Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Van Vs Bob

Let’s Talk Music is a music blog specialising in forum topics.  The following discussion was initiated by someone calling himself Rimbaud82

Van Morrison

So how many Van Morrison fans do we have here? What are your favourite lyrics of his? What about songs? Just generally what do you think about him, and his music? For me, although in a different way, he is tied with Bob Dylan for the greatest lyricist of all time (and by that I mean they are my favourites of course, I wouldn't suggest that they are the literal best). However, though I love both Bob and Van equally, Van is my favourite singer (as in vocalist) of all time, his voice is amazing. In my opinion it’s the richest, and most expressive voice in all of rock music, there is no one better. Someone described it as “aural poetry” and that’s incredibly accurate. Rolling Stone say this “He’s the most painterly of vocalists, a master of unexpected phrasing whose voice can transform lyrics into something abstract and mystical”.

I like this quote too: “I know of no music that is more lucid, feel able, hearable, seeable, touchable, no music you can experience more intensely than this. Not just moments, but extended … periods of experience which convey the feel of what films could be: a form or perception which no longer burls itself blindly on meanings and definitions, but allows the sensuous to take over and grow … where indeed something does become indescribable.”

Van holds a special place for me…he comes from the same place I do and so I can relate to him more. Dylan, and other great songwriters may be more ‘intellectual’(for lack of a better word) in their lyrics, but Van’s are exceptional in another way. His words come seem to come from a another time and place — they are pure poetry and his view on things is really like my own, his pastoral, romantic, wonder-filled lyrics really strike a chord with me.

Forgive this eulogy of a post, I am a huge fan and want to see who else loves his music as much as I do, or alternatively what others think. I’ll just leave you with these songs and await your thoughts: Summertime in England, Astral Weeks, Sweet Thing, Into the Mystic and Listen to the Lion.

Reader Comments

Jagedar   -   Astral Weeks is one of my favourite songs of all time, without question. It's such an adventure, a mystic invitation to this other place performed in such a natural way with guitars and flutes and Van's incredible vocals. Not to mention the cryptic lyrical poetry that is quite possibly some of the best songwriting ever: "If I ventured in the slipstream/ between the viaducts of your dreams/ where immobile steel rims crack/ and the ditch in the back road stops/ could you find me?".

veraciousful   -   It's like slowly falling asleep in during a long car ride at the end of a warm summer day spent on the beach.

Jagedar   -   I've always seen it as a sleepy, clear early summer night.

Rimbaud82   -   and that's whats so great about it! 

heady_hood   -   I always saw it as a marvellous night for a moon dance, in the cover of October skies.

weinerdog12345   -   Van Morrison is my all-time favourite musician, and I believe that Moondance is among the greatest albums of all time.
Admittedly, it's tough for me not to use hyperbole when speaking of Van's music. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on his collaboration with Dylan. Although those two are my favourites, I didn't care for the collaboration at all. In fact, I thought it was Dylan who took away from much of the richness of Van's music.

It occurs to me that I listen for different things when I listen to Dylan than when I listen to Van. I feel a much greater attachment to Dylan's lyrics and passion, but I am more moved by the whole package of Van. Not sure why - just a preference, I suppose.

Rimbaud82   -   I actually feel the exact same way about their collaboration, and as I say they are two favourites also. I love both, Dylan's lyrics have a very different sort of attachment for me. I have two framed posters of him on my wall for goodness sake, but he connects on a much more 'intellectual' (bad word probably, but for lack of a better one as I say) level for the most part (Not exclusively of course, Mr Tambourine, Lay Down Your Weary Tune, Chimes of Freedom for example all go to similar places as Van's lyrics albeit in a different style). 

