Monday, 15 October 2012

Van Quotes Part 4


  31.  There is one thing I don't understand about Astral Weeks. Of all the records I have ever made that one is definitely not rock. You could throw that record at the wall, take it to music colleges, analyse it to death. Nobody is going to tell me that it is a rock album. Why they keep calling it one I have no idea.

  32.  People think I'm eccentric, cranky. If I'm eccentric because I've never been into mainstream things, then I am eccentric.
  33.  I've never been comfortable working live, and I'm still not. I was always more music-oriented and less star-oriented, which is why I've never been comfortable on big stages in big halls.
  34.  The people I was listening to never sold a lot of records. John Lee Hooker was never on the charts, so I was never in it from a commercial point of view. Other people expected things from my records, but I never did.
  35.  I don't think I will ever mellow out. I think if you mellow out, you get eaten up. You become like a commodity. So I don't think I will mellow out. It is not in my blood.

  36.   You can't stay the same. If you're a musician and a singer, you have to change, that's the way it works.

 37.   My ambition when I started out was to play two or three gigs a week. And that's what I'm doing.
 38.   Someone once described me as a maverick and that's what I would say. I'm a maverick not by choice but by conviction.
 39.  These days politics, religion, media seem to get all mixed up. Television became the new religion a long time back and the media has taken over.
 40.  blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Summertime in England (1980)

The Scriptorium a blog by the Terry Honors Institute is basically a religious blog dealing with all kinds of religious thought.  One of their stable of writers, though, has produced an analysis of Summertime in England.  Here's most of Fred Sanders' post from July 1, 2012.
Summertime in England:
It Ain’t Why (It Just Is)

I’ve been listening to Van Morrison’s Summertime in England lately.  It was a twelve-minute monster of a studio song on Morrison’s 1980 album Common One, and critics immediately lambasted it as disjointed, self-indulgent, and pretentious. Granted, Summertime in England is very long, uses every instrument Morrison could get his hands on, has numerous passages that are not clearly related to each other (and are in different time signatures), and includes a rambling spoken-word section full of literary name-dropping.

Who knows what worldview is being expressed in the lyrical miasma of literature and mysticism and reverie? Morrison’s delivery makes some of the lines pop out and really work (Holy magnet gave you attraction), but mostly I try to follow the advice given in the song: “It ain’t why, it just is.” Or to be more precise, “It ain’t why why why why why why why why why, it ain’t why, it just is.”

And the studio recording is 'pretty meh', maybe 'meh plus' at the best, even when played really loud.  But Morrison took the critical rejection as some kind of creative provocation, and took the song on the road. He re-imagined it in show after show throughout the 1980s. The song ballooned up to sixteen minutes or more and shrunk down to under six minutes. The spoken word ramblings rambled on ever more. That weird, uncontrollable Van Morrison thing happened to it. Audiences started clamouring to hear in concert the song they rejected on record.

Most importantly, Van Morrison started using the song to try out all sorts of new things in his music. It became a creative centrepoint of his repertoire. Critic Peter Mills, in a chapter-length essay entitled The ‘Liveness’ of ‘Summertime in England, says,”Of all Morrison’s compositions, this is the song that has exerted most influence over its author, that is, it cleaves most closely to the metaphysical idea of the song teaching the singer.”

Greil Marcus still doesn’t like the song, and consigns it to Morrison’s long “dark ages,” a period between bursts of brilliance, during which the magic just isn’t happening in Morrison’s music. He doesn’t have any praise for it in his book When That Rough God Goes Riding. But the thing that Marcus praises most in Morrison, his “Yarragh,” his ability to put just the right spin or shine or texture on a note that boosts it beyond the assumed boundaries of vocal communication. “It is at the heart of Morrison’s presence as a singer that when he lights on certain sounds, certain small moments inside a song…can then suggest whole territories, completed stories, indistinct ceremonies, far outside anything that can be literally traced in the compositions that carry them.”
Check out any number of versions on youtube. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Performers Referenced in Van’s Lyrics

They call it "name-checking" now  but I'll be kinder and call it "referencing".  Van does it a lot and it's not just the artists he admires.  He also references poets, philosophers, mystics, places around Belfast from his childhood, radio stations, etc.  Some people think it's a cheap way to get a lyric but I think Van uses these points of reference well to create a mood. 
If you want to find 'cheap' forms of name-checking the classic has to be Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire, which seems just a roll call of everything that happened in the 60s.  Or what about John Mellencamp's R.O.C.K (In the USA) which is a catalogue of 60s performers?  I won't even dare mention hip hop.     

