Review Summary: Not Astral Weeks or Moondance, but somewhere in between....
Saint Dominic’s Preview is an often overlooked album in a rich Van Morrison back-catalogue. Anyone who has heard Van’s first two solo albums will know what a delight they were. Astral Weeks is a gorgeous and deeply emotional album, unlike anything heard to that date (or heard since); Moondance being slightly more popular, in its music appeal and the high sales it achieved.
Saint Dominic’s Preview (being his 5th notable studio album) gives off the etherealness of Astral Weeks and the pop/soul of Moondance. It is not as deep as ‘Weeks or charming as Moondance but for any Morrison fan I would definitely recommend it.
“Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)” is the first song off of the album and also a popular single. It draws from Morrison’s soul and R’N’B influences, as hinted at in title with the reference soul legend, Jackie Wilson. It starts with Van scat/singing the intro, and then leads to a gorgeous pop/soul song that is sure to leave you grinning.
“Gypsy” is a lovely little jazz inspired pop song, about a woman. (and yes she more than likely is a Gypsy!). I particularly like how Van slows the song down then quickens it up again, horns blazing, with many a “la la la la”.
“I Will Be There” is more jazz /pop, which is nice but not ultimately appealing. It reminds me of those songs they play at decent restaurants that you didn’t particularly want to be at.
“Listen to the Lion” boasts a strangely long running time for this sort of genre (being just over 11minutes), but if you’ve heard Astral Weeks you’ll have an inkling of what sort of song you’ll be listening to. It is definitely a highlight of the album. Tender and gorgeous give this song a chance because you won’t regret. There is one point in the song which is slightly odd as well. Van proceeds to growl like a lion. You will definitely wonder what he is doing but don’t let that deter you.
And now to the album’s centerpiece. “Saint Dominic’s Preview” is something to behold. Piano driven it evokes lot of imagery and has a very catchy chorus. “As we gaze out on, as we gaze out on Saint Dominic’s Preview.” I always feel uplifted after listening to this song. Its is definitely the best song on the album.
It’s hard to listen to “Redwood Tree” in the same vein as “Saint Dominic’s Preview”. You’d have to follow that track up with something very special. But the fact is this song is special. Drenched in soul it seems to uplift you further than the heights “Saint Dominic’s Preview” took you.
The final track, “Almost Independence Day”, is similar to “Listen to the Lion”, in that it boasts a strangely long running time (10 minutes). But I cannot get enough of it. It is a tear jerker in every sense. It has a Celtic element to it which I love. It reminds me of “Slim Slow Slider” from ‘Week’s. A sad and slow way to finish an album with improvised guitar provided by “The Man”. But you know you wouldn’t want it any other way.
I find with most people who have heard Van’s work (I’m referring to his solo albums and not his Brown Eyed Girl pop), that they look at music slightly differently. No one evokes emotion better than him. This album is another example of the man’s genius. I am honoured to have lived in the same era as him and I hope his music lives on forever.