Saturday, 2 April 2016

Album Opinions - Hymns to the Silence

Have you ever held this distinctive light brown album in your hands?  It was released in 1991 and was Van’s twenty-first studio album.  It peaked at No. 5 in the UK and number 99 on the US Billboard charts.  It was his first ever studio double album and lasted for just under 95 minutes.  Personnel included regulars like Haji Ahkba, Derek Bell, Candy Dulfer, Georgie Fame, Katie Kissoon, Nicky Scott and Kate St John.  On release many people commented that it "would have made a great single album" but that slightly lukewarm reception has been re-evaluated over the years.  Now it's hailed as a classic, though a somewhat idiosyncratic one.  Here some opinions from the internet. 

Kurt Harding   -   I am surprised by the number of people who strongly like one disc but thought the other filler. In my view, there are some great songs and a few throwaways on both of them.  On disc one, my favourites are Professional Jealousy, Ordinary Life, So Complicated, and the soulful See Me Through Part II.  On disc two, I like All Saints Day, Be Thou My Vision, Carrying A Torch, Quality Street (the music more than the words), It Must Be You, and I Need Your Kind of Loving

Marsha Lyons   -   I hardly ever listen to the first disc. But the second is one of my favourite of so many wonderful Van recordings.  Listening to him recall treasured memories of his youth in Hyndford Street always brings tears to my eyes, and then as this song ends and Be Thou My Vision starts, the tears well over the brink.  When Van sings of spirituality and Christianity, he always leaves me aching and hungry for more meaning in my life.

Grigory's Girl   -   This is an epic masterpiece from Van. It's slowly turning into one of my favourite Van albums. Van made a lot of great albums in the 1990's, but aside from his fans most industry "experts" ignored him. It's their loss. This is one of his most complex, eclectic albums, with some of the best, most moving work he's ever done. I'm Not Feeling It Anymore is an angry song. Other songs in this vein are Some Peace of Mind and Why Must I Always Explain. They're also really good, despite Van's anger. The cover of I Can't Stop Loving You (with The Chieftains) is incredibly moving. Village Idiot is a real charmer. Van's cover of See Me Through Part II (Just a Closer Walk with Thee) is one of his best songs, and a great cover of a great gospel ballad. Van's monologue during the song sends this song into that great spiritual realm that Van has gone to his whole career.

Andrew Macgowan   -   IMHO this is The Belfast Cowboy's consummate masterpiece, even stronger than St. Dominic's Preview or Into the Music. The Man sums up his entire career in this album.  

The Slut of San Fran   -   This is simply the Man's Exile on Main Street

Curbach   -   For me, too much of this album is given over to two of the less interesting themes in Van's recent music - overt (conventional) religion and griping about the nature of show-biz and celebrity. Dropping a few of these songs would have yielded a more compact and powerful album.  Still, the best tracks on this set are as transcendent and moving as Van's recent work gets. Carrying A Torch, the title track, I Need Your Kind of Loving, Hyndford Street, and Take Me Back are all masterpieces. Carrying a Torch may be the best song Van has done in the last 20 years. None of the rest is bad (except maybe Village Idiot). 

J. E. Harris   -   I'm completely speechless. I'm a major Morrison fan and I thought that I'd heard it all, but I was completely floored by this one. Every single track is a classic and he makes the standard, I Can't Stop Loving You, his own. How do you compare the stars in the sky? There's Village Idiot, which I played ten times in a row. What a wonderful song. Then, there's Professional Jealousy, I'm Not Feeling It Anymore, another ten timer, Take Me Back, I Need Your Kind Of Loving, etc.  

Glenn Fink   -   I was a huge Van fan at the time this was released and I remember buying it when it was his most current album. I wasn't disappointed. I've heard almost every album that Van released previous to this one, and I can honestly say I don't think he has released any album stronger than this one since 1974's Veedon Fleece. In particular, Take Me Back is probably one of Van's very best pieces, even though it consists of 2 chords.

Guy Sayles   -   I often play the first three songs of Disc 1 as a kind of spiritual discipline.  Yes, I know that some people doubt that Van Morrison could be much of a spiritual guide, but, countless times, these three songs have re-centred me.    

