Friday, 24 February 2012

Squidoo's "All About Van Morrison's Moondance" page

 (Picture is Pencil study for Dance in the Country. by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1883.

At Squidoo a fan named Joan has created a page that concentrates on the one Van song called Moondance.    
Joan says, Moondance is one of the greatest pop songs of all time. Seductive and sincerely romantic, with gorgeous music and great singing by Morrison. When you hear Moondance, you feel like you're right there, on a warm autumn night, falling in love.
The page has all kinds of things from clips to a musical analysis of Moondance.  You can even vote on important Moondance-related issues.  (Apparently, 74% of respondents think Van Morrison on the cover of Moondance looks like Vincent Van Gogh.) 

The words and music of Moondance the song were written entirely by Van and it was recorderd at A & R Studios, New York City, in 1969.  There has been some uggestion that he tried to interest Frank Sinatra in recording it but it never panned out.
Morrison did not release the song as a single until November 1977, seven and a half years after the album was released. It reached the Billboard Hot 100, charting at #92. The single's B-side, Cold Wind in August had been released in the same year, on his latest album at the time, A Period of Transition.
Featured musicians:
* Van Morrison - vocals, guitar
* John Klingberg - bass guitar
* Jeff Labes - piano
* Gary Mallaber - drums
* John Platania - guitar
* Jack Schroer - alto saxophone
* Collin Tilton - tenor saxophone, flute

Producers - Van Morrison and Lewis Merenstein

Released on the album Moondance in 1970, Warner Brothers Records label.

 JJoan's musical analysis of Moondance

Moondance is in the key of A-minor.
What gives the song its feel is the chord progression that opens the song and repeats through the major part of the verse. It goes back and forth between an A-minor chord and a B-minor chord. In music theory lingo, that's a 1-chord and then a 2-chord (in the key of A, the A note is scale tone number 1, and B is scale tone number 2). This pattern is played on the piano, accompanied by bass and drums.

It struck me that this very same minor-mode, 1-chord-to-2-chord pattern is also used in another iconic song, Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. But, obviously, the two songs get very different emotional effects from the same progression. Jackson uses it with a stark beat and a lot of echo to give it an eerie feeling, while Morrison's warm acoustic instrumentation and swingy 6/8 beat make it feel comfortable and sexy.
The main melody stays in the natural minor scale, with a gentle flowing line that feels like a spontaneous, natural expression. A little more musical tension builds at the end of the verses, leading into a more boisterous feeling in the chorus before returning to the main groove.

The easy melody, with its comfortable, syncopated rhythm is very adaptable to bending and improvising, which we hear in the great piano and saxophone solos. These are followed by Morrison's vocal "solo" where he plays around with the first verse and then just riffs his way through to the end of the song.
If you want to read further click on the link above.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Van at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

If you're ever in Cleveland a visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a must.  The link provided links to the Van Morrison biography.  You can also explore other great rock stuff on the site. Van was a class of 1993 inductee.   

Friday, 17 February 2012

A Fan Asks For an Autograph

The following is a blog post by a guy named Brian from Donegal. 

