65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2001
Van Morrison's "Avalon Sunset" was originally released back in 1989, but it is as wonderful today as when it first came out. One measure of how well Van is able to speak to people is that I still hear the song "Have I Told You Lately" from this album quite regularly on the radio.
"Avalon Sunset" is perhaps best known for being a spiritual album (I prefer the word "spiritual" to the word "religious"), but as a matter of fact only a couple of the songs on the album have an overtly spiritual bent to them, including the initial "Whenever God Shines His Light on Me." This song is a real attention-grabber--great melody, beat and words--and deserves its spot at the beginning of the album. I sometimes stop and play this track two or three times before moving on to the rest.
The most famous song here is, of course, "Have I Told You Lately [That I Love You]." What I especially like about it is that I can listen to it on a couple of different levels, either as a song of praise to God or else as a simple love song addressed to another person. It's that subtlety, that lack of "beating me over the head" with the lyrics, that I find especially appealing, but the more I hear the song, the more I find comfort in the spiritual interpretation of it.
Of course, there are any number of songs on here that deserve to be as well known as "Have I Told You Lately," and that repay repeated listenings. Some of my other favorites on this album are "I'd Love to Write Another Song," "I'm Tired Joey Boy" and "Orangefield."
One very special track is "Coney Island." Van's voice, reminiscent of John Prine's in some ways, is very expressive, and especially so in this piece. "Coney Island" is not a song at all but rather a short spoken description of a trip Van took to Coney Island with someone special, the stops they made on the way, the photos they took, the food they bought, and so forth. If I had to pick a favorite phrase here, it would be "I look at the side of your face," which is indelibly etched into my memory.
I have enjoyed this album many times and expect to continue enjoying it well into the future. Indeed, "Avalon Sunset" is at the top of my short list of indispensable albums.
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2008
This amazing 1989 album had never received the remastering treatment it so richly deserved until now. By all means, replace your old CD, because the audio is now absolutely glorious.
This re-release is in the first set (Tupelo Honey, It's Too Late To Stop Now, Wavelength, Into The Music, A Sense Of Wonder, Avalon Sunset and Back On Top) of a 2008, four-part re-release of the entire 29-title Van Morrison Polygram catalog. Polygram long ago ceased production of its portion of Van-The-Man's catalog, resulting in two-thirds of Morrison's entire recorded output remaining frustratingly unavailable for the past several years.
HOWEVER: Be aware that 16 of the 29 titles are the same 1998 remasters, albeit each augmented with two bonus tracks. If you own the 1998 discs, you may want to seek other posted opinions on whether the bonus content is worth re-buying those titles. The other 1998-remaster+bonus-tracks titles to be released later this year are: Saint Dominic's Preview, Hard Nose Down The Highway, Veedon Fleece, Period Of Transition, Beautiful Vision, Inarticulate Speech, Common One, Live/Belfast, No Guru, Poetic Champions Compose and Irish Heartbeat.
In this first set of re-releases, only Avalon Sunset and Back On Top have been newly-remastered. All of the new editions are available in jewel case or Japan mini-LP-sleeve format.
Polygram utilized a deplorable Enron-like tactic of taking the entire 29 CD series out of production for an extended period of time to create demand, years longer than just the clearing of the older releases in the retail channel via sell-off would have required. The record labels bemoan the loss of CD sales, but it is exactly this kind of manipulative marketing ka-ka that provides impetus to consumer alienation.
So, if like me, you already owned the `98's, the only decision in reinvesting in the `08's are the a.) meager-two-tracks-per-disc "bonus" material, and b.) to-buy-or-not-to-buy the more expensive Japan `sleeve editions. The bonus tracks could have been released as a separate set (A "Philosopher's Stone Volume 2", perhaps?), but then, of course, Polygram wouldn't net the possible re-sale of 16 additional CD's per VanFan.
As for the desirability of the bonus tracks themselves, I'll leave it to others to opine on whether the return on such a substantial reinvestment is either a worthwhile, or foolhardy, expense.
WHAT IS A JAPAN "MINI-LP-SLEEVE" CD?
Have you ever lamented the loss of one of the 20th Century's great art forms, the 12" vinyl LP jacket? Then "mini-LP-sleeve" CD's may be for you.
Mini-sleeve CDs are manufactured in Japan under license. The disc is packaged inside a 135MM X 135MM cardboard precision-miniature replica of the original classic vinyl-LP album. Also, anything contained in the original LP, such as gatefolds, booklets, lyric sheets, posters, printed LP sleeves, stickers, embosses, special LP cover paper/inks/textures and/or die cuts, are precisely replicated and included. An English-language lyric sheet is always included, even if the original LP did not have printed lyrics.
Then, there's the sonic quality: Often (but not always), mini-sleeves have dedicated remastering (20-Bit, 24-Bit, DSD, K2/K2HD, and/or HDCD), and can often (but not always) be superior to the audio on the same title anywhere else in the world. There also may be bonus tracks unavailable elsewhere.
Each Japan mini-sleeve has an "obi" ("oh-bee"), a removable Japan-language promotional strip. The obi lists the Japan street date of that particular release, the catalog number, the mastering info, and often the original album's release date. Bonus tracks are only listed on the obi, maintaining the integrity of the original LP artwork. The obi's are collectable, and should not be discarded.
