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SINGERS/MUSICIANS & INSTRUMENTS PLAYED:
VAN MORRISON: Vocals, piano, guitar, saxophone
MARK ISHAM: Synthesizer, trumpet
CHRIS MICHIE: Guitar
DAVID HAYES: Bass
PETER VAN HOOKE: Drums, tambourine
PEE WEE ELLIS: Saxophone, flute
TOM DONLINGER: Drums, percussion
JOHN ALLAIR: Organ, Fender Rhodes
ARTY McGLYNN: Acoustic guitar
DAVY SPILLANE: Aeolian pipes, low flute
BACKING VOCALS: Pee Wee Ellis, Bianca Thorton, Pauline Lazano, Annie Stocking, Stephanie Douglass, Mihr Un Nisa Douglass
Van Morrison's Inarticulate speech Of The Heart album was released in 1983 right in the middle of his spiritual period, and reached no.14 in the UK album charts in March of that year. As far as I am aware, no promotional single was released from the album, and it's my opinion that firstly it didn't need promoting, and secondly, the material on the album isn't what I'd consider appropriate to be pulled apart in that way. It's a piece of work that I believe is intended to stand in its entirety, and to have removed one or two tracks purely for the purposes of promotion, I feel would have lost the essence of the completeness of the album.
Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart is one of my favourite Van albums.....I know I say that on almost every Van review I've so far published on DooYoo, but I suppose it's fair to say that I'm so mad on the man, that aside from one or two minor exceptions, all of his albums are my favourites.
Here follows a detailed track-by-track review, which you must feel free to skip through if you don't like this style.
1. HIGHER THAN THE WORLD
This is a slowish song which begins with synthesizer, and a gentle tapping on the edge of a drum, then we hear a few twiddles on guitar in the background. Van's voice joins in at its most gentle. This is a song which speaks of the shaky optimism we sometimes feel when going through a vulnerable phase in life, where we're in a bit of a mess and our moods are up and down from day to day. Van is determined in this song to make things seem better than they appear, and trusts in his own vision to pull his life together and walk down a peaceful and golden road. This is a very calming tune and musical arrangement that from one side is reminiscent of relaxing outside in a quiet place on a warm summer's day, yet from the other side is tinged with a gentle melancholia. The instrumentals and Van's voice continue through the track pretty much in the same way as at the beginning, though it doesn't get boring. I always love this song, but how high I rate it out of ten can vary from day to day, depending on my mood at the time; but it never drops below seven.
The opening few bars to this song is a little confusing, played on synthesizer, then it launches into the main tune (the track is an instrumental). There is a decidedly Irish flavour and mood to the song as a whole, enhanced by aeolian pipes. I think this is one of those tracks which you either love or hate, depending largely on whether you like the tune or not. I personally find it very uplifting in a "Van" sort of way - I feel that I know what he's trying to convey with the tune and arrangement, though if I heard it done by somebody else with a slightly different arrangement, I might not be so fond of it. For me in the song there's a sort of a subjective impression of a hot sun rising over misty mountains by the sea in Ireland, heralding a good spell of weather after the storms of winter have passed. This is a very upbeat sort of song that's easy to listen to, and wouldn't sound out of place on Radios 2 and 3; it might not go down very well on Radio 1 though.
3. RIVER OF TIME
This song has lots of different instruments playing the short introduction, then Van's voice at its smoothest joins in to sing the main tune. It is a slow, mystical-sounding song where Van invites everyone to meet him on the "river of time", heart & soul, body & mind. In the past when I've listened to this track, it has actually made me fall asleep - not because it's boring; far from it - just that it's such a very slow and relaxing peace of music with a deeply spiritual message, that it sends me off into some kind of warm fuzzy place where I drift off. There's some lovely alto sax here and there in the song - just tiny bit, but lovely all the same. The mood of this track is something like gently yet widely reaching out for peace, harmony, unity....anything good and positive that can be thought of.
