Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Van Tribute Bands

When Van Can't Be Everywhere There's Always The Vancoovers

Van Morrison tribute bands abound.  All major performers have their imitators.  (What you never want to become is the warm-up act for a tribute band).  

Tribute bands based on the Beatles has become a major industry complete with Beatle tribute band competitions.  Van is probably a bit harder to copy because of the sheer variety of his music.  Some performers hate them, others are flattered by their imitators.  A night out seeing a tribute band is always a bit of fun, although I did have a negative experience at a 'Kenny and Dolly' tribute show once.  (Yes, I'm admitting I went to a Kenny and Dolly tribute show.)   

Here are some Van tribute performers you may want to check out in your neck of the woods:

VM  -  VM are an Australian Van tribute band based in Melbourne.  David McCall is the band's Van.

Celtic Soul - Celtic Soul are a fantastic band based in Northern Ireland.  They look like they produce some great versions of Van songs. The link here directs you to their facebook page which has some interesting film clips on it.  They tend to mine the deeper cuts on albums which always makes for a great show.  Check out this further link on youtube.    

Van the Man  -  is another Australian artist but the site shows little sign of activity recently.

The Belfast Cowboys  -  Are an outfit from Minneapolis in the US. 

The Van Band - Seems like a good band with a good lead singer. 

Greg Hester from Augusta, Georgia does a Van show as well as generally playing his own music which ranges from country to Americana and soul.

The Vancoovers are based in Dorset.  Their 'Van' is Sean Geraghty who has appeared in stage shows such as Buddy and The Patsy Cline Story
Van-tastic  -  Iain Sparks does a Van tribute show as Van-tastic.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

A Tale of Two Morrisons: The Doors and Them Onstage

The Whisky a Go Go was a music venue on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles that played host to a number of seminal 60s bands.  The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield and Love were all performed there. Audience members included a number of important musical figures as well.  The Doors were the 'house band' for a while until Jim Morrison's controversial performance of The End one night. 

Them had a two week residency that ran from June 2 to June 18, 1966.  The Doors opened for them and the two groups were on particularly friendly terms.  On the last night of the residency Jim Morrison joined Them onstage for a classic jam of Gloria.  In an interview in Wavelength 21 Jim Armstrong, who payed guitar with Them, reminisced about the Whisky residency.  He said that part of the band's deal for the shows was free beer and spirits at half price.  Nonetheless in two weeks the band accumulated a $2600 bar tab.  He is quoted as saying rather redundantly, "they were heavily into drugs while we were all heavily into drink."   

The Whiskey a Go Go shows were part of an exhaustive west coast tour which ultimately were among the last shows performed by a Van Morrison-led Them. Van Morrison left the group in September, 1966 after their return to Ireland. The Whisky shows were sell-outs and extremely well-received. Apparently, The Doors had difficulty finding places in the audience to watch Them's opening night. Jim was very impressed with the band and with Van Morrison's performance.
The famous jam between Them and The Doors was mentioned by John Densmore in his book.  He said it was one of the greatest musical moments of his life to be on stage with two drummers, two guitarists, two keyboard players and two Morrisons.

In a 1983 interview, Ray Manzerk also spoke about the night they appeared with Them.

“Yeah, there were some good times at The Whisky-A-Go-Go, boy that's for sure. We played with Them; the first gig we played at The Whisky was Van Morrison and Jim Morrison - on the same stage. And Van Morrison was insane. You know how he got into just standing there and singing? I haven't really seen him in a long time, but when he was with Them, the guy was ALL OVER the stage, man. Absolutely insane. Did that thing of holding the microphone stand upside down, and singing, and smashing the mic stand into the stage, and just...God, was he incredible! He was so good. Then the last night we played we had a jam, We got a couple of photographs of that somewhere, but nobody recorded it. The Doors and Them, together on stage, the two Morrisons.”
(Paul Lawrence, Ray Manzarek: The Audio Interview, Audio, Dec. 1983)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Top 5 Van Sites on the Net

Before the Internet there was something beautiful and pure called music.

