75 Essential Albums – Day #14 – Van Morrison – Common One

Here goes with day 14 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

Van Morrison – Common One 

Van Morrison has been one of the greatest and most prolific artists in the history of British Music.  After a string of hit albums he disappeared in 1974 before reemerging in 1977 with the largely awful ‘period of transition’.  He then entered what is thought by many to be the most creative period in his career.  In the years between the release of ‘Wavelength’ in 1978 and ‘Enlightenment’ in 1990 Morrison released 12 albums, every one of which has something great about it.

Morrison of course is a unique character, famously curmudgeonly, reclusive and determined to plough his own furrow.  This was especially apparent in the masterpiece that is ‘Common One’.  The last few songs on the previous album gave a clue to Mr Morrisons direction.  Common One you see is deeply introspective, contemplative and with its open ended jazzy structures it sits so far outside the rock and pop genres that many people just didn’t know what to make of it.

Two of the tracks ‘Summertime in England’ and ‘When Heart is open’ clock in at over 15 minutes each.  When “Haunts of Ancient Peace,” opens with mark Ishams muted trumpet is immediately clear that Morrison is going to take you on a jazz rooted spiritual journey.  In the 15 minute epic that is  “Summertime in England” Morrison drops the drops names of his favourite poets and authors.  you are drawn in by the call and response of Morrisons voice duelling with Pee Wee Ellis rasping saxophone.  It was perhaps necessary to hear these songs performed live to really ‘get’ this album.  Summertime in England became a jazz freeform masterpiece that often stretched to 20  minutes or more with improvised call and response routines between Morrison and John Allair and later Georgie Fame.  Morrison’s live performances during this period are the stuff of legend amongst his die-hard fans.

“Satisfied, Wild Honey and Spirit”  all give clues that the tortured genius that Morrison undoubtably is was a peace with himself and that he had found this peace through meditation.  Common One reflects that and for me at least it retains its trancelike power to this day.  There is little doubt that Morrison was more in touch with his ‘Inner Mystic’ during the making of this album than at any other time in his career.  Whilst Morrison claims that he never thought about this album in terms of its commercial success you do get the feeling that he is embittered by the lack of understanding some of the commentators of the day displayed.  Certainly the fact that songs from Common One were the centrepiece of Morrisons live shows for many years indicate that he was immensely proud of an album that can draw you in and make you feel the music in every fibre of your being.  I shall certainly never forget the first time I saw Summertime in England performed live.

1 thought on “75 Essential Albums – Day #14 – Van Morrison – Common One

  1. Pingback: 75 Essential Albums – #1 – Van Morrison – Astral Weeks | The sound of summer

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