4. CELTIC SWING
Mmmm this is my favourite track on the album, another instrumental, and Van at his best. It begins with synthesizer and very, very softly blown sax, creating a wonderfully mystical, mesmerising sound. Gentle, rhythmic drumming together with sax takes us into the main tune which is a mid-tempo journey into something spine-tinglingly hypnotic. All through the track is that mystical synthesizer - oh, I just can't find the right words to describe the musical sounds, and the mood the song creates. It's happy, warm, fuzzy, silky, dreamy, reassuring, heavenly, magical, yet just towards the end, Van plays a couple of little minor notes on his sax that inject a swift dose of that wistfulness he's so famous for. I feel almost certain that Celtic Swing would be most people's favourite track if they listened to this whole album. I go on to say that it's one of my most favourite of all Van Morrison's songs, throughout his whole repertoire from the mid-1960s to date.
5. RAVE ON JOHN DONNE
I have described a live version of this track on my review of Van Morrison's "Live At The Grand Opera House Belfast" album, but this here is the studio version. Here, the song opens with dreamy synthesizer and very gently strummed guitar. Van's voice then joins in speaking the words which urge the poets and literary giants of the past to rave on. Van's diction on this version of the song is a lot clearer than on the live version described above, but I prefer the arrangement of the live version. The musical backing is very hypnotic, gentle and mesmerising, with some beautiful wistful sax haunting through the ethos here & there...with a very slight echo to it. Van speaks the words with passion, then goes on to sing the rest - his voice swapping back and forth with the sax. This song is a delicious mix of euphoria, passion and wistfulness, and the skill with which Van has written the words he speaks to the great writers of the past, reveals a poetic talent equal to theirs.
6. INARTICULATE SPEECH OF THE HEART NO.1
This song begins with slow, gentle piano and soft backing voices.....very haunting and wistful. The piano takes the song into the main tune, and the voices adapt accordingly. Some may find this song extremely relaxing, and some may find it gently, yet heart-rendingly sad. I personally find it a mixture of the two. The tune, though simple, actually has some quite complex note arrangements - I ought to say here that it's another (apart from the soft backing voices which just sing "ahhh" over & over) instrumental. This is the sort of track you can just lie back on the sofa and listen to, shut your eyes, let go, and just allow the music to drift you along to wherever it will. Your journey and destination will depend on your own personal psychology, and your mood at the time.
7. IRISH HEARTBEAT
I have described this track before on my review of Van Morrison & The Chieftan's Irish Heartbeat album, but here the song is not quite the same. It begins with slow guitar and synthesizer backing, plus gentle voices, then Van joins in (with aeolian pipe too) to sing the main tune. It's a song with a distinct Irish flavour, though the Irishness is less prominent than it is on the Irish Heartbeat album. The sentiments of this song really are about getting in touch with your roots, your "own" ones - whether that be family, friends or whoever you feel most comfortable with; those who speak your own "inner language" and who you can truly connect with in a world which (to use Van's words) is "so cold, don't care nothing for your soul". For me the best part about this track is the tune, but I think I overall prefer the slightly more gritty offering on Irish Heartbeat, but that arrangement would sound out of place on this album. I love Van's vocal improvisations at the end of the song here though, positively oozing his wistful bite.
8. THE STREET ONLY KNEW YOUR NAME
This is an interesting little song that begins with synthesizer and a few guitars. Van then begins to sing about "the street", urging us to move through life, through the sunshine and the pain, but never to forget our roots and where we come from, the places and the people which made us what we are. There are what might be the very first little rumblings in this song of that discontent which, a few albums down the line from this one, turned into a big thing for Van in his later work, where he compares riches and possessions ("castles in Spain") to what he perhaps feels are the more solid things in life....roots, ancestry, where the heart and soul of our psychology comes from and was built - and though of course he's still in the business and no doubt earning vast sums of money, his expression through his music of dissatisfaction with the shallowness of the material world compounded as time went by. My own feelings on this song are that, yes it is very good and well up to Van's best standards, but not my favourite on this album.