I asked Van Morrison for his autograph - and lived. 
First, let's put this in context. I didn't want Van's autograph. This was the early 80s, I was 20 or something and cultivating my I'm-not-impressed-by-anybody pseudo-cool. But I was out on one of the earliest dates with my wife, who had recently seen him in concert. The fateful confrontation occurred in a hotel in Bangor, County Down. It was a Tuesday night or something and the bar was deserted except for us, Van Morrison and a female companion. Van is - surprise, surprise - in a bad mood, his mid-Atlantic accent carrying all through the place. I have a bad feeling.
'There's Van Morrison...'
'Uh-huh, ' I acknowledge while trying and hide my whole face inside my half-pint glass.
'I'd love his autograph...'
Of course you would. And you want me to get it. And we've only just starting going out so, you know, I want to impress. I gird my loins, get a piece of paper and a pen and get up and start walking towards Van.
In an empty bar, it's pretty clear that I'm headed for him. I'd like to tell you that I strode proudly towards him, head held high but actually I was staring at the ground. There was a lot of bar to cover and always the possibility that Van would start lobbing glasses or something.
Eventually, I reach his table. I've worked out a strategy. Mea culpa, I will confess that I am intruding but promise to leave him alone as soon as the deed is done.
I get as far as saying,'Look, I'm sorry, I know you don't like this sort of thing...' when Van responds.
'So, why are you doing it, then?' the great man asks.
I start to say my girlfriend is a big fan, go for the all-lads-together approach but, no, he's off. For the next 10 minutes he tells me how pathetic this is, how everybody bothers him, how he wants to left alone...10 minutes! He could have a) signed the thing or b) told me to bugger off in two seconds and it would all be over. But no. I stand there, looking at the ground while Van tells me how I'm symptomatic of everything difficult in his life. All I was lacking was a flat cap to twist between my hands while he delivers his message. Finally, he does sign the thing with a contemptuous gesture, and I back away muttering embarrassed thanks and we leave the bar soon after. I don't wave.
The autograph?  Lost many moons ago.

Monday, 13 February 2012

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.

Friday, 10 February 2012

20 Best Long Songs List by Akshay Ahuja

Here’s a list from Akshay Ahuja at his The Powdered Wig blog.  Is Madame George Van's best "long song"?  Who cares about the length of songs anyway? For lengths of every Van song in concert check out Guenter Brecker's Van Song Database.  Brilliant!      

20 Best Long Songs
My rule was over 6:30. One song per artist. Jazz, live, and instrumental tracks were off limits. Also excluded were songs pointlessly extended with silence or white noise (this means you, Wilco). Instrumental noodling was discouraged but not forbidden.

1. Bob Dylan, Visions of Johanna – 7:33 (Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands is beautiful but not quite gripping for all twelve minutes.)
2. Van Morrison, Madame George – 9:25
3. Velvet Underground, Heroin – 7:12 (Sister Ray is half an hour long, but I get pretty bored around the six minute mark.)
4. Bruce Springsteen, Backstreets – 6:30
5. Prince, Adore – 6:30
6. Tindersticks, Sweet Release – 8:55
7. Cat Power, Colors and the Kids – 6:35
8. Rolling Stones, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – 7:15
9. Tom Waits, Burma-Shave – 6:34
10. James Brown, It’s a New Day – 6:27 (I’m giving him the missing three seconds for exceptional funkiness.)
11. Neil Young, On the Beach – 6:59
12. Big Brother and the Holding Company, Ball and Chain – 9:37
An Album by Finland's Madame George Not a lost Van Bootleg
13. Al Green, For the Good Times – 6:32
14. Curtis Mayfield, (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go – 7:50
15. Built to Spill, Velvet Waltz – 8:33
16. Outkast, Liberation – 8:46
17. U2, All I Want is You – 6:32
18. Modest Mouse, Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine – 6:53
19. The Wrens, 13 Months in Six Minutes – 6:50
20. Marvin Gaye, Right On – 7:31
Posted by Akshay Ahuja at 4/18/2007

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Drinking Ban - The Fans Speak

The Guardian Music Blog had an interesting post back in 2008.  It was entitled "Can You Stomach a Gig Without Booze?" and basically discussed Van's alcohol ban during shows. What follows is a cut down version of the original post and edited versions of some of the reader comments. 

Can you stomach a gig without booze?

