Monday, November 12, 2012

Van Morrison 9: A Period Of Transition

It was three years between Veedon Fleece and the next Van Morrison album—an eternity in the ‘70s. There is proof that he did record in that period, and played more than a handful of live shows featuring new material. But for whatever reason, when he finally got around to making another album, much of that new material was left to one side, or drained of its potential. Instead, the decision was made to lay down some generic tracks with Dr. John (credited under his given name of Mac Rebennack) as key collaborator and co-producer. Given the all-too obvious title A Period Of Transition, the album doesn’t really please. Especially after a three-year gap.
“You Gotta Make It Through The World” and “It Fills You Up” don’t come off as much more than jams with the most basic of preparation, so that the delayed opening of “The Eternal Kansas City” seems almost groundbreaking. Considering that it consists of a couple of minutes of women singing “excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City” unaccompanied (shades of “All The Tired Horses”), followed by another couple of minutes of arranged tedium, side one doesn’t thrill. It’s too bad, since it might have been a decent track.
Side two begins with “Joyous Sound”, which doesn’t live up to its potential. Seeing “Flamingos Fly” on the cover next might have made diehard fans catch their breath, but instead of the extended meditations tried out live, here it’s a middling boogie. “Heavy Connection” finally brings something interesting, at least in the form of well-arranged horns along the lines of “And It Stoned Me”. It’s far and away the best track on the album, until the last. “Cold Wind In August” is a masterpiece played over standard chords. Besides coming closest to the classic sound, it sports the right balance of splendor and melancholy, foreshadowing a certain collaboration with Robbie Robertson down the road. It really is a terrific song, but as it comes at the end of the album, it’s a shame that he couldn’t have used it as a springboard instead.
On A Period Of Transition, the ‘70s have sunk in, where a record is merely commerce and nothing like the free-standing works of art Van had pioneered so shortly before. This album could be almost anyone, and just about everything about it (save those last two songs) suggests that he was merely marking time. The cover didn’t help, presenting a whole pile of grumpy head shots that would only pigeonhole him as exactly that.

Van Morrison A Period Of Transition (1977)—2

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