Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Who Says Van Doesn't Have a Christmas Album?

Who says Van doesn't have a Christmas album? He does but he probably doesn't know about it.  Someone has collected bootleg performances of the most "Christmassy" of Van's songs.  A year or so ago I noticed discussion on the Van Morrison Fan Club site at Fan Pop about a Van Morrison Christmas album.  It seemed ridiculous at the time but Bob Dylan put one out so maybe Van will one day as well.  In the meantime there's this bootleg Van Christmas album (called "volume 1" no less).

Track List Volume 1:

01 - Snow In San Anselmo - Van Morrison Taken from The Orphanage, San Francisco, California July 29th 1974 (Soundboard).
02 - Spirit - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
03 - Glad Tidings - Van Morrison 1970 - Fillmore West - San Francisco, California (Soundboard) April 26th, 1970
04 - Brand New Day - Van Morrison Taken From the JTT Factory Pressed Disc - Gets His Chance To Wail 1969-1971
05 - These Dreams Of You - Van Morrison An EAC CD Rip from “It’s Never Too Late ” 1973 from Silvers Collection. Taken from the Original Acetates Recorded during Van Morrison & The Caledonia Soul Orchestra’s World Tour 1973.
06 - Ballerina - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
07 - Bring It On Home - Van Morrison A JTT Original Streaming Audio Captured and Edited, Pacific High Studios, San Francisco, CA. (09.05.71)
08 - Crazy Love - Van Morrison From The Fillmore West, The New 2010 SBD from JTT Uncirculated Rare Track (10.09.70)
09 - Hallelujah I Love Her So - Van Morrison Taken From a Rare Track from Van’s Live In Coventry, England, Audio Stream (01.25.02) Off Van’s Bootleg One Night Stands (rare songs that have been performed “Live” only once).
10 - Listen To The Lion - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
11 - I Shall Sing - Van Morrison 1973’s Irish Troubadour, Rare Unplugged Version EAC CD Rip from Silver’s Collection Track Taken From “Talk About Pop” - RTE TV (11.09.73)
12 - It’s Love Time - Van Morrison Taken From a Rare Track from Van’s Live In Coventry, England (01.25.02) Off Van’s Bootleg One Night Stands (rare songs that have been performed “Live” only once).
13 - Warm Love - Van Morrison From the 1973 Irish Troubadour, A Rare Unplugged Version, EAC CD Rip from Silver’s Collection Track Taken From Van’s “Talk About Pop” - RTE TV (11.09.73)
14 - If I Ever Needed Someone - Van Morrison Taken From the JTT Factory Pressed Disc - Gets His Chance To Wail 1969-1971 several others.
 15 - Everybody’s Talking - Van Morrison Taken from The Lions Share, The Rare 7 SoundBoard Tracks Edition (02.15.73)
16 - Kingdom Hall - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
17- Joyous Sound - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
Total Time 77:13
This blog doesn't endorse bootleg albums.  I'm particularly annoyed that numerous internet sites offer official Van Morrison releases as 'free downloads'.  Van is a great artist and 'is worthy of his wages' (to use a Biblical phrase).  However, after buying all the official material the Van fan usually turns his attention to the bootleg recordings of live performances.  (Van's concert performances can be among the best on the planet.)  From a legal standpoint this is still illegal.  However, ethically, downloading concerts is not depriving Van Morrison of one cent in income.  I wish Van would release more concerts on CD, not just one every 10 years or so which seems to be the schedule he's on now.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Another Version of Gloria

Despite his best efforts, Van Morrison is again linked to celebrity.   He claims “Hollywood, it ain’t no good” but here we have a Hollywood celebrity naming their child after a Van song.  He doesn't go looking for celebrity or celebrities but it and they seem to find him. 

So another celebrity has a baby and somehow it's nothing like what billions of ordinary people experience. It's all just so much more wonderful.  Or as the typical celebrity new mother says:  "I'm a hands on mother - I picked the nannies myself!" 

Maggie Gyllenhaal: Daughter Gloria Is Named After Rock Song

During her appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Tuesday night, second-time mom Maggie Gyllenhaal admitted she was a little out of practice with the film-promotion game.

