- With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this original Green Label pressing is one of the BEST we have ever heard
- It’s unusual (to say the least) to find copies of Moondance or Astral Weeks that sound anything like the better copies of Saint Dominic’s Preview (or His Band and Street Choir, an equally good recording)
- One of the better sounding Van Morrison albums, thanks to the superb engineering skills of Donn Landee at Wally Heider’s and elsewhere
- 5 Stars in Rolling Stone: “The coexistence of two styles on the same record turns out to be very refreshing; they complement each other by underscoring the remarkable versatility of Van’s musical imagination… the best-produced, most ambitious Van Morrison record yet released.”
We’ve been huge fans of this album for ages and don’t understand why it doesn’t get more respect. This is the album that comes right after Tupelo Honey and His Band And The Street Choir, so that should tell you something.
The piano has real weight, the bottom end is solid, and the brass sounds lively and rich, never squawky.
This vintage Green Label early pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).
Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Van Morrison singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.
What the Best Sides of Saint Dominic’s Preview Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1972
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Credit Donn Landee (and producer Ted Templeman as well) with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the better copies. Landee recorded many of our favorite albums here at Better Records.
Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; more by Van Halen of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.
What We’re Listening For on Saint Dominic’s Preview
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)
I Will Be There
Listen to the Lion
Saint Dominic’s Preview
Almost Independence Day
The album was recorded during late winter and spring in 1971/72 at Wally Heider Studios and Pacific High Studios in San Francisco and at the Church in San Anselmo. The fourth track on the album, “Listen to the Lion” was recorded during the Tupelo Honey sessions in 1971 at Columbia Studios in San Francisco. Ted Templeman was co-producer on the album.
Several of the musicians who played on the album were newly recruited: Jules Broussard, saxophonist and previously from Boz Scaggs, pianist Mark Naftalin who had previously played with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, guitarist Ron Elliott from the Beau Brummels and Bernie Krause played the Moog synthesizer.
Unlike his two previous albums, Morrison spoke well of this one when interviewed by biographer Ritchie Yorke: “The album was kind of rushed because of studio time and things like that. But I thought it was a good shot, that album. There were a lot of good songs on it. St. Dominic’s Preview was more into where I’m at, more into what I was doing.”
Erik Hage wrote that “it is one of the strongest albums in the Van Morrison canon because it seems to adapt and incorporate all of the lessons and discoveries of the rich period of evolution that came before it while still opening up new windows.” Miles Palmer writing in The Times commented that “The cumulative impact is devastating.”
In Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden wrote that “The coexistence of two styles on the same record turns out to be very refreshing; they complement each other by underscoring the remarkable versatility of Van’s musical imagination.” He also declared it “the best-produced, most ambitious Van Morrison record yet released.”
Robert Christgau ends his A- rated review with: “The point being that words—which on this album are as uneven as the tunes—sometimes say less than voices. Amen.”
The album was originally planned to be titled Green but it was changed after Morrison wrote the song “Saint Dominic’s Preview” and used it as the title song. A Rolling Stone profile of Morrison in June 1972 quoted him as saying that the song had evolved from a dream about a St. Dominic’s church gathering where a mass for peace in Northern Ireland was being held. Rolling Stone then commented that later while Morrison was in Nevada he read in a newspaper article that a mass was being held the next day for peace at a St. Dominic’s church in San Francisco.
It was his first album not to have love as its central theme and significantly (as his marriage was deteriorating). The cover shows Morrison sitting on church steps playing guitar with ripped trousers and scruffy boots looking like a gypsy troubadour out on the street.