It can’t have escaped the grouch’s notice that his seventieth birthday lands three days after his catalog gets digitized. I’m not much of a Van Morrison fan — I prefer Saint Dominic’s Preview and Tupelo Honey to the earlier classics when I remember I own them — but it took this kind of availability for me to immerse. The serenity of the eighties albums has a cumulative power; “Did Ye Get Healed,” the title track of A Sense of Wonder, and “Into the Garden” boast synth patches that shimmer like puddles on a forest floor (Brad Nelson, author of a beautiful reconsideration published a few months ago, came up with the sentence, “Synths and reverb are applied gently to these albums, on songs that are intended to have the gauzy depth of a pool, or a memory”). Roxy Music’s Avalon, particularly “Tara,” sounds like an inspiration: New Age without wind chimes.
The nineties stuff after Enlightenment is grittier, with Back On Top a delight years after its prominent placement in Barnes & Noble music sections fascinated me (i.e. who was buying new Van Morrison records in 1999?). I’m fond of “When The Leaves Come Falling Down” and the title track — has Morrison ever sung or written a poor title track? A Spotify playlist would include these tracks, plus “Hymns to the Silence,” “Ivory Tower,” “Days Like This,” a wee ingratiating thing called “Coney Island,” and the forgotten “I Forgot That Love Existed,” which asks the eternal question: “If my heart could do the thinking, will my head begin to feel?”