After telling Fallon her second daughter, Gloria Ray (with husband Peter Sarsgaard), was born just seven weeks ago, the Hysteria star, 34, admitted she was "barely here." "She's a tiny baby . . . This is kind of the first time I've really left her!" Gyllenhaal revealed of her family's newest addition (who joins big sis Ramona, 5).

The actress also opened up about the inspiration behind her infant's moniker. "We thought of her name when we were at this concert that Patti Smith played at . . . she played [a cover of Van Morrison's] 'Gloria,'" Gyllenhaal shared. "It was a couple of years ago and we just thought, maybe we'll name our daughter that one day."

Following Gloria Ray's birth, Sarsgaard played a different version of the tune for his wife that almost had her regretting their choice.

 "My husband played me The Doors' version of Gloria'two days after my daughter was born, and it was so dirty, I couldn't handle it," Gyllenhaal explained, laughing. "It was like a super, super dirty version."

Before giving birth to Gloria's older sister Ramona in 2006, Gyllenhaal admitted that she "didn't have a clue" how rewarding, or challenging, motherhood would turn out to be. "There's no way to prepare for the challenges, the immense joys, the surprises, the disappointments, and the shocks," she told The Orange County Register in 2010. "Your heart just rips open."
Added Gyllenhaal, "It teaches you how to manage the unmanageable, and accept that you can't be a perfect mother all the time. If you try, it will bring you to your knees."

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Stephen Brown Lost His Virginity to Van

Stephen Brown has written a great 2010 essay linking Van and his hometown of Belfast (and adding info about his missing virginity).  It's a beautiful tribute to the Man.  Among the interesting thoughts is the claim that Van is inherently contradictory, just like the city of his birth: beautiful, bestial, benign, benighted, bedazzling, bellicose, beloved, beleaguered Belfast. Make no mistake, Van the Man is a hero in my home town. A flawed hero, to be sure, though we prefer our heroes flawed round here.

The essay is a good introduction to Van and Belfast.  Here's another sample. 

Belfast is a beautiful city. Or, to be more precise, Belfast is a city in a beautiful setting. Situated at the head of Belfast Lough, an estuarine processional way, our compact conurbation is encircled by escarpments, rugged Antrim Plateau on one side, rolling Castlereagh Hills on the other. Home to half-a-million people, Belfast began life as a muddy ford at the mouth of the River Lagan, burgeoned into one of the mighty workshops of the world-wide British Empire and like many of its GB equivalents – Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool, et al – is resorting to the ubiquitous urban Botox of arts festivals, dockside redevelopments and glittering shopping malls in a desperate attempt to stave off post-industrial senescence...
Of course, one doesn’t need to travel to Belfast in order to appreciate its  congenital contradictions. They are crystallised in the work of Van Morrison, the city’s pre-eminent musical export. In many ways, indeed, Van the Man is a better guide to the perennial paradoxes of Belfast than any number of citybreaks, guided tours or shoe-leather-sapping circuits on Shanks’ Pony. Ulster culture, after all, is predominantly musical and literary rather than visual. There are very few buildings of note in Belfast, the City Hall, Opera House and Queen’s University possibly excepted. World-renowned actors and artists are somewhat rarer still. However, our literary and musical scenes are preternaturally vibrant, as are those on the ‘noisy island’ as a whole. Ireland is the Sizewell B of the music business, a veritable fast breeder reactor, and although U2 irradiates the globe like a dismantled atomic bomb, the artiste with the longest half-life is the Belfast Cowboy himself, George Ivan Morrison.

For the rest of the essay click on his title, A Sense of Ulster: Van Morrison's Belfast.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Who sang "Gloria" besides Laura Branigan?

When I first read this question on the answerbag site I chuckled to myself, not the notorious "LOL" that people always claim to be doing while sitting at their computers. I thought "You've got to be kidding?"  But as I read through the answers I realised once again that life always presents an opportunity for learning.  Here are some of the posts regarding that question. 