  1.  Van Morrison News blog   -  deserves its number 1 spot since this is where Van fans go first to check on anything Van, especially current news.   

  2.  Wikipedia   -    A great source of information and you can spend days following all the links.  Allows the reader to trace obscure parts of the Van story.  Accuracy and comprehensiveness are what the Van fan finds here.
 3.  Gunter Becker's Song Database   -   Mr Becker has produced an obsessive site crammed full of information/data on just about anything to do with Van.  How does this guy do it?  Honestly, where did he find all those concert track listings?  The length of every song done in concert?  All the concert medleys?  Does this guy ever sleep? Amazing.

 4.  Visions of Pat blog   -   Pat's blog is a fantastic from-the-heart blog.  The above sites are food for the mind.  Pat's blog is food for the spirit and heart.  One man's career as a Vanatic.  

 5.   an ebay 'Van Morrison' search (Worldwide, all categories)   -   It's not just about the buying and selling.  Type 'Van Morrison' on ebay every so often and you'll be amazed at the array of Van stuff out there. One of the amazing things you find is how many ripoff CDs have been created from the Bang material.   

Monday, 17 October 2011

10 Van Quotes - Part 2

 1. "There's an obsession at the moment with what some people call the comics and what I call the propaganda magazines, Mojo, Q Magazine, The Word There's this obsession with the past."

 2. "Being famous was extremely disappointing for me. When I became famous it was a complete drag and it is still a complete drag.”

 3. "There are the people who write these so-called biographical books, who haven't done the research, and don't know enough about me in the first place. I think the guys who wrote the last couple of books were complete ignoramuses, not qualified for the job."

4. "I write songs. Then, I record them. And, later, maybe I perform them on stage. That's what I do. That's my job. Simple.”

 5. "Even today skiffle is a defining part of my music.  If I get the opportunity to just have a jam, skiffle is what I love to play."

 6. "I educated myself.  To me, school was boring." 

 7. "I learnt from Armstrong on the early recordings that you never sang a song the same way twice." 

 8. "When I started you were more in touch with the people you were playing to.  There wasn't the distance or the separation that there is now."     

 9. "The first piece of music that captured my imagination was probably Ray Charles Live at Newport."   

10.  "There's always got to be a struggle.  What else is there? That's what life is made of.  I don't know anything else.  If there is, tell me about it."

Monday, 10 October 2011

5 Interesting Van Articles Online

Van with The Band in The Last Waltz

I really like reading about the Man.  He's a complex character who's stirred lots of emotions in his fans and critics alike.  Here are some articles online I thought others might enjoy: 

  1.  It's not easy being a Van Morrison fan   -   a lament about watching the Man live and his uneven stage performance.

  2.  Concert review: Van Morrison performs Astral Weeks at Chicago Theatre   -   A great piece on a Van concert from September, 2009.  Interesting fan comments follow the article.

  3.  A Sense of Ulster: Van Morrison's Belfast   -   a fantastic 2010 piece by Stephen Brown about Belfast and Van's nostalgic name-checking of parts of the part in the city.

 4.  Van Morrison and the Band   -   Peter Viney's 1996 piece delves into the history of Van's connection with the Band.  Also gives a thorough round-up of their combined recordings. 

  5.  Great Irish Writers: Garbhan Downey on Van Morrison   -   Writer Garbhan Downey's 2011 speech where he puts forward the case for Van Morrison as Ireland's greatest writer.  A wonderful tribute.   

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Geoffrey K. Pullum Doesn't Like Van

Geoffrey K. Pullum contemplates Van's "bare, strained voice".

