Period of Transition.
It ain’t easy being unique
Rob Steen - 28 Jan 2013
I did an extremely un-me thing the other day. Come to think of it, I can’t think of too many music scribes who would have done it either. I dug out an old album and reversed my opinion. In a good way.
The waxing in question was A Period of Transition, one of the least beloved of all Van Morrison’s works and one I had not listened to in its entirety since its release in 1977. At the time, sure, I’d noted the exceedingly occasional less-than-weedy constituent – Heavy Connection, Cold Wind in August – but the overall sense of disappointment, after an interminable three-year wait since the superlative Veedon Fleece, had been overwhelming. No album had let my teenage self down with a bigger, more dispiriting bump.Nor did it help that, after a painful promotional interview with Nicky Horne on Capital Radio, the Man Himself, having kindly signed my copy of Astral Weeks (now framed in gold and living large on the lounge wall), came across in person as the biggest grouch since The Grinch. How on earth, my sister and I wondered as we discussed this with his shortlived manager Harvey Goldsmith, could someone capable of such beauty be so…so…so…the opposite?
Four decades on, A Period of Transition sounded positively inspired. Maybe it was the fuller sound afforded by a combination of CD and iPod as compared with a wafer-thin slab of vinyl on a cheap record player, but here, in all its uncelebrated glory, is Van’s Stax album. Maybe, in this age of download and overload, the presence of a piffling seven songs, only one of them exceeding five minutes, now sounds refreshingly concise. Maybe, after a period during which he had dabbled with all sorts of unfulfilled projects that would have been eminently worth releasing officially by a less picky performer – plus some unreleased sessions with The Crusaders that at least in theory sound gobsmackingly mouthwatering – it was the shift from white musicians to black.
Gone were Jeff Labes, John Platania, David Shaar and Jack Schroer, instrumental heartbeat of the band that gave us the showstoppingly magnificent It’s Too Late To Stop Now, still my favourite live album; in their stead, alongside Dr John (keyboards and guitar), came Reggie McBride (bass), Ollie Brown (drums) and Jerry Jumonville (sax). From the opening You Gotta Make It Through The World, the result is mostly as funky as hell.
Basic Details About Period of Transition
1."You Gotta Make It Through the World" – 5:10
2."It Fills You Up" – 4:34
3."The Eternal Kansas City" – 5:26
1."Joyous Sound" – 2:48
2."Flamingos Fly" – 4:41
3."Heavy Connection" – 5:23
4."Cold Wind in August" – 5:48
Ollie E. Brown – drums, percussion
Marlo Henderson – guitar
Jerry Jumonville – tenor and alto saxophones
Reggie McBride – bass
Mac Rebennack (Dr. John) – piano, electric piano and guitar on "It Fills You Up"
Mark Underwood – trumpet
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