Van Morrison – Another Glorious Decade (2015)

by | Aug 27, 2015 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Van Morrison – Another Glorious Decade (2015)

Studio: MVD Ent. Group/ Sexy Intellectual SIDVD583 [9/18/15]
Audio: English PCM Stereo
Video: 16×9, color b&w
Chapters: Introduction; The First Era; The Transition; On A Different Wavelength; A Reform To Ulster; In Common; English Summer; Live; In Wonder; No Guru; A Poetic Champion
Extras: Van Morrison And The Music Press; Contributor Bios
Length: 91 minutes
Rating:   Audio: ***    Video: ***   Overall: ***

There could not be a more difficult or uncooperative subject for a documentary than Van Morrison. A talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he burst on the music scene (in the 1960s) with the garage band Them. Their single “Gloria” became a rock classic and a solo career began with a hit single, “Brown Eyed Girl”. Recalcitrant and sometimes hostile, Morrison held critics and fans at a distance. He began a good run at Warner Brothers with Astral Weeks and Moondance. He drew on a variety of influences, many of them from rhythm and blues. His brilliant singing set him apart from his peers. But a moody restlessness followed him and impacted his career.

Sexy Intellectual Studios has released a DVD, titled Van MorrisonAnother Glorious Decade. The film concentrates on the decade following his three year hiatus from recording in 1974. Utilizing interviews with rock journalists and one musician, a tentative review of this rogue star is attempted. There is very limited Van Morrison music available. There are a few performance snippets that are intriguing, but too short. Some highlights include ”Street Choir” and “Bulbs” performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Morrison is lured out of “hiatus” by legendary New Orleans musician, Dr. John (who performed with Morrison at The Last Waltz). He produces the aptly titled comeback album, Period Of Transition. Though the release is met with lukewarm reviews, “Van The Man” is back! His newer style is more transcendental and seems to alienate the faithful.

Morrison rebounds with Wavelength in 1978 recreating some of the raw blues mojo. But this era is marked by occasional erratic performances (New York’s Palladium in 1981) and a deeper, cantankerous relationship with the press. One of the stories details Morrison flossing his teeth during an interview. But he is evolving as a musician and songwriter exploring various musical styles including Anglo-Celtic influences. Overall the interviewees portray him as a bellicose unsympathetic individual. Technical music insight is rare. Pee Wee Ellis recounts an anecdote about recording a track without a drummer who returned late from a break. Attempts to provide meaningful analysis of Morrison’s music are hampered by the lack of musicians or record producers interviewed.

The PCM audio is good and captures the interviews clearly. The musical numbers (or partial numbers) are very brief but sound great. The video of the interviews is crisp. The tedious voice-over doesn’t help the deliberate pace. A difficult subject (there are very few Van Morrison interview segments) and limited musical access significantly limit the impact of the DVD.

—Robbie Gerson

 

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