Hard Nose the Highway

Hard Nose the Highway is the seventh studio album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, released in 1973 (see 1973 in music). The album contains the single "Warm Love," a fan favourite.[1]

Hard Nose The Highway
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 1973
Recorded21–25 August and October 1972 at Caledonia Studio
GenreFolk rock, R&B, blue-eyed soul
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerVan Morrison
Van Morrison chronology
Saint Dominic's Preview
Hard Nose The Highway
It's Too Late to Stop Now
Singles from Hard Nose the Highway
  1. "Warm Love" b/w "I Will Be There"
    Released: 25 April 1973
  2. "Bein' Green" b/w "Wild Children"
    Released: September 1973

It is his second solo album to contain songs not written by Morrison. A cover version of the song "Bein' Green", usually associated with Kermit the Frog, is included, as is a take of the traditional song "Purple Heather".


Recorded during a series of prolific recording sessions, there was more than enough material to fill a double-album. Morrison proposed the idea to Warner Bros. Records, but he was ultimately convinced to release a single LP. During the recording sessions held between August and November 1972, there were nearly thirty songs recorded in all, at least three quarters of them original compositions. A few leftover tracks were saved or re-recorded for future albums like Veedon Fleece, but most would not see release until 1998's compilation of outtakes, The Philosopher's Stone, when nine of the songs would be used. Biographer Clinton Heylin suggested that "only 'Warm Love' and 'Hard Nose the Highway' could have sat comfortably alongside 'rejects' like 'Madame Joy', 'Bulbs', 'Spare Me a Little', 'Country Fair', 'Contemplation Rose' and 'Drumshanbo Hustle'."[2]

By Morrison's own account, this was the first album that was completely produced under his complete control. The recording sessions even took place in a recording studio he had built next door to his home in Fairfax, California. He remarked on the album: "As a concept for the album, I was just trying to establish how hard it was to do what I do. Plus there were some lighter things on the other side of it. One side has a kind of hard feeling while the other is soft."[3]


"Snow in San Anselmo" is the opening song and features the backing vocals of the Oakland Symphony Chamber Chorus. Morrison says the song is, "just a sketch on when it snowed in San Anselmo. It's about the images that were happening when it was snowing there for the first time in thirty years."[4]

"Warm Love" was released as a successful single and was also a favorite concert performance in the 70s. It featured the catchy line, "and it's ever present everywhere, Warm Love."

The title song, "Hard Nose the Highway" is explained by Morrison as: "the theme running through the whole song is 'Seen some hard times' which I have 'Drawn some fine lines' which I definitely have, and 'No time for shoe shines' when you're trying to make a living."[5]

"Wild Children" is actually about the post-war children growing up in other countries and getting their images—from American anti-heroes such as those portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger and playwright Tennessee Williams.[6]

"The Great Deception" is according to biographer, Richie Yorke: "One of the most stinging indictments from any observer, let alone a rock artist, of the tragic hypocrisy of so many participants in the sub-culture, in particular the big-time rock stars of this era."[7]

"Being Green" is the first non-original composition Morrison had included on any album for Warner Bros. so far and was taken from the popular American children's TV show, Sesame Street, which he must have watched with his young daughter, Shana. He says about his interpretation of the song, "That was just a statement that you don't have to be flamboyant. If somebody doesn't like you just because you're a certain thing, then maybe they're seeing the wrong thing."[8]

A reviewer said about the ten and a half minute "Autumn Song": "I can't deny that it's the funkiest song about the splendors and moods of fall that has ever glided through my ears." [9]

The ending song, "Purple Heather" is the traditional "Wild Mountain Thyme" written by F. McPeake as a variant of Robert Tannahill's "The Braes of Balquhidder", and re-arranged by Morrison.[10]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideB–[12]
The Village VoiceC+[13]

