Autobiographical Order No. 384: Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview

Last week I was discussing how one of my favorite things about being a music writer is discovering great music from peers and colleagues—who are also friends. (Friendship is cool too.) But to take that a step further, I love the feeling of becoming interested in music when I read about it. One of the reasons why I started on this cockamamie path in the first place is because when I was a teenager I’d read magazines cover to cover and buy music based on those articles. I had a record guide of some sort that my brother gave to me as, I think, a birthday gift? It led to me picking up albums by a bunch of artists (Television’s Marquee Moon is the first one that comes to mind), and honestly, I could go on and on. But you get the idea.

As a result, one of my goals as a writer is to always make people want to listen to and engage with the music that I’m writing about. It’s not always easy to do; the vast majority of music is nice to listen to but not necessarily gripping or significant. And even if I’m tackling something I really don’t like, I still want to draw the reader in enough to make them curious. To not reveal so much that they don’t want to experience it for themselves, if for no other reason than curiosity. (Writing about Lulu, I’m sure, was one of those cases.)

Saint Dominic’s Preview is a perfect example of an album I pretty much had to buy after reading about it—and on a website I run, for that matter! My chum Paul chronicled Van Morrison’s Warner Bros. years, and among that retrospective were several perfect or near-perfect ratings: Astral Weeks (obviously—I’ll get to that one in a bit), Moondance, Veedon Fleece, and this one.  And I’ll admit to having not listened to it prior to that article. Look, everyone has gaps, alright?

But I was convinced: This was clearly a Van album I needed to hear, and when I found it used at Red Brontosaurus, an album I needed to own. And it’s quite good. At turns soulful and sprawling, boisterous and understated, it’s representative of a period during which Morrison was pretty much putting out one great album after another. (Another friend of mine claimed His Band and the Street Choir was his best, probably intended as hyperbole, but that’s another story.)

Considering how rare it is for me to buy an album without having heard at least some of it before, it’s kind of cool to not know what’s coming when the needle drops. But this was one that definitely lived up to expectations. I just hope that, in turn, something I’ve written can lead to a similar experience.

Rating: 9.0

Sound Quality: Great

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