With Saint Dominic's Preview, recorded in San Francisco with a band that included former Beau Brummel Ron Elliot, , Van Morrison sounds like he's celebrating the past five years of his solo career. How else to explain the diversity? You have songs that will remind listeners of the jazz explorations and stream of conscious lyrics of Astral Weeks ("Listen To The Lion" and "Almost Independence Day"), the pop hit styling of Moondance and His Band and Street Choir ("Redwood Tree", "Gypsy") and the kind of jazzy club sounds Van would explore in his middle age (with "I Will Be There"). It was both critically acclaimed and his highest charting album in the US (#15) until 2008's Keep It Simple broke into the Top Ten.
It remains among my favorite Van Morrison albums.
Montgomery Chapel, San Francisco Theological Seminary where the cover was shot.
outtake shot by Michael Maggid
The lead track "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" shares the exuberance of joyful love like "Brown Eyed Girl", Van's Top Ten hit from 1967. This is a song I recently played for my nine year old daughter after shutting off the Top 40 radio. Here, I explained, everybody is in the same room and they're experiencing this moment of creativity all together and that's something you just won't hear in 90% of the songs you hear on the radio because the producer is in LA and the singer is in NYC and the music track was recorded in England and just as I was about to say they don't make music like this anymore I stopped. Not only because that's what dad's always say when they get old but because Van was scatting "Chop Chop Chop She bop".
Anyway, how "Jackie Wilson Said" stalled in the charts somewhere in the 60's is crazy to me.
The epic 11-minute "Listen To The Lion", actually recorded during the Tupelo Honey sessions, begins like one of the more thoughtful songs from Moondance before it takes its listeners on a meditative musical journey not unlike something on Astral Weeks. Plus, you can always look forward to the moment Van starts growling like a lion. In that way it's almost like the "here comes the Iron Butterfly screeching" moment in "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida".
"Redwood Tree", my pick for deep cut, could have come off Moondance. It's just classic Van. As a single this only charted at #98 in the US. Stunning. Here's the demo followed by the track.