Who sang the song "GLORIA" besides Laura Branigan?

Perryman   -   Gloria is a rock song written by Van Morrison and originally recorded by Morrison's band Them in 1964.  It was covered later by the Doors, and even later by Patti Smith (She rewrote the lyrics).

Lady Fuschia   -   Hell yeah, gotta love Patti Smith.  I really appreciate how she wasn't afraid to 'Gender-bend' a little by doing a cover of it.

Mr. Meaulnes   -   She did this wonderful quote about it I wish I could remember - about how an artist should be beyond everything (including gender boundaries) but the responsibility to create something of worth.  Smith's version was a major reworking of Van Morrison's that basically only retained the chorus. Branigan's was a different song entirely; it had nothing to do with either.

Lady Fuchsia    -   I think Hendrix did it too.

Factotum   -   Gloria was also sung by the group "Enchantment" in the 1970's.

Galeanda   -   ALL the Glorias:  " is the title of many different songs, both in contemporary popular music as well as classical music of the sacred Christian genre.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo is the liturgical theme; Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn are among the composers who wrote the most popular and enduring interpretations of it during the classical era.

Songs titled Gloria include:

* Gloria (Van Morrison song), the most often-cited song of this title composed in the rock era, written by Van Morrison and originally recorded by Them in 1964. Many covers of this song have been performed and recorded by various artists.

* Gloria, the Jazz version, recorded by The Manhattan Transfer on their debut album The Manhattan Transfer in 1975.

* Gloria, by the Italian composer and musician Umberto Tozzi, in 1979.

* Gloria (Laura Branigan song), a cover of Tozzi's song with a different lyric and the most successful single recording of a song with the title "Gloria", released by Laura Branigan in 1982.

* Gloria (U2 song), by U2, from their 1981 album October, that incorporated some of Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

* Gloria (doo-wop song), a famous doo-wop song written by Leon René in the 1940s and later revised by Esther Navarro.

* Gloria, by indie/emo band Mineral, from their first album, The Power Of Failing.
Merfish   -   There also seems to be a German metal band Disillusion with a song also called Gloria.
Ed the Jetpacking Headbanger   -   U2 had a song titled Gloria from 1981.
jbrown8116   -   An Italian singer Umberto Tozzi has an excellent version of the song.
superbird   -   I don't know about the Van Morrison comment, but in the 60's "Gloria" G-L-O-R-I-A was recorded by The Shadows of Knight, a local band from Arlington Heights IL.
Wserratore   -   Umberto Tozzi recorded it in 1979 in Italy.
rdini   -   The Cadillacs sang the Doo Wop Gloria.
65gradgiate   -   The original popular big rock hit song was out in the mid-sixties, and it was by The Shadows of Knight - a really great dance song. Or was it by Emilio Palatso?

Tom Fuhl-Ray   -   I'd think the original poster was asking for other versions of the same Gloria that Laura Branigan sang but there's only been one mentioned - the original Italian version by Umberto Tozzi. The first recording in English was by Jonathan King (the lyrics aren't related to the Branigan version). Following Branigan's success with the song French singer Sheila B remade the song with French lyrics. It's also reported that Umberto Tozzi re-recorded his song with the English lyrics from the Branigan hit. For years the only other version of Gloria with the lyrics as recorded by Branigan would seem to be a virtual replication by English vocalist Elkie Brooks probably recorded at the time the Branigan version hit the US charts (1982) with the intent of giving Brooks a UK hit (as had happened with Brooks' cover of Melissa Manchester's US hit Don't Cry Out Loud).
Perhaps the expediency of the release of Branigan's Gloria in the UK - it reached no#6 there in early '83 - killed the release of Brooks' version which was unreleased until 1986 ironically on the Very Best of Elkie Brooks album. In 2006 the group Young Divas which comprises four female Australian Idol finalists remade the Laura Branigan hit Gloria for their self-titled album which is virtually all remakes of high energy classics.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Kevin Rowland Encounters Astral Weeks

I found this piece on the  Kevin Rowland And Dexys Official Blog on myspace.  It was supposedly written by Kevin Rowland in 2007 and talks about the life-changing experience of encountering Astral Weeks for the first time.  Now over to the notorious Kevin Rowland for part of the article.  Click on the link above if you want to find the full article.

