Saint Dominic's Preview

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Saint Dominic's Preview
Studio album by Van Morrison
Released July 1972
Recorded 1971-1972 at Wally Heider Studios & Pacific High Studios in San Francisco
the Church in San Anselmo
Genre Folk rock, R&B, Soul
Length 41:12
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Ted Templeman,
Van Morrison
Van Morrison chronology
Tupelo Honey
(1971)
Saint Dominic's Preview
(1972)
Hard Nose the Highway
(1973)
Singles from Saint Dominic's Preview
  1. "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" b/w "You've Got the Power"
    Released: 14 July 1972
  2. "Redwood Tree" b/w "Saint Dominic's Preview"
    Released: 20 September 1972
  3. "Gypsy" b/w "Saint Dominic's Preview"
    Released: January 1973

Saint Dominic's Preview is the sixth studio album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was released in July 1972 by Warner Bros. Records. Rolling Stone declared it "the best-produced, most ambitious Van Morrison record yet released."

The diversity of the material on the album highlighted Morrison's fusing of Celtic folk, R&B, blues, jazz and the singer-songwriter genre. "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" and the title track were blends of soul and folk, while lesser known tracks such as "Gypsy" and "Redwood Tree" continued to display a lyrical celebration of nature's beauty. Also on the album were two lengthy tracks, "Listen to the Lion" and the closing "Almost Independence Day" which were given primal, cathartic and intense vocal performances from Morrison. These tracks were similar to the songs on his 1968 album, Astral Weeks.

The album reached number 15 on the Billboard 200 when it was released. This would remain Morrison's best ever U.S. success on the Billboard 200 until 2008 when Keep It Simple came in at number 10 on the Billboard chart.

Recording[edit]

The album was recorded during late winter and spring in 1971/72 at Wally Heider Studios and Pacific High Studios in San Francisco and at the Church in San Anselmo. The fourth track on the album, "Listen to the Lion" was recorded during the Tupelo Honey sessions in 1971 at Columbia Studios in San Francisco.[1] Ted Templeman was co-producer on the album. Several of the musicians who played on the album were newly recruited: Jules Broussard, saxophonist and previously from Boz Scaggs, pianist Mark Naftalin who had previously played with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, guitarist Ron Elliott from The Beau Brummels and Bernie Krause played the Moog synthesizer.[2]

Composition and themes[edit]

Unlike his two previous albums, Morrison spoke well of this one when interviewed by biographer Ritchie Yorke: "The album was kind of rushed because of studio time and things like that. But I thought it was a good shot, that album. There were a lot of good songs on it. St. Dominic's Preview was more into where I'm at, more into what I was doing."[3] The album contained only seven songs because of the length of two of the songs.

The album opens with "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" pop and R&B in genre and a tribute to Jackie Wilson, one of Morrison's influences who had a hit with the song "Reet Petite".

According to Rolling Stone reviewer Stephen Holden on "Gypsy": "Van states where he's at artistically; the rhythms, alternating between double and triple time, are driving and excited, the harmonies faintly Middle Eastern, and the multiple guitar textures exotic."[4]

"I Will Be There" is a twelve-bar blues played with a honky-tonk piano and evoking Ray Charles composed of heavily realistic lyrics that speak of the singer grabbing an overcoat, his toothbrush and underwear.[5]

"Listen to the Lion" is an eleven-minute song that begins with a mellow opening and Morrison then improvises new singing methods, turning himself into a lion with growling, wailing and various other vocal techniques as the song progresses. It has been said to be, by both technique and emotion, "a vocal performance that remains unparalleled by his contemporaries."[6] Caledonia, one of Morrison's favourite symbols, is referred to "during the coda when he works himself up into a trancelike gospel improvisation": "And we sailed and we sailed and we sailed and we sailed... way up to Caledonia."[6] Brian Hinton described the song: "We are back in Astral Weeks territory, a bass led shuffle and Van lost in his own poetic universe, but here his voice takes wilder risks; growling, a near death rattle, feral grunts and roars."[2] The chorus chanting "Listen to the Lion" behind the singer is made up of three male voices, including Morrison, "singing at himself".[7]

The title track, "Saint Dominic's Preview", was said by Morrison to have been composed after seeing an ad for a peace vigil to be held at St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco.[6] The song is written in a "stream of consciousness" fashion as with the Astral Weeks songs. Lyrics in the song refer to different stages of Morrison's life: "chamois cleaning all the windows" (teenage years) and "The record company has paid out for the wine" (his contemporary status as a pop music star). Erik Hage calls it "expansive and groundbreaking, representing an enlarging scope and ambition in Morrison's music."[6]

"Redwood Tree" is reminiscent of "And It Stoned Me" on the Moondance album, with a soulful celebration of nature, water and a boy's childhood experiences.