Mose Allison  -  Don’t Go to Nightclubs Anymore
Louis Armstrong  -  See Me Through Part II
Chet Baker  -  When the leaves Come Falling Down
Count Basie  -  The Eternal Kansas City
Sidney Bechet  -  See Me Through Part II
Big Bill Broonzy  -  On Hyndford Street
James Brown  -  Real Real Gone
Solomon Burke  -  Real Real Gone
Gene Chandler  -  Real Real Gone
Ray Charles  -  These Dreams of You, In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll
and Got to Go Back
        Sam Cooke  -  Real Real Gone
        Claude Debussy  -  On Hyndford Street
Dr John  -  Russian Roulette
Georgie Fame (Clive Powell)  -  Don’t Go to Nightclubs Anymore 
Fats Domino  -  In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll
Billy Holliday  -  The Eternal Kansas City
John Lee Hooker  -  In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll
Lightnin’ Hopkins  -  In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll
Mahalia Jackson  -  Summertime in England
Blind Lemon Jefferson  -  Cleaning Windows
Leadbelly  -  Cleaning Windows and Astral Weeks
Jerry Lee Lewis  -  In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll
Brownie McGhee  -  Cleaning Windows
Jay McShann  -  The Eternal Kansas City
Milton Mezz Mezzrow  -  On Hyndford Street
Jelly Roll Morton  -  And It Stoned Me, On Hyndford Street and Whinin’ Boy Moan
Little Richard  -  In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll
Charlie Parker  -  The Eternal Kansas City
Edith Piaf  -  Saint Dominic’s Preview
Wilson Pickett  -  Real Real Gone
Elvis Presley  -  In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll
P.J. Proby  -  Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby?
Johnny Ray  -  Sometimes We Cry
Nelson Riddle Orchestra  -  Hard Nose the Highway
Screaming Lord Sutch  -  Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby?
Sonny Terry  -  Cleaning Windows and In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll
Gene Vincent  -  The Street Only Knew Your Name
Scott Walker  -  Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby?
Muddy Waters  -  In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll, Cleaning Windows and And the Healing Has Begun
Hank Williams  -  Saint Dominic’s Preview, See Me Through Part II and Ancient Highway
Sonny Boy Williamson  -  Take Me Back
Jackie Wilson  -  Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)
Jimmy Witherspoon  -  The Eternal Kansas City
Lester Young  -  The Eternal Kansas City

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Born to Sing - Some Early Opinions

What follows are some early comments about the new Van album.  For further opinion see Pat Corley's fantastic review on his Visions of Pat blog. 

Adam Sandler  -  Van Morrison was much better when David Lee Roth was still singing. 
Graham Reid  -  Morrison - never a man you'd lightly say this about - sounds relaxed here and eases you in with the groove-riding Open the Door To Your Heart ("it's need not greed") but then winds the tension up when he throws in "don't you think I know who my enemies are? This time they pushed me too far". This is among the usual litany of Van complaints about how he has been hard done by in life, of which there seems scant evidence. He's just a perma-grump whom even Spike Milligan famously couldn't get a laugh out of.

Sal Nunziato  -  Born To Sing: No Plan B is a nice release. There are sounds that are reminiscent of albums like Moondance and Wavelength, like on the extended groove of Goin' Down To Monte Carlo or the very New Orleans-y Born To Sing. Close Enough For Jazz is a hoot, mostly because it sounds lifted from a mid-60s Georgie Fame record. Mystic Of The East, with its Floyd Cramer piano fills doesn't really go anywhere and what follows, an 8 minute tune Retreat & View, sounds exactly like it. Bad sequencing.

Victor Mature  -  Plan B was a career as a garden gnome. 

Steve Klinge  -  Van Morrison is cranky. On Born to Sing: No Plan B, he's upset with capitalism, worship of money, the abuses of the "global elite," the sound of "some kind of phony pseudo-jazz" (which raises the question What is real pseudo-jazz?), and the pettiness of others.
Ragtime Midget  -  Based on the title I feel this should be an album of B-sides. 

Jeff Schwachter  -  Capitalism, the media, the French Riviera, the late bluesman John Lee Hooker, the individual, “phony pseudo jazz,” and “all kinds of shite” aren’t new topics for Van Morrison…. On songs such as Open the Door (To Your Heart), End of the Rainbow, If in Money We Trust and the bluesy closing cut Educating Archie, the 67-year-old Irish singer-songwriter not only proves that he was indeed born to sing, but that his music and meditations are as relevant today as Brown-Eyed Girl, Moondance and Into the Mystic were in the 1960s.
Ayatollah Colm Meaney  -  This is his album supporting the Christian pro-life movement.

Walter Tunis  -  After four-plus decades, he still has a scratchy, soul-saturated Irish tenor that embraces spiritual solace one moment and earthly unrest the next.  Don Was produces Born to Sing by placing Morrison's vocals within orchestral, soul-leaning jazz arrangements that are anything but "phony" or "pseudo."   

Stickybeak  -  It’s worth noting that most of the reviews have been kind.  Not that it matters, I was going to buy this whatever anybody said. 
David Fricke  -  "Sartre said hell is other people/I believe that most of them are," Van Morrison sings in Goin' Down to Monte Carlo, one of the 10 tracks on this vividly irritated, vocally compelling record.
Bob101110101  -  I just bought it. If you like Van you will enjoy this one.

Nick DiCicco  -  If there's a musician who has earned the right to gripe about economics, it's Van Morrison, a man who claims to have been swindled out of every penny he would've made from Brown Eyed Girl because of a bad record deal he signed.  The Belfast Cowboy opines about the global economic crisis throughout his 35th studio effort, Born to Sing: No Plan B, which has a title that offers two clich├ęs for the price of one and gives no indication of what's inside.
Ponjamby  -  Sorry, he hasn’t been good since 1980 or 81-ish.  I wish he’d had a “Plan B”!

Trurl14  -   Van Morrison is one of my cultural blind spots.   He seems to be universally lauded but I can’t stand a single thing he’s done.  He’s a hippie Frank Sinatra. 
Mike Fletcher  -  Recorded in his hometown of Belfast, Born To Sing: No Plan B is effortless, cool and classy.  Open The Door (To Your Heart) is soulful and an instant favourite, and both the title track and End Of The Rainbow are soaked in the blues.

Drewogatory  -  No need to go past Veedon ever. 
Bob101110101  -  All the men who have written the greatest anti-capitalist rants live in, or eventually wind up in, castles.