It was during the boiling hot summer of 1976 that I first heard it. Punk was about to happen, but this album, showed me something really different. Before that, Van Morrison had been, in my perception, some American type singer and songwriter; long hair, jeans, country rock kinda thing. No thank you very much sir, not my cup of tea. Then I heard Astral Weeks. What was it? I couldn't understand it, it sounded bizarre and tuneless at first, as if he was making it up as he was going along. Oddly, it happened that I heard the whole album three times that same evening.

The circumstances were: I was in a wine bar in Birmingham my girlfriend. It was a lovely hot night and we spent the whole evening there. The woman running the bar, was clearly very into the album, she had it on an 8 Track cartridge machine {popular in the 70s} and instead of stopping when it came to the end of the record, she let it go around and around. The process in my head went something like this; the first time I heard it; I thought, it sounds like he is just making up the words and the tune, as he goes along, crazy. The second time, I thought, there's more to it than I first realised. I was starting to hear some melody in it, by the third time, I knew there was something powerful going on.

That was how I got into Astral Weeks, Van Morrison's first masterpiece. The long term effect it had on me, is something else entirely. That, and one of his other great works of genius; Its Too Late To Stop Now, brought my understanding of what music could be and mean, to another level. They showed me some of what was possible with music. Those records expanded the boundaries. I related to the pain and I'd never heard music that touched me so deeply. I hadn't known that music could express and mean so much, and be so serious. The seriousness suited me, that's how I felt. People were always telling me to cheer up.

Some Reader Comments

Martin Booth   -   Kevin,  I too remember It's too Late to Stop Now from Birmingham. I was at the Polytechnic School of Photography working part time at The Westerner (Jeans and Cowboy boots) in New Street Shopping Centre. The manager there was friends with the manager of Take Six (on New Street). I think his name was Maurice. As a proponent of the burgeoning punk/new wave scene, I remember being introduced to you by Maurice. You may remember I produced an video of one of your Killjoys rehearsals (I think at Barbarella's). Anyhow at The Westerner we had It's too Late to Stop Now on 8 track. Which I believe we borrowed this from Take Six. We played it and played it - FANTASTIC! Does any of this ring a bell? The album has been extremely influential in my own life and is still a critical part of my musical survival pack.

ACRYLIC STAR   -   I don't think that anyone ever "got" Astral Weeks on the first listen...I knew that it was "special" cos everyone told me that it was...but I had to grow into it as I learnt about music...  and then, all of a sudden you revisit an album like that and - Bingo! It washes over you. It makes you rethink all of your old allegiances to your fave bands. Bands that had a couple of brilliant singles, a decent debut album followed by that notoriously difficult 2nd....  Genius? Probably.

David   -   I saw Van Morrison at Glasgow's Govan Town Hall in 1988, a Victorian red sandstone building, next to an orange lodge decorated with an enormous union flag.  The gig was tied in with Glasgow's hosting of the Garden Festival.  Some of the audience were yelling out, Astral Weeks, Van responded, "astral freaks!" to fewer guffaws.
Adam Grace   -   The first Van Morrison album I really took notice of was Beautiful Vision in 1982. I had spent most of the summer in Arklow, County Wicklow and Dublin, staying with my cousins. I was 15 years old, and DMR were just having success with Come on Eileen and the release of Too-Rye-Aye.   I was already heavily into DMR since 1980 and my older cousins introduced me to Van Morrison. Too-Rye-Aye and Beautiful Vision were the theme music for the best summer I have ever had. Looking across the lake at Glendalough, whilst listening to Vanlose Stairway, Celtic Ray, Across The Bridge Where Angels Dwell.  That was a spiritual, near religious experience for me and  my cousins. Since then have got nearly everything by Van, and love it all, especially Astral Weeks and A Sense Of Wonder.

