Van Morrison: Another Glorious Decade DVD Review: For Dedicated Fans Only

In the summer of 1973 after a grueling tour and an emotionally devastating divorce, Van Morrison took a several-weeks vacation to Ireland. Living in America for the better part of the preceding decade, he’d not been to his homeland in about six years. Due to the Troubles, he was not even able to go to his actual home in Northern Ireland during the visit. It was during this emotionally distraught time that he wrote Veedon Fleece, his eighth studio album. Though it was an intensely personal album, it was critically panned at the time and sold quite poorly. Afterwards he took three years off (an eternity in 1970s rock ‘n’ roll years) and seriously considered quitting the music business all together.

In 1977 he returned with A Period Of Transition, which likewise was not well liked by critics and had only moderate sales, but like the album states denoted a change in the artist’s outlook and output. In the decade following Van Morrison released eight studio albums (and one live one) that found him meditating on religion, spirituality, mysticism, and the deepest natures of life. Musically he explored his Irish roots, instrumental jams, R&B soul, and an almost new-age inspiration. Van Morrison: Another Glorious Decade takes a look at this period in the prolific artist’s career. Filled with interviews from critics, musicologists, and former band members, the documentary tries to crack open the enigmatic rockers soul and discover the secrets of his 1980s output.

Tellingly, it does not include any new interviews with Van himself, and on the outside of the box it notes that it is not sanctioned by Van Morrison or his representatives. Not that there is anything close to salacious in the film, and I suspect this has more to do with Morrison’s rather notorious difficulties with the media than any real problem with what the filmmakers are trying to do. It does contain a few excerpts from interviews Morrison did during the time frame under discussion and there are numerous clips from live performances of these songs as well.

The film’s chapters are mainly broken up by the albums he released during this period in chronological order. We get a picture of when, how, and why the albums were conceived and recorded. It puts them into historical prospective and charts the themes of Morrison’s career as well as discussing how the album was received by both critics and fans.

It is a very informative film, and should be well received by fans looking to dig a little deeper into these particular albums and this stage of his career. Casual fans, those who don’t know much more than “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Domino,” will likely be bored to tears. The presentation here is quite dry. It’s mostly talking head after talking head laying down reviews and anecdotes about songs that came out three decades ago. The performance clips liven things up a bit but there aren’t nearly enough of them, nor do they last longer than a minute each. It would have been nice had they livened things up a bit with more music and perhaps some flashier production values.

Still if you dig this period of Van Morrison’s career and need more information than you can find on Wikipedia about it, this is well worth watching.

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Mat Brewster

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