Friday, 17 August 2018

Van Morrison - Enlightenment (1990)


  

Released October 1990

Recorded in Somerset

Some have said that this album does not match the heights of "Avalon Sunset". I disagree, actually preferring this one. Somehow I feel it is a more rounded, fulfilled album, although I am finding it difficult to explain exactly why. As appealing as "Coney Island" and "I'm Tired Joey Boy" undoubtedly were, they are much shorter than the material on here. The songs here are just more realised, for me. I feel also, that this is a very soulful album.

The album starts with a true Morrison Celtic Soul classic - the thumping, energetically horn-driven "Real Real Gone". It is as if it is 1970 again and the days of "His Band And The Street Choir". "Sam Cooke is on the radio" sings Van, sounding as if he is really enjoying himself. The next track is a corker too, the mystical, spiritual "Enlightenment". Van is searching again, not sure what enlightenment is. One gets the feeling his spiritual quest will never end. No matter if it sounds as soulful and musically intoxicating as this does. It features uplifting harmonica, percussion, piano and a great rumbling bass sound. "So Quiet In Here" is sublime - an atmospheric exhortation to peace, silence and sea breezes which sees Van ruminating upon whether he has indeed found paradise. The percussion and bass is truly addictive. It is a great track.

"Avalon Of The Heart" sees Van revisiting "Common One" territory again, journeying down to Avalon again, searching for that holy grail once more, exercising his Arthurian fantasies. It goes choral and orchestral at the end, almost turning hymnal. "See Me Through" has Van feeling he has been too long in the storm. He is feeling quite romantic and reflective on these songs and religious too, singing of the rugged cross and the suffering of his saviour. Because he puts out albums with such regularity throughout his career, it is easy to dismiss some of them as "just another Van Morrison album". Personally, I don't think this applies to any of his albums. Hell, it's Van Morrison. There is always something to be gained from all of them.

"Youth Of 1000 Summers" has a shuffling, rock'n'roll rhythm and it sort of serves as a lively, upbeat to the bizarre but beguiling "In The Days Before Rock'n'Roll", with is probably Morrison's most odd track every recorded. An Irish poet, Paul Durcan, recites the names of fifties radio stations in a decidedly odd voice, adding a few other lines here and there about someone called "Justin" and bleeping keyboard noises initiating radio waves.  I remember those radio stations from my Father's old radio - Hilversum, Athlone, Helveta, Luxemborg. It is a complete oddity but I find it strangely compelling. Van does take part too, singing about betting on "Lester Piggott at ten to one...". I also love the bit where Van tells us in his gruff Belfast growl how "the killer came along... the killer....Jerry Lee Lewis..."Great Balls Of Fire"....". He loves a name check or two, does Van.

"Start All Over Again" is a groovy little jazz number, with some similarities to 1999's "Back On Top". It has nice horns and keyboard vibes throughout. "She's My Baby" is a horn-backed slow romantic number, with Van telling us all about "his lady". He says seems to carry off these cheesy songs, though, somehow. So did the great soul singers, so he is in good company. It features a gorgeous organ solo from Georgie Fame. "Memories" is a beautiful, melodic loser. A tender, nostalgic vocal and some crystal clear acoustic guitar and mandolin, plus some Elizabethan-sounding keyboards underpinned by a sumptuous bass line. Lovely stuff.


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