Stone Foundation   -   It's too late to stop now was actually the first thing I ever heard by Van Morrison, before Astral weeks, before Moondance. A guy who worked in the local record shop gave me a cassette of it, I was very young still , maybe 15. It remains not just my favourite Van album but one of my favourite albums ever.  As for other Van albums, I've always considered No Guru, no method, no teacher to be an extremely underrated affair.

Bard of Ely   -   I love all of Van's work and obviously some songs and music more than others but Astral Weeks is my favourite of all his albums. It has that magic that touches something inside and you can't put what it is in words - it's a sort of spiritual connection that comes over! But not for everyone because that connection doesn't work and that's why some people love one act but can't stand another. Singer-songwriters that have that quality and become legends all have it - a projection of their soul through music and it is their art and role in life to communicate this way!

Tony Kennedy   -   I must admit Astral Weeks has never done it for me, but when I first heard Veedon Fleece I was blown away (& still am) & also to a lesser extent 'St Dominic's Preview'. Am I the only Van fan 'not to 'get' AW? I love all of his 70s stuff (& a lot of the later stuff too) other than AW. Each to his own I suppose.

Vincent   -   St Dominic's Preview was the 1st Van LP that truly inspired me.  However it was and is TB Sheets which knocks me for six every time i hear it - a very hard listen in places - but ultimately a journey somewhere special.

Rudi   -   Dennis Potter once said about writing "Don't transmit, connect" and this is precisely what Astral Weeks does. It's like listening to someone talking un-selfconsciously to themselves, an intriguing inner mumble that compels you to listen closer. Tiny details take on massive resonance. This is the Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart that anyone with a sensitivity to music cannot help but be attracted to. It's the sound of someone's soul talking, it doesn't even care if anyone's listening.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Van's Abandoned Choppin' Wood Album 2001

In October 2000 Van Morrison began work on his second collaboration with Linda Gail Lewis. During the previous month Van's country album You Win Again had been released.  The new collaboration was provisionally entitled Choppin’ Wood and contained Linda Gail Lewis’s vocals and piano parts overdubbed on all but one track.  For reasons not fully known, the working relationship between Van and Linda suddenly soured.  The tour were touring together in support of You Win Again when the relationship breakdown occurred.  Linda Gail Lewis then made certain claims about Van, including harassment, but the whole issue was never proven one way or the other. 

Van completely stopped Linda's involvement in the new project and refused to let her hear any of the new songs.  She then quit the tour and the album was eventually discarded.  In 2002 Van released Down the Road (which contained some of the Choppin' Wood songs) to mixed reviews.  The fans, as always, found that the new album contained at least some gold. 

The bootlegged Choppin' Wood has appeared on the net and most people commenting rate it as superior to Down The Road.  The track listing for Choppin’ Wood is as follows:

01. Choppin' Wood
02. Hey Mr. DJ
03. The Beauty Of The Days Gone By
04. Down The Road
05. Princess Of Darkness
06. Just Like Greta
07. For A While
08. Mama Don't Allow
09. Meet Me In The Indian Summer
10. All Work And No Play

Down the Road was released in May, 2002 and charted at #6 in the UK and #26 in the US, while consistently charting in the top 20 across Europe. The two singles from the album were Hey Mr. DJ and Meet Me In The Indian Summer which reached 58 and 116, respectively, on the British charts.

The track listing for Down the Road is as follows: 
1. Down the Road
2. Meet Me in the Indian Summer
3. Steal My Heart Away
4. Hey Mr. DJ
5. Talk Is Cheap
6. Choppin' Wood
7. What Makes the Irish Heart Beat
8. All Work and No Play
9. Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby?
10.The Beauty of the Days Gone By
11.Georgia on My Mind
12. Only a Dream
13. Man Has to Struggle
14. Evening Shadows
15. Fast Train

Fan Comments about the Choppin' Wood Bootleg
Anonymous   -   Great sound quality and nice songs too. Van sounds very relaxed.
thebasement6725   -   Meet Me In The Indian Summer is a really strong song on Choppin' Wood.  Some of the lyric appears on a track Celtic New Year from the Magic Time album (2005) as does a different version of Just like Greta it's longer here with a keyboard solo and the contribution of Linda Gail Lewis.

