Van Morrison Jim Miller - Essay

Jim Miller

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Van Morrison is an enigmatic figure. Although he practices the art of a flamboyant soul trouper, he maintains an oddly detached, awkward stage presence. His vision is hermetic, his energy implosive; yet his vocation is public.

These are curious contradictions for a performer to sustain, but they help lend Morrison's art its resonance. His distinction lies in his fusion of a visceral intensity with an introspective lyric style—a potentially powerful amalgam owing as much to Bobby Bland as Bob Dylan. Although his lyrics have often been ludicrous, and his bands merely competent, Morrison's singing animates his material….

[His] lyrics, at best carrying the conviction of spontaneous creation, can become belabored, intentionally arty. Morrison in fact walks a thin line between pretense and passion.

[Veedon Fleece] illustrates the pitfalls, in Morrison's approach. With its splintered lyrics reiterated over swells of sound, the record's first side returns to the style of Astral Weeks. While this approach can be hypnotic, its recycling on Veedon Fleece flounders in Morrison's own cliches….

["You Don't Pull No Punches but You Don't Push the River"] is pompous tripe. Van Morrison doesn't need it, and neither do we. How do you breathe soul into a phrase like "contemplatin' William Blake and the Eternals"?…

Coming from anyone else, Veedon Fleece would merely be an embarrassment. Coming from Van Morrison, it seems more like another aberration in a fitfully inspired career.

Jim Miller, "Van: Fleece Brutality," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1975; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 177, January 2, 1975, p. 62.