Monday, 3 October 2016

Van's Most Underrated Album


Egil Mosbron posted a look back at Van’s 1983 album Inarticulate Speech of the Heart on the Born to Listen site.  You gotta check out the site which has a ton of material about music and plenty of Van things there too.

Van Morrison´s Most Underrated Album: Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)

Released            March 1983
Length                47:10
Label                   Mercury (UK) and Warner Bros. (USA)
Producer            Van Morrison

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart is Van's fourteenth studio album. Morrison said he arrived at the title from a Shavian saying: “that idea of communicating with as little articulation as possible, at the same time being emotionally articulate”. There are 4 instrumentals among the 11 songs. 


As he explained in 1984, “Sometimes when I’m playing something, I’m just sort of humming along with it, and that’s got a different vibration than an actual song. So the instrumentals just come from trying to get that form of expression, which is not the same as writing a song.” The reissued and remastered version of the album contains alternative takes of Cry for Home and Inarticulate Speech of the Heart No. 2.

Critics attacked this album for such things as the use of synthesisers, the thank you to L. Ron Hubbard (the founder of the Church of Scientology) in the liner notes, having too many instrumentals and a lack of ‘good songs’. Nerve.com even rated it the worst Van Morrison album.

A Few Expert Opinions 

Van Morrison   -   What I´m dealing with is repetition … two chords played over and over and over again, ad nauseam. Now that´s really what I do … to transmit this to people and take this repetition through stages of boredom and run that whole range … from boredom to serenity.

Brian Hinton   -   The major song on the album is in fact a poem – yes, a real one, recited, though Morrison cannot stop himself breaking into song, and a slow saxophone ends the proceedings. Rave On, John Donne sounds like a Ginsberg rant of joy, with the metaphysical Elizabethan and other dead poets brought up to date, as beacons of light. Walt Whitman, Omar Khayyam, WB Yeats as well, an Open University reading list of visionaries.

Peter Mills   -   The tripartite structure of Rave On John Donne – spoken word, singing, instrument – is as programmatic within itself as any more ambitious through-composed body of work. It involves a deploying and sorting, and controlled release of ideas, live in the studio, the right to do so at each stage won by the work done in the preceding section. Yet even though the six minutes we have are edited, this is not mere process – the spirit of creativity, that which “raves”, passes through the track in an uninterrupted seam, Rave On.

Clinton Heylin   -   Rave On, John Donne was presumably intended to inhabit the same space as Summertime in England in a more condensed form, grasping at a new-found conceit, establishing a chain of seers who paved the way.

Mark Holmes   -   Higher Than the World, is simply one of Van´s most sublime songs and one of the highlights of his 1980´s output. It isn´t innovative from a musical perspective and hardly has a beat to latch onto. It isn´t a particularly passionate song .. What it does have is one of Morrison´s most persuasive vocals, which is therapy for the ears!   I´ve read numerous reviews on Morrison´s output but this song hardly gets mentioned.  This undervalued beauty is an ideal way to start the album – it is an outstanding opener.

Richard S. Ginell   -   Higher Than the World is simply one of the most beautiful recordings Morrison ever made, with Mark Isham’s choir-like synthesiser laying down the lovely backdrop.

Mark Holmes   -   my love of this album is down to the quality of the best tracks offered on Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. At its best, this album is immensely enjoyable. .. despite the presence of a couple of average songs, it is overall an undervalued record that offers several essential Morrison efforts. It surpasses his other 80´s albums, with two notable exceptions (Common One & No Guru, No Method, No Teacher)

David Cavanaugh   -   After a stressful day, it can be soothing to soak one´s limbs in Inarticulate Speech of the Heart´s aromatic foam and feel its essential oils and herbs magically relax the muscles.  Inarticulate Speech of the Heart is typically of early 80´s albums made by artists preoccupied with stylish production and flawless arrangements, .. What Van Morrison adds to the template is an amalgam of Irish folk and new age, creating picturesque music of t(he mind.. With four instrumentals on Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, the listener´s imagination has to work harder than normal to find the imagery within. A glorious exception is Rave On, John Donne, which even people who don´t like the album agree is an important piece of work.

Patrick Corley (author of Vanatic)   -   I think though during this period of spirituality Van saw music as an aid to meditation and contemplation too. I think that´s why a lot of the lyrics are sparse and repetitive, not really songs at all. So what about the tracks? I think the outstanding track on this album is Rave On, John Donne … the other outstanding track for me is Irish Heartbeat ..

David Fricke   -   The ratio of instrumentals to vocals here may be Morrison’s way of illustrating that it’s not the words one uses but the force of conviction behind those words that matters. It is a sentiment that rings true throughout his recorded works, and like the others, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart speaks volumes in its own remarkable way.

Robert Christgau   -   In this troubled time, rock-and-rollers have every right to place their faith in the Jehovah’s Witnesses or even Scientology when they discover that Jackie Wilson didn’t say it all. But to follow one with the other appears weak minded, like praising Omar Khayyam in tandem with Kahlil Gibran. A hypothesis which the static romanticism of these reels-for-Hollywood-orchestra and other slow songs bears out.

Stereogum   -   The bizarre, but still thrilling Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart does its level best to defy categorisation. Awash in a placid stream of atmospherics, it barely touches on the rock and soul idiom that has so long been Morrison’s template. Like a distinctly Irish take on late period Roxy Music, the release seems eager to challenge the album form altogether. Gorgeous instrumental digressions morph into romantic pop, balladry and then digress formless again. Melodies occur seemingly haphazard and improvised and then reoccur as though conjured. Some believed Van had gone crazy by this point. Another interpretation is that he had finally figured out yet more things the rest of us don’t know.

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