Looks like Van the Man won't be taking any requests for Moonshine Whiskey then. 
It's pretty easy to come up with reasons why a Van Morrison gig could disappoint:
a) He neglects to play the original version of Brown Eyed Girl, and instead kicks off a 15-minute pan-pipe jam inspired by his soul-searching travels in the Andes.
b) He rekindles his love affair with Scientology and brings Tom Cruise onstage for a skiffle paean to the wondrous ways of L Ron Hubbard.
c) The crowd find themselves banned from going to the bar to get a stiff drink to numb the dull, throbbing pain caused by two hours of incessant MOR rock.
This time, Van the Man has gone for c) - preventing his audience from quaffing booze at tomorrow night's Brighton Dome gig, and for two shows in Liverpool and Birmingham next month. Apparently, this beer ban has nothing to do with the teetotal Van's past problems with alcohol.  He doesn't like folk wandering about too much when he sings. It puts him off, you see. We can only suppose that this rules out dancing too. Soft drinks, however, are allowed – so you can go back and forth, downing as much Coca-Cola as your body can hold.

What I find weird, though, is that Van seems to have forgotten that most gigs are undoubtedly powered by booze. Queues at venue bars are nearly always a vicious battle to the Becks, yet still people are willing to miss a couple of songs by their favourite acts in order to secure an overpriced, plastic pint of cider or miniature beaker of acrid vodka. And why? Because good music and drink are still the best of bedfellows, and a tipsy crowd is usually an enthusiastic one. And let's face it, most of us need some Dutch courage to shake a leg in front of complete strangers at 8.30pm on a school night.
Maybe we've got this all wrong. Seeing as the tickets for Van's mini-tour range in price from £40 to £85, could the man be doing his fans a favour by asking them to not shove their hands any deeper into their pockets?