Stuff like Visions of Johanna, Desolation Row though (Perhaps his finest lyrics, up there anyway) is much more rooted in Ginsberg-ian, Beat style poetry...something more like Rimbaud (Who of course, is one of my favourites). In comparison, Van just hits me right there, I don't know where that is but somewhere - he rocks my gypsy soul you could say. With him the words are wonderful in a different way, and really it's combined with his incredible voice as well, the pauses, grunts, repetitions and phrasings just make it all the more special. If Dylan is Ginsberg or Rimbaud, then Van is clearly Yeats, Kavanagh or romantics/mystic poets like Blake. If you'll forgive the cheesy comparisons...

dikbutjenkins   -   I think Van Morrison has almost made his own genre of music where he blurs the line between folk and soul music. Sweet Thing is my favourite song by him but I've recently been getting into his work he did with the chieftains in the late 80s.

Rimbaud82   -   Absolutely mate, "Celtic soul" it gets called. I like The Chieftains stuff too, though haven't got into as much as some of the earlier albums.

Caverndish   -   I'm not a fan of Van Morrison, though I've never really given his music a proper listen. Though I was working in a studio a few months ago and him and his band was recording in the studio next door. I didn't see anything but what I heard was pretty good. A good set of musicians.

spurios   -   Astral Weeks could be described as an album created by good musicians. It deserves a proper listen.

MrsJohnJacobAstor   -   This thread has inspired me to check out more Van Morrison!

Rimbaud82   -   I love Van. Love his phrasing, his vocal range, his explosive presence. I also love the vulnerability behind all of his performances. A lot of people are not aware Van suffered from excruciating stage fright; I've always thought that it somehow compelled his music to this state of perfection.
Lately I've been addicted to the Tupelo Honey record, particularly Moonshine Whiskey. I also want Caravan played at my funeral with everyone drinking whiskey.

SicMus   -   The entire Astral Weeks album is simply transcendental. The album has taken me to places no other album has. Also, I can't stand it when people hear the name Van Morrison, and their mind just automatically jumps to Brown Eyed Girl. No where close to his best song, and he deserves a better appreciation than that.

MCanavan14   -   I love Van, one of my favourite artists of all time. My Top three by him are probably: Snow in San Anselmo, Moondance then Tore down A La Rimbaud but he has so many good songs it's tough to pick. Moondance is by far my favourite album of his. One of the best things for me about Van is he's made so many songs I'm always stumbling on new ones.

jord0hh   -   Into The Mystic is one of my favourite albums. I don't think their will ever be another voice like his. His music takes me to a different place.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Believe It or Not - Part 10

On the day Van was knighted by Prince Charles (Feb, 2016) he was asked what his favourite album was from his back catalogue.  Surprisingly he named Common One from 1980.  

Singer Jamie Cullum was only 16 when he was credited as an assistant engineer on Van's Days Like This album.  

On June 6, 2016 Van sang three songs at St Donnard’s Church in East Belfast at the funeral of his 94 year old mother Violet.  He sang On Hyndford Street which was a fitting tribute to his mum. Fifty years or so ago Violet ran Van’s short-lived fan club.  

Van used to go buy Chinese food for Little Walter and he then taught Van some harmonica skills.  

Tupelo Honey was listed as number 26 on Paste Magazine's "50 Sexiest Songs of All Time".  Winner was Marvin Gaye's Let's Get it On.

Brown Eyed Girl is listed in Joshua Calixto’s article 6 Bands Who Hate the Songs That Made Them Famous.  Other songs include Radiohead’s Creep, Baauer’s Harlem Shake and Beastie Boys’ (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).

Van made number 6 on the list of 17 Notoriously Prickly Interview Subjects compiled by Sam Adams, 

Owen Barder was serious when he posted this list of the top five list of great singers who can’t actually sing: Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Paul Simon, Van Morrison and Mark Knopfler.

In an interview in 1981 Van said "I wanna forget about reggae because I don't like it."