Pieter Uys   -   Hymns To The Silence is an opus magnum where Morrison's talent reaches awesome new heights. The album impresses on many levels: the lyrical ingenuity, melodic beauty, intelligent arrangements and above all the expert mastery of many different musical styles, including country, folk, soul, rock and gospel.  Although every track is memorable and tuneful, my favourites include I'm Not Feeling It Anymore with its galloping rhythms and flowing melody, the rocking Ordinary Life, a wry observation on life, the jaunty, jazzy So Complicated and the beautiful authentic country song I Can't Stop Loving You.  Perhaps the greatest moment is Be Thou My Vision, an extraordinarily powerful hymn that is one of this artist's best descriptions of spiritual ecstasy. Hymns To The Silence is an uplifting work of genius on a par with Astral Weeks, Moondance and Tupelo Honey but provides greater variety than any of them.

Elysa Gardner   -    Musically, Hymns taps into most of the varied sources that Morrison has incorporated through the years. A Celtic strain runs through much of the album, becoming prominent on Village Idiot, a poignant ballad with lyrics evoking Fool on the Hill and on a version of the traditional hymn Be Thou My Vision featuring members of the Chieftains on pipes and whistle. Ordinary Life is straight-ahead blues, though, and So Complicated and the ebullient All Saints Day offer swinging R&B in the spirit of Ray Charles. It Must Be You has a light-jazz feel, but Morrison's rapturous vocal imbues the track with vitality.
Patty   -   This is my Friday night after work music, my Saturday night party music, and my quiet Sunday morning music rolled into one. Yes, I too, never get tired of the second CD. Hymns to the Silence and Carrying a Torch are beautiful. I even like Village Idiot a lot.

Scott Mc Nally   -   This double disc set came out in 1991. Public radio in the US was playing it often and I just had to hear more. Though it swings too wildly between moods to have a sustained flow to it, it contains what I feel are some of the best songs he'd written since Moondance. Every style he had ever done up to this point is covered, not rehashed. His reading of I Can't Stop Loving You with The Chieftains is priceless. It ranks right up there with Ray Charles splendid version. On Hyndford Street is an incredible spoken word reverie set to ambient electronic sounds. The mood he evokes there is incredible. The second disc also has Carrying A Torch which is one of the most heartfelt ballads he's ever penned.
There's another spoken word piece called Pagan Streams, but it falls a bit short as does his version of the hymn, Be Thou My Vision. In spite of a few short comings, this disc holds a special place in my heart as its overall spiritual tone helped get me through a very difficult few months in my life, after the sudden death of my partner of eight years at the hands of two car thieves in Detroit.

Eric Saczawa   -    When I first bought this album, Brown Eyed Girl was about the extent of my VM knowledge. Boy did I learn a lesson: Van the Man has so much more depth than Brown Eyed Girl displays.  Van takes us through an incredible journey of soul, gospel, blues, jazz, Celtic, and meditative music. The only element that remains constant throughout is that beautiful voice in the foreground.  Gems like Take me Back will surely transport you to a time or place in your life where there are no such things as "problems." The title track is soothingly angelic, followed immediately by Hyndford Street, which is more a poetry reading than a song, but incredibly moody. Carrying a Torch, It Must be You, and I Need Your Kind of Loving are heart-wrenching romantic pieces.   
A. Customer   -   If you are a Christian who can't stand the smarmy elevator sounds that pass for Christian music today, and you want to hear a few songs that will really move you.  Listen to Van's See Me Through, By His Grace, and Be Thou My Vision on this album. Other good (non-religious) songs include I'm Not Feeling it Anymore, Why Must I Always Explain, and Ordinary Life

Mkolesa   -   great album and maybe the last Van album I'd recommend to someone whole-heartedly.  It was actually the first Van album i bought on release.  I agree that disc one has things that i tend to skip, but the high points more than make up for the lows, especially Why must i always explain', 'just a closer walk with thee', and 'take me back'... wow! yes, disc two is more consistent, but i just don't feel touched in the same way. I remember listening to it quite a bit when my mother passed not long after it was released, it had that special healing quality to it.

Jan H. Stafl   -   Out of all 40 albums that Van has released, this is the best for those who share his spiritual, meditative quest. The second CD reaches transcendental heights, especially on the title cut, and the narrative Hyndford Street which follows. May you continue your quest, Van, and take us with you!

Anonymous   -   If you are a Christian who can't stand the smarmy elevator sounds that pass for Christian music today, and you want to hear a few songs that will really move you, listen to Van's See Me Through, By His Grace, and Be Thou My Vision on this album. Other good (non-religious) songs include I'm Not Feeling it Anymore, Why Must I Always Explain, and Ordinary Life.

Shell-Zee   -   Take Me Back...Take Me Way Way Back.  I remember when life felt so right and so good. In the days before cyber technology...Before life became a twenty four by seven marathon...In a time when Sunday afternoons felt so bucolic and peaceful.

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