richardrj  -  18/09/2008

Banning booze at gigs is fine by me. I too get irritated by people walking back and forth while the artist is playing, especially at seated gigs like the Dome where the potential to distract other punters is much greater. And of course they're not just going to the bar, they're going to the loo as well, the latter being a direct result of the former. Sometimes you look around you and all you see is folk milling around, not just at the beginning of the gig but right the way through it. I wouldn't go to a Van Morrison gig if you paid me, but I can see his point right enough. I mean, can't people go without drinking for an hour or so?
The thing about Morrison allowing soft drinks is interesting, though. It makes me suspect that he is probably closer to the Robert Fripp school of thought. Fripp has never gone so far as banning alcohol at gigs, although he has banned photos/smoking/taping/fidgeting/enjoying oneself. His view is that audience members, or audients as he calls them, have to be clear-headed in order to appreciate the music – a rather priggish attitude, in my view.
For the second time today I find myself writing on these here blogs that the rock world could take lessons from the jazz world. Go to a jazz club here in mainland Europe and you get your drink brought to you at your table – a far more civilised business than the scrum at the bar.
This is off topic, but here's an illustration of why drinking at gigs in Europe is so much more pleasant than drinking at gigs in Britain. For obvious reasons, bar staff aren't allowed to serve drinks in proper glass glasses, so in Britain you get those crappy flimsy plastic things which rapidly get crushed underfoot. In Europe, they give you a hard plastic glass and they charge you a euro deposit for it. You keep the glass throughout the evening, bringing it back to the bar every time. At the end of the evening, you take it back to the bar and you get your euro back. Hey presto - no broken glass, no plastic for the poor staff to sweep up at the end of the evening, no glasses for them to have to keep collecting.
A gig without the constant, constant distraction of the queue of people who spend their entire time squeezing all the way to the back of the hall to buy beer, squeezing back (usually depositing half of it over you) and then swiftly downing it before returning to the bar once more?
Fine by me, the odds of catching him on a good night are slender anyway. Why not stay in and listen a selection of his better tunes with a few mates and a few bottles of wine?
Grumpy old git.
Just because tubby can't handle his drink, doesn't mean the paying punters can't have a bevy. What a knob. Maybe they should ban pork pies & sausage rolls from his rider?
most gigs are undoubtedly powered by booze.
not sure I agree with that - rock gigs yes, but it is different strokes for different folks - I went to see India Arie a few years back and the bar was empty.
I also had an enforced period of sober gigging a while back due to being on antibiotics for 6 months - the best gigs (e.g. Robert Plant at the Hammersmith Palais were just as enjoyable).
I think there is a case for closing the bar at seated venues when the act is on. A previous Plant gig at Hammersmith Odeon (or whatever it is called these days) was partly spoiled by the constant distraction of fans trips to bar & toilet ( the two are linked, and in the case of Plant his audiences bladders aren't what they used to be!).
But I think this is just Van being his usual grumpy self.
I recently finally had the chance to see one of my all-time favourite bands, Big Star, live. When they played their classic song, Thirteen, what should have been a beautiful perfect moment for me was ruined by some idiot bulldozing his way through the crowd carrying a whole round of drinks. It wouldn't have been so bad, but he was incapable of finding his mates, or locating natural gaps between people, so just pushed me and everyone in the vicinity back and forth throughout the entire song, spilling beer everywhere as he went. The poignancy of the song was left trampled in his wake. I would very much like to find that man and perform a Carling enema on him.
I've only twice consumed alcohol at gigs, the first time was at a Van gig. Van's performance was uninspiring and the beer was rubbish.
The other time was at a Bowie gig, or more accurately before a Bowie gig. I was very excited about going to see my hero and a friend generously gave me a bottle of vodka to celebrate.
My companion for the evening was late and by the time she arrived I'd consumed at least half the bottle. By then I was rocking on and drank some more on the train to Liverpool.
When I woke up in the morning I tried to remember the gig but all I could recall was one solitary image of Bowie standing there on the stage in that union jack coat (Earthling era). I also had a big lump on the back of my head.
I had to go and buy a copy of the Liverpool echo so I could read a review of the gig and find out if it was good.
A rock gig without a ten minute queue to pay 4 pounds for a warm can of Red Stripe served in a flimsy plastic glass would just not be the same. Has the man no sense of tradition?
  • Ramalution  19/09/08
  • Absolutely not, 10 years ago I saw Bob Dylan on a co headline tour with Van Morrison. Van was first up , started with Days Like These which was nice ,and then did a 1 hour blues jam which was terrible, and REFUSED to play Brown eyed girl. I still hate him.
I'm all for drinking at gigs as its something to do while your hanging round for the band/singer to start. Or if the gig (see 45 minute blog post yesterday)goes on to long, something to do.
That said drinking to much at gigs is a pain and I apologise for the following drunken moments:
1) Automatic, Kentish Town Forum, beginning November. I had just come back from Peru, had a works do straight away on the Friday night and consumed my body weight in Redbull and Vodka. Turned up at the gig and just jumped on people, got boll*cking by the bouncer. Sorry if you were there.
2)January 4h 2006 Art Brut, Elbow Rooms. What a rubbish venue for a gig. Even more rubbish when I'm pushing through the crowd every 5 minutes to go to the bar and consume more Guinness. Very drunk.
3) Arctic Monkeys, Glastonbury 2007. They were rubbish, I had drunk for 3 days with no let up. No excuse to start chucking mud at my friends and passers by. Apologies.
4) Quite a few others: Subways @ Koko's springs to mind.
In conclusion drinking is bad at gigs ,lets stop it. Just stop it.
Whatevs - but I don't think drink would improve a van gig anyway. The man hasn't done anything of musical consequence since about 1984 (probably about the time he started having trouble with drinking).
I yearn for the days when drink was not the drug of choice of the gig going classes. I can remember seeing CSN&Y at Wembley (twin towers) with the Band, Joni Mitchell, and Jesse Colin Young, and while one of those acts was on going to a bar for some liquid refreshment - the bars were all deserted, with the barmen looking perplexed by the inactivity. The crowd too busy munching on microdots and smoking hash. But of course the smoking ban means those days are sadly forever gone!! Que nostalgic old geezer staring wistfully out of the window.....................wondering where his short term memory has gone.
Having had the misfortune of seeing Van Morrison live and reading various (non) interviews with the man, I have often wondered what this man is doing in the music business, it obviously is not an business that suits him. He cares so little about his audience and has so little respect for them that he obviously doesn't want to be an entertainer. He seems to only ever invite interviewers when he's obliged Van Morrison live and reading various (non) interviews with the man, I have often wondered what this man is doing in the music business, it obviously is not an business that suits him. He cares so little about his audience and has so little respect for them that he obviously doesn't want to be an entertainer. He seems to only ever invite interviewers when he's obliged to, in order to make some extra sales on his recordings, but hates the selling process so much that he just seems to grump his way through them.
I can only guess that the only parts of the whole recording business he likes is the money and the recording process. which is fair enough, but surely he's earned enough by now to just record for his own pleasure (if such a concept exists for him) and ignore the sales anyway.
I'm guessing that if a record sells poorly he blames the audience for being uncultured slobs rather than his own work anyway.
I've been going to gigs sober for years and it's not affected my enjoyment of them (apart from a growing intolerance of anti-social drunkenness in some members of the audience) I'm not against banning drinks from some gigs - why do they need to buy drinks while the headline act is on - surely that's why you bought the ticket - you don't spend £20+ to just get access to warm beer served in plastic glasses.
But I just think this banning in Van Morrison's case is just another example of the lack of respect he has for his audience.
I would like to have seen him try to stop people drinking and moving when he appeared at Glastonbury, yet he no doubt pocketed his sizeable fee!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Van Morrison - a Celtic Sourdough for a Celtic New Year

