Friday, 30 September 2011

Vans called 'Morrison' (Get it?)

How many people have called their vans "Morrison"?  There's no way of knowing but I've heard of three or four in the past 20 years.  Has an actual car company produced a van called the "Morrison"?  The Volkswagon Morrison?  The Toyota Morrison? 

Here's an example of a van called Morrison:  


Any others you want to mention?  Comments and/or photos please.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

"No Guru, No Method, No Teacher"

Who said the nothing good musically came out of the 80s?  No Guru and U2 are a good start in proving that statement wrong. 

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher from 1986 is Van's 16th album.  It was recorded at the height of his 'spiritual quest' period where he pursed inner happiness and pondered what contribution music could make to the quest.  Eventually he would claim on Enlightenment that all this seeking had brought him no nearer to any profound truth.  Lyrics like "enlightenment, don't know what it is" and "I'm meditating and still I'm suffering" show Van to be a pretty dissatisfied pilgrim.  This spiritual quest seems to annoy a lot of reviewers for whom the combination of the twin theories of the big bang and evolution have closed their minds to the idea that anything spiritual exists.  (To anyone out there who seeks the spiritual, keep going.  I believe the Universe is no accident 'created out of nothing'.  I used to believe that.  But a belief that says everything is one big accident and millions of smaller ones sounds crazy to me now.  Can anyone explain why there is a something and not a nothing?  We shouldn't exist but here we are.  After years of reading and searching I now believe that the miracle of everything on our planet points to an intelligent and deliberate design.)  Anyway ...   

Also featured on "No Gurur" is Van's notion that we're healed, humanized, whatever by 'going back' - reclaiming the previous.  The album was under appreciated at the time of release and generally given 3 out of 5 stars or 6 or 7 out of 10 ratings.   But the album has stood the test of time and retrospective reviews rate it as one of Van's Top 10 albums.  For most hardcore Van fans the album is considered a classic. 

Track 1 is "Got to Go Back." It's a deceptively simple song with an apparent appeal to the gentle joys of reminiscing.  But the appeal here is not soft and accidental. " We've got to go back" the lyrics tell us for healing and for the dreaming.  It features acoustic piano, accompanied by a solo on oboe by Kate St. John.  There are autobiographical musings here.   "When I was a young boy back in Orangefield/I used to look out my classroom window and dream/And then go home and listen to Ray sing/'I Believe to My Soul' after school/Oh that love that was within me/You know it carried me through/Well it lifted me up and it filled me/Got to go back/Got to go back/To the feeling." Belief, his early life in Belfast as some sort of source and of liberation from earthly constraints are all touched on in this under-valued song.  

This is followed by "Oh the Warm Feeling," which only underscores the notion of memory and loss of innocence amid lovely oboe, acoustic guitar, organs, and vibes.

Track 3 is "Foreign Window" and is among the album's finest tracks. One reviewer called it Van's most nakedly spiritual cuts Van has ever recorded, looking at a person or Muse, coming once more out of his past that is at once part of his eternal present, where he weaves some of his finest lyrics with one of his more dynamic and texturally varied compositions".  It's another Van love son g with interesting lyrics that can be interpreted in various ways.  

Track 4 is "A Town Called Paradise" and it's a classic midtempo rocker that contains the words "squealin' feelin'".  Van's unexpectedly funny at times. It has layers of acoustic guitars, though punctuated by female backing vocals, tenor saxophone, and an electric solo guitar.

Track 5 is the classic "In the garden" and contains one of Van's best used phrases - "in the garden wet with rain".  Here nature enduces a meditative state where Van contemplates the trinity.  No mention of a shamrock though.  

Next up is Tir Na Nog.  It's a slow but strident example of Celtic soul.  He teases the people who make meaning of his lyrics.  vvordslike contemplation andmeditation are splashed about.  Next up is a song whose title is references a hit from his Them days.  Here Comes the Knight resembles the Them song Here comes the Night in title only.  The song combine horns with some Medieval imagery.  

Track 8 is Thanks for the Information and details the pitfalls of the spiritual quest.  

One Irish Rover is a wistful folk oriented track with accoustic guitars to the fore.  Van's gypsy theme is featured here.
The final track on the original version is Ivory Tower. It fits into Van.s bulging file of 'complaint songs'.  He urges someone to come down from their ivory tower so they can see how hard it is "to be like me".  Fans have heard it all before but we forgive him.  No one's perfect and if he can't see or appreciate the advantages he has had in in his life then who are we to tell him?

The remastered version of this album contains two additional songs.  Track 11 is an alternative version of Oh the Warm feeling.  It;s stripped back and includes an annoying little percussion sound that sounds like someone left the metronome on 'rapid'.  Lonely at the top is  a more satisfying extra.  But Van isn't lonely because he's in the upper echelon of his profession.  Rather he has demons which cause him to act abominably to strangers, acquantances and even friends.  Most people don't give 'hotheads' a second chance to humiliate them.   

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Van Chart Stats

Van has never really dominated the charts like a lot of other artists.  His work has tended to sell slowly over long periods and his live act is another dimension altogether.  He's no Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga, but don't we just love it like that?  Here's a site which has some Van stat info for those of you interested in chart positions and other information. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Van Concert Fans Voice Disappointment

Here's a link to a Van concert review on the Chronicle website.  (The above photo showing the effects of a riot after a concert is not related to Van in any way. Now that's what I call a disclaimer.) Comments from Van concert goers below the review show a wide range of opinion.  Every artist has to expect mixed reactions to his or her performances.  This is particularly true of a guy like Van.  His career has lasted so long and touches on so many different genres.  Fans couldn't possibly like everything he does.  Also, Van never plays the songs the same way twice.  This has led to fans saying they liked the way a certain song was done in Liverpool but not the way the same song was done in Birmingham for example.  When you're a performer you've got to expect criticism.  It goes with the nature of "show business".  Everyone feels free to express an opinion because it's not a serious field of endeavour like things in the science and technology fields.  