"Almost Independence Day" is a two-chord cycle that uses a moog synthesizer and various musical and vocal techniques to translate to the listener the feelings the singer had while staring across the San Francisco harbor. Along with "Listen to the Lion", it is more than ten minutes in length and has been compared to it as being as "musically daring in its own way". Erik Hage describes the song as "a mood piece, and a precursor to his 1980s work (particularly Common One), where his whole raison d'être became trying to inspire meditative states in the listener."[8] Speaking of this song, Morrison told Ritchie Yorke: "It wasn't my concept to write a sequel to 'Madame George'. I like the song though. It was just contemplating organ and the Moog. Everything was recorded live except that one high part on the synthesiser. I asked Bernie Krause to do this thing of China Town and then come in with the high part because I was thinking of dragons and fireworks. It reminded me of that. It was a stream of consciousness trip again."[9]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[10]
Robert Christgau A−[11]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[4]

The album charted at number 15 on the Billboard 200. This would remain Morrison's best ever U.S. charting until 2008's Keep It Simple came in at number 10 on the Billboard charts.[12]

Erik Hage wrote that "it is one of the strongest albums in the Van Morrison canon because it seems to adapt and incorporate all of the lessons and discoveries of the rich period of evolution that came before it while still opening up new windows."[13] Miles Palmer writing in The Times commented that "The cumulative impact is devastating."[9]

In Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden wrote that "The coexistence of two styles on the same record turns out to be very refreshing; they complement each other by underscoring the remarkable versatility of Van's musical imagination."[4] He also declared it "the best-produced, most ambitious Van Morrison record yet released".

Robert Christgau ends his A- rated review with: "The point being that words—which on this album are as uneven as the tunes—sometimes say less than voices. Amen."

The Allmusic review with a rating of 4.5 stars comments that the album, "hangs together on the strength of its songs, an intriguingly diverse collection which draws together the disparate threads of the singer's recent work into one sterling package."

Packaging[edit]

The album was originally planned to be titled Green but it was changed after Morrison wrote the song "Saint Dominic's Preview" and used it as the title song. A Rolling Stone profile of Morrison in June 1972 quoted him as saying that the song had evolved from a dream about a St. Dominic's church gathering where a mass for peace in Northern Ireland was being held. Rolling Stone then commented that later while Morrison was in Nevada he read in a newspaper article that a mass was being held the next day for peace at a St. Dominic's church in San Francisco.[14]

It was his first album not to have love as its central theme and significantly (as his marriage was deteriorating). The cover shows Morrison sitting on church steps playing guitar with ripped trousers and scruffy boots looking like a gypsy troubadour out on the street. Photographs for the album were taken by Michael Maggid in St. Anselm's Church in San Anselmo, California near Morrison's home with the cover photograph shot on the steps of Montgomery Chapel on the grounds of the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo.[15][16]

Track listing[edit]

All songs were written by Van Morrison.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" – 2:57
  2. "Gypsy" – 4:36
  3. "I Will Be There" – 3:01
  4. "Listen to the Lion" – 11:07

Side two[edit]

  1. "Saint Dominic's Preview" – 6:23
  2. "Redwood Tree" – 3:03
  3. "Almost Independence Day" – 10:05

Personnel[edit]

Musicians
Production
  • Producers: Van Morrison, Ted Templeman
  • Engineers: Donn Landee, Bob Schumaker, Jim Gaines, Dave Brown, Steve Brandon
  • Mixing: Donn Landee, Bob Schumaker on "Jackie Wilson Said"
  • Photography: Michael Maggid
  • Arrangements: Van Morrison, Tom Salisbury arranged the horns and backing vocals on "I Will Be There", "Redwood Tree" and "Saint Dominic's Preview"
  • Remastering: Tim Young, Walter Samuel

Charts[edit]

Album[edit]

Billboard (North America) [12]

Year Chart Position
1972 The Billboard 200 15

Singles[edit]

Billboard (North America) [18]

Year Single Chart Position
1972 "Jackie Wilson Said" The Billboard Hot 100 61
1972 "Redwood Tree" The Billboard Hot 100 98
1973 "Gypsy" The Billboard Hot 100 101

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Heylin, Can You Feel the Silence?, p. 520
  2. ^ a b Hinton. Celtic Crossroads. p. 141. 
  3. ^ Hinton, Celtic Crossroads, p. 143
  4. ^ a b c Holden, Stephen (31 August 1972). "Saint Dominic's Preview > Music Review". Rolling Stone (116). Archived from the original on 28 February 2008. Retrieved 10 January 2006. 
  5. ^ Van Morrison Anthology, p.85
  6. ^ a b c d Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison, pp. 65-69
  7. ^ Marcus, When That Rough God Goes Riding, p. 65
  8. ^ Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison, p. 67
  9. ^ a b Yorke, Into the Music, p. 97
  10. ^ Ankeny, Jason. Saint Dominic's Preview at AllMusic. Retrieved 29 July 2005.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Van Morrison > Consumer Guide Reviews". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Van Morrison > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums at AllMusic. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  13. ^ Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison, p.63
  14. ^ Yorke, Into the Music, p. 94
  15. ^ "Van Morrison-1972". michaelmagic.com. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "JOSEPH GRECO Photographer". josephgreco.weebly.com. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  17. ^ "Rick Shlosser - About". rickshlosser.com. Retrieved 7 June 2010. 
  18. ^ St. Dominic's Preview - Van Morrison > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles at AllMusic. Retrieved 20 July 2008.

References[edit]

External links[edit]