“Summertime in England” by Van Morrison

The Common One album is by far the most divisive record Van Morrison ever released, with some calling it one of his all-time masterpieces while others, including most professional critics at the time of its release, dismiss it as a pretentious bore. This is largely because, while Morrison’s work often evokes spiritual contemplation, this album goes far further in the direction of abstract atmosphere music than any of his other works, being in fact one of the all-time greatest masterpieces of the New Age Music genre, and fans of his more conventional material are often baffled by it. This particular song, for example, is fifteen minutes long, the lyrics are largely endless repetitions of a cycle of small phrases, and there are frequent references to famous poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, William Blake and T.S. Eliot, which is part of what led some to accuse the song of being ‘pretentious’. But this is really beside the point, since the lyrics are more about pure sound and ritual than ‘songwriting’ in the conventional popular sense. Most of the track consists of mystical music blended from the sounds of Irish folk songs and Free Jazz, with Morrison repeating phrases like ‘Walk with me’, ‘It just is’, and ‘Can you feel the light?’ as though they were mantras. Of all the New Age Music I’ve heard yet, this is by far the most genuinely mystical and otherworldly, and I could actually see this music bringing someone into an altered spiritual state all on its own.

Verdict: Good, if you know how to approach it.

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