Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Van Morrison - Poetic Champions' Compose (1987)


  

Released September 1987

Recorded in Somerset and London

After a long run now of albums in which Van Morrison underwent a spiritual quest, together with re-discovering his Irishness, he was back, giving us more. It was now becoming a well-trodden path, a bit like Bob Dylan’s “born again” period at the turn of the seventies/eighties. Were people beginning to tire of it just a bit? Maybe, but fans fans were now no longer the mainstream. They were happy to stick with him. After all it was getting on for twenty years now.

Now, however, a lot of the express spiritual search was over -  Morrison was now looking inside himself and, to be fair, expressing some romantic feelings too. The Irishness remained, but largely in the ambience of the album’s three instrumentals. Much as Morrisons-post 2000 albums have ploughed the same furrow, this was more of the same. So, if you like it, as I do, you like it. You will get something out of it.

TRACK LISTING

1. Spanish Steps
2. The Mystery
3. The Queen Of The Slipstream
4. I Forgot That Love Existed
5. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
6. Celtic Excavation
7. Someone Like You
8. Alan Watts Blues
9. Give Me Rapture
10. Did Ye Get Healed
11. Allow Me

As opposed to an upbeat opener, as was often the case, we had “Spanish Steps” where Morrison warmed up his saxophone technique quite impressively, before it flows into some carefree jazzy piano. "The Mystery" sounds like a song from the "Beautiful Vision" album, full of backing vocals, sweeping strings and lyrics about mysticism. It is reflective, mature song, from a reflective, mature artist. Look at how old Morrison now looks on the cover. Can this balding, grumpy-looking old man release rock records? No. This is more of a work of art - a painting, or a poem, there has not been anything "rock" about Morrison for years now.

“The Queen Of The Slipstream” (whatever that meant, and whoever she was) is a delightfully atmospheric soulful number, sung against a delightful harp backing, with an addictive vocal refrain and just a great vibe throughout. It is a track I have loved for a long time. There is usually at least one classic on a Morrison album. This is the one here. Just those opening bars send the shivers all over me. It is a majestic, mighty track. Van never lets you down when it matters. A truly sumptuous bass and piano intro leads us into the lovely soul of  "I Forgot That Love Existed", which is another excellent song. It also contains a wonderful saxophone massage.

“Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” is an adaptation of an old Negro spiritual. It is sombre, mournful and sparse in its backing, somewhat unsurprisingly, given its derivation. Morrison tackles it emotively and respectfully. It is certainly no toe-tapper, but it has a credible, serious appeal. "Celtic Excavation" is a beautiful saxophone instrumental.

“Someone Like You” is actually a totally disarming, romantic number that has subsequently achieved a fair amount of mainstream, Radio Two, popularity. It is easy to understand why. He hadn’t done a blatant smoocher like this for quite a while, if indeed ever. “Alan Watts Blues” (who was Alan Watts?) is as Celtic Soul as Van gets on this album - a jaunty, light and lively piece of fun and a great vocal refrain - “cloud hidden...whereabouts unknown…’. There he goes, looking into himself, not searching for the spirits of long departed poets anymore. "Give Me Rapture" is a gospelly, organ and piano-backed piece of lively Van soul in the "Real Real Gone" vein (although that  track was still three years away).

“Did Ye Get Healed”, with its cute Irish girl’s voice at the end is another excellent track - all jazzy with an absolutely mesmeric instrumental hook. Love the backing vocals and the melodic saxophone and Van's gently mumbling, growling voice. "Allow Me" is another appealing saxophone instrumental to finish off. Pleasant album.

B-


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