Van Morrison sourdough

Imagine Van as a loaf of bread.  Chinese Australian Shiao Ping has done just that on her bread-making blog and she's serious.  Here are highlights from her post about Van Morrison sourdough: 
"For 30 years you've enjoyed an artist, he has accompanied you from when you became a young adult, marriage, career, through till you retired, and has begun your second 50 years of life... 
...If you are discerning enough and are able to extrapolate the lessens you've learnt along the way, you will see the relationship between your life and bread (or any other serious endeavours).  What you can learn then is beyond bread.   What masters can teach, then, is beyond bread.  If you are able to find in masters such continuity and such value, you have transcended beyond the physical.    
In Van Morrison I have found such a master, and value for all my investments in him.  I have found a life evolving, unfolding, deepening, and ever refreshing.  
I wanted to do a bread to pay him tribute.  I am pondering if Spelt would be a good fit as Spelt is an ancient grain and Celtic is an ancient culture.   I went to Dan Lepard's The Homemade Loaf for some help; I thought maybe Dan's proximity to Van Morrison's Irish Celtic roots would give me some hints as to what bread would do him honour.   Under the heading Ireland, all that I can find is Irish Soda Bread which is not a leaven bread.  It uses bicarbonate of soda in place of yeast so requires no proofing.  I was told from other sources that the soda bread is a staple of the Irish diet.  It was and still is used as an accompaniment to a meal.   
Why Celtic New Year?  To the Celts, their year begins with the festival of Samhain on 31st October at the end of the harvest season, when nature appears to be dying down ... but "from death and darkness springs life and light."
I have a few months up my sleeve and I am brushing up my skill for a Irish Celtic stew too.  To soak up the Irish stew and Guinness beer, a hearty, somewhat dense, bread is what I need. 
My Guinness soupy starter 
420 g Guinness draught stout (brewed in Ireland by Guinness & Co., St James's Gate,* Dublin)
84 g white flour
100 g starter @ 75% hydration  
*  The only St. James that I know of is Van Morrison's Saint James Infirmary in his album What's Wrong With This Picture, what a monumentally beautiful song.  
I heated up Guinness to 70C (158F) then stirred the flour in.  When it cooled down to 20 C, I added the starter and let it sit covered overnight.  
In constructing my Celtic Sourdough, I took cue for some of my ingredients from Dan's soda bread which has soft wholewheat flour (white wholemeal flour?), fine oatmeal, lard** (I used dripping fat from roasting a leg of lamb last week), butter milk and milk (I steered clear of dairy products), and sugar (I used black strap molasses for that deep colour and bitterness). 
** Have you ever heard of a Chinese 50-year old stock pot?  Yes, in Europe or US you have 150-year old starter; in China, there is the 50-year old stock pot.  If you ever see a picture of it, you swear you're never going to get near that stew the shop owner is brewing out in the open.   My stock is, oh, maybe 18-month old (against my husband's knowledge), and it lives safely in my freezer; it gets ever renewed with each new stew or roast I am making.   Can you imagine the deep meaty savoury aroma that comes out of the little bit of lard that I skimmed off from my stock pot and put in the dough (below)?  
My formula 
200 g Guinness starter from above (hydration about 328%)
280 g organic spelt flour
120 g organic stone-ground wholemeal flour
50 g fine oatmeal
30 g dripping fat from a roast ** as above
20 g organic black strap molasses
167 g water 
10 g salt
Rolled oats and oatmeal for dusting
The dough hydration from above (74%) may seem high but it is not at all; the dough feels more like a 65 - 68% dough because of the fat and molasses which are not exactly liquid, and also because oatmeal soaks up a lot of water.  I was in two minds about whether I score or don't score.  The ancient Celts, if they ever made breads, would they score like the French village bakers?  I left it untouched.  On hindsight, a score would have helped it bloom.  Anyway, here is my rustic Celtic Sourdough:   

