Van Morrison in the 1980s: Five Best Albums

I’ve already posted about my favourite five Van Morrison albums, but all five were released in the 1960s and 1970s. While he didn’t reach the level of his earlier peaks, Van Morrison continued to release fine albums in the 1980s.

While other rock veterans like Neil Young, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan struggled with the 1980s, sounding out of ideas or overwhelmed by new technology, Van Morrison continued to follow his muse. While you could argue that his 1980s catalogue strayed too close to polite adult contemporary, he only dabbled mildly with fashionable 1980s trends like synthesizers and reverb, and his records sound elegant and gorgeous.

If his vocal power was diminished from its earlier peaks, his voice was still distinctive. He could still write hit songs – ‘Have I Told You Lately?’ from Avalon Sunset, ‘Queen of the Slipstream’, and ‘Dweller on the Threshold’ are all succinct and melodic songs that hold up to his earlier hits.

For much of the 1980s, Morrison alternated between exploratory works, a la Astral Weeks, and pop-oriented records, a la Moondance. This duality of approaches helps to make the journey through his 1980s catalogue more enjoyable. During the 1980s, Van Morrison released eight studio albums, including the collaboration with The Chieftains on 1988’s Irish Heartbeat. Here are my five favourites from the era.

Poetic Champions Compose

Van Morrison Poetic Champions Compose

#5, 1987
Poetic Champions Compose was originally conceived as an instrumental album, but morphed into a more conventional Van Morrison project. It was a good decision- a full album of instrumentals in the vein of the three featured here would have functioned merely as a mood piece. But most of the songs here are strong, like the upbeat ‘Queen of the Slipstream’, the romantic ‘Someone Like You’, and ‘Did Ye Get Healed?’

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart

Van Morrison Inarticulate Speech of the Heart

#4, 1983
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart features an off-kilter new age sound, a musical landscape dominated by synthesizers and saxophones, creative and atmospheric. The album is mostly instrumental, and a lot of the vocals are wordless. ‘September Night’ is the apex of the album’s unique approach, with Van Morrison’s grunts and cries of ecstasy punctuated by synthesizers and backing vocals.

Common One

Van Morrison Common One

#3, 1980
If you enjoy the spacey improvisations of Astral Weeks, chances are that Common One will be among your favourite Van Morrison albums from the 1980s. It’s dreamy and mystical, and a couple of songs stretch longer than fifteen minutes. While the improvisations of ‘When Heart Is Open’ and the poetic rants of ‘Summertime in England’ are the record’s dominant features, there’s also the R&B of ‘Satisfied’ and the pretty ‘Wild Honey’.

Beautiful Vision


#2, 1982
Beautiful Vision is one of Van Morrison’s most settled, comfortable albums, and it’s insular with its low key explorations of spirituality and Irish heritage. Even if Van Morrison is sometimes treading water musically, there are plenty of great songs here, and it’s one of his more consistent, most substantial records. There’s melodic pop like ‘Dweller on the Threshold’ and more atmospheric stunners like ‘Across The Bridge Where Angels Dwell’.

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher

Van Morrison No Guru No Method No Teacher

#1, 1986
No Guru, No Method, No Teacher is one of Morrison’s searching, exploratory records. But even though it quotes Astral Weeks in several places, it’s a more tightly arranged album, and its gorgeous instrumental are carefully composed. The longer pieces like ‘In The Garden’ and ‘Tir Na Nog’ are the most striking, but there are also shorter pieces of beauty like ‘One Irish Rover’ and ‘Foreign Window’.

If you’re curious, the strongest 1980s Van Morrison album to miss the cut was 1989’s Avalon Sunset – it’s pretty and ‘Have I Told You Lately’ is a memorable song, but it doesn’t feel ground-breaking, covering similar territory to Poetic Champions Compose.

My overall list of ten favourite Van Morrison studio albums:
#1 – Into The Music (1979)
#2 – Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972)
#3 – Moondance (1970)
#4 – Astral Weeks (1968)
#5 – Veedon Fleece (1974)
#6 – No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986)
#7 – Beautiful Vision (1982)
#8 – Common One (1980)
#9 – Wavelength (1978)
#10 – Tupelo Honey (1971)

Do you enjoy Van Morrison’s 1980s work? Do you have an overall favourite?

Read More:

Van Morrison Album Reviews
More Five of the Best Lists


  1. The only one of these I know is No Guru, No Method, No Teacher and I like that one a lot. First Van Morrison album I bought, actually.

    • Yeah, that 1990 record is strong – I did think about bending the list rules to include it. Would actually be pretty close to making my overall top 10 – maybe 11th or 12th.

    • He had a pretty good 1980s really – managed to walk the line between keeping his sound up to date and staying true to his vision. Could see why the 1980s albums would appeal more sonically.

  2. Beautiful Vision would be my favorite of the 80s…Cleaning Windows stays on my playlist.
    For my all time favorites they switch up depending on the mood. Saint Dominic’s Preview, Astral Weeks, Moondance, and Tupelo Honey are always hovering at the top.

  3. Yes I like his 80’s work. One of the musicians I always get something out of. His music has been with me for a long time and never fails to move me. So much good stuff from all these albums.

  4. My overall Van Morrison ‘best of” lists are:-
    Studio Albums
    1. Into the Music
    2. Moondance
    3. The Healing Game
    4. Enlightenment
    5. Veedon Fleece
    6. Hymns To The Silence
    7. Beautiful Vision
    8. Three Chords And The Truth
    9. Common One
    10. Astral Weeks
    1. Madame George
    2. When The Healing Has Begin
    3. Take It Where You Find It
    4. Tupelo Honey
    5. Brand New Day
    6. Daring Night
    7. Raglan Road
    8. Wonderful Remark (extended version)
    9. Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
    10. In The Garden
    My favourites from the 80s are Beautiful Vision, Common One and a Sense Of Wonder.

  5. It’s difficult with a catalogue as large as Van’s. While I like St. Dominic’s Preview the song I find the slightly extended indulgence of Listen To The Lion and Almost Independence Day keeps it out of the Top 10. Mind you, like with Dylan, I generally prefer the longer tracks but these two have never quite cut it with me.
    Conversely, some excellent shorter ones are the beguiling, mysterious Linden Arden Stole The Highlights from Veedon Fleece, Bulbs from the same album and Redwood Tree from St. Dominic’s Preview.

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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person. It features album reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.

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Graham Fyfe has been writing this website since his late teens. Now in his forties, he's been obsessively listening to albums for years. He works as a web editor and plays the piano.

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