In an internet article entitled "Van Loses It On stage"  Mr Pullum discusses a concert incident where one naive fan yells out "we love you Van".  Mr Pullum comments the comment moved Van to make his only comment to the audience that night.  He replied, "F###ing shut the f### up.      
Mr Pullen then goes on to voice his disapproval of Van.  "I happen to detest Van Morrison's music. His bare, strained voice appeals to me not at all, and I hate even his most popular recordings".  Mr Pullum embarrasses himself further by saying "I once offered to put five dollars in the tips jar at the Stevenson College Coffee House at UC Santa Cruz if they would stop playing the Van Morrison CD they had put on. They did, and I did. So his music has negative cash value for me: I have actually paid money to not hear it."

But around the world hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, list Van among their favourite performers.  Out of that number there are a core of many thousands who count themselves as "Vanatics" for whom Van Morrison is an obsession. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

What People Think of Van

I really enjoy surveying the vast range of Van opinion on the internet. There's an equality of opinion out there that rings more true than the stuff Greil Marcus dishes out. It shows how broad and how subjective Van's appeal is. What one fan rates as 'the worst album ever made' another calls it the 'classic of the ages'. Gerry Smith started a thread somewhere on the internet where he asked for views on Van and started the ball rolling with his own assessment.

Gerry Smith - I'm deep into the music of Van Morrison:

* Peerless, soulful voice.

* Gifted musician - guitar, alto sax, harmonica....

* Several hundred original compositions.

* Consistently high standard of album releases.

* Outstanding live performer.

I'd be very interested to hear what others think of Van the Man.

Tom - You have me at a loss. I have an enormous gut feeling that Van The Man is absolutely dreadful and the living antithesis of all I hold dear about music (make that "this week's living antithesis...") BUT I don't have a shred of evidence to back it up.

Billy Dods - Yes agreed, but also several rather polished but tiresomely dull albums (Into the music/poetic champions compose/Day like this etc.). I'm glad you didn't say consistently high standard of live performance as he's done both one of the best and worst concerts I've ever been to. First in Glasgow around about 89' he was simply transcendent. The second at the same venue a year later he just couldn't be arsed, sloppy, insulting, bigoted, mean spirited wank. I think he'd got one of the roadies to yodel as a support and he was better than Van the Man that night. He looks cool in a fedora though.

Mark S. - I think you'd like Them, Tom. I personally have not an iota of Celtic Soul about me, and no longer cares who knows it. Moondance is kinda OK, and I like the way he was photographed on Astral Weeks to look more Kris Kristofferson than he actually ever did. At all.

Ned Raggett - Hearing the original Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? at my cousin's wedding for the couple's first dance was in fact a bit of a revelation, though admittedly in part because I was so used to the Rod Stewart 'borefest' remake of same. But I honestly think I could get by with just a homemade CDR of highlights.

Sean - The entire Astral Weeks album is just lovely, a perfect example of LP as self-contained work of art. I know he has other good (and bad) stuff, but Astral Weeks is on my "must own" list.

Fritz - He's an easy target of mockery(around here anyway): the antithesis of post-punk, earnest caterwauling hippie mystic and faux jazz self- flagellation, a widebellied little big boss man but if you can get past all that TB Sheets & Astral Weeks are their own rewards. He radiates a kind of anti charisma from those beady little eyes, and even the narrators of his songs are unlikeable - squeamish at the sickbed of an ex-lover, vaguely pedophilic li'l schoolgirl lechery all over the place, and there's a dark narcissism underlying everything. But somehow, I love those records.

Mark - I like both Astral Weeks and Moondance a lot. Astral Weeks has that sort of unnameable dream quality that I associate with Neutral Milk Hotel. Like the compositions are steered by something very internal, possibly unconscious. And boy, the bass playing on that record is so nice. He's got so much & I know so little. I also like Wavelength. Some of those long mid-70s pieces like Listen to the Lion are pretty painful.

