Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
Not one of Van's very best, but OK with a couple of memorable highlights
on 28 December 2010
Van Morrison's long and somewhat uneven musical career is punctuated by changes in direction and musical emphasis: the best is sublime, and the worst - well, isn't. True to form, "Avalon Sunset" falls short of the all-time great status of its immediate predecessor "Poetic Champions Compose" and lacks the earlier album's complex musical arrangements. It's very different.
Often regarded as one of Van's more "spiritual" offerings, the album's name comes from being in part recorded near the "Avalon" country of Glastonbury Tor and Avebury Circle. At least three of the songs have undisguised religious/spiritual themes, including the album's opener - a catchy duet with Britain's own vintage Christian rocker Cliff Richard. The songs are mostly mellow in style and supported by classy production, the competent backing vocals of Katie Kissoon and Carol Kenyan and fulsome string arrangements. Highlights include "Have I told you lately..." (forget the appalling massacre of this song by Rod Stewart); the poetic spoken-not-sung "Coney Island" (an experimental stylistic device perfected in the later "Hyndford Street" on "Hymns to the Silence"); "I'm Tired, Joey Boy" with its simplistic but memorable melody line and, most especially "Daring Night" with its lyrical theme of covert sexual passion woven into a cosmic star-crossed tapestry and radically different in tone to almost everything else on the album.
A lot of people really like this album but overall, "Avalon Sunset" has a populist, accessible feel and is not usually considered to be a career-milestone like "Astral Weeks", "Moondance" or the sublime "Hymns to the Silence." Bookended by the excellent "Poetic Champions Compose" (possibly one of the best repeat-playable albums ever, from any artist) and by the very good "Enlightenment" AS slips through the cracks and - dare one even suggest such a thing for a Van Morrison album - in places slides towards the mediocre. It's not actually bad, and one or two of the individual songs are quite good, but overall it's not great either and, for Van, falls short of his best work.