Van Morrison Best Albums In the Studio & Live In Concert

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
  • Van Morrison on the Steve Hoffman forum
  • Van Morrison on AllMusic.com
  • Van Morrison on Setlist.fm
  • Essential Albums at Rolling Stone Magazine
  • Readers Views From BestEverAlbums
  • Books On Van Morrison

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) – 9
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983) – 8
A Sense of Wonder (1985)
No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986) – 10
Poetic Champions Compose (1987) – 9
Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains, 1988) – 6
Avalon Sunset (1989) – 9
Enlightenment (1990) – 8
Hymns to the Silence (1991) – 9
Too Long in Exile (1993) – 8
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)
Versatile (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 – 5
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 SIX Best Studio Albums By Van Morrison?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

What are the Best Live Albums By Van Morrison?

Loading ... Loading ...

Van Morrison live albums are nominated in several music genre polls:

Best Blues Rock Live Albums
Best Singer Songwriter Live Albums

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:

Astral Weeks

Moondance

His Band And Street Choir

Tupelo Honey

Saint Dominic’s Preview

Hard Nose The Highway

It’s Too Late To Stop Now

Veedon Fleece

A Period Of Transition.

Van Morrison Album by Album Discussion: Part 2 (Wavelength 1978 – Enlightenment 1990) (link)

Wavelength

Into The Music

Common One

Beautiful Vision

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart

Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast

A Sense of Wonder

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher

Poetic Champions Compose

Avalon Sunset

Enlightenment

Van Morrison – Album by Album discussion – Part Three (link)

Hymns To The Silence CD1

Hymns To The Silence CD2

Too Long in Exile

Irish Heartbeat

No Prima Donna : The Songs of Van Morrison – a tribute album

A Night In San Francisco

Days Like This

How Long Has This Been Going On? & Tell Me Something:The Songs of Mose Allison

The Healing Game

Back On Top

The Skiffle Sessions – Live in Belfast

You Win Again

Down The Road

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Magic Time

Pay the Devil

Live in Austin

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:

  1. Moondance
  2. Astral Weeks (this lost out by 2 votes)
  3. Veedon Fleece
  4. It’s Too Late To Stop Now
  5. 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:

  1. No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
  2. Common One
  3. 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:

  1. Hymns To The Silence
  2. The Healing Game
  3. Enlightenment

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
Magic Time
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:

  1. Keep Me Singing
  2. 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.

Van Morrison on AllMusic.com

AllMusic.com is probably the go-to website for many people to investigate an artist. Certainly it’s one I consult regularly although I do get frustrated when the star rating and review aren’t consistent in their praise or criticism.

The 5 star rated albums by the critics are (as at 30 march 2020):

  • Astral Weeks
  • Moondance

At 4.5 stars are:

  • His Band And Street Choir
  • Tupelo Honey
  • Saint Dominic’s Preview
  • It’s Too Late To Stop Now
  • Veedon Fleece
  • Into The Music
  • Irish Heartbeat

Readers are also given a chance to rate the albums and their 5 star selections are:

  • Astral Weeks
  • Moondance
  • It’s Too Late To Stop Now

Just behind at 4.5 stars are:

  • His Band And Street Choir
  • Tupelo Honey
  • Saint Dominic’s Preview
  • Veedon Fleece
  • Into The Music
  • No Guru. No Method, No Teacher
  • Poetic Champions Compose
  • Irish Heartbeat
  • Hymns To the Silence
  • A Night In San Francisco
  • The Healing Game
  • Astral Weeks: Live At The Hollywood Bowl
  • Roll With The Punches
  • The Prophet Speaks
  • Three Chords And The Truth

I’m very surprised Comnon One hasn’t received more support to push it up from the 4 star reader rating.

Van Morrison on Setlist.fm

Setlist.fm is an excellent website that records the concert dates and setlists of the performances.

Very usefully it summarises the information it collects to produce statistics for the artist’s career and individual years and tours. It relies on user support to record the setlists so there is a bias towards the last few decades rather than the 1960s and ’70s.

The 10 songs it believes Van Morrison plays in concert are (as at 30 March 2020):

  • Moondance
  • Gloria
  • Brown Eyed Girl
  • Help Me (this is a cover of a Sonny Boy Williamson song that first appeared on It’s Too Late To Stop Now)
  • Have I Told You Lately (from Avalon Sunset)
  • Precious Time (from Back On Top)
  • Days Like This (album title track)
  • Cleaning Windows (Beautiful Vision)
  • Bright Side Of The Road (Into The Music)
  • Jackie Wilson Said (Saint Dominic’s Preview)

These seem to be fairly popular choices aimed at the general public and the more casual fan.

Some of the more longer, stream-of-consciousness tracks are played fairly regularly with summertime In England at #12, In The Garden at #17, And The Healing has Begun at #32, Cyprus Avenue at #95, Madame George at #109 and the amazing Listen To The Lion at #116. I’m sure that if we had more setlists from the 70s and 80s, these would be pushed much higher. Morrison has refused to get stuck in the past, unlike many of his peers.

Essential Albums at Rolling Stone Magazine

This excellent article has five must-haves in:

Astral Weeks
Moondance
Saint Dominic’s Preview
It’s Too Late To Stop Now
Veedon Fleece

with further listening recommended for:
Into The Music
Blowin’ Your Mind!
Tupelo Honey
The Healing Game

Again little love for Common One. This is strange.

Readers Votes From BestEverAlbums.com

If you love lists, then you’ll find this website fascinating as it’s compiled from readers posting their favourite albums of all-time.

Their Top 5 albums are:

  1. Astral Weeks
  2. Moondance
  3. Veedon Fleece
  4. Saint Dominic’s Preview
  5. Into The Music

My other 10/10 albums are rated as:

  • It’s Too Late To Stop Now at #7
  • No Guru, No Method, No Teacher at #9
  • Common One at #11
  • A Night In San Francisco at #24
  • It’s Too Late To Stop Vols 2, 3 & 4 at 33

Books On Van Morrison

I’m much more drawn to books about van’s music than his life and squabbles with the music industry or other musicians.

Van Morrison 20 Best Albums: A Guide by Mark Holmes

This kindle book is excellent and a bargain at 99p at Amazon.co.uk.

Mark’s top albums are:

  1. Veedon Fleece
  2. Astral Weeks
  3. Saint Dominic’s Preview
  4. Common One
  5. No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
  6. Into The Music

No wonder I like it, his top six includes five of my 10/10 albums with Moondance down at #8.

He writes with great enthusiasm about his favourite albums and he always makes me want to listen to the album to see if I agree with his comments. Further own the list, he’s not shy about being critical, even though he loves Van Morrison.

It also includes a top 50 songs which I’ve compiled as a musical tour across the albums.

The Words And Music of Van Morrison by Erik Hage

This is a more thoughtful, less passionate analysis of Van Morrison’s music. As I was reading it, I was learning a lot about how the music evolved but it doesn’t encourage me to listen in the same way as the above book.

As a book it is very good but I feel that it is expensive for what’s here.

Conclusions

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *