When R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe wrote "That's me in the spotlight / Losing my religion," he could have been singing about Van Morrison, the man who lost his three times within a decade. In the end, though, Van returned to Chri... more »st and found himself rewarded with his first British Top 20 hit. With its sparse piano hook and Cliff Richard's guest vocals, "Whenever God Shines His Light" is a misleading beginning for an album awash in the kind of sentimental orchestration that might hurt one's teeth were it not for its perpetrators' almost childlike wonder. Cynics, then, needn't concern themselves with love songs like "Have I Told You Lately" and "Orangefield"--both of which suggest that, despite his renewal of faith, Morrison's muse isn't purely metaphysical. Even better is the spoken-word reverie "Coney Island," in which a grown man can be heard extolling the virtues of potted herrings. Naturally, it's the best thing here. --Peter Paphides« less
When R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe wrote "That's me in the spotlight / Losing my religion," he could have been singing about Van Morrison, the man who lost his three times within a decade. In the end, though, Van returned to Christ and found himself rewarded with his first British Top 20 hit. With its sparse piano hook and Cliff Richard's guest vocals, "Whenever God Shines His Light" is a misleading beginning for an album awash in the kind of sentimental orchestration that might hurt one's teeth were it not for its perpetrators' almost childlike wonder. Cynics, then, needn't concern themselves with love songs like "Have I Told You Lately" and "Orangefield"--both of which suggest that, despite his renewal of faith, Morrison's muse isn't purely metaphysical. Even better is the spoken-word reverie "Coney Island," in which a grown man can be heard extolling the virtues of potted herrings. Naturally, it's the best thing here. --Peter Paphides
Mike Leone | Houston, TX, United States | 03/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Van Morrison's "Avalon Sunset" was originally released back in 1989, but it is as wonderful today as when it first came out. One measure of how well Van is able to speak to people is that I still hear the song "Have I Told You Lately" from this album quite regularly on the radio."Avalon Sunset" is perhaps best known for being a spiritual album (I prefer the word "spiritual" to the word "religious"), but as a matter of fact only a couple of the songs on the album have an overtly spiritual bent to them, including the initial "Whenever God Shines His Light on Me." This song is a real attention-grabber--great melody, beat and words--and deserves its spot at the beginning of the album. I sometimes stop and play this track two or three times before moving on to the rest. The most famous song here is, of course, "Have I Told You Lately [That I Love You]." What I especially like about it is that I can listen to it on a couple of different levels, either as a song of praise to God or else as a simple love song addressed to another person. It's that subtlety, that lack of "beating me over the head" with the lyrics, that I find especially appealing, but the more I hear the song, the more I find comfort in the spiritual interpretation of it.Of course, there are any number of songs on here that deserve to be as well known as "Have I Told You Lately," and that repay repeated listenings. Some of my other favorites on this album are "I'd Love to Write Another Song," "I'm Tired Joey Boy" and "Orangefield."One very special track is "Coney Island." Van's voice, reminiscent of John Prine's in some ways, is very expressive, and especially so in this piece. "Coney Island" is not a song at all but rather a short spoken description of a trip Van took to Coney Island with someone special, the stops they made on the way, the photos they took, the food they bought, and so forth. If I had to pick a favorite phrase here, it would be "I look at the side of your face," which is indelibly etched into my memory.I have enjoyed this album many times and expect to continue enjoying it well into the future. Indeed, "Avalon Sunset" is at the top of my short list of indispensable albums."
Terrific Comeback Effort By Van Morrison!
Barron Laycock | Temple, New Hampshire United States | 03/25/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For anyone who has marveled over the range and depth of Van Morrison's prolific work over the last three decades, this terrific album first released in 1989 represented a resurgence of his powerful songwriting and performing skills. The songs included offer a startling range of styles, subject matter, and themes, but all share a kind of quiet celebration of the mature Van, able to sing, play and even chant his way through a song like no one else can. Indeed, after a string of disappointing albums that did not gain wide recognition or playtime, this album reestablished Morrison as a star of the first magnitude. So, we find the eclectic star of "Them" and then the guy who sang everything from "Brown Eyed Girl" to "Moondance" waxing sentimental here about love, dawn drives through the country, and God.From the smash hit opener of "Whenever God Shines His Light", sung with British rock icon Cliff Richard, to the thoughtful and pensive "Coney Island", Van shows why he is such an enduring presence in the contemporary pop music scene. Diffidently intelligent, Morrison muses about the strains of contemporary culture in "I'm Tired, Joey Boy", and waxes eloquently about his re-found Christian faith in "When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God?", which is also my personal favorite here. Also noteworthy are "Orangefield", "These Are The Days", and a smashing rendition of "Daring Night". In fact, I really like all of the cuts here, but have to admit I still like the long-time hit garnered here with "Have I Told you Lately", which Van admitted was a self-conscious effort to emulate the work of Frank Sinatra with an out-and-out love song. This album is a keeper, and one you are sure to enjoy. I still do!"
The Return of True Genius
Barron Laycock | 10/25/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Avalon Sunset" in my opinion marks a return to Van Morrison of yesteryear. Songs such as "Whenever God Shines His Light" and "I'd Love To Write Another Song" sound as if they were fresh from his "Into The Music" era. "Contacting My Angel" hearkens back to "Astral Weeks" or "Veedon Fleece", and "Have I Told You Lately" stands on its own as a fine single. This follow-up to "Irish Heartbeat" truly matches in quality and these two albums mark a much improved Van Morrison."
Van is definitely not "Tired Joey Boy!"
D. Hawkins | Denver, CO United States | 01/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"His second of three straight masterpieces (Poetic Champions Compose" before and "Enlightenment" after), "Avalon Sunset" brought Van back into many people's lives with the success of "Have I Told You Lately." The Rod Stewart cover debacle aside, this song has stood the test of time very nicely. Of course, the thing for me that puts this song over the top is the piano solo by Neil Drinkwater. The warmth of this solo could melt icebergs, and he's a big reason why Van's three albums from this period are so masterful. Neil also shines on the other two releases, giving them a level of feeling that would make Bill Evans proud. Like many Van fans, I also love the wonderfully eccentric tracks "Coney Island" and "I'm Tired Joey Boy." Add these songs to other gems like "Whenever God Shines His Light" (love that piano), "Contacting My Angel" and Orangefield" and you have a masterpiece in the making."
Van the Man vs. 101 Strings: We All Win
D. Hawkins | 03/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some fans don't like a string section with their Van. They don't know what they're missing.I didn't realize at first what makes this album one of the great VM listens. It sneaks up on you. It's not the fact that there is a big string section in the mix, it's how incredibly WELL-ARRANGED the strings are in each song.They play the role of piano, guitar, and backup vocalist on different cuts. And sometimes, as on "Have I Told You Lately," they fill every hole in the arrangement beautifully, making the song an instant classic. I assumed that this song was a cover, written by someone else ages ago. The fact that I was wrong gave the song all the more impact to me. "Instant Classic" in the dictionary should list "Have I Told You" in definition #1.Considering that Morrison releases about an album a week, the fact that he took such care in the sound of this collection sets it apart from his other works. He takes us someplace new with "Avalon Sunset." It's a trip well worth taking."