay the Devil (2006) – His country exercise. Who needs another cover of “Half As Much”? On the other hand, who doesn’t? Grade: B

Live At the Austin City Limits Festival (2006) – Whoops, I completely missed this one. Some hits, some deep album cuts, a little country. No grade because I really don’t know.

Keep it Simple (2008) – More of the same except “Behind The Ritual”, a great work about song form and what it really all means – Grade: A-

Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl (2009) – I caught Van twice on this tour, and the second night at the Beacon was the one he should’ve released – Grade: B+

Born To SIng (No Plan B) (2012) – With his longest break from releasing new material… ever (! -there was that three years in the mid-1970s, but he has been real prolific otherwise), this was greeted with relief, and if it isn’t bad except it is missing that one song that would push it beyond the obvious.  Having said that, who else can do it? And as his only album of new material in the 2010s, it is a real pleasure. The single was good, “Open The Door (To Your Heart)” – A-

Duets (2015) – At it best, it was excellent but not everybody was up to the task. Two highlights make it worthwhile, the great Bobby Womack and the lost but not forgotten PJ Proby. Mark Knopfler nails “Irish Heartbeat”  B+

..It’s Too Late to Stop Now…Volumes II, III & IV (Live) (2016) – Three more live performances from the same vintage, though, clearly Van picked the best one the first time. Even so, this is magic stuff and I was watching the video and Van is endlessly fascinating in the tightest pants known to man – A

Keep Me Singing (2016) – This is as good as anything but the best of his 1990s releases, “Caledonia Swing” is excellent. Sure, it’s the same old into the mystic with an ear for the blues but why not? – B+

The Authorized Bang Collection (2017) – So this is everything, his pop singer high if you don’t include Moondance – A+

Roll With The Punches (2017) – Another excellent album, a little more blues than usual, but there is also “Transformation” maybe his best song since 2008’s “Behind The Ritual – A-

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