Saint Dominic’s Preview
In yet another case of a turbulent personal life acting as the breeding ground for great art, Morrison’s failing marriage informs his music on Saint Dominic’s Preview. The love songs of the domestic trilogy are replaced with more eclectic and ambitious material. Saint Dominic’s Preview is perhaps the quintessential album of Van Morrison’s early career, covering both punchy R&B pop craft like the opening ‘Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)’ and artier impulses like the ten minute semi-improvisations that close each side of the original LP.
It’s difficult to dislike this album’s five shorter songs; they’re all succinct and catchy, and enjoyment really hinges on reaction to the two longer and more esoteric tracks. ‘Listen To The Lion’ is superficially conventional, but its unique aspect is its limited lyrics as the title phrase is repeated like a mantra, demonstrating the emotional pull of Morrison’s voice; it’s surprisingly captivating over its eleven minute running time. ‘Almost Independence Day’ is more difficult, perhaps because of the Moog synthesiser that’s a key part of the arrangement, a rare foray into electronic sounds for this era of Morrison’s career and invasive for a track that’s otherwise reminiscent of Astral Weeks.
Of the less weighty material, the title track is a six minute tour-de-force in its own right, with a catchy chorus hook and spiritual atmosphere. The opening trio of ‘Jackie Wilson’, ‘Gypsy’, and ‘I Will Be There’ represent some of Morrison’s most accessible writing, with plenty of hooks and memorable choruses. With Van Morrison following his muse and coming up with accessible songs simultaneously, Saint Dominic’s Preview is easily among the man’s essential works, a slightly flawed but still fascinating album.