Saturday, 28 January 2017

Haunts of Ancient Peace (1980)

Haunts of Ancient Peace is the first track from Van's 1980 album Common One which was recorded at the Super Bear studios in France.  It remains one of the lower selling of his studio albums with fans and many critics slamming it viciously.  However, for many hardcore fans the album is often listed among their favourites.  For the casual fan the six "deeply moving extended jazz meditations that hawked back to Morrison’s classic Astral Weeks album in sound and texture" are a bit hard to take.  The literary and jazz foundations of the album meant that some fans found it "ponderous and boring".  The album does reward those who will dig a little deeper and give it repeated listens. Haunts of Ancient Peace is an atmospheric piece that has depth to it not obvious on one listen.  

The title of Haunts of Ancient Peace was taken from a 1902 book by Alfred Austin. Players included Mark Isham on trumpet, John Allair on organ and synthesiser, Pee Wee Ellis on saxophones and Peter Van Hooke on drums. The rest of the band is filled out with Morrison’s Caledonia Soul Orchestra members Jeff Labes on piano, John Platania on guitar, David Hayes on bass and Dahaud Shaar on percussion.

According to Mick Cox the early stages of the album were rehearsed during November and December 1979. The songs Summertime in England and Haunts of Ancient Peace were rehearsed by Morrison and the band during small gigs in January 1980. Cox thought that "some of these performances at the rehearsals were far better than the final recordings." Speaking of the recording sessions at Super Bear, Cox said: "We were all ensconced in a very, very intense, highly charged situation for those eleven days, but it did bring out that album."

According to the incredible Van Morrison database the first known performance of Haunts was on January 23, 1980 and the last known performance was on November 14, 2016.  It has been played 186 times in concert with a further 27 times in concert as part of a medley.  The longest solo performance length was 11 minutes and 32 seconds, while the shortest performance came in at just over 2 minutes.  


Beside the garden walls
We walk in haunts of ancient peace
At night we rest and go to sleep
In haunts of ancient peace
The love and light we seek
The words we do not need to speak
Here in this wondrous way we keep
These haunts of ancient peace
Let us go there again
When we need some relief
Oh, when I can't find my feet
When I need rest and sleep
The Sunday bells they chime
Around the countryside and towns
A song of harmony and rhyme
In haunts of ancient peace
The holy grail we seek
On down by haunts of ancient peace
We see the new Jerusalem
In haunts of ancient peace
Oh, when I can't find my feet
Oh, when I need some relief
One more time again
You know I want to go there one more time again
Be still in haunts of ancient peace

(Be still)


Rich Kamerman   -   Van began the 80s with Common One (1980), opening with the hymn-like Haunts Of Ancient Peace, featuring some nice muted trumpet. It’s jazzy, but not exactly “jazz.”

K. Hannay   -   There is the controlled passion of the best Gospel singing in Haunts of Ancient Peace

The Flood Shark   -   Van Morrison sets the tone early in Haunts of Ancient Peace, opening with smooth jazz and lush soundscapes. Off the bat, Miles Davis’s masterwork In a Silent Way (especially the back half) seems to have its imprints all over this work, harnessing soft, borderline ambient instrumentation and soundscapes

Tom Carson   -   Common One is, in a way, Morrison's version of Al Green's amazing The Belle Album.

1 comment:

  1. I've been working my way through the post Veedon Fleece catalog, and so far this album is the one I go back to the most. It is most definitely not the narcissistic teenager that is rock-'n'-roll. Maybe that's why the baby boomers didn't like it. It's grown up music produced at a time when growing up was frowned upon. It's also music for ears from a period when music was being overtaken by visual imagery. Even most of the lyrics aren't strongly visual. It really is a meditation that renders words meaningless.