Monday, 16 July 2018
Van Morrison - A Period Of Transition (1977)
Released April 1977
Van Morrison, after rediscovering his Irishness on 1974’s “Veedon Fleece” had toured extensively, playing some iconic shows and then got “writer’s block” for a while. In the meantime, punk had exploded all over the music scene in 1976-77 and established artists were prime targets for the scorn of punk’s young guns. Morrison escaped, under the radar, somehow. He continued to release decidedly un-punk recordings throughout the whole period, seemingly oblivious. He had been hanging out with funk/soul group The Crusaders, and there were definite influences on this, his “great comeback” album. Its title, though, gives it away. It definitely was a “period of transition”. The album remains a slightly half-baked, little-mentioned one. Let’s try to get something positive from it, however. To be fair, it is pretty easy to do that.
1. You Gotta Make It Through The World
2. It Fills You Up
3. The Eternal Kansas City
4. Joyous Sound
5. Flamingoes Fly
6. Heavy Connection
7. Cold Wind In August
“You Gotta Make It Through The World" has Van Morrison going funky with an extended funk guitar intro and the undoubted influence of New Orleans funker Dr.John, who Morrison had been hanging out with and enlisted as producer for this album. It is a solid but unspectacular track, with repetitive, dull lyrics. Sure, it had a great groove, an infectious bass line and is a pleasant listen, with great sound quality, but one is left with the feeling that the great mystic, the great Celtic soulster was better than this. Van Morrison was now producing average white funk workouts. “It Fills You Up” was a slow burning, horn-driven soul blues number with Morrison’s voice strong and dominant. There is none of the spiritual yearning that had appeared on “Veedon Fleece” or any of the inspired melodic soul of “Moondance” or”St. Dominic’s Preview”. There was not an extended “stream of consciousness” search like “Listen To The Lion” either. Considering Van had been in the wilderness for three years, it seems as if this wasn’t quite the great comeback that it had intended to be.
“The Eternal Kansas City” starts with some choral backing vocals fading in, in the style of Bob Dylan’s “All The Tired Horses”, but eventually Van kicks in and it becomes an enjoyable, melodic soul and jazz romp that is better than many say. Similarly, “Joyous Sound” has a vibrant, energetic jazz soul groove and some lively saxophone. Morrison would continue to turn material like this out for years. It is not much different in essence to “Hey Mr DJ” or “Precious Time”, which were critically acclaimed from albums many years later.
“Flamingoes Fly” has a sumptuous brass backing and a confident vocal from an. It would not have sounded out of place on 1979’s “Into The Music”. It has that semi-funky “Cleaning Windows” guitar sound. Much of the musical themes introduced on this album would continue to be used by Morrison for years afterwards. This was almost seeing the musical tone for nearly forty years of music. “Heavy Connection” was another horn-driven, “la-la-la” hooky laid-back but potent piece of swing soul. Some good lyrics and a hint to the past in its soul feel. Would have been ok on “Street Choir”. It has an excellent saxophone solo in it.
“Cold Wind In August” is redolent of 1973’s “Hard Nose The Highway” album and ends the all too short album (seven tracks and 33 minutes) on a gospelly high note. All female backing vocals and rising horns. More sumptuous saxophone to be found here. Morrison’s “pushing through September in the rain” is inspired. My goodness, this is a superb track. He always comes up with at least one of those inspirational moments on every album. You can rely on that.
You know, listening to it again, this little-mentioned album is not too bad at all. It is just not quite a work of genius.