Dave Q. - Do you have that notorious 'contractual obligation' album he did to piss off Bang Records? (Includes Here Comes Dumb George and The Big Royalty Cheque, I gather he had a bit of a beef with Bert Burns.) Now that I would love to hear.

Stevo - There are a lot of very good reasons to dislike Van Morrison. Astral Weeks isn't one of them, you can forgive just about anything after that.

Simon - On which album can I find more songs like Wild Night? Any suggestions? It's the only song by Van I really love. Really love. I have access to a good dozen of his records at the local phonothèque (CD library), but every time I pick one up, I'm not in the mood for folky stuff and that's all I seem to get. So I don't really listen to it. Did Van ever write other swinging songs about boys doing the boogie-woogie on the corner of the street?

Snotty Moore - Van is useless and has been since Them, and has inspired more crap music than anyone not called Bob Dylan.

Andrew Norman - Like Wild Night, Domino, Bright Side of the Road, Jackie Wilson Said. All on the Greatest Hits album which is essential, since it gathers up all the best bits from some extremely dodgy albums. You also need Saint Dominic's Preview and Astral Weeks, but almost every other Van M album consists of a few good tracks (which will be on the compilation) and lots of padding.

DN - Beautiful Vision, perfect album.

Ian Johnson - Van Morrison's Greatest Hits doesn't has neither TB Sheets nor The Way That Young Lovers Do. In fact, it doesn't have anything at all from Astral Weeks. I tried to convince my mom that she ought to throw it away and just buy his first five or six albums or whatever. She was having none of that.

Alex in NYC - Cannot stand him, honestly.

djdee2005 - Anyway Astral Weeks is like the greatest thing ever.

Alex in NYC - Astral Weeks is an awful, sickly wedding cake of wobbly self-indulgence.

Noodle Vague - I love Astral Weeks to bits, but I've never felt the need to get anything else.

Bulbs - I like Veedon Fleece.

Hurting - I find him dull except for Them. Out of context, that would be a strange sentence.

Stewart Osborne - Them + pretty much everything up to 1974 classic - although the amount of love lavished on Astral Weeks is a bit perplexing and St. Dominic's Preview in particular really should receive far more love than it seems to. Nothing I've heard from him since 1974 seems to come close although I have recently been entertaining the (probably fanciful) notion that he's about due for a sudden and unexpected return to form.

Ken L. - I first got hip to Van when I saw the Last Waltz. When he came out I thought "who the heck is that little fat guy, he's all flabby and dressed in a brown pantsuit? He looks like a middle-aged lady. On top of that he's doing this ridiculous chorus-line kicking." Then I kept listening and I shut up. His was the most definitive performance in the movie, his and Muddy Waters.

About Van sideman and territory-sharer Georgie Fame. I saw Georgie once at Ronnie Scott's in London, and he put on one good show. He did one bit where, in a tribute to his former boss, he sang a medley of Moondance and some African song from a movie soundtrack (was it one of those Cornel Wilde things?) that was pretty damn great.

57 7th - Beautiful Vision is a great album that my folks used to put on when I was 7 or 8. Don't know if I'd have the same reaction to it if I heard it for the first time now, though.

Pashmina - I don't like him because the timbre of his voice grates on me for some reason. Sorry, VM lovers!!

Burr - I've never thought of Van Morrison as hippy-anything (or especially earnest, for that matter). Unlike the faux-mysticism of, say, Led Zeppelin, Van's lyrics steer clear of gnomes and m'ladys, are grounded instead in back alleys, snowstorms, trains, Safeway supermarkets, and memory. More importantly, the music is equally grounded: in r&b. His 70's catalogue (Moondance, Tupelo Honey, St Dominic's Preview, Hardnose the Highway, Veedon Fleece, and though it's '69, Astral Weeks belongs in this group too) is at least as strong as Al Green's. After that, for the most part it seems like he started reading a bit too much of his own press. Yes, the mysticism did start to grate. I've been listening to him a lot again.

