Van Morrison is my favourite artist.
His catalogue is very extensive. Unlike many of his peers, not only has Morrison continued to record, he’s continued to create beautiful music.
There are some obvious classics that appear on the various best albums ever lists – Astral Weeks, Moondance (both terrific) – my favourite studio album of all time in Saint Dominic’s Preview and some less well known stunners.
Catch him on a good night and he’s a brilliant live performer too, as shown by the exceptional It’s Too Late To Stop Now and A Night In San Francisco.
What’s On This Page
- My personal ratings
- Readers Polls for the best studio and live albums by Van Morrison
- Much more to come
My Ratings For The Studio Albums By Van Morrison
10 = an absolute classic, 9 is an excellent album, 1 is abysmal. Any 6 and above is well worth hearing. Any album rated at 10 is in bold.
A great conundrum is how a notorious moody, grumpy man can create such extraordinary beauty so consistently. I’m just extremely grateful that he has as I can’t imagine my life without Van Morrison’s music. If I was forced to choose 20 albums to take to a desert album, 5 of them would probably be by Van Morrison. That’s how important he is to me and I love many other artists.
Blowin’ Your Mind! (1967) – 7 – this has been released in other forms too
Astral Weeks (1968) – 10
Moondance (1970) – 10
His Band and the Street Choir (1970) – 8
Tupelo Honey (1971) – 8
Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972) – 10
Hard Nose the Highway (1973) – 7
Veedon Fleece (1974) – 9 (it’s taken me 40 years to appreciate this one)
A Period of Transition (1977) – 6
Wavelength (1978) – 6
Into the Music (1979) – 10
Common One (1980) – 10
Beautiful Vision (1982)
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)
A Sense of Wonder (1985)
No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986) – 10
Poetic Champions Compose (1987) – 9
Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains, 1988)
Avalon Sunset (1989) – 9
Hymns to the Silence (1991) – 9
Too Long in Exile (1993)
Days Like This (1995)
How Long Has This Been Going On (1995)
Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (1996)
The Healing Game (1997)
Back on Top (1999)
You Win Again (2000)
Down the Road (2002)
What’s Wrong with This Picture? (2003)
Magic Time (2005)
Pay the Devil (2006)
Keep It Simple (2008)
Born to Sing: No Plan B (2012)
Duets: Re-working the Catalogue (2015)
Keep Me Singing (2016)
Roll with the Punches (2017)
You’re Driving Me Crazy (2018)
The Prophet Speaks (2018)
Three Chords & the Truth (2019)
I have some go-to albums that I play regularly or, in the case of Astral Weeks and Moondance played many times when I was younger but I’m going to have to give others a detailed listen before rating them. Don’t expect to see many ratings of 5 or lower.
The official live albums are:
It’s Too Late to Stop Now – 10
Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast – 9
A Night in San Francisco – 10
The Skiffle Sessions – Live in Belfast 1998
Live at Austin City Limits Festival
Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl – 9 (probably 10 if they add the extra songs performed at the concert)
It’s Too Late to Stop Now vols 2, 3 & 4 – 10
Readers Polls For The Best Albums By Van Morrison Recorded In The Studio and Live In Concert
What are the Best Studio Albums By Van Morrison
This is a new poll (March 2020) but the live poll has many more people taking part. I’ve asked you to identify your six favourite albums. Since I have since I’m rating at 10/10, it saved me from having to make a difficult decision.
What are the Best Live Albums By Van Morrison?
Van Morrison live albums are nominated in several music genre polls:
If you’re a fan, you might like to give him some extra votes as he’s not dominating these polls.
Van Morrison On The Steve Hoffman Forum
The Steve Hoffman forum is a great place where there is often excellent discussions of music. There are some exceptional items on Van Morrison. Very highly recommended reading although I’ve felt too intimidated to take part in the discussions.
Van Morrison Album by Album Discussion: Part 1 (1968-1977) (Link)
This series of threads looking at the Van Morrison albums has some excellent reading although it i hard to navigate if you want the low-down on a particular album you’re planning to listen to.
Discussion by album:
Van Morrison Album by Album Discussion: Part 2 (Wavelength 1978 – Enlightenment 1990) (link)
Van Morrison – Album by Album discussion – Part Three (link)
No Prima Donna : The Songs of Van Morrison – a tribute album
Van Morrison Album by Album (2018 Thread) (Link)
There follows a series of polls, basically by decade.
Best 60s/70s Album Poll (link)
This is the classic period for Van Morrison as many people turned off after 1974 (Veedon Fleece) when he had a three year break. Sadly that included me for many, many years. I thought that he didn’t do anything as good as this early period but I was very WRONG.
