Monday, 4 June 2018

Van Morrison - Into The Music (1979)

And we'll walk down the avenue again....


Released August 1979

Recorded in Sausalito, California

Running time 49.30

This was one of Van Morrison’s most accessible and popular albums. Oblivious to the fires of punk burning all around him, Morrison produced an album that is probably closest to his It’s Too Late To Stop Now Celtic Soul Orchestra ideal from 1974, but maybe without quite so much reliance on brass backing. It features lots of catchy, lilting tunes, and plenty of Gaelic musical airs and inflections. It is a sort of rocky Irish blues. Notably, it is also more acoustic and folky than the previous album, Wavelength, which was dominated by its punchy brass sections. 

Apparently Morrison would walk through fields in the Costwolds, where he was living at the time, acoustic guitar in hand, composing songs as he walked. He looks back on the album positively (something that not all of his albums receive) viewing it as the point "when I got back into it - that's why I called it "Into The Music...". It is clearly a happy, vibrant album, full of lively, upbeat songs.


1. Bright Side Of The Road

2. Full Force Gale
3. Steppin' Out Queen
4. Troubadours
5. Rolling Hills
6. You Make Me Feel So Free
7. Angelou
8. And The Healing Has Begun
9. It's All In The Game
10. You Know What They're Writing About           

This is also one of his most “singalong” albums, exemplified by the now perennial favourite On The Bright Side Of The Road that gets them all off their feet at live gigs. Full Force Gale has a similarly irresistible hook, while You Make Me Feel So Free is a folky, piano-driven melodious piece of vibrant summery beauty. The latter is a personal Morrison favourite of mine. Rolling Hills is clearly one of the rootsy, violin-backed Irish numbers but with religious overtones as well, with lyrics about reading his Bible. It does contain a supremely mumbling, gruff-sounding vocal from Morrison, which is a bit at odds with much of the rest of the album.

Some of the spiritual themes from 1974's Veedon Fleece found their way in to this album. "Among the rolling hills, I'll live my life in Him..." he proclaimed on Rolling Hills, being overtly Christian for one of the first times, and "Full Force Gale" saw him "lifted up by the Lord...".

The jaunty Stepping Out Queen the Irish, folky Troubadours and the slow, soulful Angelou are just as intoxicating, but, for me, the album’s masterpiece is When The Healing Has Begun, an eight minute slab of majestic Morrison slow burning but passionate Celtic soul. Great verses abound about “putting on red dresses” and “wearing easter bonnets and all the rest” while Morrison growls “I want to make love to you - yes, yes, yes!”. There is a point a few minutes in, when he loses himself and, between verses, starts whooping with sheer joy and you think “blimey, the old bugger is actually enjoying himself”. Near the end there is a wonderful spoken bit before it builds to a monumental climax. Magnificent. The "backstreet jellyroll" references often subsequently used by Morrison began here. He also referenced Muddy Waters, returning home from a gig and making music with a violin and two guitars. He is addressing all of his muses at once - musicians, lovers, musical instruments and nature itself. 

It's All In The Game/You Know What They're Writing About was a reflective, verging on streams of consciousness ending to one of Morrison's best albums. It was spiritual, it was cheerful, it was sad, it was soulful. There were many different ambiences on this album, which was rare, as they usually ploughed one distinct furrow.


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