Van Morrison: Enlightenment (1990)

Kronomyth 23.0: REAL REAL GOOD. The continuing musical pilgrimage of Van Morrison has provided a surprisingly smooth ride for such a mercurial character. You expect the caraVan to grow weary, falter, linger too long by pools of rest, yet the energy and conviction are faithfully renewed on every album. Enlightenment is one of his stronger efforts in the middle-period canon, led by the wonderful “Real Real Gone,” a song written 10 years earlier that connects back to the original wellspring of joy from whence “Domino” and all the other black-and-white beauties came. The remainder of the record is thoughtful, careful, spiritual. The Morrison of Enlightenment has found Jesus (“Youth of 1,000 Summers,” “See Me Through”) and even inner peace (“So Quiet In Here”) but is still searching for complete enlightenment. It’s a journey, of course, and Van seems to be moving forward. The songs are intertwined with the usual Celtic mythmaking, whether it’s the references to Avalon or the loyalty to youthful idols (James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis), and in Morrison it might be said that man’s dual nature of earth-bound and Heavenbound resound most clearly. But that’s such a heavy thought for an early morning, isn’t it? (and the baby is fussing and the dawn is fleeting and the old man in the chair must mind his mousewheel and make money not words). Enlightenment has its prickly moments, none pricklier than a duet with Irish poet Paul Durcan, whose reading on “In The Days Before Rock ‘N’ Roll” offers a window into what Laurie Anderson would sound like if reincarnated as an old Irishman. It could have been much pricklier, though; a point underscored by the alternative takes of “Enlightenment” and “So Quiet In Here.” Enlightenment will renew the faithful and remind us that some things, like our relationship with God and certain expensive and unpronounceable cheeses, grow better with age.

The Songs
1. Real Real Gone
2. Enlightenment
3. So Quiet In Here
4. Avalon of the Heart
5. See Me Through
6. Youth of 1,000 Summers
7. In The Days Before Rock ‘N’ Roll (Van Morrison/Paul Durcan)
8. Start All Over Again
9. She’s My Baby
10. Memories

CD Reissue Bonus Tracks
11. Enlightenment (alternative take)
12. So Quiet In Here (alternative take)

All songs written by Van Morrison unless noted.

The Players
Van Morrison (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Dave Early (drums), Georgie Fame (organ, electric piano, backup vocals), Alex Gifford (other keyboards), Steve Pearce (bass) with The Ambrosian Singers (choir on 4), Dave Bishop (saxes), Neil Drinkwater (keyboadr and synth arrangements), Paul Durcan (spoken word on 7), Steve Gregory (saxes), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), Bernie Holland (lead guitar on 2, 6, 9), Henry Lowther (trumpet on 6, 8, 9), John McCarthy (choirmaster on 4), Brian Odgers (bass on 2, 9), Michael O’Suilleabhain (piano on 3), Frank Ricotti (vibraphone on 8), Steve Sanger (drums on 4, 10), Fiachra Trench (string, brass and choir arrangements), Steve Waterman (flugelhorn on 6, 8, 9), Gavyn Wright (string section leader). Produced by Van Morrison; engineered by Mick Glossop, Steve Williams; additional engineering by Alastair McMillan.

The Pictures
Photography by The Douglas Brothers. Design by Bill Smith Studio.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, CD and cassette in October 1990 in the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands (Polydor, 847 100-1/2/4) and Japan (Polydor, POCP-1069); reached #5 on the UK charts and #62 on the US charts. Re-released on expanded, remastered CD with two bonus tracks in June 2008 in the UK (Polydor, B0011367-02) and on expanded SHMCD in 2008 in Japan (Polydor, UICY-93593).

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