According to musicologists Dr Alisun Pawley and Dr Daniel M├╝llensiefen, Brown Eyed Girl was  the 8th “catchiest” song of all time.  The top spots went to Queen’s We Are The Champions and the Village People’s YMCA

Van Morrison has stated that the song Brown Eyed Girl was "vaguely inspired", by the novel Sylvie and Bruno, by Lewis Carroll.

In the SFist website St Dominic’s Preview was listed at number 10 in their list of the 20 Best Songs About Places In San Francisco.

The Tropicana Motel on Santa Monica Boulevard has its place in rock history.  People like Andy Warhol, Jim Morrison, Tom Waits, Alice Cooper, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Bob Marley and the Wailers all supposedly stayed there at key moments. Van Morrison wrote T.B. Sheets and several other songs while staying at there. 

Van Morrison was the first musical guest on Jimmy Fallon's first show. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Even More Fan Stories

Gmoke   -   Ran into Van Morrison in Harvard Square years ago.  I recognised him and thanked him for his work.  He grunted in response and I started walking off.  Then he asked me where Cardell’s was, a cheap cafeteria from back in the day, and I said, “Oh, dude, that was yuppified a long time ago.”  Legendarily bad tempered person but a fine musician, singer,  and songwriter.

Westyny   -   He also made a lot of his great music in the Bay Area.  I remember seeing him at the Lion’s Share with the Moondance band in San Anselmo when I was 17.  My girlfriend was 16.  So lucky.  I grew up in the foggy side of of San Francisco and Brown Eyed Girl, then Astral Weeks were essential parts of my young adolescent soundtrack.  I remember Greil Marcus once called Astral Weeks the greatest album ever made.  Hard to argue, really. 

Antonio Balson   -   Even if you do not realise it, if you have ever listened to the radio, you have heard Van Morrison. This was my case until one winter afternoon in the early nineties, relaxing on the patio of a slope-side coffee shop in Sugarloaf Maine I realised I was listening to Van Morrison, Moondance, of course. I bought that CD and listened to it endlessly. One summer I was alone in the country house at La Navata it was all I listened to.

Fast forward to the mid-nineties. Right after breaking up with my first wife, I was on a business trip to a convention in Las Vegas. Bored at the thought of spending a whole weekend alone in the city of sin, I called a friend in San Francisco and I was on a plane. The weekend was fantastic as I had not seen my friend in years and had not been to San Francisco in even more years. She had Van’s Wavelength CD in her little BMW, and that was all we listened to all week-end long as we tooled around the city.  As soon as I got back to Madrid I bought that CD and listened to it over and over again. Then I bought another and another until I had the whole Van Morrison discography – over 40 CDs. In fact I listened exclusively to Van Morrison for eight full months straight. I did not realise it at the time, but it was therapeutic for me. One summer morning when I woke up and played a Rolling Stones CD, I knew I was on the mend!

Richard Selinkoff   -   at the Troubadour in West Hollywood in the late 60s and early 70s a number of pop and underground legends dropped in at the bar.  Probably the least convivial was Van Morrison, whom I idolised. Between his stunningly magnificent sets he sat at the bar over what looked like straight whisky, his stay-the-f***-away-from-me body language and facial expression so powerful that it was tangible as well as visual, to the extent that nobody in the crowded room of socialising musicians and music-biz people dared to penetrate that palpable barrier and sit within two barstools of him.

Brian Rouff   -   A few months ago, I read an interview in Time magazine with the Irish rock legend, Van MorrisonToward the end of the interview, the reporter asked, “Do any musicians or groups today excite you?” “No,” Morrison said “Absolutely not. It’s all been done, you know?”

Weeks later, a Time reader wrote to express her disappointment in Morrison, commenting on how jaded he seems. In essence, she said she could never listen to his music in quite the same way again. A couple of problems with that. First, Morrison has always been a bitter man. He’s just gotten worse in his old age. Second, who cares what he thinks? The music is brilliant, his songs have stood the test of time, his voice is as distinctive as they come. He’s also grown as an artist over the years, managing to stay relevant while being true to himself. No sellout, here. For me, he’s an artist who consistently forges an emotional bond.