Celtic Sourdough:  a Celtic banquet?
The crumb may look heavy, but, gee, it is not heavy at all, it is soft and tender made possible by the Guinness soupy dough and fat; you can clearly smell the lamb fat.  The crust is extra crispy also because of the fat.
                                befitting to Celtic hospitality?
A few years back there was a new Van Morrison biography by the English Australian composer and writer, Andrew Ford, Speaking in Tongues, that was released; I placed an order, but my friendly neighbourhood book shop never rang me back about my order and I just left it there.  So I don't know much about Van Morrison the person.  And I don't know if my Celtic Sourdough would suit his tastes if at all; doesn't matter, at the end of the day, it's me, not him.    
In the end, it is you that matters, not the masters.    
p.s.  Van Morrison: some of the albums I love: 
Into the Music
Poetic Champions Compose
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart
The Philosopher's Stone
Hymns to the Silence, and

Saturday, 4 February 2012

5 Van Anecdotes which May or May Not Be True

What follows are various fan anecdotes which may or may not be true.  (In the age of the Internet I don't tend to believe anyone anymore.) 

  1.  Way back in the early sixties I came home from work one day from my job as a stevedore in Stockholm. In the kitchen was my then wife and a bunch of small dark haired Belfast lads drinking tea. Turns out it was band called Them in town to promote their hit "Here Comes the Night". The singer noting my muscular appearance asked me where I worked out.
It was an expression I'd never heard before.  Undaunted, I surmised that as work entailed unloading ships and it indubitably took place outside - I worked out in the harbour.  Van took it all in his stride.  

  2.  Years back, I attended a lecture by Fred Woodward, then most famous for his art direction of Rolling Stone. He showed a slide of a spread he'd designed for a Van Morrison article, and he said the reason it looked the way it did was because Van insisted that he wouldn't sit for a photo shoot, that the photographer had to shoot him during the interview. When the interviewer and photographer showed up to the chosen location (a pub), Van then insisted that the photographer couldn't even be in the same room, that he had to shoot through the window of the pub. This was the result (Matt Mahurin was the photographer).

  3.  Bob Dylan and Van Morrison once shared a British accountant, who, finding both men in London on business, invited each of them to dinner. At last the anticipated evening arrived, as - to the accountant's delight - did both of his esteemed clients. The host, however, was less delighted to find his guests in a taciturn mood.
Indeed, throughout the meal's several courses, not a word was exchanged between the musicians - or between either of them and their horrified host. At last the hours passed and Dylan left - whereupon Van Morrison leaned across the table to his host.

"I thought," he remarked with a twinkle in his eye, "he was on pretty good form tonight, didn't you?"

