Friday, 10 August 2018
Van Morrison - Too Long In Exile (1993)
Released June 1993
Recorded in Bath and California
This is very much a blues album - not nearly as much whimsical, mystical stuff about poets, meditation, peaceful visions or folky Irish rootsy material. It is a Van Morrison steeped in his sixties blue past revisiting it. There are airs of Celtic Soul here and there, however. Overall, though, Van has changed his message a little. It is no longer so much of a full-on spiritual quest either for meditative, blissful self-awareness or the nostalgia of the world of his childhood, although there are patches here and there. There is a little bit of jazz thrown in too, particularly in the final third of the album, something that would feature on quite a few of his subsequent recordings.
The title track is a shuffling, groovy, organ-driven and soulful number. It just slowly cooks, with some great saxophone at the end. It gets quite powerful at the end as Van improvises vocally and the band kick in. He muses on how he has been "too long in exile" and he wants to come home. It has taken him nearly twenty-five years to get there.
"Big Time Operators" is a superb, grinding blues number, one of those tracks Morrison does so well. He finds time to fit in what is fast becoming his pet lyrical theme, however - the "big time operators" he sees as blighting the "music business scene" and presumably not paying him as much as he wants. "Lonely Avenue" is another rock solid blues number with a powerful, thumping song. "Ball And Chain" has some lovely Celtic soul horns and a soulful vocal from Morrison, together with an upbeat, melodic blues harmonica. The old mystical beauty and spiritual awareness is back, though, for the beguiling, organ-driven "In The Forest". "By the ancient roads I will take you home again...". Those certainly are familiar lyrics for anyone who had listened to Van Morrison's output over the previous fifteen years or so. "Till We Get The Healing Done" harks back to the classic track from 1978's "Into The Music", "And The Healing Has Begun". It is nowhere near as good however (that would be pretty much impossible), but is an acceptable track that sounds like something from 1982's "Beautiful Vision" or 1986's "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher". As the track progresses, though, it grows in potency and appeal, pushing on and on and Morrison's delivery its more urgent. A descending blues riff underpins it throughout. It ends up about eight and a half minutes in length.
After that slightly spiritual interlude the blues truly returns with a storming version of Them's sixties track, "Gloria", featuring the veteran blues talents of the legendary John Lee Hooker. Van and Hooker mesh gloriously (so to speak) together. It is a superb duet. Big, bluesy, exciting and full of balls. The blues continues with the old sixties British r'n'b favourite, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl". Morrison delivers the risqué lyrics marvellously, he was made to cope with this sort of material. It is blues rock of the highest quality, again. "Wasted Years" is another excellent duet with Hooker.
For "Lonesome Road" the jazzy ambience arrives, complete with a jaunty melody and the use of vibes on the backing. It is full of appeal, actually. The fifties, jazzy thing continues on the slightly clumsy, semi-spoken "Moody's Mood For Love", this one doesn't quite work for me, I'm afraid. A bit too cheesy and "easy listening" for my liking. "Close Enough For Jazz" is a lively instrumental that was reworked with a vocal on 2012's "Born To Sing". "Before The World Was Made" is a lovely, gentle piece of jazzy soul. "I'll Take Care Of You" takes us back the blues with a slow burning cooker that goes back to the initial atmosphere of the album. There is one hell of a saxophone solo on the final extended instrumental, "Tell Me What You Want" that has the vibes in use again as jazz, blues and Celtic soul all merge perfectly.
This album has never quite got the credit it deserved, for some reason. In my opinion, it is an adventurous and slightly different album to many of those that had gone before. Not necessarily better, but just slightly different in tone and mood.
- August 10, 2018