Considering Van has been performing professionally since 1960 he must be used to it.  He's performed over 3000 times.  There must be at least some less than stellar performances.  If the criticism ever troubles him all he needs to consider is the pleasure he has given to millions over decades.  He's still the favourite performer of hundreds of thousands of slightly disturbed middle-aged men like myself.   

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Download Piracy

I'm amazed at the number of blogs, websites, etc. which offer official Van albums and songs in free downloadable form.  It's downright piracy and, of course, it's totally illegal.  Van Morrison deserves to be compensated for his genius.  He has brought pleasure to millions with his talent over five decades.  Everyone expects to get paid for their efforts.  If people find the price of new CDs or downloads on iTunes too expensive, then there is always ebay where Van CDs can be purchased at less than half price.  And if that's too much there's always the charity shops, garage and yard sales, car boot sales, etc.  

Bootleg albums of live performances are another issue for me.  There is some great material that Van will never make available on albums for purchase.  In that case it seems okay to me to collect that material, particularly if you're committed to purchasing any live albums that Van may officially release.   However, Van's lawyers don't see it that way and neither does copyright law.  The fact that Van owns the copyright to the bootleg material and may release it in the future is enough to determine that all unofficially-released bootleg material is illegal.  

That's the strict letter of the law. However, we Van fans like to hear for ourselves some of the incredible, magic moments from his concerts.  Some of us may feel that we've contributed our share to Van's fortune through our recorded music purchases and concert going. Further, some of us have actively promoted Van to our friends or family which has furthered his fan base.     

What do fellow Van fans think?

Monday, 5 September 2011

I Love Music Site

"Ringworm" (also a 'song' owned by Bang Records)
 The I Love Music site is mentioned here because it has some interesting reader responses to Van posts and some great Van clips.  Found one quote on the site which is a classic:  "I downloaded Van Morrison's "Ring Worm" today and I think it's genius. I like it much better than anything else I've heard by him."  That's gold.  Someone actually thinks "Ringworm" is the best thing Van has written! The link above gets you into one part of the site but a search function allows you to access a number of Van items.  One of the items that's interesting is where the writer calls for opinions about Van. Any opinions.  That item is called "Van Morrison: your views please".

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Van Morrison Tribute Website

Brian Clancy's Van Morrison Tribute Site is a great new Van site.  There's not so much there at the moment but hopefully it will continue to develop.  It looks like it will become one of the major sources for Van info on the net.  The layout and design look very professional.  It also includes some great Van clips from youtube.   With so little of substance out there on the net about Van any site featuring Mr Morrison is welcomed by fans.    

Friday, 2 September 2011

10 Van Quotes

 1.   "Everything is about commercialism these days, not music. When I started out, commercialism was about making a living. You only put out records because you thought you might get more gigs that way, it might raise your profile. You weren't putting out a record because you were making some statement."

 2.  "I don't feel comfortable doing interviews. My profession is music, and writing songs. That's what I do. I like to do it, but I hate to talk about it."

 3.  "Now, because of the internet, everyone's suddenly a big shot. I'm talking about people who think that because they've looked up a website, they know everything. You used to have to study things but now you can just find it on the internet, and everybody feels very important because they have access to this stuff. It was a different culture when I was young. Quality, respect - they seem to have vanished."

 4.  "For the avoidance of all doubt and in the interests of clarity, I am very happily married to Michelle Morrison with whom I have two wonderful children."

 5.  "I'd love to live in Ireland but I'd like to live as me, not what someone thinks I am. People don't understand - I lived there before I was famous."

 6.   "You take stuff from different places, and sometimes you stick a line in because it rhymes, not because it makes sense."

 7.  "Most of the audience has a set thing and before they come they have a set thing about the performer from radio and record exposure. Then they expect a certain thing and when they don't get exactly what they expect, it throws them off balance."

 8.  "Basically, I’m a simple guy in a complicated business. I’ve never been comfortable with fame, so that's what a lot of this material is about."

 9.  "I heard Astral Weeks recently. It made me just sit up. It made me sit up and think, right, OK, I was really on to something different. There was a lot of stuff going on here that was definitely off-the-wall and out there. And it was good."

10.  "I am lucky I have an audience that is not into the fad of the download. I am very grateful for that. My fans must intrinsically understand the value of having a record in their hand. With so much standing to kill the record business and make it extinct, I think it is great there are still people who appreciate the beauty of a record - a real record..."

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Is Rick Springfield really better than Van Morrison?

I came across a funny Van moment in the blogasphere the other day when I happened to view Alyssa Brennan's blog.  (I'm not providing a link because it's not of major importance to people living on Planet Van.)  Anyway, she provides a copy of the embarrassing note she wrote to her father when she was 11.  In it she disses her father's music by saying, "My father doesn’t appreciate good music (Rick Springfield, of course). All he listens to is Van Morrison who does not sing. He either talks or barks." 

Van and Wine

Tom Wark's Fermentation blog has an interesting essay where he compares his love for wine and Van.  A sample quote from the blog:  "I think I need to admit that just as I have developed a certain intimacy with the music and message of Van Morrison, I'd need to develop an intimate relationship or understanding with the winery and its wines' "places" to be able to say, "Ah, this is authentic".

Deep, fruity stuff all that.