  4.  One foggy afternoon long ago, I was taking a solo hike on the Marin ocean cliffs. The fog was so thick one could only see a few feet ahead. Sound was muffled too, yet I kept thinking that a voice was wafting through the air. And it was a voice I thought I recognised. Eventually I nearly bumped into another figure, in cape and cap and with cane, walking slowly in the same direction. He was a short man, and I almost ran him over. “Christ, ya fookin’ startled me!” he exclaimed in a heavy Irish brogue. And then I recognised not just the voice, but who it belonged to: Van Morrison.   “I’m sorry, man!” I apologised. And then, without thinking, I launched into a little heartfelt speech about “how much I have loved your music for many years…loved your concerts…drove all over the place with your tapes playing… some of best memories in life…” etc, etc. Through all this, he just stood there, looking at the ground where the tip of his cane was grinding into the soggy soil. I finally ran out of words at about the same time embarrassment hit, and shut up. After a moment of silence, Van “The Man” Morrison looked up, slowly shook his head, and said: “I sure don’t know why people feel the need to tell me this kind of shite.”

5.  Back in 1993 I was interviewing Maria McKee for the college radio station I volunteered with. She loves Van Morrison and told me that when she met him finally after wanting to for so long, all he did was say, "Where's Bono? More wine."

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Good Van Morrison Albums?

