Van Morrison is an award-winning singer-songwriter renowned for his unique blend of rock, jazz and rhythm and blues music. Born in Belfast, the artist has achieved multiple hits while also displaying great depth and emotion through his lyrics.
His most influential work is Astral Weeks (1968), an album that combined folk, jazz and rock into beautiful songs with stream-of-conscious lyrics. Here Morrison explores transcendence through language’s broken down form.
1. Dweller on the Threshold
Dweller on the Threshold, from Morrison’s 1982 album Beautiful Vision, is a song that explores how glamours can blind us to reality and cause spiritual wanderers to become blinded. In it, Morrison envisions his soul becoming illuminated when he becomes a Dweller on the Threshold.
Van Morrison’s lyrics are well-known, yet his skill at crafting beautiful melodies allows him to create an unforgettable track. It’s impossible not to be moved by its depth of meaning and emotion when listening to this song.
Van Morrison’s voice dominates this live version, commanding both the band and audience alike. He leads his songs with an authoritative authority that draws upon life’s most significant lessons.
These lyrics draw from Alice Bailey, a writer who explored how glamours are illusions that obscure reality for spiritual wanderers. In her book Glamour: A World Problem, Bailey explores how many people live their lives vicariously through these false impressions.
Van Morrison’s iconic track Dweller on the Threshold remains popular even though it was written more than two decades ago. It remains a timeless anthem and never fails to bring tears to my eyes every time I hear it.
Van Morrison’s ability to craft songs that resonate is a testament to his talent. Whether it’s about drinking wine in an alley, or mourning a loved one who’s passed away, his words capture the essence of what matters most and come alive through his soulful singing.
Van Morrison has recently released several albums that draw from his roots in blues music. In 2017, he released Roll With the Punches, an energetic record that brings together musicians such as Leadbelly, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bo Diddley. Furthermore, Hymns to the Silence is an intimate look into Morrison’s spiritual journey.
2. A Sense of Wonder
The title track to this record is Morrison’s most significant composition to date and an insightful reflection on his own life. It not only captures the distance he’s come since his early days in Belfast and elsewhere, but it also raises some challenging questions about whether all this effort has been worth it.
This album provides plenty of enjoyable music for jazzy jazz enthusiasts with a touch of funk. Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) stands as an excellent example – its controlled voice combined with gently yet firmly structured orchestration rivaling anything Morrison has ever created.
Almost Independence Day is an excellent example of jazzy rock music, featuring exciting improvisation on 12-string guitar and beautiful synthesizer effects. Though the song may seem overextended at times, it offers plenty to enjoy and is certainly worth listening to.
Moondance is Van Morrison’s masterpiece, combining gospel, rhythm & blues and jazz in an exquisite blend. It’s widely considered to be his finest album.
Astral Weeks not only contains some captivating acoustic ballads, but it also includes the 10-minute meditation ‘Listen to the Lion’. This 10-minute track, like much of Astral Weeks’ work, is an incredible accomplishment.
Tupelo Honey’s sound has evolved significantly with the emergence of a “roadhouse band” vibe, featuring prominent saxes and more relaxed singing style. Lyrically too, there are significant shifts; lyrics are less straightforward than previous albums but often profound and insightful.
3. The Healing Has Begun
Morrison has a special knack for writing music that resonates with listeners in an unmistakably personal way. His songs often explore spiritual awakening or redemption and speak directly to the heart.
Since his debut as a solo artist, Morrison has continued to develop and express his emotions through music. While often compared to soul singers, his style and voice are distinct from those of his contemporaries.
Through his career, Morrison has been an influential force on artists such as James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen. His music exudes emotion and charm without ever sounding offensive or vulgar.
His music draws heavily from blues and gospel, yet also incorporates American styles like country and rock’n’roll. This unique combination has made him a beloved and influential artist over the past two decades.
On his latest album, The Healing Has Begun, Morrison takes a unique approach to songwriting by incorporating his own lyrics into his compositions. This has resulted in some of his most captivating and evocative songs to date.
The title track is an excellent illustration of this, featuring captivating songwriting that captures the energies of the cosmos and is accompanied by a grand instrumental arrangement.
Another standout song is the captivating and melodic “Into the Mystic.” With its captivating run, this is one of Morrison’s finest works to date.
The Healing Has Begun is an excellent album. While it may not have the euphoric energy of Saturn & The Sun, it still manages to deliver a strong record in overall.
4. You’re Driving Me Crazy
After several albums of jazzy jazz, bluesy rock and classic R&B standards, Morrison has returned to his roots with You’re Driving Me Crazy. Released seven months ago, this album is just the latest in a string of new works from this Celtic crooner who has been on an impressive musical streak lately.
Van Morrison has created an album that’s easy to fall in love with, and one you’re sure to return to time after time. This record captures Van Morrison at his finest.
The album opens with the powerful opening track, “Real Real Gone,” featuring sax and trombone harmonies featuring quotes from James Brown and Wilson Pickett. After that, things slow down to an exquisitely serene fade-out.
Morrison’s vocals are a key element of his work, and they truly shine on Hymns to the Silence. His deep, rich voice conveys an intensity of feeling that makes these songs worth revisiting time after time.
He’s an accomplished writer, and his lyrics for Enlightenment demonstrate this talent. These songs are a reflection of Morrison’s understanding of faith and nature. Though not always related thematically, the songs often reference Western esoteric traditions such as The Golden Dawn or The Theosophical Movement for inspiration.
The album’s title track emphasizes the beauty of nature and serves as a testament to Morrison’s spiritual and religious influences. He takes us on an inspirational journey back home to Ireland, where he grew up, and captures that feeling of ‘being in God’ that he experienced there. Georgie Fame adds churchy organs and soulful backing vocals for an extra gospel touch to this track.
5. In the Garden
On Hymns to the Silence (1990), Morrison began exploring spiritual questions. On In the Garden he takes those same “No guru, no method, no teacher” sentiments to a new level – making this record more overtly autobiographical than many of his others while feeling less political than previous releases; ultimately making this one of Morrison’s most satisfying works.
On “In the Garden,” Morrison explores his spiritual side with several uplifting songs such as “Take Me Back,” an acoustic-guitar ballad, and the poetic journey that is “On Hyndford Street.” Its lovely melody is backed by Georgie Fame’s gospel vocals and churchy organ from John Lee Hooker.
Another spiritual-sounding track is the opening title track, which begins with an acoustic guitar riff. Morrison’s lyrics invite us to remember nature’s beauty while offering reflection on our place in the world and how best we might serve God. This sentiment has been expressed through several songs since Hymns to the Silence was released, but In The Garden brings it home especially poignantly.
Its acoustic-guitar intro sets a mood of melancholy, yet quickly transforms into an uptempo rocker with James Brown’s Pee Wee Ellis providing a baritone sax solo. Morrison gains confidence as he launches into an angry growl that suggests lost love and an unfulfilled past that’s left him feeling damaged and worn-down.
The album concludes with a powerful rocker, “Burning Ground.” Its horns and Morrison’s vocal help it become an atmospheric portrayal of a garbage dump. This track serves as proof that Morrison can bring meaning from simple lyrics through his voice alone.