Paul Pearson   -   Mechanical Bliss was supposed to be Morrison's 1975 follow-up to Veedon Fleece. Reading from a transcript of an interview Van did with San Francisco radio legend Tom Donahue around that time, Mechanical Bliss was mere inches away from being mastered and pressed. To Donahue's disbelief, Morrison gave a release date of February 1975, which was only about five months after the release of Veedon Fleece. The gaps between artists' releases weren't quite as long in the '70s as they are now, but even considering that, five months was a speedy turnaround time. But it got far enough down the pipeline that an album cover was commissioned. Parts of Mechanical Bliss were released on The Philosopher's Stone, but a bunch of it never obtained an official release. The proposed artwork for Mechanical Bliss was recycled and used for Steely Dan's album The Royal Scam.

Since it never existed, we don't really have any insight as to what the lineup for Mechanical Bliss was going to be. But we do have excerpts from the Mechanical Bliss sessions, parts of which are some of the wildest stuff Morrison had recorded as a solo artist. One song was called I'm Not Waiting for You and bears a stunning resemblance to Bachman-Turner Overdrive.  Mechanical Bliss the song, packs in a bunch of oddities, apparently extemporaneous lyrics and vocal decisions, let's call them. It almost sounds like the careless, vengeful songs Van recorded to get out of his Bang Records contract in 1967, but perhaps even more decapitated from reality. It's fascinating.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

A Kiwi Names his Top 5

From the Aphoristic Album Reviews blog written by an anonymous New Zealand music fan, comes this ranking of the top five Van albums.  There's plenty of interesting music opinion there so check it out.   


Van Morrison’s voice is an expressive instrument which synthesises his Irish roots with the R&B and jazz that he grew up hearing in Belfast. His exploration of Celtic Soul has effectively fuelled his entire career, as he veered between commercial pop and more uncompromising efforts. Even if his solo career can sometimes feel obstinate and inconsistent, his body of work is uniquely his own, and he should be remembered as a giant of his era; U2 are perhaps his only competition as Ireland’s greatest musical export.

Honourable Mention:  Beautiful Vision (1982)
Beautiful Vision is one of Van Morrison’s most settled, comfortable albums, like a calmer take on the Into The Music sound, and it’s relatively insular with its low key explorations of spirituality and Irish heritage. Even if he’s sometimes treading water musically, there are plenty of great songs here, and it’s one of his more consistent, most substantial records, even if it’s less adventurous and less universal than his earlier work.

#5 Veedon Fleece (1974)
Veedon Fleece was the last album from Van Morrison’s initial run of solo records; subsequently he went into semi-retirement for three years, only emerging to appear in The Band’s The Last Waltz. In some respects, it’s almost the completion of the circle begun with Astral Weeks; returning to Ireland at the end of his marriage, Veedon Fleece is more steeped in acoustic mysticism than any of his releases since Astral Weeks, and it’s similarly loose in feel. It’s also more noticeably more Irish than anything he’d released previously; there’s little R&B here, using more folk-oriented, acoustic instrumentation, and the lyrics reference William Blake and figures from Irish mythology.

#4 Astral Weeks (1968)
Astral Weeks is a fascinating record; it sounds different from anyone Van Morrison or anyone else has created, and for adventurous music listeners it’s worth picking up for that reason alone. Although Morrison arguably balanced jazzy exploration with more accessible work on subsequent albums like St. Dominic’s Preview and Veedon Fleece, Astral Weeks is his most extreme statement which alone makes it essential as a unique effort in the canon of popular music.

#3 Moondance (1970)
Astral Weeks showcased the stream-of-consciousness, improvisational side of Van Morrison’s music, Moondance is based around punchy R&B and concise pop songs. Side one is packed with five outstanding compositions; the title track, where Van plays Sinatra, is the most well known, but Crazy Love is pretty, Caravan is jaunty, Into The Mystic is lovely and esoteric, while And It Stoned Me is all of the above.

