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 – No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
Released in 1986 this beautiful album was the 16th studio release by Northern Irish maestro Van Morrison and comes within a whisker of being my favourite ever album. I am the first to admit that this is not a ‘get up and dance’ type of record. It is deep, contemplative, introspective, multi-faceted and very slick. It isn’t just an album it is unquestionably a work of art and like a lot of fine art it is best appreciated when it is understood.
When this album was released Van was on one of his seemingly interminable quests to find himself. Much of the material on the album contains references to nature, water, tantric meditation, eastern mysticism, Irish folklore, Irish poetry, especially the work of W.B. Yeats and references to Vans childhood. The musicianship is absolutely beyond reproach. It is deliciously sympathetic and supportive of Van’s voice and in Jeff Labes, Richie Buckley, David Hayes, Chris Michie and John Platania Van had collected together some of the best musicians he ever worked with.
No Guru, No Method, No Teacher opens on an acoustic groove with “Got to Go Back,” Morrison’s vocal is smooth and low, an introduction to the meditative theme of the album. “Oh the Warm Feeling” begins with gentle horns, evoking warm summer evenings by the sea, a track which perfectly describes the beauty of living in the moment and enjoying the simple things in life. It is one of my favourite tracks on this or any other album.
The mysterious “Foreign Window” is one of those complex and often misunderstood tracks, it speaks of a spiritual journey, of striving for self actualisation and name checks the likes of Lord Byron and french poet Arthur Rimbaud. The song has been covered live by Dylan on numerous occasions.
“A Town Called Paradise” is upbeat gritty and dynamic, Vans vocal rising and falling with the music as he attacks the duplicitous nature and crookedness of the world. The first side of the album concludes with one of Morrison’s best ever songs and a track that fans attending concerts pray for. “In the Garden” has us transported through the mild steam after a summer afternoon rain. We are taken on a meditative journey through religion, love and companionship. It is sensual and beautiful and as Van whispers the lyrics it pulls you in and wraps you up.
The second side of the album begins with “Tir Na Nog,” another track full of imagery, mysticism and mystery. It speaks of reincarnation, spirituality and destiny, the strings reflecting Morrison’s voice, as he creates a sense of yearning, of wanting to stay forever young. ‘Tir Na Nog’ is the Irish mythological ‘land of the young’.
“Here Comes the Knight” is the token soul number of the recording, the most straightforward track on the album, it could have been a ‘Them’ track from the 1960’s. “One Irish Rover” is a folk ballad which showcases Morrison’s talent as a storyteller. “Thanks for the Information” and “Ivory Tower” are the reason that ‘No Guru’ doesn’t claim my number 1 spot. In my view neither of these songs rises above the level of ‘not too bad’. Neither feel right on this gorgeous album, they feel out of place, almost as if Van has spent the album extolling the virtues of spirituality and meditation only to close it off saying ‘Just kidding’.
That said this album is one of Morrison’s finest. The songs pour out, flowing and rolling musical water, rushing and blending into one another and sweeping you along on a spiritual journey. It sits comfortably in the finest of company as one of the best albums ever released.
- 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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