Anonymous16   -   Great Artwork on the cover! and Great sound.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Random Van Stories

1.  Robert Freeman Wexler   -   The Armadillo World Headquarters, The Armadillo, as it was called, was a music hall that closed New Year’s Day 1980, which was just after the first semester of my sophomore year at the University of Texas. I went to the Armadillo only three or four times.  Apparently it was also known for the food. Robb Walsh in The Tex-Mex Cookbook relates an anecdote about how Van Morrison played three nights there and then went on, but after Jerry Garcia told him he shouldn’t have missed the shrimp enchiladas, his agent called to schedule another performance on a night that they were served.

2.  Ady Croasdell   -   In early 1995 I got to meet the legendary soul singer Doris Troy and arranged for her to do a live gig at the 100 Club. Doris was working with her own band by then and wanted to put on a great show, so she sweet talked me into adding extra horns and backing vocalists. Unfortunately those extra costs eventually turned the gig into a loss making exercise for me. Doris had been a darling of the original swinging London rock crowd and counted The Beatles, Pink Floyd and many other superstars as her personal friends, though she never name dropped in the slightest; she was very modest and underplayed her own celebrity.

A huge Doris fan was Van Morrison who came down to the show and duly paid the admittance for his diminutive self and his 6’ 4” minder. However due to having an empty feeling in my wallet, I was not in the best of moods at the end of the gig. Various friends and club regulars were queueing up outside the changing room to pay their respects to Doris and I just happened to be passing when Van and his man walked straight up to the front of the line and attempted to gain entry ahead of the queue. The profit and loss motive is a strong motivator to hardworking promoters, and the disappointment of the door take was sufficient to see me barking at the odd couple that if they wanted to see her Doris-ness, they should wait their turn! Fair play to them, they were very apologetic and did as they were told. They apparently spent quite a while in there with her – it must have been funny for the people queueing next to him.

3.  WYSIWYG   -   I attended the Graduation Ceremony when he received his Honorary Degree from Ulster University – he received a lot of criticism for not making a grand sycophantic speech – blah, blah. I think he’s just a very private person. And wasn’t / isn’t that so refreshing? I also know someone who worked very closely with him for years – his grumpiness seems to mostly be reserved for people who just want to interfere in his life. I wish there were more like him in that respect.

 4.  Greil Marcus   -   “the repetitions in Morrison’s music always signify freedom, a love of words and a lack of fear for what they might say that to be born again might be understood as magic, magic as everyday life; what you to preserve the current that is everyday life. And that current may be the sight of death – a sight that, when one is attuned to contingency as the singer on Astral Weeks is, you see everywhere.”

  5.  Levi Stahl   -   Van Morrison, I think, is a lesser artist than Tolstoy.  I can't imagine anyone suggesting that the chubby lover of late-night wine and craic has any ascetic tendencies. Instead, he leavens his ecstasies with a near-Buddhist argument against the self, an effort to feel oneself to be, at one's heights, a connected, minuscule part of a larger, significant whole. Instead of a closing of the self, as Tolstoy chose, it's viewed as the ultimate opening of the self, an embrace of the universe that, at base, is little different from what Tolstoy ascribes to Olenin in the forest. I don't know Van, so I can't say for sure that he's happy--but I'd be willing to wager that he has been happier than Tolstoy.

 6.  Anna M   -   I was familiar with Moondance, Brown Eyed Girl, etc., then one day on the radio I heard a song that captured me and it was Into The Mystic. I immediately went out and bought an album, then another, then another, then another. The feeling I get when I listen to his music is something I can't explain. I am 58 years old and the emotion, well the emotion makes me want to leave everything behind and go to another place (i don't know where). He has captured my spirit and lifted it so high.
7.  Kshugrue   -   I would list all Van's albums as essential, but if I were to only own one it would be Astral Weeks. 10 Essential Songs: Sweet Thing, Tupelo Honey, In the Garden, Listen to the Lion, Madame George, Astral Weeks, St. Dominic's Preview, Into the Mystic, T.B. Sheets and Joe Harper Saturday Morning.