#2 Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972)
Morrison’s failing marriage informs his music on Saint Dominic’s Preview. The love songs of the “domestic trilogy” are replaced with more eclectic and ambitious material. Saint Dominic’s Preview is perhaps the quintessential album of Van Morrison’s early career, covering both punchy R&B pop craft like the opening Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) and artier impulses like the ten minute semi-improvisations that close each side of the original LP.

#1 Into The Music (1979)
Into The Music is a blue-print of the adult contemporary direction than Van Morrison would pursue during the 1980s, but the song writing is so sharp that it’s his best album. It’s slickly produced and loaded with backing vocalists, strings, saxophones, and other adult contemporary paraphernalia, but for these joyous songs the sensory overload approach works beautifully, like being swept away by a wave of intertwined sexual and spiritual power.

While these five albums tend to be among his most well recognised, putting the acclaimed Astral Weeks at #4 is probably unconventional. Hardcore Van Morrison fans tend to gravitate to his more insular albums like 1980’s Common One and 1986’s No Guru, No Method, No Teacher.

Reader Comments

hanspostcard   -   You’re top 5 is my top 5 but just in a different order. Astral Weeks #1 and one of my top 5 albums by anyone. I don’t think anything he’s done in the past 25 years challenges the top 5 but every album he’s released has some good stuff on it! 1- Astral Weeks 2- Into The Music 3- Veedon Fleece 4- Moondance 5- St. Dominic’s Preview.

Aphoristical   -   Cool – there does seem to be consensus with those five on a few things I’ve looked at, although albums like.  I really like Astral Weeks, but find Beside You at first drop tough to get through. I really like the live album of it he released in 2008 as well.

hanspostcard   -   Yes I like the live Astral Weeks too- I am currently going through the Van catalogue again- I am up to the late 1970’s and “Into The Music” is next.

J.   -   Hard to argue with that list, though I’d have Tupelo Honey in there instead of Into The Music. So, maybe #1 Astral Weeks, #2 Tupelo Honey #3 Saint Dominic’s Preview #4 Moondance #5 Veedon Fleece. Maybe!

Aphoristical   -   I like most of Tupelo Honey, but I really dislike I Wanna Roo You. It’s enough to take that album down to his second tier for me.

J.   -   Not one of my favourites, but I have a soft spot for it. It might be the steel guitar that does it.

stephen1001   -   My personal favourite is the double live Too Late to Stop Now.

Aphoristical   -   I like how It’s Too Late is half made up of songs that aren’t on his studio albums. But I rarely like live albums better than studio stuff.

Hackskeptic   -   I have to declare that I must make a concerted effort to listen to more of Van’s music. I love Moondance and like Astral Weeks but other than that haven’t delved into the rest of his back catalogue

Aphoristical   -   I started with those two as well. But there are plenty of other albums. Of the early albums, Veedon Fleece has a similar flavour to Astral Weeks, while Saint Dominic’s Preview feels half like Moondance and half like Astral Weeks.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Great Moments in Vinyl

The Great Moments in Vinyl blog put out two great posts in June last year. 

Astral Weeks and the People Who Helped Create It

Astral Weeks producer Lewis Merenstein and guitarist Jay Berliner recounted the magic of those particular sessions.  Just three dates in the studio was all it took.  And of those dates, one of them only yielded one song.  Considering how revered the album Astral Weeks has become, it’s amazing that it was put together in just 12 or 13 hours. 

LEWIS MERENSTEIN: Van’s manager Bob Schwaid and I were friends. Van had signed to Warners but no producer wanted to touch him, so I went to Boston at Bob’s request to hear him. He sat on a stool in Ace studios and played Astral Weeks, and it took me 30 seconds to know. I understood. The lyric went straight to my soul, it was immediately clear to me that he was being born again.

