Monday, 28 May 2012

Bobman's Rants

Bobman's Rants is a wide-ranging blog by an American computer engineer, but has only one post referring to Van.  It basically reviews the Bobman's favourite Van albums. Here's an edited (for brevity's sake) version of that post:

"I think everyone knows at least one Van Morrison song. Brown-Eyed Girl is probably his best-known, but I think a lot of people know songs like Moondance, Crazy Love, Tupelo Honey and Have I Told You Lately."
Don't get me wrong - those are great songs. I don't want to become one of those people who I complained about before, who try to say that you're not a TRUE fan unless you know an artist's entire repertoire. I just think that people are really missing out when it comes to Van Morrison if they haven't delved into more of his stuff.

Van comes to mind right now because his music epitomises autumn for me. Not just because he actually has songs about the fall (in particular both Autumn Song and Purple Heather at the end of Hard Nose the Highway), but because a lot of his music in general just has a FEEL to it that is reminiscent of a cool day in mid-October. It could be a personal thing - music is often associated with specific periods of my life, so it's possible I listened to Van a lot in the fall - but I think there's really something to it. Some albums in particular - the aforementioned Hard Nose, Saint Dominic's Preview, and most of all Veedon Fleece, feel like they were just MADE to be listened to while watching the leaves fall.
Astral Weeks is Van's first solo album. It is such a masterpiece that I can't even attempt to try and describe why, but rather will link to someone who at least did a passable job of putting its awesomeness into (quite a few) words. For me it's always been an album that creates a mood, even beyond Van's amazing lyrics or distinctive voice. The whole thing just flows together and has a FEEL to it that you can appreciate without even really paying attention, and then when you DO dive in and listen there's so much more. Sweet Thing, the third song on Astral Weeks, is undoubtedly one of my top 5 favourite songs of all time, and has a shot at being number one if I could ever make such a judgement.
I've always said that Moondance - probably Van's most well-known if not bestselling album - would be my top choice for "Desert Island Album." Even given my praise for Astral Weeks above, I would maintain that position today, maybe not because I like it BETTER than Astral Weeks but because it's easier to listen to, and where some songs on Astral are more hit or miss with me, EVERY song on Moondance is a home run. It's like a Greatest Hits compilation, and it was the guy's SECOND album released. And It Stoned Me. Caravan. Into the Mystic. Songs nearly everyone with even a passing knowledge of Van are familiar with, but like a lot of great albums, the best stuff is on what was once called the B-Side. Everyone and Glad Tidings are two songs at the end of Moondance that I'm always amazed were never hits, because they are truly great songs.
Saint Dominic's Preview - Like Astral Weeks, I doubt this album would be everyone's cup of tea. Most of the songs are long (two over ten minutes) and kind of meander around a bit, but of all the albums by Van that I have this one is most reminiscent of Astral Weeks; it just has a cohesive feel from beginning to end that drags you in.
Veedon Fleece - As mentioned above, probably my quintessential "autumn" album. According to Wikipedia he wrote the lion's share of this album in 3 weeks in October, so maybe that contributes to the "fall" feel for me. It's also a much more mellow album - I know Van is most often than not considered "mellow", Fleece is a whole new level. His voice for the most part loses its distinctive raw sound, and while still very much recognisable, it's markedly different, but in a good way.
Days Like This - At the risk of just listing Van Morrison's entire discography, I'm going to skip ahead 20 years to Days Like This. There was a 2 year period where I listened to this album and Paul McCartney's "comeback" Flaming Pie pretty much on a back and forth loop. Where Veedon Fleece is a mellow, fall-like album, Days is much more of a jazzy, fun album. 

As I said I feel like I could list nearly every one of his first dozen albums and shower them with praise, but these are the standouts to me, and if you haven't gone through a Van Morrison phase in your musical life yet, this is where I'd recommend you start.

No comments:

Post a Comment