Friday, 26 July 2013

Even More Random Fan Stories

Eddie Jordan   -   One of the first places I took my wife Marie when we started going out together was to hear Van play in Dublin.  He would sing with his band Them every Sunday afternoon in a place called Stella House.  The gig was known as The Teenies and ran from 5 pm to about 7:30 pm so you didn't have to tell your parents you were at a dance - even though it must have been pretty obvious when you came home with lipstick and whatever else on your clothes.

Lucas Stensland   -  My friend saw him years ago in Europe and said he was drunk, weird and his wife went and dragged him off stage after only an hour.

Michael Jass & Ann McEntee   -  I taped a David Letterman show in the 90s and ran through it 5 times, he was definitely drunk, and not his usual self, before he started singing Moondance he looked at his band and yelled "Here's Johnny", 2  times, then let off incredible laughter, I thought he would not stop, I thought this odd, but perhaps he was taunting Letterman by doing this, as he changed Networks from NBC to CBS, of course Johnny, meaning Johnny Carson. As you know, Van despises television talk shows, or anything pertaining to entertainment 'fluff". Another interesting point, during Moondance Van yelled to Letterman to come up and participate with him, he did this I believe 2 times, Van snickered, as Mr. Letterman did not second the motion.  He ended off the show playing "Gloria", I was expecting his more obscure material, as Mr. Morrison is like Mr. Zimmerman in surprising his audience, which I think is very clever. As far as Gloria Mr. Morrison started playing the song before he was queued to play, Mr. Letterman was in wrap up to end the show, I think Mr. Letterman wasn't too happy, although he thanked Georgie Fame (keyboardist) 2 times, and it looked like he was saving face by thanking Van, just something he had to do. My overall impression is Van despised doing the show and wanted to get back at the entertainment industry, can't say I disagree with him! Just wish he wasn't inebriated, the man has been around long enough to be able to cope with these pressures, don't give in Van! Anyhow, I was very surprised with Mr. Morrison on this occasion,  he is one of my favourite artists, his music being of substance and an extraordinary talent which no one can argue. Perhaps he was very nervous, but he seems to have put on quite the amount of weight.  Let's hope he is keeping in good health, and not overindulging in the Bottle of Distilled Damnation. We need these guys around!
Prateek   -   "Is Van Morrison hearing voices in his head these days? That would certainly seem to be the case. At a show in New York on April 28 at the Supper Club in New York, Morrison acted erratically according to those in attendance. At one point during the show, Morrison spoke about hearing "distracting voices in his head" and then went on at length  about a recent phone conversation he had had with Lou Reed regarding what to do when you hear "other voices." Recounting the conversation, Morrison said, "At the end of this two-hour diatribe, Lou said to me, 'That other voice you hear, it's not you.'" During the show he verbally abused members of  his band, complained to the audience about being "misunderstood," and frequently began laughing in what an observer described as an "out-of-control inappropriate laugh." We at ATN have long felt that Van Morrison is one artists who  truly deserves the term genius. We are saddened at this turn of  events, and hope that things will work out for Van the Man.

Toony   -    I saw Van Morrison in Chicago years ago. I had eighth row seats and was psyched. I've heard the "Van is a bastard" stories for years. I've seen him twice before but from far away. The gig cost $1.00/minute (in other words, tix cost $80 and Van only played for 80 minutes). The band -- Red Hot Pokers -- sucked. They're a Welsh bar band and that's all they are. The lead guitarist thought he was James Burton. He wasn't. Irregardless, the setlist was top notch and Van's vocals soared.

But back to the fact that Van's a dick. He totally f###ed over the opening act, bluesman Lonnie Brooks. Lonnie wowed the crowd in a 45minute set at Tuesday's gig. I heard the place was packed and jumping and dancing. Well, Van didn't like the idea of being upstaged (even though he can't possibly be upstaged -- he's Van Morrison). So on Wednesday, he ordered Brooks -- who by the way has been in the music business longer than Van-- to only play for twenty minutes and to start at 7:15. The showtime on the ticket was 7:30. So Lonnie Brooks played three songs to a mostly empty hall. And he was rightfully pissed. But goddamnit, when that cranky little Irishman opened his pudgy mouth and sang, it was unworldly. Even without trying and without being emotionally into the music, Van Morrison the singer is heaven-sent. Van Morrison the man comes from somewhere else. So what's my point? I don't know. I like Bruce Springsteen (and Tom Waits and Richard Thompson) much better.
Tom   -   I am a big Van Morrison fan. However, the one time I saw him live almost turned me into a non-fan. I know he's capable (or at least used to be) of a great show (see It's Too Late to Stop Now), but when I saw him a few years ago he was boring as f###.

