After over six weeks of providing a rundown of 65 albums that I believe everyone should own we come to the final 10. In the days between now and Xmas I will give a run down of my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released. Hopefully I have given you some thoughts as to new albums to check out and I hope that the final 10 will have you rewriting your christmas lists and picking up a few of these brilliant albums.
Van Morrison – Into The Music
Into the Music is the eleventh studio album by Northern Irish singer/songwriter Van Morrison, released in 1979. Typically for of Morrison the album draws on wide range of styles, from Celtic Folk, New Orleans Jazz, R&B and Philly soul. It might be said that this album marked the birth of celtic Soul. Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, horn player Mark Isham, violinist Toni Marcus and the prominent backing vocals of Katie Kissoon all feature prominently and all combine to a ‘big band’ sound which showcases Morrison’s Vocals perfectly. Into the Music’s reputation has grown since release and it is often regarded as among Morrison’s greatest albums. It is a truly incredible piece of work, almost, but not quite flawless.
Van the Man is truly a musical legend a veritable behemoth. Up to 1998’s Philosophers Stone he released album after album of superb content. With the exception of a couple of weak albums his output was outstanding. Easily the equal of Dylan, Young or anyone else you care to mention. Sadly Morrison is a very difficult character, a flawed genius who is famously private and reclusive and who avoided the limelight Unfortunately his early experiences in the music business scarred Morrison so badly that he has carried bitterness through his entire career. His total failure to engage with the promotional side of the business in my view is the only thing that stopped Van being recognised as the best of the best. Make no mistake when Van is on his game he is without peer and on Into the Music he is bang on it.
The album is in two clear parts. What was side 1 of the LP is bright cheery and sing-a-long, opened by one of Morrison’s brightest ever songs, the appropriately named ‘Bright Side of The Road’. The fact that Van was searching for something within himself when this record was cut is apparent, especially in Full Force Gale where Van shout out loud and proud that he was ‘lifted up again by the Lord’. Three other songs on the first side all allude to Morrison’s spiritual journey. ‘Stepping out Queen’, ‘Troubadours’ and ‘You Make Me Feel So Free’ are all superb positive anthems, full of joy the piano, flute, violin and brass, all adding texture and feel. As always though it is Morrison’s vocal that pulls it all together, ensuring it makes sense. He is famous for his phrasing and timing and even a casual listen of this album shows why.
The first side and indeed the album is only let down by the lamentable ‘Rolling Hills’. As a dyed in the wool Morrison obsessive (I have seen him live well over 200 times) I have never and will never understand why this cut made the album. It is a dreadful track, not fit to be on the worst of Morrison’s albums never mind on one of the best. For most of the hardcore Van fans that I know it is side 2 that sets their pulses racing. The second side sets a totally different mood, it is deep, introspective and totally absorbing, the musicians are given free rein to expand their parts and Van goes with it, directing them with oooh’s and aaaahhhh’s and the occasional whispered Yeeeeessssss. Van watchers know that when Van is on his game he totally loses himself in this way, when he begins to scat when playing live you know you are in for a treat, when he does it on a recording you know you are hearing something truly special.
The second side consists of just three songs, though the track listing says four. ‘Angelou’ and ‘The Healing Has Begun’ are classic Morrison. The stuff of legend when played live. They clock in at 7 & 8 minutes respectively but it is the last track that is the albums true epic. It starts out with a gorgeous version of ‘Dawes & Sigman’s’ ‘Its All In The Game’, Morrison then uses his box of vocal tricks to segue the song into ‘You Know What they Are Writing About’ combined the tracks come in at around 10:30 minutes, six minutes of which are Morrison doing vocal gymnastics, playing with the dynamics, taking the song up and down, vocals fading to a whisper before exploding into a crescendo at the finale. It is epic, spine tingling, breathtaking brilliance and only Morrison can do. Whilst the first side of the album is merely wonderful it is the second side that takes it above almost anything else that you are ever likely to hear. It is the blend of life affirming joy, spirituality and artistic brilliance that makes this one of the best five records ever released.
Check out these videos for a feel of the brilliance of the live versions
- 75 Essential Albums – #1 – Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
- 75 Essential Albums – #2 Van Morrison – No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
- 75 Essential Albums – #3 Stiff Little Fingers
- 75 Essential Albums – #4 The Levellers
- 75 Essential Albums – #5 Van Morrison – Into The Music
- 75 Essential Albums – #6 – The Clash – London Calling
- 75 Essential Albums – #7 Ramones
- 75 Essential Albums – #8 Nirvana – Nevermind
- 75 Essential Albums – #9 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
- 75 Essential Albums – #10 RedHot Chili Peppers – Californication
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