KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Forty Year Friday – VAN MORRISON “A PERIOD OF TRANSITION”

Artist: VAN MORRISON
Album: A PERIOD OF TRANSITION

[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]

It’s been more than six years since I started KamerTunesBlog with a 10-part series on Van Morrison’s discography. Right from the start my primary goal was to revisit the complete works of the lesser-played artists in my collection, and the pride of Belfast, Ireland was an ideal artist to jump into the blogosphere with. At the time I was just as focused on generating content as I was on the music, so my appraisals of each album were much more concise than they would soon become. While I sometimes miss that brevity, I prefer to dive in a little deeper with each artist & album even though it’s resulted in fewer posts. Quality over quantity, I hope. In Part 4 of my Van Morrison series I discussed a record that made a surprising impact on me: A Period Of Transition. It was his first release in more than three years, the longest such break of his career up to that point, and was a commercial & critical disappointment. As I discussed in that post, the text of which is highlighted below, I had low expectations going in and they were greatly exceeded. With typically strong musical accompaniment, especially courtesy of co-producer Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), Morrison delivered a strong set of horn-infused blues-based songs. Of the tracks I previously wrote about, the uplifting “Flamingos Fly” remains my favorite. Other highlights include: “It Fills You Up,” a slightly gritty & funky midtempo tune with a slinky groove and a killer hook as he sings, “It fill you up, it fill you up, it fill you up now”; “Joyous Sound,” an appropriately-titled short bouncy burst of happiness (“…whenever we meet, whenever we meet”); the melancholy blues/jazz of “Heavy Connection”; and album closer “Cold Wind In August,” a slow ballad that straddles the line of blues & gospel. At nearly 6 minutes it’s also the longest song. A Period Of Transition may not be among his most essential albums but it’s a tight collection of excellent tunes that’s been undervalued for a long time. Hopefully one day it will get the reappraisal it deserves. Until then, I’ll do my part to spread the word about this overlooked gem. Here’s what I wrote about it back in 2011.

I was pleasantly surprised by A Period Of Transition. A short album, clocking in at around 34 minutes, I had always assumed this was a collection of outtakes or throwaway tracks. Oh how wrong I was. Produced by the great Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), and featuring his piano throughout, this might be my favorite re-discovery so far. It’s without a doubt Van’s most joyous-sounding album, featuring a great combination of gospel, jazz, New Orleans funk, and outstanding songwriting.

The opening track, “You Gotta Make It Through The World,” has a slow funky groove that’s reminiscent of Bill Withers. “Eternal Kansas City” is Van’s tribute to some of the jazz greats who inspired him, like Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday. The lyrics are simple, but the music has a great groove (after the initial section featuring a choir of female voices). “Flamingos Fly” is the happiest song on the album, and would get me out of a bad mood any day. Lyle Lovett would mine the same musical territory 15 years later, a connection I hadn’t noticed before.

I never gave much thought to the album cover before: numerous photos of Van in different poses, taken at the same session. Upon looking more closely, the first 14 photos show him as I’ve seen him before: moody, serious, a little surly, and with an occasional “what are you looking at?” stare. However, in the 15th & final photo he’s actually smiling. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but I imagine the photographer, Ken McGowan, finally decided to play the album in his studio when this photo was snapped, as Van’s joy is clearly captured here.

 

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8 comments on “Forty Year Friday – VAN MORRISON “A PERIOD OF TRANSITION”

  1. DanicaPiche
    May 19, 2017

    It’s always welcome when your previous favorite song turns out to still be your favorite a few years later. I didn’t know about Lyle Lovett’s rendition either.

    Interesting note about the photos. I like your theory! 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks for the feedback, Danica. Just to clarify, Lyle Lovett didn’t cover any of these songs. I was just pointing out that some of his music was in a similar vein to what Van The Man was doing back in ’77. Have a great weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alyson
    May 19, 2017

    Can’t say I’m familiar with this particular album but of course am familiar with Van The Man. Hard now to disassociate his music with his grumpy demeanour however (but nice to see him smile in that last shot). Have heard from friends who have gone to see him in concert that he just leaves the stage if he’s not in the mood and forget the old chat show hotseat! Having said that he has made some fine music over the years, a few of his songs definitely in my Top 100. Can’t watch these clips across the pond but will have an investigate from my end.

    Yes definitely quality over quantity and nice to publish on a specific day of the week as followers know what to expect. No overlap this week but great review as ever.

    Like

    • Hi Alyson. It’s definitely hard to separate Van’s music from the grumpy fella who creates it, but he’s been that way for so long that I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s released so many great albums & songs that he gets a lifetime pass. Sorry the clips I chose didn’t work for you but hopefully you can find UK-friendly versions.

      I didn’t always do these specific-day posts but it’s been nice to have that forced regularity the last year & a half. Not sure I’ll continue it into 2018 but for now it keeps me focused.

      Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate the support.

      Like

  3. keepsmealive
    May 20, 2017

    40 years and I’ve never heard this album. He has so many…

    Will be using linked tracks above. Thanks!

    Like

    • This is one of his lesser-known albums so it shouldn’t be a surprise that you’re unfamiliar with it. Depending on how much Van The Man is in your collection I wouldn’t put this at the top of your list, but once you check out his 4-5 acknowledged classics you can’t go wrong with A Period Of Transition. Thanks for checking out the post, Aaron. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

      Like

  4. kevin
    May 21, 2017

    Considering how much I like Astral Weeks and Moondance, it’s strange that I never explored further. Maybe this post will get me to finally do just that.

    Like

    • Hi Kevin. There are probably a few other Van Morrison albums that would be better follow-ups to the two you already like, but if A Period Of Transition was the next one I’m sure you would find a lot to enjoy. Please let me know your thoughts if/when you check it out. Thanks.

      Like

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