Here are the top 5 from the poll:
- Astral Weeks (this lost out by 2 votes)
- Veedon Fleece
- It’s Too Late To Stop Now
- Into The Music
As great as these are, it’s beyond me how the absolutely brilliant Saint Dominic’s Preview is only ranked at #6.
Best 80s Album Poll (link)
This is another brilliant decade of music. The top 3 in the poll are:
- No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
- Common One
- Beautiful Vision (beating Avalon Sunset by 1 vote)
Best 90s Album Poll (link)
I love A Night In San Francisco but the general consensus is that there is a slight drop in quality in this decade. Plenty of great songs but perhaps no absolute classic, must-have album.
The top 3 in the poll are:
- Hymns To The Silence
- The Healing Game
Best 00s Album Poll (link)
A quieter decade and again, some great songs but no must-have album. Here are the top 3 from the poll:
Down the Road
Keep It Simple
Van Morrison – Best 10s Album Poll (link)
No match for the glorious music creates from 1968-1991 but there are albums worth hearing.
The top two in the poll are:
- Keep Me Singing
- Three Chords & the Truth
Your Top 5 Van Morrison Albums (Link)
Members were asked to jot down their top 5 albums. Plenty of love for the 1968 (Astral Weeks) to 1974 (Veedon Fleece) period but plenty of attention is given to later albums too. The nice thing about these lists are that it can help you find albums you’ll love, for instance if you didn’t like the introspective Astral Weeks but loved the more commercial R&B of Moondance (or vice versa).
With more time on my hands than I expected because of the coronavirus lockdown, I went through and counted the individual recommendations, which gives you an album ranking.
- Moondance (86 recommendations)
- Astral Weeks (80)
- Saint Dominic’s Preview (68)
- Veedon Fleece (68)
- Into the Music (40)
- Tupelo Honey (36)
- His Band And The Street Choir (29)
- It’s Too Late to Stop Now (24) plus three extra for the 3 CD version
- Common One (19)
- No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (16)
- Hard Nose the Highway (13)
- Beautiful Vision (12)
- Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (12)
- Poetic Champions Compose (12)
- Avalon Sunset (9)
- Hymns To The Silence (9)
- Enlightenment (8)
- The Healing Game (8)
- Wavelength (6)
- Back On Top (5)
- Irish Heartbeat (4)
- Blowin’ your Mind! (3)
- Magic Time (3)
- A Period Of Transition (3)
- Down the Road (2)
- Keep It Simple (2)
- Keep Me Singing (2)
- The Philosopher’s Stone (2)
- T.B. Sheets (2)
- What’s Wrong with this Picture? (2)
- Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1)
- Born to Sing: No Plan B (1)
- Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast (1)
- A Night in San Francisco (1)
- Roll with the Punches (1)
- A Sense of wonder (1)
As you can see, most of the albums have received some love and there are a few recommendations for albums by Them too although neither of the studio albums or compilations are receiving repeated selections.
I have a few thoughts.
You can see the domination of that golden period between 1968 (Astral Weeks) and 1974 (Veedon Fleece). There is little doubt that Van Morrison produced a string of outstanding albums in these years, with Hard Nose The Highway generally seen as the weakest but what we see here may be part of the self-perpetuating myth.
If you’re told the best period is in the early years and you only feel you need three or four albums, you probably don’t feel much urge to venture out into his later catalogue. I know I fell into this category and was only buying the live albums from later years to give me his “best tracks”.
I now see this as a mistake and Into The Music has done very well to jump ahead of Tupelo Honey and His Band And Street Choir. My other two later 10/10 albums, Common One and No Guru, No Teacher, No Method trailed in behind those two albums from 1970 and ’71. I think they’d do better if more people had heard them.
While the predictable classic albums – Moondance and Astral Weeks – came out on top, you can see that there isn’t a big drop-off once you get passed those two and the slop is quite gradual as you go right down the list. The joint 15th most popular albums (Avalon Sunset and Hymns To The Silence) still received 9 top-5 recommendations.
Where should you start?
If you’re interested in standard R&B/soul than Moondance is perfect but if you feel more like something quite and introspective, then head for Astral Weeks. I don’t feel that there’s another album like it by anyone, not just by Van Morrison.
I still stand by my 10/10 recommendations which also include:
- Saint Dominic’s Preview – my all-time favourite studio album
- Into The Music – another great starting place
- Common One – rapidly moving up my list of favourites, perhaps now at #2
- No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
Many others love Veedon Fleece which is a good albums with some excellent songs but I am a bit mystified by the amount of recommendations it gets.