Van Morrison’s Magic Time: A Great Album from a Colossal Talent

I have only in the past couple of years become a fan of Van Morrison. I have always known who he is, but only in the last couple of years have I realized what a talent he is. Now, he has had his misses, which I think this year’s ‘Pay the Devil’ can be counted as, and he has had his successes, which last year’s ‘Magic Time’ can be counted as.

Everyone at least knows the hook and the refrain from ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and have probably lauded over his ‘Have I Told You Lately’ even though most people only know the Rod Stewart version and don’t even realize Van wrote that song and has his own, even better version. He is definitely a talent to be reckoned with, even if the greater public and the man himself do not realize it.

In the above paragraph I mentioned his 2005 release ‘Magic Time.’ While many people have reviewed the album, I want to offer a somewhat critical review. I’m not going to talk about which song has the prettiest melody or the one with the catchiest beat, because I feel that those areas often fall under Van’s lesser talents. For me, Van’s real talents are vested in writing lyrics. It is the lyrics of some of the stronger songs of ‘Magic Time’ that I want to talk about; unfortunately, because I am not a big fan of getting sued for copyright infringement, I will not write out any of the actual lyrics.

The first song I’ll write about (and the second one to appear on the album) is ‘Celtic New Year.’ I’ll admit it was this song title alone that made me buy this album. Anytime Van Morrison and the word Celtic are connected, it is something wonderful and not to be passed up. I wasn’t disappointed when I listened to the song and its words. The words aren’t written in a linear frame nor do they make much sense to a person who doesn’t like poetry, but they are powerful.

First of all they create that mystic image of an Ireland long gone that Van Morrison has been cultivating over the years and they offer an insight into the heart and passions, like going to the heart of jazz and blues, New Orleans, of a normally stoic man. They lyrics show tenderness towards the woman he loves, because this is a love song, and who just made him a father again.

The next song is ‘Just Like Greta Garbo (I Just Want to be Alone).’ For years Van has been known as not being keen on the press and for keeping a low profile. An explanation for why has always been asked for and the lyrics to this song are it. Van is saying that he’s just a normal man that has his ups and downs and enjoys just being ‘left alone.’ The lyrics show that he’s not a man on the run, but a man who is standing pat in his quest for solitude and not making any apologies for it and the press be damned.

Now the strongest song lyrically wise would have to be ‘They Sold Me Out.’ For me, this was the hidden treasure in the mix. It incorporates many of Van’s distinctive lyrical styles, such as the oddly framed Biblical message. Van Morrison is definitely casting himself as the beleagured Christ-figure in the words of this song. While this image could be questionable and even inflammatory, the lyrics make it go down as smoothly as twelve-year-old scotch.

He isn’t just lamenting his, blatant, distaste for the music industry in this song, but for the general state of humanity. Everyone is trying to sell somebody else out so they can reap the attention. The lyrics are crafted in such a way that any person can actually replace Van as the Christ-figure, personal beliefs permitting. It is a song that one will probably set on repeat to hear it over-and-over again. To use a clichÃ?©, it is a diamond in the rough.

There is so much more to discuss about this album, but it is hard to put into words. I know the review is a year and a half late, but it doesn’t mean it’s invalid. The fact is to truly appreciate the work Van Morrison put into making this album, one has to buy it. It’s not just something that can be listened to only once, because the listener will want to listen again and again to find every gem that comes forth on every new listening. I’ve rambled enough, just go buy the album ‘Magic Time.’

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