December 7, New York: I’m an early Van Morrison man, like most. I love me some Astral Weeks and Tupelo Honey, the hits and the rest. I was a teenager when he released his Best Of album and I loved it. Years later, in college and after college, friends began to introduce me to their favorite full albums and I discovered how deep the Van Morrison discography could go. There is no filler here!
My four Van Morrison albums are Astral Weeks, Moondance, Tupelo Honey, and Saint Dominic’s Preview. From these I derived the “title track theory” of Van Morrison: that despite the radio hits, the best songs on any of these albums are their title tracks. This is probably true, but it does leave out “And It Stoned Me”, “Jackie Wilson Said”, “Wild Night”, and “The Way Young Lovers Do”. That first one gave me chills when it came on during this listen. But, c’mon, “Tupelo Honey”?
The incredible thing about Van Morrison is that all four of these albums, though different, are so perfectly him and nobody else. I think it’s easier to give Van Morrison his own genre than to try to apportion out his albums across different influences.
These albums have been stitched through my life in so many instances. Dominic introduced me to St. Dominic’s Preview and I can’t listen to the title track that includes his name without thinking of him. “Tupelo Honey” was one of Jill and I’s driving-up-the-coast songs, an all-time favorite love song. We closed our wedding ceremony with “Jackie Wilson Said”— a perfect note of celebration. (And listening this time to “You’re My Woman” I couldn’t help but wonder how many Van Morrison songs are absolutely perfect wedding songs.)
With apologies to “And It Stoned Me”, “St. Dominic’s Preview” is my favorite Van Morrison song of all time and it’s album is my favorite album. God, those saxophones on “Jackie Wilson”. I could lay in bed and listen to “Almost Independence Day” for hours on end. But, oh man, that title track. It’s celebration, it’s nostalgia; it soars and it dives; it’s ruling class and it’s working class; it travels the world to spend time with friends and to share in good fortune; and every time the chorus comes back around I sing along. I want my life, in summation, to be “St. Dominic’s Preview”. To live well but be humble, to travel widely but see friends frequently, and to take moments out with Dominic and others to sing this song at the tops of our lungs.
I really enjoyed my weekend shot through with Van Morrison. None of this music is ever far from my heart, so I didn’t expect a lot of new revelations of come of it. Though it was only really on this last listen that I realized how much of St. Dominic’s Preview is dedicated to San Francisco. The title track itself, with its references to the city and to “a Safeway supermarket in the rain” is named for a San Francisco church (thanks Wikipedia). There’s “Redwood Tree” of course and “Almost Independence Day” is a 10 minute catalogue of locations around the Bay. Another great nod to nostalgia.
They sell Van Morrison on the Internet, duh. Start with Astral Weeks!