Avalon Sunset

Avalon Sunset is the nineteenth studio album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was released in 1989 by Mercury Records to both commercial and critical success.

Avalon Sunset
Studio album by
Released19 May 1989
StudioThe Woolhall, Eden, Olympic, Westside and The Townhouse Studios, England
GenreFolk rock, new-age
ProducerVan Morrison
Van Morrison chronology
Irish Heartbeat
Avalon Sunset
The Best of Van Morrison
Singles from Avalon Sunset
  1. "Have I Told You Lately" b/w "Contacting My Angel"
    Released: June 1989
  2. "Whenever God Shines His Light" b/w "I'd Love to Write Another Song"
    Released: November 1989
  3. "Orangefield" b/w "These Are the Days"
    Released: December 1989
  4. "Coney Island" b/w "Have I Told You Lately"
    Released: January 1990

On 9 January 2008, Avalon Sunset was reissued and remastered, featuring an alternative take of "Whenever God Shines His Light", and a version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" with additional lyrics by Morrison.


This album was recorded in England at Woodhall Studio, Eden Studio, Olympic Studio, Westside Studio, and Townhouse Studio.[1] It marked the first appearance with Morrison of Georgie Fame, who played the Hammond organ and also provided backup vocals and helped direct the band. Morrison and Fame would work together for most of the nineties.

The all new songs were rehearsed in two days and then recorded in another two days. Arty McGlynn (the guitarist) remarked about the band's feelings when the sessions ended "we still don't know if it's an album, or maybe a demo for an album." Morrison's reliance on spontaneity was evident on "Daring Night" where he can be heard calling out chord changes "one-four, one-four" (Gmaj to Cmaj) to Roy Jones near the song's ending.[2] The album was previewed at a private concert at Ronnie Scott's club on 24 May 1989.[3]

Music and lyrics

On Avalon Sunset, Rob Sheffield wrote, Morrison sang about God and love in a scat-influenced style, set against a musical backdrop of mellow folk rock.[4] According to Donald Clarke, the album combined "religiosity and Celtic feeling, a sort of superior New Age music".[5]

The album opens with "Whenever God Shines His Light", issued as a successful single that charted at #20 in the U.K. and was a duet with Cliff Richard. The album contains the religious ballad "Have I Told You Lately", which became a hit single for Morrison, reaching #12 on the Adult Contemporary Charts and was a bigger hit for Rod Stewart in 1993. This song was included on Morrison's 2007 album, Van Morrison at the Movies - Soundtrack Hits. Brian Hinton compares the idyllic female in "Orangefield" to Beatrice in the Divine Comedy.[6].

Phil Keaggy covered "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God" on his 1993 album Crimson and Blue.

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[10]
The Village VoiceA−[11]

Avalon Sunset was one of Morrison's most commercially successful albums,[7] and his fastest-selling record in the United Kingdom, being certified gold soon after its release.[12] The album was also met with critical acclaim.[13] In a review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau said Morrison has found new inspiration in more temporal themes, especially on the album's first side, although he cited the redemption-themed "Whenever God Shines His Light" as his most exuberant song since 1982's "Cleaning Windows".[11] Spin magazine's Karen Schoemer called it an elegantly orchestrated record void of pain: "He celebrates nature, love and poetry too; this is contemplation without conflict, remembrances without bitterness. And no matter how esoteric things get, a charged sensuality permeates."[14] In the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot said "I'd Love to Write Another Song" is a return to his 1960s and 1970s peak; on what is an otherwise good showcase for his insightful vocal delivery of simple yet evocative lyrics and a style of music that "strikes an artful middle ground between the visceral joys of Top 40 and the soothing aural wallpaper of New Age."[8]

At the end of 1989, Christgau named Avalon Sunset the 22nd best album of the year in his list for the annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.[15] The Times ranked it 63rd their 1993 list of "All Time Top 100 Albums".[16] In The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2006), Colin Larkin wrote that the record featured "quite immaculate love songs" from Morrison, along with a prominent sense of spirituality and nostalgia throughout,[9] while Morrison biographer Erik Hage called it "a powerful statement [showing] the often turbulent muse had stabilized, and was now a sublime force flowing through Van Morrison".[12] AllMusic's Jason Ankeny was less enthusiastic and found it somewhat inconsistent but "nevertheless the work of a master craftsman, its lush orchestration and atmospheric production casting an irresistibly elegant spell".[7]

Track listing

All songs written by Van Morrison, except where noted.

  1. "Whenever God Shines His Light" (Duet with Cliff Richard) – 4:58
  2. "Contacting My Angel" – 4:57
  3. "I'd Love to Write Another Song" – 2:52
  4. "Have I Told You Lately" – 4:20
  5. "Coney Island" – 2:00
  6. "I'm Tired Joey Boy" – 2:29
  7. "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God" – 5:38
  8. "Orangefield" – 3:50
  9. "Daring Night" – 6:10
  10. "These Are the Days" – 5:08

CD reissue bonus tracks

  1. "Whenever God Shines His Light" – 3:51 (Alternative take)
  2. "When the Saints Go Marching In" – 6:01 (Traditional, arr. by Morrison)



Chart (1989) Peak
UK Albums Chart 13
US Billboard 200 91
Norwegian Albums Chart 11
Swedish Albums Chart 10
Australian Albums Chart 30
New Zealand Albums Chart 18


Region CertificationCertified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[17] Gold 50,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[18] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[19] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[20] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. "Van Morrison – Avalon Sunset CD Album". CD Universe. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  2. Heylin, Can You Feel the Silence?, p. 429
  3. Hinton, Celtic Crossroads, p. 256
  4. Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Van Morrison". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 561. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  5. Clarke, Donald (1998). The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2nd ed.). Penguin Books. p. 897. ISBN 0140513701.
  6. Hinton. Celtic Crossroads. p. 275-280
  7. Ankeny, Jason. "Review: Avalon Sunset". allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  8. Kot, Greg (1989). "Morrison's Meditations". Chicago Tribune (15 June). Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  9. Larkin, Colin (2006). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 0195313739.
  10. Evans, Paul (1992). "Van Morrison". In DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly (eds.). The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Random House. p. 487–88. ISBN 0679737294.
  11. Christgau, Robert (1989). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (5 September). New York. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  12. Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison, p. 110
  13. The Listener. 122: 41. 1989. In the wake of the critically acclaimed (we'd expect that), top ten (not so usual) album Avalon Sunset...CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  14. Schoemer, Karen (1987). "Avalon Sunset". Spin. New York (September): 87. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  15. Christgau, Robert (1990). "Pazz & Jop 1989: Dean's List". The Village Voice. New York (27 February). Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  16. "Rocklist.net...The Times All Time Top 100 Albums – 1993". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  17. "Canadian album certifications – Van Morrison – Avalon Sunset". Music Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  18. "Dutch album certifications – Van Morrison – Avalon Sunset" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 3 June 2019. Enter Avalon Sunset in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  19. "British album certifications – Van Morrison – Avalon Sunset". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 3 June 2019. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Avalon Sunset in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  20. "American album certifications – Van Morrison – Avalon Sunset". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 3 June 2019. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  • Hage, Erik (2009). The Words and Music of Van Morrison, Praeger Publishers, ISBN 978-0-313-35862-3
  • Heylin, Clinton (2003). Can You Feel the Silence? Van Morrison: A New Biography, Chicago Review Press ISBN 1-55652-542-7
  • Hinton, Brian (1997). Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison, Sanctuary, ISBN 1-86074-169-X

Further reading

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