Monday, May 13, 2013

Van Morrison 14: Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart

Well, this was certainly different. Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart is a largely overlooked album, and for good reason. For one, there were no hits on it. It was also one of the last of Van’s albums to appear on CD, so it wasn’t exactly high profile. There’s a reliance on instrumentals, which tend to be more moods than compositions, as hinted at on “Scandinavia” from the year before on Beautiful Vision.
And overall, it doesn’t really sound like a Van Morrison album. Part of this can be attributed to trumpet player Mark Isham, who’d moved from sessions for the esoteric ECM label to Van’s studio band, playing with a number of synthesizers that increased with each album. A wash of warm synths pervades each track, a sound that would be more effective on his own solo debut for the Windham Hill new age label; here, it gets bland.
“Higher Than The World” is an attempt to start at speed, but doesn’t quite catch fire. “River Of Time” oddly brings to mind Robyn Hitchcock’s “52 Stations”, while “Rave On, John Donne” is a recitation over a two-chord bed, his brogue calling up the names of great poets (leaving out, thankfully, L. Ron Hubbard, who gets “thanks” on the album cover). In between are “Connswater”, an instrumental jig buried, again, under the keyboards, and “Celtic Swing”, which begins slowly, but the band comes in behind the sax.
“Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart No. 1” is yet another lengthy instrumental, this time more in the mode of “Scandinavia” with its precise piano intervals, while a melody emerges that was first hinted at on “Stepping Out Queen” and will appear again. It’s actually mesmerizing, with a great rush when the band kicks in, and we don’t even mind the moaning women. “Irish Heartbeat” is actually something of a song instead of an atmosphere for once, and would get a better treatment down the road as well. Conversely, “The Street Only Knew Your Name” is an older song revived here, slightly rearranged, heavy on the keyboards, naturally. The interplay at the end of “Cry For Home” suggests that it’s a live group recording, as opposed to being assembled piecemeal like so many albums of its era. But as lovely as the first part was, “Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart No. 2” doesn’t do much besides repeat the title to form its lyrics (and to aver, “I’m a soul in wonder”).
Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart is a nice album, but only exciting in moments. (And the best song he recorded that year, a Robbie Robertson production of “Wonderful Remark”, wasn’t even included, only appearing on the King Of Comedy soundtrack.) Meanwhile, Warner Bros. wasn’t taking chances anymore, and dropped him in a major housecleaning.

Van Morrison Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983)—
2008 CD reissue: same as 1983, plus 2 extra tracks

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