Not a Fan Favourite

On the site someone posed the simple question, "Good Van Morrison albums?" Naturally a variety of answers was forthcoming.  It's always interesting to see what a cross section of Van fans thinks.  If I ask the dozen or more people I know who have all the official albums the answer is a bit more predictable.  But what about from a variety of fans?  Some have heard one album and others have heard them all so the answers are far more diverse. 
Here are some of the answers:
"Van Morrison - where do I start?  I have a copy of Astral Weeks, which to be honest I don't really care for, but I really like songs like Once In A Blue Moon and Someone Like You."
 "T.B. Sheets. F#%$ing stellar."  -  saladin 
"I may be the only one, but Beautiful Vision is not just one of his best, but in my top twenty albums of all time. The double CD Hymns to the Silence is good too.  I was tempted to buy his last CD of old country and western standards, but never got around to it. Some of the stuff he put out over the last ten years was real shite."  -  vronsky 
"Astral Weeks / Moondance. The perfect pair."  -  one_bean 
"Jackie Wilson Said."  -  fixedgear  (somebody tell fixedgear it's not an album)
"The Healing Game. Absolutely brilliant brass work alongside Van. Maybe a little too much Brian Kennedy for some."  -  Sk4n 
"Moondance is the obvious answer, but it's the obvious answer for a reason."  -  Bookhouse 
"another vote for Astral Weeks."  -  jessicak 
"Where do you start? With Them. Actually, pretty much everything he did up to Saint Dominic's Preview."  -  timeistight
"If you like Someone Like You but not Astral Weeks, you'll probably like his mellow 80's stuff the best. From that period, I like the albums Beautiful Vision, Enlightenment, Into The Music, Common One and Live At The Grand Opera House."  -  skwm 
"Bang Masters is worth having. It's a bit like a rough, working version of Astral Weeks, plus it has the unedited version of Brown-Eyed Girl."  -  timeistight 
"The Best of and Best of Volume 2? It's obvious, but it is a good jumping off point. It helped me determine that I liked his earlier stuff much more than his later stuff.  With that in mind, I'd also second timeistight's recommendation of Them."  -  Gary 
"Astral Weeks just doesn't do it for me. Thanks, everybody, for all the other recommendations, though...keep 'em coming..."  -  pdb 
"Other folks may contradict this, but Van Morrison might not be for you if you really don't care for Astral Weeks. It's such a touchstone, so central to oeuvre, that it's hard to think where else to go."  -  OmieWise 
"No Guru, No Method, No Teacher is also underrated IMHO."  -  vronsky
"Astral Weeks is a great album, but when you consider Van Morrison's entire 35+ album body of work you quickly see that it's sound and style is an aberration. No other album of his is done in such a folky style. If someone does or doesn't like that album, it's hard to say what they'll feel about the rest of his work. Now, if they don't like Moondance, it's safe to say that they won't like anything up through Tupelo Honey. Preference towards Beautiful Vision would be a good prediction of how they would react to A Period Of Transition through, say, Enlightenment. Other generalisations could be made, but I don't think one can draw strong conclusions off of Astral Weeks."  -  skwm 
"The Live in San Francisco double set is great."  -  funboytree 
"The Bang Records Contractual Obligation album.  I was a casual listener at best. My wife likes him a lot. Then this link appeared somewhere and I was intrigued. I listened and listened and listened.  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  After listening to this album, I grew to appreciate his other music more. Wife hates this album. I love it."  -  Seamus 
"If you like your blue-eyed soul of the garage rock ilk, get the two-CD Story of ThemIf you like jazzy acoustic Joni Mitchell-meets-Ray Charles in Belfast music, get Astral Weeks or Veedon Fleece.  If you like more straight ahead pop-soul with Celtic acoustic twists, get anything from Moondance through St. Dominic's PreviewDon't forget to pick up the double live It's Too Late To Stop Now featuring a string section and killer versions of hits from all of the above."  -  joseph_elmhurst 
"Astral Weeks is a great record but if you're looking for some of his more melodic records, try these:
Moondance, Into The Music, St Dominic's Preview, Tupelo Honey, His Band and The Street Choir
All classics in my opinion."  -  gfrobe 
"I've tried to get into his work a few times over the years and really felt like I must be missing the great essence that so many people love. Until I got St. Dominic's Preview. Great, great album. I owned Astral Weeks for a decade before I got St. Dominic's Preview; I always liked it, but never really got what all the fuss was about. I still don't to tell you the truth. But St. Dominic's Preview is one of my very favourite albums by any musician in any genre at any time."  -  willpie 
"the unedited version of Brown-Eyed Girl.  It's funny because the bass player forgets the bass line in the middle of the breakdown."  -  kirkaracha
"Van Morrison & The Chieftains - Irish Heartbeat."  -  mattholomew 
"Back On Top 1999. Song When the Leaves Come Falling Down.Entire album good."  -  madstop1
"I second the recommendation for Them, one of the great unknown bands. Here Comes the Night blows just about everything that was on the radio back then right out of the water."  -  languagehat 
"I find myself digging out Tupelo Honey and Hymns to the Silence and listening to one or the other at least once every month since, well, forever."  -  misozaki 
"I like Tupelo Honey best. as an alternative, try the best of friends by john lee hooker. there are two cuts, i cover the waterfront and don't look back, with vocals by john lee hooker and Van Morrison that are to die for. i melt."  -  brandz  
"As the owner of every VM release (many on record, some on record, CD and tape) and a few boots I must weigh in. But damn. It's just what gfrobe said:
Moondance, Into The Music, St Dominic's Preview, Tupelo Honey, His Band and The Street Choir

...not at all like other Van recordings, but I LOVE it  -  Irish Heartbeat (with the Chieftains).  I'd say AVOID Bang mastersI'm not a fan of Veedon Fleece.  Later efforts like Magic Time and What's wrong with this Picture always have a couple of winners and a few that hurt your brain.  Skip The Skiffle Sessions - Live in Belfast and that weird one -- You Win Again."   -  cccorlew 
 "I'm surprised that Veedon Fleece has been mentioned only once. Bulbs is a wonderful little gem, and Linden Arden is a truly unique song ("cleaved their heads off with a hatchet. Lord he was a drinkin' man"). Veedon Fleece is probably my favourite.  Except of course for Astral Weeks. Which is where any critical examination of VM's work surely must return."  -  Neiltupper  
"Another vote for The Healing Game."  -  caddis
"Another vote for His Band and the Street Choir. When CDs first came this was one of the first three I bought having played St. Dominic's Preview endlessly on tape. Still play it often."  -  mikepop