Celtic Crossroads cover
(Revised edition: click on cover image for larger version)

Order the revised edition
now at Amazon.com


Celtic Crossroads cover
(Original edition: click on cover image for larger version)

Order the original edition
now at Amazon.com

Celtic Crossroads:
The Art of Van Morrison

by Brian Hinton

Revised edition published September 1, 2000
Sanctuary Publishing Ltd.
420pp
ISBN: 1-86074-312-9

Original edition published March, 1997
by Sanctuary Publishing Ltd.
The Colonnades,
82 Bishops Bridge Road,
London W2 6BB
392pp
ISBN 1-86074-169-X

Extract from the cover copy:
Lyrically, [Van's] series of increasingly profound albums exploring Celtic mysteries, his own search for some kind of spiritual meaning and the simple joys of being alive has seen Van Morrison emerge as one of the great poets of our time. In Celtic Crossroads - a title which indicates the singers immersion both in the spooked mythos of the blues and the rich brew of Western folklore - Brian Hinton, himself a widely published poet and expert on writers` use of myth and folklore, prove conclusively, and entertaininly, that Van Morrison is one of the major musical, cultural and poetic artists of our time.

Review by David Walker:
This book is a meaty little tome, 392 pages of entertaining text with a small, b/w picture section in the middle. I got my copy two days ago and have found it hard to put down since.

Despite his PhD in poetry and myth, Hinton doesn't go for academic jargon at all. The writing is brisk and down-to-earth. Hinton is confident not only in his literary knowledge but also in his encyclopedic knowledge of popular music, which enables him to put Van in interesting contexts at times.

Still, I've noticed a few factual errors and odd omissions (he doesn't know that the Bottom Line '78 MC is Peter Wolf), and the writing sometimes seems rushed, especially the last few chapters. Also, there are lapses in tone (Hinton will often jump out of his authorial character to address the reader with a chummy question) and paragraphs that jump from one topic to another disconcertingly.

Hinton seems to have about five main goals.

  1. To argue that Van Morrison is indeed a very fine poet, albeit one who's poetry relies on its musical context. Hinton takes issue with the Johnny Rogan and John Collis books on this subject.
  2. To assert that VM's artistry is at its best during live performances. To demonstrate this, Hinton goes into great detail comparing the oft-booted Fillmore West 1970 show to MOONDANCE, arguing that the live versions of the MOONDANCE songs are more vital and interesting than the studio versions. (I can't agree in this particular instance - and *I* personally tend to feel that while the argument might be true with Van's '90s work, the studio was where Van tended to be most comfortable and vital in the '70s and early '80s.)
  3. To make a strong case for albums that critics often denigrate, such as TUPELO HONEY and COMMON ONE, although he isn't afraid to come down hard on some titles (HIS BAND AND THE STREET CHOIR, A PERIOD OF TRANSITION). And he comes right out and says that one of his primary motivations was to champion VEEDON FLEECE, an album that he feels deserves a stronger status than that of "cult favorite."
  4. To write a book that functions as a clearing-house of VM information. In this, he succeeds fairly well. There is very little Van knowledge, lore, and minutiae that is absent. Hinton has done an amazing amount of secondary research and incorporated it generously into the book. He has even immersed himself in back issues of THE VAN MORRISON NEWSLETTER and WAVELENGTH as well as many underground tapes and boots (from the archives of Geoff Wall), although I wish he'd taken more time to let all the info. digest before spewing it out in the book, sometimes rather cluelessly. Overall, Hinton's use of secondary research is one of the book's strengths. Unfortunately, there seems to be little *primary* research; most of his interview material seems gathered from the work of his predecessors: Ritchie Yorke, Johnny Rogan, Steve Turner, and even John Collis.
  5. To avoid the "wounded-journalist" bitterness that overtook the Rogan and Collis books. Hinton doesn't stint on reporting many instances of VM's rude, SOB behavior, and he doesn't try to defend it, but he also avoids moralizing about it or allowing it to (dis)color his view of the music.

I'm sure Hinton has several other agendas in writing this book, but these are the five that stand out for me. I do recommend the book. Although the other books do more face-to- face research, and although the Turner book is the most cogent and revelatory regarding Van's spiritual concerns, this big clearing-house project may be the most purely entertaining volume yet written on the subject.

Review by Richard Perry:
I stumbled across the new Van Morrison book with interest and delight at having found a new book on the man in my bookshop.

When reading the reverse of the book one of the aims is to compare the man to the work of poets, an interesting concept. However when reading the book what we get is an album by album guide to the music of Van the man, this is done through excerpts of reviews from magazine articles etc. also we get reviews and stories from his live shows over the years also which are very interesting at times. Also there are snippets from various interviews with the man.

It is for me the first detailed book I've read on Van so much of the information was new to me, however I can't help feeling other fans may have read similar things before.

We get very detailed critiques on the albums including what the author thinks of each album cover, I believe photos of the covers may have helped make the point much more for people who haven't seen them. I found a lot of interesting information in the very detailed Discography and Filmography, we get information on all of Vans major TV apperances since approx. 1962 and brief information on all of them, reading this made me wish I had a video recorder in the 70's and early 80's. The Discography is as detailed including a complete track list for everyone of Van's albums up to The Healing Game and also for the forthcoming Philosopher's Stone.

There is an 8 page b / w photo section which includes photos that most Vanatics will have seen before however the photo with Spike Milligan still will bring a smile to many a face (even Van's!)

At nearly 400 pages it is a very thorough read, I hoped the book would give me more of an idea as to what kind of person Van is like, after reading it I am more eager to learn more about him. The author aims to prove that "Van Morrison is one of the major musical, cultural and poetic artists of our time"

To us Vanatics I don't think that point has to be proven, we know that already, however this enjoyable book may help those who aren't already converted.

Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website

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