Wednesday, 26 January 2011

St Dominic's Preview

"Saint Dominic's Preview" was the first Van album that I ever bought.  I bought it on vinyl through the Australian record club.  It came out in 1972 but I bought it a year or two later.  I remember buying a lot of albums in those days and trading them at school.  Albums by Deep Purple, CSNY, the Rolling Stones, Iron Butterfly, Black Sabbath (hated that stuff!), Neil Young, David Bowie, Yes, etc. went through my hands. 

Anyway, I remember liking Saint Dominic's Preview rather than loving it as I do now.  I guess image is everything with young teenagers and Van just didn't seem cool sitting there in front of a church with a noticeable split on the inside seam of his jeans.  

St Dominic's Preview was released in 1972. It consists of seven songs: "Jacki Wilson Said" (2:56), "Gypsy" (4:35), "I Will Be There" (3:03), "Listen to the Lion" (11:08), "Saint Dominic's Preview" (6:24), "Redwood Tree" (3:01) and "Almost Independence Day" (10:03).  The two 10 minute plus tracks allow Van to stretch out and enter territory that is like a meditative state.  "Listen to the Lion" is one of the most popular songs among his hard core fans.  "Gypsy" and "I Will Be There" are considered the weakest songs. 

The album opens with "Jackie Wilson Said".  This song became more famous later when it was released by Dexy's Midnight Runners in 1982.  Jackie Wilson is the name of a crooner best remembered for his 1957 hit "Reet Petite" which is name-checked in the song.  He also spent the last 9 years of his life in a coma following an accident.  "Jackie Wilson Said" is an upbeat R&B song. 

Next up is "Gypsy" which is a useful addition to his cannon of minstrel/gypsy song offerings over the years.  Thematically Caravan and "One Irish Rover" spring to mind.  "Gypsy" contains timing changes which adds to the listening experience.  It starts slowly but then builds to its rapid fire choruses. 

"I Will be There" comes next and is a deceptively simple blues number enfused with honky-tonk piano and evoking Ray Charles.  At its end Van delivers a last line containing classic strange lyrics where he speaks of grabbing a toothbrush, an overcoat and underwear.

Next up is the sheer magnificence that is Listen to the Lion.  This 11 minute opus must rank as one of his all-time greats.  It begins slowly but by the latter part of the song Van is transformed into a lion and growling and scatting like crazy person. 

The title track, "Saint Dominic's Preview" is next.  It was supposedly composed by Morrison after he saw an ad for a peace vigil to be held at St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco.   "Redwood Tree" is next and appears to be about a boy and his father going out searching for a lost dog.  It is a celebration of nature and a boy's childhood experiences.

The last song is Almost Independence Day talks about Van's feelings as he looks out across San Francisco harbour.  Along with Listen to the Lion, it is more than ten minutes in length. Clinton Heylin in his notoriously negative book about Van called "Can you hear the silence?", said that the song was a kind of extended jam and only put there when two other songs didn't work out. 

I have a special attachment to Saint Dominic's Preview for another reason.  The album was one of the reasons I called my son Dominic.  He's a great guy and I love him like crazy but he's all grown up now.

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