Van Morrison’s 50 Greatest Songs Countdown – #20 Listen To The Lion

And all my love come down
All my love come tumblin’ down
All my love come tumblin’ down

TOC

  1. Facts
  2. Quotes
  3. Lyrics
  4. Live versions

Facts


Wikipedia:

A song written by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison and featured on his sixth album, Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972). Its poetic musings and “bass-led shuffle” lead back to Astral Weeks territory.

Morrison plays guitar along with Ronnie Montrose. Connie Kay (drums on Astral Weeks) and Gary Mallaber are also featured players on this song. Mallaber revealed that during this session “There were two different takes. I did one and Connie did the other. They used the one with the live vibes, which is what I played live.” Morrison, Montrose and Boots Houston perform the back-up vocals. According to Ritchie Yorke, “Van used his voice so superbly in this track that it seemed to become part of the instrumentation… Van’s schooling in the art of R&B repetition was never adapted so perfectly.”

Musicians

Live:

  • Known Performances: 72
  • First performance: May 18, 1972 in New York, US
  • Last performance: July 18, 2018 in Molde, Norway

Quotes

It was a soaring exercise in effective rock dynamics. Chunky rhythm guitar, brushes whisking across the drum kit, trembling bongos, flat fat bass, chattering piano, dipping chords, topped off with a stunning vocal… At times it reaches such ecstatic heights that you feel like it’s almost going to tear your head right off.
–> Ritchie Yorke (Van Morrison: Into the Music: The Early Years: 1945 – 1975)

Nowhere is this better illustrated than on “Listen to the Lion,” an impossibly idiosyncratic track from Van’s 1972 album St. Dominic’s Preview. For more than 11 minutes Van wrestles his lyrics like a dog worrying a bone, repeating the same phrases over and over in an incantatory prayer; whispering, moaning, cajoling, pleading and ultimately breaking free of language altogether, soaring off into a scatting, stuttering frenzy before finally roaring like the titular lion, settling down again and morphing back to his normal, irascible self. I know people who hate the song and who find it annoyingly self-indulgent. But for my money it’s the quintessential Van Morrison moment, the most thrilling and thrillingly strange soul music—in all senses of the term—ever recorded. It’s the sound of a man casting off all earthly bounds and battering down the gates of heaven.
–> Andy Whitman (Paste Magazine)

Listen to the Lion has almost no words, just the phrase ‘Listen to the Lion inside of me’…He sings the phrases like an incantation, sometimes desperate and longing for love and at other times boasting of the power of his passion; and then at other times he sings in despair that these emotions have brought him nothing but ruin. He doesn’t need to speak, there’s nothing more to be said, but to let yourself drift off beyond the words and the narratives and just feel the rush and the pause and savour those moments.
–> Toby Creswell (1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them)

Here, as on much of Astral Weeks, the momentum is carried forward by incantatory rhythmic strumming (Van and Ronnie Montrose). But whereas the music on Astral Weeks was augmented by strings, “Listen to the Lion” uses subdued backup vocals (Montrose, Houston, and Van) to achieve the same hypnotic effect. The result is a purer but no less captivating sound than on Astral Weeks.
–> Stephen Holden (Rolling Stone Magazine)

Across 11 minutes, he [Morrison] sings, chants, moans, cries, pleads, shouts, hollers, whispers, until finally he breaks away from language and speaks in Irish tongues, breaking away from ordinary meaning until he has loosed the lion inside himself. He begins to roar: he has that sound, that yarrrrragh, as he has never had it before. He is not singing it, it is singing him.
–> Greil Marcus (greilmarcus.net)

During the 11-minute voyage, he sings, shouts, improvises lines, delays and omits them, until he symbolically re-creates the sound of an unleashed lion within himself. It remains a considerable achievement.
–> Johnny Rogan (Van Morrison – No Surrender)

I’ve always felt this song to be the centerpiece of the album. The sprawling epic unfolds over an intoxicating 11 minutes and represents Van at his very best. I’m not sure how many artists could match Morrison’s creative muse when he’s on this sort of form. His approach to making sounds (as opposed to just singing) seems pretty original to these ears. .. It commences with effective, mood-setting guitar, swishing percussions and unobtrusive piano. In the first three minutes alone the music builds up several times to only come down again before slowly building again. It’s similar to waves slowly building then crashing on the shore before the next one starts. The combination of instruments sets the song up for the key feature – Van’s vocals. I would have dearly wished to see him recording this track. I can just picture him being totally oblivious to his surroundings. The song subtlety progresses from the tranquil to an astonishing intensity over 11+ minutes that simply fly by. Van doesn’t always nail the epic, but when he does it is often breathtaking. It is on songs such as Listen to the Lion that put him up there with the truly greats. I have read comments that it goes on too long, or that it doesn’t develop enough. Fair enough – but I simply disagree. There is plenty going on here; some of the changes are subtle, others less so.
–> Mark Holmes (Van Morrison 20 Best Albums: A Guide (Kindle Edition)

.but arguably the best due to Van’s most amazing vocal performance ever. The song is an 11:08 minute soul journey into finding and following your inner voice amid crashing piano, cascading acoustic guitar, and strumming mandolin. That alone makes it a good song, but what takes it to best of all time level is at about the five minute mark Van stops singing words and starts scatting non-stop for the next 3 minutes. He growls, wails, roars, and howls as if possessed and wrestling with the lion inside. After these vocal fireworks the exhausted Van finishes the song barely whispering about sailing on a journey to mystical Caledonia. A fascinating, one of a kind song.
~theframjak (hubpages.com)

Lyrics

And all my love come down
All my love come tumblin’ down
All my love come tumblin’ down
All my love come tumblin’ down
Oh, listen listen
To the lion
Oh, listen listen listen
To the lion
Inside of me
Oh, oh, oh

And I shall search my soul
I shall search my very soul
And I shall search my very soul
I shall search my very soul

For the lion
For the lion
For the lion
For the lion
Inside of me
Oh, oh, yeah

And all my tears have flown
All my tears like water flown
And all my tears like water flown
All my tears like a water flown

For the lion
For the lion
For the lion
For the lion
Inside of me

Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion
Listen to the lion

And we sailed, and we sailed
And we sailed, and we sailed
And we sailed, and we sailed
sailed to Caledonia

And we sailed, and we sailed
And we sailed, and we sailed, and we sailed
Away from Denmark
Way up to Caledonia
Away from Denmark
Way up to Caledonia

And we sailed, and we sailed, and we sailed
All around the world
And we sailed, and we sailed, and we sailed
Looking for a brand new start

And we sailed
And we sailed, and we sailed
All around the world, a brand new start

Looking for a brand new start
Looking for a brand new start
Looking for a brand new start

And we sailed, and we sailed, and we sailed
And we sailed
Away from the Golden Gate
Way up to the New York City

Live versions

February 2, 1974 – Winterland, San Francisco, CA

March 15, 1974 – The Felt Forum, New York City, US

July 29, 1974 – Orphanage, San Francisco, CA

June 18, 1980 – Montreux, Switzerland

July 17, 1989 – Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland

August 5, 1995 – Toldkammeret, Helsingør, Denmark

November 2008 – Hollywood Bowl, LA

Sources

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