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Wavelength

Warner Bros. CD 3212-2
(Originally released September, 1978
Remastered re-issue released January 28, 2008)

  1. Kingdom Hall (5:59)
  2. Checkin' It Out (3:29)
  3. Natalia (4:04)
  4. Venice U.S.A. (6:32)
  5. Lifetimes (4:15)
  6. Wavelength (5:44)
  7. Santa Fe / Beautiful Obsession (7:04)
  8. Hungry for Your Love (3:45)
  9. Take It Where You Find It (8:40)

    Bonus Tracks (on the 2008 remastered re-issue)
  10. Kingdom Hall (live) Wavelength (live)

(Live bonus tracks recorded at the Roxy Theatre, LA, Nov 26, 1978)

Musicians:
Herbie Armstrong: Guitar/Guitar (Electric)/Vocal
Peter Bardens: Synthesizer/Horn/Keyboards
Ginger Blake: Vocal/Vocal (Background)
Laura Creamer: Vocal/Vocal (Background)
Mitch Dalton: Guitar
Linda Dillard: Vocal/Vocal (Background)
Mickey Feat: Bass
Mick Glossop: Engineer
Garth Hudson: Organ/Synthesizer/Accordion/Keyboards
Van Morrison: Guitar/Guitar (Rhythm)/Keyboards/Piano (Electric)/Saxophone/Vocal/Vocal (Background)/Producer
Bob Tench: Guitar/Guitar (Electric)/Vocal (Background)
Peter VanHooke: Drums

Review by Scott Thomas:
Wavelength, while hardly an improvement over its predecessor [A Period of Transition], may be more interesting because its best songs are better and its worst songs are far worse than anything on the even-keeled but monotonous A Period of Transition. It is also Van's only post-Bang album recorded with an eye toward the marketplace. Here he muzzles the more adventurous (Celtic and jazz) and rawer (straight ahead R&B) aspects of his music in favor of trendy synthesizers, slick electric guitars, and a toothless rhythm section. A pop production of this sort thrives on good pop songs, but, unfortunately, Van had few to offer. In fact, good songs of any kind are at a premium on Wavelength.

Some of the album's low points: "Venice U.S.A." repeats a one-dimensional melody and hare-brained lyric ad nauseam. "Lifetimes" is a boring soul ballad adorned with chintzy electric guitars and a mawkish background chorus. "Santa Fe/Beautiful Obsession" seems to go on forever, and "Take It Where You Find It" is so terrible, it deserves special attention. Conceived, apparently, as a multi-section rock operetta about Van's coming to America as an immigrant, its very pretentiousness makes its failure all the more spectacular. The sad fact that the lyrics are among the most inept of Van's career (Check out the first stanza!) is compounded by a melodramatic ending which, with its overblown swell of white bread choruses and synthesized strings, brings Barry Manilow to mind.

Now and then, however, when the material is sturdy, Morrison sounds more exuberant and sexier than he has on any album since Tupelo Honey. "Kingdom Hall" is a classic, up-tempo raver in the tradition of "Domino" and "Wild Night." The optimistic "Checkin' It Out" depicts a couple engaged in trying to work out their differences. "Hungry for Your Love" successfully recasts the hormonal lust of "Gloria" in an adult setting.

It is in the title track, however, where Morrison's fleeting pop music aspirations are fully realized. For starters, he comes up with a great hook. The phrase "wavelength," with its long "a" vowel sound, is custom-made for Van's melisma and rife with potential metaphors. With the hook firmly in place, he constructs the rest of the song around it, sometimes leading the listener to it directly, sometimes circuitously: half the fun lies in waiting for it to arrive.

  • Another review of "Wavelength" by critic Dave Marsh from his book The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made: The Heart of Rock and Soul

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

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