SIGIHT (Song I’m Glad I Heard Today): Van Morrison “Almost Independence Day”

Independence Day is almost over, so fitting that this entry in the SIGIHT series reflects America’s annual celebration of freeing itself from the shackles of the United Kingdom, albeit an impressionistic reflection of that celebration.

Yesterday, I was crisscrossing a portion of New Hampshire via US Route 202 from state line to state line (95 miles from Winchendon, MA to Lebanon, ME, if you’re taking notes). While enjoying the ride under blue skies with the windows down, 75 degree temperatures and no deadline to be anywhere anytime soon, a perfect moment of serendipity occurred: Van Morrison’s “St. Dominic’s Preview” album popped up on the iPod. Not having listened to it from end to end in a while, I was game.

No change bucket for this guy.

The opener alone, “Jackie Wilson Said,” is buoyant enough to hook the most jaded of souls right in. “Gypsy” and “I Will Be There” eases off the gas pedal a bit, while “Listen to the Lion” is one of Van’s meditative masterpieces; a song that’s difficult to really surrender yourself to while operating a motor vehicle. The title cut then appears, a chunk of dreamy Irish soul, leading into “Redwood Tree,” a song that makes me think of Michigan, where there are no redwood trees (I was really digging this track in a rental SUV visiting ski areas on business in The Mitten in 2003—you had to be there. I know I was).

The final track provided that serendipitous moment on that third day of July: “Almost Independence Day.” I was pulling out of a gas station in Chichester, NH when the track began and immediately nudged the volume knob up a bit, as I had not listened to the entire ten minutes of this piece in some time. The acoustic guitar intro immediately strikes even the most casual of Pink Floyd fans; Waters and/or Gilmour could have easily had this in their heads whilst constructing “Wish You Were Here.” The song is dominated by acoustic guitar and gently brushed drums, supported by gentle waves of droning Moog synthesizers. Van Morrison paints evocative pictures of a distant Fourth of July celebration on San Francisco Bay, repeating and driving home the sparse lyrics as he does so well in his most meditative works.

This track was always a favorite of mine on my dearly departed mellow mood mixtapes. Hearing it yesterday reminded me how this song was once a favorite late summer night song of mine when I was living in New Hampshire, so I vowed to wrap up my day with it today, after an enjoyable Fourth with good food, good family and plenty of good conversation and laughs.

If you seek refuge from the crackle-and-pop of fireworks and the sheer loudness of the day, I highly recommend a ten-minute dose of “Almost Independence Day” to round out your Fourth. Listen with lights low, breeze wafting through the windows, and enjoy with your favorite nightcap.

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