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Enlightenment

Polydor 847 100-2
(Released October, 1990)

  1. Real Real Gone (3:41)
  2. Enlightenment (4:06)
  3. So Quiet in Here (6:18)
  4. Avalon of the Heart (4:50)
  5. See Me Through (6:20)
  6. Youth of 1,000 Summers (3:44)
  7. In the Days Before Rock 'n' Roll (8:13)
  8. Start All Over Again (4:14)
  9. She's My Baby (5:17)
  10. Memories (4:22)
    Total time: (51:08)

Musicians:
Van Morrison: Guitar/Keyboards/Saxophone/Vocal
See also production information for this album.

Review by Scott Thomas:
There is no denying that many of Van's less dedicated listeners were put off by the arcane albums of the 1980's. Enlightenment goes even further than Poetic Champions Compose and Avalon Sunset in abandoning the obscurities of Common One in favor of a more approachable sound. It opens with an up-tempo, horn-driven anthemette, "Real Real Gone," that even managed to snag some airplay. It matters little that the horn riff is simple-minded. "Real Real Gone" is good clean fun. The more pronounced rhythm section, the reemergence of the horns, and Georgie Fame's uncluttered, soulful organ fills are indicative of a move back to the more libidinous days of Tupelo Honey and His Band and the Street Choir. Neither has Morrison forsaken the symphonic scope of his last few efforts. Just check out "So Quiet in Here," "See Me Through," and "Avalon of the Heart." In fact that latter piece, with its arsenal of strings, horns, and background choruses, takes the lushness of Avalon Sunset and Poetic Champions Compose to its finale. Any more instruments would be too many. As it is, Morrison harnesses the power of this very large ensemble with admirable restraint.

In "Enlightenment" Van once again ruminates on spiritual matters, but this is probably the most sober and matter-of-fact expression of his personal struggle toward understanding that he has ever offered. "I'm in the here and now and I'm meditating / But still I'm suffering," Morrison admits, "But that's my problem."

The agile organ/horn-based "Youth of a Thousand Summers" clues the listener in to the artist's obsession with his own adolescence, an obsession which propels Enlightenment's most important cut, "The Days before Rock n Roll." "The Days before Rock n Roll" is framed around another of Morrison's poems, but his masterstroke was to call on Paul Durcan to deliver the recitation in a bizarre, halting rhythm which echoes the foreignness of shortwave broadcasts beamed to Ireland from cities like Athlone and Budapest, broadcasts that, during the 1950's, carried the rhythms of "Sonny, Muddy, and John Lee" to American servicemen stationed in Europe. The eavesdropping Belfast lad, his ears glued to the "wireless," is deeply affected by these exciting new sounds. Morrison took a chance with this piece and came out a winner. Its immense influence would be felt very strongly on 1991's Hymns to the Silence.

"The Days before Rock n Roll" is like a powerful windstorm that precedes a radical change in the weather. The warm, sanguine, vibe-driven "Starting All Over Again" and the Temptations-like soul ballad "She's My Baby" reach all the way back to the albums Van made in 1970 and 1971. Compare "She's My Baby" to the splendid "See Me Through" from earlier in Enlightenment. Whereas "See Me Through," in keeping with almost all of Morrison's "love" songs from the 1980's, could be addressed to a either a woman or a supernatural being, "She's My Baby" is a love song purely and simply.

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