I don’t know what transpired between Bang Records and Van coming to Boston, but he had obviously gone through a rebirth. I knew I needed people who could pick up that feeling. Richard Davis was a highly renowned bass player, Connie Kay drummed with the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Jay Berliner was a fine guitarist. They were all super pros, but also open souls who played from the heart.

We went into Century Sound. It was a union date. There was nothing sacred about it, but right away it was magical. It was so beautiful, it was hard to take. They would run through the first few minutes of a song, never the whole thing, and then do it. Everybody got the sense of what was being said musically, even if they didn’t get what was being sung by Van. Everybody was into it. I remember Richard bent over his bass with his eyes closed, tuning into Van. It’s hard to give the feeling a voice. It was beyond amazing.

JAY BERLINER: This little guy comes in and goes straight into the vocal booth. He doesn’t have any contact with anyone. We could hardly see him. He must have been smoking something, because all you could see was white smoke in there! He sang and played in the booth, we followed, and these things just… happened.

The first session was 7:00 to 11:00 PM on September 25, 1968. We cut Cyprus Avenue, Madame George, Beside You and Astral Weeks in four hours. It was totally off the cuff. We couldn’t make eye contact, but we were hearing each other through headphones and playing off of each other. Van said nothing. Lew did all the communicating, and he seemed to be very happy. “Keep going, it sounds great!”

There was another session the following week, but I wasn’t available. They brought in Barry Kornfeld, but that didn’t work out. He didn’t have a jazz background. (Only The Way Young Lovers Do was recorded at this session).

The final date was October 15, from 7:00 to 11:45 PM. We did Sweet Thing, Ballerina, Slim Slow Slider and a song called Royalty that didn’t make the final cut. And that was it. It was special, but back in those days you were running from day to day. I did a soap commercial the next day!

LEWIS MERENSTEIN: You know, I don’t think Van had a clue how special it was. He was given the gift, as we all were. The album was like an ending.  From there he was flying away, and out of that came a happier person, which was (Morrison’s next album) Moondance.

On the Origin of Astral Weeks

In 1967, Van Morrison relocated from Ireland to the U. S. to devote himself to a career as a solo artist. But his relationship with his first record company quickly soured. Morrison discovered he had unwittingly signed away ownership of his music. He was unhappy with how his career was being packaged. And he found himself penniless, living in a fleabag hotel in New York City as his first solo single, Brown Eyed Girl, was reaching the top of the charts. It was situation that Morrison began to challenge quite heatedly.

But before he could attempt to work out a solution with his employer, Bert Berns died of a heart attack, and Morrison found himself in the clutches of the owner’s wise guy business partners, men who were even less skilled at dealing with an artistic temperament. Infamously, one of them responded to an angry, drunken tirade from Morrison by threatening to kill him and breaking his guitar over his head.

Morrison took the threat seriously, and immediately relocated to Boston where he and his girlfriend crashed for a time in the apartment of WBCN DJ Peter Wolf. Morrison used the time away to rethink his musical direction. He lined up gigs in the Boston area playing stripped down versions of the new songs he was writing, just himself on guitar and vocals accompanied by an upright bass and another guitarist and sometimes a flutist for added colour.

Lin Brehmer of WXRT tells a story he heard Peter Wolf tell on the air when he was guest on the station. Back in the day, Wolf and Morrison used to like to hang out. “And by hang out,” Brehmer explains, “I mean they used to go out and drink to excess every single night. And after one of these incredible drinking bouts where they stumbled home at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, Peter Wolf went home to bed and woke up early in the afternoon to meet Van Morrison for a cup of coffee or something. And Van Morrison said, (affects northern Irish accent) ‘Hey. I wrote a song last night.’

“Peter Wolf said, ‘You wrote a song last night? You could barely stand last night. You didn’t write a song last night!’

“Van Morrison says, ‘No! I wrote a song last night!’