All mini-sleeve releases are limited edition, but re-pressings/re-issues are becoming more common (again, not always). The enthusiasm of mini-sleeve collecting must be tempered, however, with avoiding fake mini-sleeves manufactured in Russia and distributed throughout the world, primarily on eBay. They are inferior in quality, worthless in collectable value, a total waste of money, and should be avoided at all costs.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
For anyone who has marveled over the range and depth of Van Morrison's prolific work over the last three decades, this terrific album first released in 1989 represented a resurgence of his powerful songwriting and performing skills. The songs included offer a startling range of styles, subject matter, and themes, but all share a kind of quiet celebration of the mature Van, able to sing, play and even chant his way through a song like no one else can. Indeed, after a string of disappointing albums that did not gain wide recognition or playtime, this album reestablished Morrison as a star of the first magnitude. So, we find the eclectic star of "Them" and then the guy who sang everything from "Brown Eyed Girl" to "Moondance" waxing sentimental here about love, dawn drives through the country, and God.
From the smash hit opener of "Whenever God Shines His Light", sung with British rock icon Cliff Richard, to the thoughtful and pensive "Coney Island", Van shows why he is such an enduring presence in the contemporary pop music scene. Diffidently intelligent, Morrison muses about the strains of contemporary culture in "I'm Tired, Joey Boy", and waxes eloquently about his re-found Christian faith in "When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God?", which is also my personal favorite here. Also noteworthy are "Orangefield", "These Are The Days", and a smashing rendition of "Daring Night". In fact, I really like all of the cuts here, but have to admit I still like the long-time hit garnered here with "Have I Told you Lately", which Van admitted was a self-conscious effort to emulate the work of Frank Sinatra with an out-and-out love song. This album is a keeper, and one you are sure to enjoy. I still do!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 1999
"Avalon Sunset" in my opinion marks a return to Van Morrison of yesteryear. Songs such as "Whenever God Shines His Light" and "I'd Love To Write Another Song" sound as if they were fresh from his "Into The Music" era. "Contacting My Angel" hearkens back to "Astral Weeks" or "Veedon Fleece", and "Have I Told You Lately" stands on its own as a fine single. This follow-up to "Irish Heartbeat" truly matches in quality and these two albums mark a much improved Van Morrison.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2009
Van Morrison has issued so much good music over the years, but this one remains my favorite and most played. "Avalon Sunset" revived his commercial fortunes after a period of dwindling sales. He's in a reflective mood here, and the songs are pastoral and almost Zen-like. There's some upbeat numbers, but it's the quiet ones that steal the show.
The best part is when the now classic "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" segues into the spoken-word "Coney Island", then climaxes with "I'm Tired Joey Boy". Taken together, they comprise the most powerful and affecting song suite I've ever heard from him. Absolutely beautiful.
British r&b star Georgie Fame plays Hammond organ on a few tracks, and became an integral part of the band for the next 8 years. Cliff Richard (the "British Elvis") is enlisted as co-vocalist on "Whenever God Shines His Light", one of 2 songs that name-check The Deity. A couple others pull the old George Harrison trick of blurring the lines, so you can't tell if they're a paean to a Higher Being or a woman. In every case, Van is conducting an interior dialogue with himself. This isn't "old-time religion". A key lyric (from "I'm Tired Joey Boy"): "Love of the simple is all that I need". That sentiment genuinely seems to be at the heart of his personal philosophy. There's a reason his newest CD is called "Keep It Simple".
Other great Van Morrison records in the same vein as "Avalon Sunset": "Enlightenment" and "Hymns To The Silence". But this is the one that got the ball rolling again.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 1999
Some fans don't like a string section with their Van. They don't know what they're missing.
I didn't realize at first what makes this album one of the great VM listens. It sneaks up on you. It's not the fact that there is a big string section in the mix, it's how incredibly WELL-ARRANGED the strings are in each song.
They play the role of piano, guitar, and backup vocalist on different cuts. And sometimes, as on "Have I Told You Lately," they fill every hole in the arrangement beautifully, making the song an instant classic. I assumed that this song was a cover, written by someone else ages ago. The fact that I was wrong gave the song all the more impact to me. "Instant Classic" in the dictionary should list "Have I Told You" in definition #1.
Considering that Morrison releases about an album a week, the fact that he took such care in the sound of this collection sets it apart from his other works. He takes us someplace new with "Avalon Sunset." It's a trip well worth taking.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2003
His second of three straight masterpieces (Poetic Champions Compose" before and "Enlightenment" after), "Avalon Sunset" brought Van back into many people's lives with the success of "Have I Told You Lately." The Rod Stewart cover debacle aside, this song has stood the test of time very nicely. Of course, the thing for me that puts this song over the top is the piano solo by Neil Drinkwater. The warmth of this solo could melt icebergs, and he's a big reason why Van's three albums from this period are so masterful. Neil also shines on the other two releases, giving them a level of feeling that would make Bill Evans proud. Like many Van fans, I also love the wonderfully eccentric tracks "Coney Island" and "I'm Tired Joey Boy." Add these songs to other gems like "Whenever God Shines His Light" (love that piano), "Contacting My Angel" and Orangefield" and you have a masterpiece in the making.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2001
Being a fan of Van since "Gloria" and "Brown Eyed Girl", I too searched for spirituality as I grew older. His love for God seems to flow from this work. He recognizes that in the music world you can be Christian and still create. "These are the days" is the most spiritually haunting cut on this album and no one who thinks back on their life and love can deny that God spoke through Van Morrison here.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 1999
Another great record. Get it for the simple masterpiece Coney Island, a song about being somewhere special with your loved one and knowing how rich and precious that moment is as it's happening. I don't think I've seen this evoked better by any musician/writer/painter etc. If my description doesn't make it clear, the song will.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2002
I have never really heard a lot of Van Morrison music, but bought this album to use "these are the days" in a college play I directed. Since then, I have kept the CD in the car and play it when I need to think some things out. It is a lovely peaceful album, which seems to cry out for a listen at dusk while driving in the country. My copy finally wore out, so I will have to buy a new one. I can't wait