Stevolende - I love a lot of the early stuff, especially the Them era. And Astral Weeks. Also Veedon Fleece, It's Too Late To Stop Now and other bits of the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. Not listened to him much after about '74 though I do have Common One somewhere and the video of the live set from the collaboration with the Chieftains. I was just looking at the list of supposedly essential LPs by him in the current Mojo this morning and thinking there were a couple of things I'd think of as necessary such as the Too late set. Also that I should have the Chieftains studio LP, just managed to get the video thing from the TV around the time that was released.

Inconceivable - Irish Heartbeat is one of his best albums for sure. Raglan Road is incredible.

Scott Seward - I was listening to these songs a LOT in 1987. and doing lots of drugs. people forget how psychedelic the 80's were. unless they were psychedelic in the 80's. A lot of 80's revivalists miss that part of it.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn - A lot of his eighties are sharp! Cleaning Windows, Did Ya Get Healed, Someone Like You -- lovely.

Michael B. Higgins - Dweller on the threshold is another great 80's Van track.

Tyler W. - One Irish Rover from no guru is another great one. The production on the album track is a little cheese-o, this version kinda improves on it.

Lee626 - So glad to see No Guru, No Method, No Teacher is getting some love! I saw Van on the tour for this album and was floored by several of the then-new songs, which I'd never heard at that point. The album's midsection - Foreign Window, A Town Called Paradise, In The Garden, Tir Na Nog - is an amazing, trance like four-song sequence.

Inconceivable - Philosopher's Stone has a fair amount of good stuff on it but don't go looking for higher peaks than Wonderful Remark. Wonderful Remark is an all-time jam. Bright Side of the Road is great but isn't there a version of that on Into the Music too?

Balls - Bright side of the road was on Into the Music, pretty easily the best post-peak run van album. Apparently, Shakira performed it at the Obama inauguration!

Lee626 - Into The Music a fine piece of work but hardly the best since Moondance

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn - I prefer it to Moondance. I prefer St Dominic's Preview to Moondance. I prefer Tupelo Honey to Moondance. see a trend? Full Force Gale is mighty.

Tyler W. - seems like that release was kinda under the radar (at least I didn't really pay attention to it when it came out). but it's essential IMO. Van really needs like a comprehensive box set, but maybe he's been on too many different labels for that to happen?

Lee626 - Van really needs like a comprehensive box set, but maybe he's been on too many different labels for that to happen? I have a good 2-disc NRBQ comp (on Rhino) and they've been on like seven different labels, so it's doable.

Balls - Do you actually not like Moondance or are you just tired of it or do you just prefer some others to it? totally understand the latter two and always kinda amazed at how many people I've met who own and LOVE Moondance, go to a weird place when they hear 'into the mystic' like it's 'desperado' or something and yet somehow have zero interest in listening or owning any other Van Morrison album.

Blank - I gotta rep for Inarticulate Speech of the Heart as far as 80s van goes. immense album.

Lee626 - Why does Allmusic show Crazy Love as having been written by Paul Anka? That can't be right!

Tyler Burns - I listened to ASTRAL WEEKS about a year ago and was sorely disappointed. Not even sure how it can be considered a classic album...

Blank - I'm really into ponderous Van. Keep It Simple is a hugely funny Van album title to me.

That's not my last post - Not Supposed To Break Down off Philosopher's Stone is just amazing. Some other gems from the 80s that I don't think have been mentioned are Wild Honey from Common One, Rave On, John Donne from Inarticulate Speech, So Quiet in Here and Real Real Gone from Enlightenment and Tore Down a la Rimbaud from A Sense of Wonder. Rave On, John Donne is such a quintessential Van title. Hard to think of anyone else who'd merge Buddy Holly and 17th C English poetry.

Lee626 - Celtic Ray off Beautiful Vision is quite nice too.

Emo Canon - I guess it's obvious that Common One is totally killer.