“Wolf said, ‘You barely could find the keys in your pocket to open the door to get into your apartment. What do you mean you wrote a song last night?’

“And Van goes, ‘Yeah. No, I got home. I wrote a song last night.’

“And the song he wrote when he was apparently insensible,” a song that Brehmer summed up as “one of the most amazing, mystical, spiritual songs of all time…was called Astral Weeks.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Van Morrison: Guy With Serious Pipes

The Electrical Audio blog says that Electrical Audio is a two-studio complex located in Chicago, Illinois and owned by Steve Albini. There is a forum section on the website which has some Van stuff like the thread below in which readers debate the topic as to whether Van is "crap or not".   

 Guy with serious pipes: Van Morrison

Capnreverb   -   How Van Morrison has escaped the crap/not crap is beyond me. The dude has some great stuff and still seems to knock out a good tune every now and then. I am really partial to that song Tupelo Honey right now. Astral Weeks sure is a magical record and even the overplayed Moondance LP is pretty darn good. Also, Them were a killer underrated 60's rock group.

Tree   -   Those three albums are great, then it's great songs dispersed here and there. At its worst, his music gives me that feeling that love is uncomfortable, like you never quite finished after using the bathroom. At its best, his music is on par with Coltrane for a pure, untainted feeling of positivity, that "speeding down the road with the top down, swerving all over and laughing all about" feeling. Just pure joy.

Rashiedgarrison   -   When he is good, he is magical. In the Days Before Rock and Roll is a fantastic piece of music. When he plays the 12 bar blues for 400 albums which are the ones I have to listen to when my dad gives me a lift anywhere, he is soooo bad.

Kenoki   -   I can't get down with Moondance or much after that, but astral weeks (i guess typically) is... whoa... definitely in my top 20 favourites, though no longer in my top 5. . plus he's so small and has chubby lil hands. I love it. Definitely not crap.

Mayfair   -   Veedon Fleece is my favourite of his. I generally like him and agree, when he is great it is unmatched. I find many more of his records to be uninteresting to me. BUT the good ones are worth wading through the less than great ones.

154   -   It's pleasant enough as background music for sipping tea or whatever, but I really don't see the big deal about him. It's about as inoffensive and uninvigorating as music gets, imo.

Mayfair   -   I find 'background music' to be, by definition shallow, uninteresting, and not very deep. I find Van Morrison very soulful and expressive and very human.  Not background at all. I know it often comes off as very 'pretty' music which seems to turn off many loud rock types, which is too bad. I think there is a lot of great stuff in there worth looking past the sometimes off putting 'pretty' veneer. Veedon Fleece and Astral Weeks are the two most serious and realized in my opinion.

tmidgett   -   one of the truly great r&b singers (of any shade) sometimes a clever, twisted, downright odd songwriter. Sometimes banal, but no one hits it out every time.  Every one of his subpar albums has some good music on it and his good albums are OTT.

Tree   -   I heard Domino at a restaurant last night.  I think my favorite thing about him was how he always looked so solemn on his record covers, while the records themselves contain exclamations of pure joy.

whiskerando   -   It's about as inoffensive as music gets. Astral Weeks is more desperate and bleak at points than any noisy band I've ever heard. George Ivan Morrison sometimes sounds the way a blackhole looks - no light.

tmidgett   -   The best three or four Van Morrison records for the rest of my life. And be totally happy with my listening choices.  Jackie Wilson Said is on Saint Dominic's Preview, maybe fourth best Van album! Probably making the final cut in my eternity of Van listening!  But Astral Weeks is #1!

sparky   -   I have a very soft spot for the live San Francisco double album. Too many strong memories from ten years ago are associated with that one. It makes me cringe and smile at the same time; I love it, and it may be awful. Anyone else know it?

tommydski   -   Of course Van the Man is amazing but what about Them? There were a band and a half, and then a half again.

