Sunday, 22 April 2012

Rolling Stone Rates Van

At Rollingstone.com you'll find ratings for Van's albums from Blowin Your Mind to Keep it Simple with some interesting comments for each.  From my perspective, the Bang material is over-rated and gems like the No Guru, Healing Game and Common One have only been given two stars.  I really enjoyed Keep it Simple and can't understand its three stars rating.  I like all of Van's albums and the more I learn about Van, his influences, the meaning of lyrics and what he tries to do, etc., the more I appreciate his work. 


Below is the list of ratings and some comments from the essay accompanying the ratings.

4     Blowin' Your Mind (1967)
5     Astral Weeks (1968) (his most beautiful and intense album)
4.5  Moondance (1970) (a mellow, piano-based hybrid of pop, jazz, and Irish folk.)
3.5   His Band and the Street Choir (1970) (a lighter version of Moondance)
5     Tupelo Honey (1971) (Van's only really cheery-sounding album)
5     Saint Dominic's Preview (1972) (a concept album about feeling homesick in America)
2     Hard Nose the Highway (1973) (the only good song was his bizarre version of Kermit the Frog's Sesame Street classic, "Bein' Green)
4  -  T.B. Sheets (1973)
5  -  It's Too Late to Stop Now (1974) (is a warm live album, with an orchestra, vintage blues covers, and vivid band-crowd interaction)
5  -  Veedon Fleece (1974) (all Celtic mystic tumult in the vocals and pastoral beauty in the music)
2  -  A Period of Transition (1977) (shrill, clumsy)
2.5  Wavelength (1978) (was a failed mainstream pop move)
3  -  Into the Music (1979) (sounds stuffy and ornate)
2  -  Common One (1980)  (jazzy religious blather)
2  -  Beautiful Vision (1982) (also jazzy religious blather)
2  -  Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983) (cranky self-imitation)
2  -  A Sense of Wonder (1985) (cranky self-imitation)
3.5   Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast (Mercury, 1985)
2  -  No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (Mercury, 1986) (cranky self-imitation)
2  -  Poetic Champions Compose (Mercury, 1987) (cranky self-imitation)
3.5  Irish Heartbeat (Mercury, 1988) (a collection of standards with the Chieftains)
3.5  Avalon Sunset (Mercury, 1989) (a modest breakthrough)
5  -  The Best of Van Morrison (Mercury, 1990) (a well-timed summary)
3  -  Enlightenment (Mercury, 1990) (most complex and self-involved)
4.5   Bang Masters (Epic, 1991)
3  -  Hymns to the Silence (Mercury, 1991)(most complex and self-involved)
3.5  Too Long in Exile (Polydor, 1993) (the breeziest)
4  -  The Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 2 (Polydor, 1993) (Morrison seemed to suck the life out of his past glories)
3.5  A Night in San Francisco (Polydor, 1994) (document of what a marvellous live performer the old man remains)
2.5  Days Like This (Polydor, 1995)
2  -  How Long Has This Been Going On (Verve, 1996)
2  -  The Healing Game (Polydor, 1997)
4  -  New York Sessions '67 (Recall, 1997)
3.5  The Philosopher's Stone (Polydor, 1998) (who knew Van had outtakes?)
2  -  Back on Top (Polydor, 1999)
2.5 The Skiffle Sessions (Polydor, 2000) (a strange live collaboration)
2.5  You Win Again (Polydor, 2000) (an even stranger set)
3.5  Down the Road (Polydor, 2002)
2.5  What's Wrong With This Picture? (Polydor, 2003)
3.5  Magic Time (Geffen, 2005)
4     Live at Austin City Limits Festival (Exile, 2006) (has stunning versions of "Muleskinner Blues" and "Big Blue Diamonds")
4     Pay The Devil (Lost Highway, 2006) (ineffably Irish collection of country covers)
3     Van Morrison at the Movies: Soundtrack Hits (EMI, 2007)
3     The Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 3 (EMI, 2007)
3.5  Still On Top: The Greatest Hits (Polydor, 2007) (goes too heavy on the late material)
3     Keep It Simple (Lost Highway, 2008) (shockingly reveals he's not much of a social type )
4.5  Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl (Listen To The Lion, 2009) (revamps the classic with extra solos and vocal flights)

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