The Art of Van Morrison
Revised edition published September 1, 2000
Sanctuary Publishing Ltd.
Original edition published March, 1997
by Sanctuary Publishing Ltd.
82 Bishops Bridge Road,
London W2 6BB
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
Hinton seems to have about five main goals.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
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
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
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