According to Ritchie Yorke, who published his biography, Into the Music in 1975, the album enjoyed rave reviews at the time of release. He cited one dissenting critic Charlie Gillett, who wrote in Let It Rock: "The trouble with Hard Nose the Highway is that although the music is quite often interesting, it doesn't have a convincing emotional basis...Despite the lack of inspiration and of melodic focus, the record is attractive to listen to. But Van Morrison has set high standards for himself and Hard Nose the Highway doesn't live up to them."[14]

Robert Christgau rated it only a B− and mostly dismissed it with: "The relaxed rhythms are just lax most of the time, the vocal surprises mild after Saint Dominic's Preview, the lyrics dumbest when they're more than mood pieces, and the song construction offhand except on 'Warm Love'."[15]

Stephen Holden in his 1973 Rolling Stone review said: "Hard Nose the Highway is psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent. Its surface pleasures are a little less than those of St. Dominic's Preview and a great deal less than those of Tupelo Honey, while its lyric depths are richer and more accessible than those of either predecessor. The major theme of Hard Nose is nostalgia, briefly but firmly counter-pointed by disillusion."[16]

Later assessments in The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979) and The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992) were less generous. In the former, Hard Nose was listed as Morrison's only one-star album to date; reviewer Dave Marsh called it "a failed sidestep, a compromise between the visionary demands of Morrison's work and his desire for a broad-based audience."[17] In the later edition, Paul Evans called the record the "vaguest and weakest" of Morrison's 1970s output.[18]

In the opinion of biographer Erik Hage, "Hard Nose the Highway seems to have suffered a lot of unnecessary criticism—many commentators consider it his worst and most uninspired album—perhaps because it followed such a remarkable run of LPs, and because two truly forward-thinking albums had come before and after it (1972's Saint Dominic's Preview and 1974's Veedon Fleece)."[19]

Track listing

All songs written by Van Morrison, unless otherwise noted.

Side one

  1. "Snow in San Anselmo" – 4:33
  2. "Warm Love" – 3:22
  3. "Hard Nose the Highway" – 5:12
  4. "Wild Children" – 4:19
  5. "The Great Deception" – 4:50

Side two

  1. "Bein' Green" (Joe Raposo) – 4:20
  2. "Autumn Song" – 10:34
  3. "Purple Heather" (Traditional) – 5:42



  • Producer: Van Morrison
  • Engineers: Neil Schwartz, Jim Stern
  • Arrangers: Van Morrison, Jef Labes (strings), Jack Schroer, (horns)
  • Album Cover Art: Rob Springett


Chart (1974) Peak
US Billboard Top LPs 27
UK Albums Chart 22


  1. Hinton. Celtic Crossroads. p.149
  2. Heylin, Can You Feel the Silence? pp. 263–266
  3. Yorke, Into the Music, p.99
  4. Hinton, Celtic Crossroads, p. 149
  5. Yorke, Into the Music, p. 104
  6. Yorke, Into the Music, p. 105
  7. Yorke, Into the Music, p. 106
  8. Yorke, Into the Music, p. 108
  9. Yorke, Into the Music, p. 109
  10. Yorke, Into the Music, p. 110
  11. Ruhlmann, William. "Hard Nose the Highway review". allmusic..com. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  12. Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 8 March 2019 via robertchristgau.com.
  13. Christgau, Robert (November 1973). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  14. Yorke, Into the Music pp. 110–111
  15. Christgau, Robert. "Hard Nose the Highway review". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  16. "Hard Nose the Highway review". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
  17. Dave Marsh and John Swenson, eds., The Rolling Stone Record Guide. New York, Random House, 1979.
  18. Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, eds., The Rolling Stone Album Guide. New York, Random House, 1992.
  19. Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison, p. 69
  20. "Rick Shlosser – About". rickshlosser.com. Retrieved 7 June 2010.


  • 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
  • Yorke, Ritchie (1975). Into The Music, London:Charisma Books, ISBN 0-85947-013-X
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