8.  Zak   -   I'm a little on the young side for the average Van fan (I'm 36) but I realised when thinking about this show, that if I had to take the entire catalogue of just one musical artist with me to a deserted island, I'd choose Van's. Here are five albums why:  Tupelo Honey, Into the Music, Astral Weeks, Beautiful Vision and Avalon Sunset.

9.  Susan Carter   -   Van Morrison was always appealing to me but then in 1979 I heard Into the Music whilst living in Boulder, CO; I couldn't hear it often enough!  My love-life was questionable at the time, and that album pierced me to the quick.  Long story....It's the spiritual and the sexual! He captures both and they become one! I LOVE HIM!!!!!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Madame George and Shalimar Perfume

The following edited post comes from Christopher Laws' culturedallroundman blog.  Click on the link for the full post. 

Madame George and Guerlain’s Shalimar
 A Portal to Perfumery

If asked, and obliged to be concise, I would name Astral Weeks by Van Morrison as my favourite album and Madame George from that album as my favourite song. This is a brief history of how the album and the song came about and how it encouraged, in turn, an interest in a particular perfume.

Van Morrison’s band, Them, disbanded in 1966. Morrison signed a contract in haste with Bang Records – a label just then founded by Bert Berns.  Van recorded over two days a group of songs which Bang Records released as the album Blowin’ Your Mind!. Morrison, apparently neither consulted or made aware of the release, was thoroughly displeased, believing the songs he had recorded would only be released as singles and that they did not, together, comprise a coherent stream of music.

One of the songs was Brown Eyed Girl which reached the top ten of the American charts in the middle of 1967. Increasingly in dispute with Berns – who made it difficult for Morrison to get gigs in New York; and who failed to provide anything approaching assistance when Morrison faced visa problems, eventually solved when he married his American girlfriend – Morrison relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts. He began performing some songs around Cambridge and Boston which he’d written and kept to himself over the past several years. Motivated by Brown Eyed Girl, some producers from Warner Bros. attended one of these performances; the group included Lewis Merenstein, part of Inherit Productions with whom Warner Bros. had a working relationship; and Merenstein, moved in particular by a performance of Astral Weeks, determined to sign Morrison and set to work on an album.

Astral Weeks was recorded over three sessions, with its eight songs ultimately drawn from two of the three: the first, taking place on the evening of September 25 and the last, on the evening of October 15. The middle session, on October 1, apparently took place in the morning which didn’t provide the right sort of feel for the music they were engaging with. There is a palpable sense of the evening through Astral Weeks. The musicians that the recordings brought together were talented and experienced.  The two most prominent were double-bassist Richard Davis and guitarist Jay Berliner.

Madame George was one of four songs recorded during the first session, alongside Cyprus Avenue, ‘Beside You’, and the title composition. Despite the pedigree of the musicians, it remains one of the miracles of art that a collection of people who had not worked with each other before, and who played without lead sheets – which provided the musicians significant freedom of expression – came together and made these four pieces in one sitting. John Cale was working in an adjacent studio, and years later reported that, ‘Morrison couldn’t work with anybody, so finally they just shut him in the studio by himself. He did all the songs with just an acoustic guitar, and later they overdubbed the rest of it around his tapes’. This account doesn’t appear quite true: Morrison recorded concurrently with the rest of the musicians, but apparently somewhat isolated, in a separate vocal booth. Yet the resultant music transcends music, inseparable from the heart and the soul of Van Morrison developed and revealed in his singing.

Madame George was originally called Madame Joy, and first recorded while Van Morrison was still with Bang Records. A version of the song, titled Madame George but with Morrison singing Madame Joy throughout, was released on the 1973 album put out by Bang against Morrison’s wishes, T.B. Sheets (Columbia later compiled the same recordings on a 1991 release, Bang Masters). Whereas the titular song indicates – in its surging rhythmic claustrophobia, its emotion, its closeness to suffering – what was to come on Astral Weeks, the version of Madame George on T.B. Sheets is much looser, drawing more from R&B and funk than jazz, coming in at half the length, and with an atmosphere of the pub or the club, emphasised by the audible background chatter and drinking. 