9. CRY FOR HOME
This song begins with synthesizer programmed to sound like violins, then guitar and drums join in, and Van takes the lead vocals with the tune backed by female vocalists. The tune of this track is amazing - so very simple, yet so very......not catchy, but catching (if you get my drift). A quietly played little twiddle on a flute now and again lends an Irish flavour to this song which is largely about feeling an urge, a pull, to go home - the "cry for home". I wouldn't say this is one of Van's deepest songs from the point of the view of the words, as there are no major revelations or philosophies in there, but the tune and arrangement are amazing, and Van has his best singing voice on here. I love it!
10. INARTICULATE SPEECH OF THE HEART NO.2
This song begins immediately with Van singing gently, backed by female vocalists, piano, gentle drumming and synthesizer. Here and there throughout the track, a little flute can be heard, which flutters along in a slightly Irish-sounding way. The song really is about what the title suggests; that "speech of the heart" is largely inarticulate, and it's almost impossible to express in words a sense of wonder. In the middle of the song, we have a dreamy-sounding piece of sax, before it returns to Van's and the girls' vocals and the main tune. The words are rather repetitive, but I have a feeling that is done deliberately, to enforce the message of words "from the heart" being so hard to find....and....Van says he is a "soul in wonder", which for me is a perfect way of expressing it, so maybe his heart isn't so inarticulate after all.
11. SEPTEMBER NIGHT
The last track on this album begins with very soft and slow piano & synthesizer, then female voices gently "aahh" their way through what is quite an unusual tune - the track is otherwise instrumental. This is a soft, gentle, dreamy-sounding track with some very laid-back yet skilful guitar chords appearing here and there....I wouldn't say they are strummed or plucked -they sort of glide. Van's voice joins in with some high-pitched, yet soft and tender wailing - punctuating the female vocalists and their "aahhs". In the middle of the song is a rather impassioned, yet gentle piano piece backed by some fascinating synthesizer work which almost transports the listener to another world, another dimension. This song really could be described as the epitome of relaxation....just lie back, and drift off on a pink cloud of floaty euphoria.
This very appropriately named album from Van I feel perfectly epitomises everything he was trying to say at that particular phase in his life and career.
People I know who aren't all that fond of Van Morrison's work as a whole, I find often love his work from his "spiritual" phase and are breathtaken by his music from that time, without actually realising it's The Man himself! When told that the album they've just been listening to - e.g. this one and others from that period - is Van Morrison, they find it hard to believe that somebody who has written things like "Jackie Wilson Said" (which they dislike for some bizarre reason) can also sit and pen all this wondrously mystical, hypnotic music as well. Often these people have loved that period of Van's work so much, it's made them want to explore other areas of his repertoire which they had previously turned their nose up at.
I'd say that for anybody who's not overly familiar with Van Morrison yet would like a sampler, Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart wouldn't be a bad album to begin on - but, it's not for those who expect to hear rock, blues, R&B or anything raunchy and uptempo. Van also does do rock, blues, R&B etc., but this album isn't it - it's soft, slow, dreamy, floaty and hypnotic, yet without being classed as middle of the road.
This album is still in circulation, and can be purchased on CD from fourdogsmusic.co.uk for £6.95 (re-mastered, and includes 2 bonus tracks which weren't on the original recording), or from Amazon, priced as follows:
- from £7.32 (new), unclear as to whether CD or DVD
- from £3.50 (used), also unclear as to whether CD or DVD
There is currently no information to say whether this album is available from Amazon as an mp3 download.
Thanks for reading!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Higher Than The World
3 River Of Time
4 Celtic Swing
5 Rave On John Donne
6 Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart No.1
7 Irish Heartbeat
8 The Street Only Knew Your Name
9 Cry For Home
10 Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart No.2
11 September Night
12 Cry For Home
13 Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart No.2