Brett Eugene Ralph   -    Yes, Astral Weeks is number one. Saint Dominic's Preview is number two for me, probably tied with Tupelo Honey, which few people seem to like as much as I do. I think it's up there with Behind Closed Doors as one of the definitive statements of connubial bliss. I especially like Old Old Woodstock and Straight to Your Heart Like a Cannonball. Obviously, the title song is a masterpiece.

So what's the fourth, Tim? Veedon Fleece or Moondance?  Stoned Me is one of my favourite songs ever, and Crazy Love is gorgeous, but I'm not as into the jazzy aspects of that record. Don't overlook 1980's Common One, a weird, wonderful record that always surprises me.

Ivan   -   I know its probably irrational but having heard too many accounts of what a fat little asshat this man is I can't approach his maudlin music without thinking how much I hate him

tmidgett   -   Avalon Sunset is a good record. Enlightenment is a pretty good record. He hasn't made a lot of bad records. Anyway, I think Moondance is number two. It's even MORE like something I would hate coming from anyone else. But it's incredibly good.  His Band and the Street Choir may be my number three. I don't know. That, SDP, and Tupelo Honey are kind of equivalent in my book.  Veedon Fleece is very good, but I don't think it's quite as good.  Wavelength! And A Period of Transition! They aren't very good Van albums, right there. Or A Sense of Wonder, which has the worst cover EVER!

dabrasha   -   Gotta mention T.B. Sheets, which was his last real record for Bang. My favourite track is the Madame George version that is completely different than the AW version. I like them both. It's Too Late To Stop Now's version of Sam Cooke's Bring It On Home To Me is excellent.

Matthew   -   His live stuff could get self-indulgent. I have the live album It's Too Late to Stop Now and he stretches out Listen to the Lion from St Dominic's Preview WAY too long. Just an example. Other than that, I love Van's stuff. St. Dominic's Preview especially is probably my favourite record that he did.

tommydski   -   Recently, His Band and the Street Choir was been on my turntable a whole lot. For whatever reason it never really clicked with me before but after twenty odd years it's finally sinking in. Whilst I agree with Christgau that side two isn't as consistently striking as the neighbouring records, there is enough excellent material elsewhere to make up for it. 'Domino' remains one of the all time great singles. Up there with Jackie Wilson Said even.

Heeby Jeeby   -   My da has a copy of Brown Eyed Girl sent back to Ireland by the man himself. It's signed 'Van the Man in the U.S.A'. Pretty cool and worth a pretty penny or two I'd imagine.

Dr. O' Nothing   -   (White Irish) Soul Man Extraordianaire. Pipes, man, pipes on this guy. Some great albums and songs. Stole the show in the Last Waltz, despite being impossibly sartorially challenged. Not mentioned, but one that i enjoy is the Live at the Belfast Opera House LP.

SecondEdition   -   All I have ever heard by him is Astral Weeks, and I'm not really sure I need anything else, because that record is perfect.  As for "the black hole" effect someone mentioned here before...Slim Slow Slider. Good God. That song is despair.

BadComrade   -   I could never decide if I liked Blow in Your Nose, or Nose in Your Blow more that the other... but the best song he ever wrote was RINGWORM.  I do a reasonably funny cover of Ringworm, and I have been working up one of "Want a Danish."  Seriously, though, Ringworm is gold.

Dovey   -   Never really cared much for the guy, only in the sense that he just wasn't on my radar except for the obvious songs. Easy to dismiss, these obvious songs. They're everywhere.  But seeing his performance on The Last Waltz somewhat piqued my interest. 

Robert G   -   They have Gloria in the pumped-in music rotation at Second Job. Not sure if this is because they think it's a Christmas song, or if it's just because it's old enough to qualify as an "oldie". 

Heliotropic   -   Dweller on the Threshold is great.

JeffP   -   I listen to Van pretty often (usually Astral Weeks, St. Dominic's, or His Band and Street Choir), but I had not listened to Moondance in probably ten years until the other day. Solid gold album top to bottom.