As it appears on Astral Weeks, the song is a ten-minute recollection, a monologue in which the speaker recalls tenderly a scene from his youth, a character, and their physical passing but emotional and metaphysical remains. The speaker pulls the scene apart and places it together piece by piece, talking himself explicitly through his recollection, recounting to himself ‘That’s when you fall’, and the moment ‘You know you gotta go / On a train from Dublin up to Sandy Row, / Throwing pennies at the bridges down below, / In the rain, hail, sleet and snow’. The music critic Lester Bangs, in a beautiful piece of writing published in 1979, refers to the title character of the song as a ‘lovelorn drag queen’, and this seems indisputable from the song’s lyrics and gestures, though some have read ‘George’ as a reference to heroin.

What follows are the song’s opening lines:
Down on Cyprus Avenue
With a childlike vision slipping into view
The click and clacking of the high-heeled shoe
Ford and Fitzroy Madame George
Marching with the soldier boy behind
He’s much older now with hat on drinking wine
And that smell of sweet perfume comes drifting through
The cool night air like Shalimar

The House of Guerlain was founded in 1828 in Paris by Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, a chemist who moved into cosmetics, began to focus on perfumery, and had increasing success in a fledgling market. Pierre-François was able to open a store on the prestigious rue de la Paix in 1840. When Pierre-François died in 1864, with Guerlain well established in Paris and receiving commissions from royalty across Europe, the perfumery passed to his sons, Aimé and Gabriel. They took respectively the responsibilities of master perfumer and commercial manager: the one worked on the fragrances whilst the other took care of finances, production and marketing. 

Shalimar was created in 1921. The apocryphal tale of its development goes that Jacques, by way of experiment, simply poured whole a sample of vanillin into a bottle of Jicky perfume – and Shalimar was the result. Shalimar was re-released in 1925 in a bottle designed by Raymond Guerlain, and made by the crystal house Baccarat, and has been in continual production since. It was important in establishing Guerlain outside of France. It stands considered the classic oriental fragrance, the flagship perfume of the House of Guerlain.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Believe it or Not - Part 2

An exotic pet names site suggested Van Morrison was a good name for a pet bird. 

According to a fan blog of Christian rocker Larry Norman, Van has counted himself a fan of Norman.

It took 33 years for Astral Weeks to go gold. 

On the Stark Raving Sober blog Van’s Don't Go to Nightclubs Anymore made the Top 10 of Recovery Songs coming in at number 7. 

At The, Astral Weeks comes in 7th in their list of the 100 crappiest songs of all time.
Gloria was banned by Chicago radio station WLS for objectionable lyrics.

The song was covered by Chicago's The Shadows Of Knight, who took the song into the national Top Ten after changing the words slightly, from she comes to my room to she comes around here.

Brown Eyed Girl makes several lists of surefire "panty removal songs" on the net.

Van is credited with coining the word fantabulous. He does have a long way to go to match Shakespeare's contribution to the English language, though. 

On the Real Clear Religion site, Astral Weeks is referred to by Mark Judge as Van's Very Catholic Album.

It's funny how Songfacts counts 1967's Brown Eyed Girl as one of the 10 best debut singles of all time, considering how Van had been a professional music artist for seven years by that stage. declared 2011 to be the Year of Van Morrison "in East Portland, on the internet, and across the world".

Rob O'Connor claims the song Linden Arden Stole the Highlights from the Veedon Fleece album is about a man who steals children's magazines from dentist offices. 
In June 2012 it was reported with much fanfare that British Twilight actor Robert Pattinson was recording an album! Nothing wrong with that but then someone had the audacity to suggest that it sounded like stripped-down Ray LaMontagne meets Van Morrison.
In Wavelength 22 (December, 1999) Phil Abel describes the new science of 'Vanology'. "We take things he says and does on stage and interpret them from his moods and thoughts".  He notes somewhat redundantly that this isn't "an exact science".