Paddy Moloney   -   On one track he went into this long ending, and we didn't know when he was going to stop. He'd only do each song once or twice, so before we did a second take, I said to him 'Now, Van, when you get to the end of the song, give me 'the billy'', which is an Irish way of saying 'give me the nod'. He said 'Sure' and started singing away -- only when he reached the end he suddenly shouted out Billy! Billy! in the middle of the take!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Deluxe Moondance Box Coming

Warner Brothers will revisit one of Van's best-loved albums with an upcoming multi-format release of the 1970 classic Moondance.  Van has spoken out about the new release on his website claiming that its release felt like being ripped off all over again.  Many Van fans are completists and will regard this as a "must purchase", despite the criticisms from Van.    
On September 30 Warner Bothers will release the album in 1, 2 and 5 disc formats.    The five-disc deluxe version includes a newly remastered version of the original album, along with 50 unreleased tracks, studio outtakes, expanded versions, unheard mixes and studio outtakes of favourites like Caravan, Moondance and Into The Mystic.  I Shall Sing, a Morrison original that he completed but left off the album, is also featured as part of the collection, and includes multiple takes of the song (spread across six tracks), plus a final mix of the finished version.   There are multiple, often lengthy, takes from the recording sessions of nearly every track found on the 1970 original.  There are also early takes of I’ve Been Working, a song that later appeared on His Band And The Street Choir.
The single-CD will just be the remastered album and the 2-CD set will be the remaster plus a second disc of eleven rarities from the recording sessions.  The deluxe 5 CD edition will include 53 studio tracks and a Blu-Ray Audio disc with a high resolution version of the album. The Deluxe Edition will also have a book with liner notes by Alan White.
Moondance was originally released on February 28, 1970 to critical acclaim. The album reached number 29 on the U.S. charts and 32 in the U.K.  Two singles were released from the set in 1970.  Come Running made it to number 39 but surprisingly Crazy Love didn't chart. In 1977, the title track was finally released as a single but only made it to 92. It has gone on to become a radio staple despite not selling as a single.

Moondance Deluxe Edition Tracklist (5 CDs)

Disc One – Original Album Remastered
01. And It Stoned Me
02. Moondance
03. Crazy Love
04. Caravan
05. Into The Mystic
06. Come Running
07. These Dreams Of You
08. Brand New Day
09. Everyone
10. Glad Tidings

Disc Two – All Previously Unreleased
01. What do we call this Van?
02. Caravan (Take 1)
03. Caravan (Takes 2-3)
04. Caravan (Take 4)
05. Caravan (Takes 5-6)
06. Caravan (Take 7)
07. Caravan (Take 8)
08. I’ve Been Working (Early Version Take 1)
09. I’ve Been Working (Early Version Take 2)
10. I’ve Been Working (Early Version Take 5)
11. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out (Outtake)
12. I Shall Sing (Take 1)
13. I Shall Sing (Takes 2-3)
14. I Shall Sing (Takes 4-6)
15. I Shall Sing (Take 7)
16. I Shall Sing (Takes 8-12)
17. I Shall Sing (Take 13)

Disc Three – All Previously Unreleased
01. Into The Mystic (Take 10)
02. Into The Mystic (Take 11)
03. Into The Mystic (Takes 12-13)
04. Into The Mystic (Takes 14-16)
05. Into The Mystic (Take 17)
06. Brand New Day (Take 1)
07. Brand New Day (Take 2)
08. Brand New Day (Take 3)
09. Brand New Day (Take 4)
10. Brand New Day (Takes 5-6)
11. Brand New Day (Take 7)
12. Glad Tidings (Take 1)
13. Glad Tidings (Takes 2-4)
14. Glad Tidings (Takes 7-8)
15. Glad Tidings (Take 9)
16. Caravan Redo (Takes 1-2)
17. Caravan Redo (Take 3)

Disc Four – All Previously Unreleased
01. Come Running (Take 1)
02. Come Running (Take 2)
03. Come Running (Takes 3-4)
04. Come Running (Take 5)
05. Come Running (“Rolling On 4”)
06. Moondance (Take 21)
07. Moondance (Take 22)
08. Glad Tidings (Alt. Version)
09. These Dreams Of You (Alt. Version)
10. Crazy Love (Remix)
11. Glad Tidings (Remix 1)
12. Glad Tidings (Remix 2)
13. Glad Tidings (Remix 3)
14. Caravan (Remix)
15. These Dreams Of You (Remix)
16. I Shall Sing (Mix)

Disc Five – Blu-Ray Audio disc with high-resolution 48K 24 bit PCM stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound audio of original album (no video)

Moondance Expanded Edition Tracklist (2 CDs)

Disc One – Original Album Remastered
Disc Two – All Previously Unreleased
01. Caravan (Take 4)
02. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out (Outtake)
03. Into The Mystic (Take 11)
04. Brand New Day (Take 3)
05. Glad Tidings (Alt. Version)
06. Come Running(Take 2)
07. Crazy Love (Mono Mix)
08. These Dreams Of You (Alt. Version)
09. Moondance (Take 22)
10. I Shall Sing (Take 7)
11. I’ve Been Working (Early Version, Take 5)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

My First Festival by Emma Lee-Potter

Van Morrison at Cornbury July 7, 2013

Writer Emma Lee-Potter has written an interesting post about her first festival which happened to include Van's recent appearance at Cornbury.  Below is an edited version of her post.  

I actually went to a festival. Admittedly it was only for a day and it was Cornbury, or Poshstock as it’s known.  It’s held on the Great Tew estate in the wilds of Oxfordshire and the fact that David Cameron goes every year (and popped in on Saturday with his family to see Keane) probably says it all.
We hared down the hill to the Pleasant Valley stage to see the brilliant Amy Macdonald, who’d made it to Cornbury after a 24-hour trip from Switzerland, where she’d played her previous gig. Her tour bus broke down near the Swiss border and her band arrived onstage with just minutes to spare. “I thought I was going to have to sing a capella,” she joked.
An hour later it was the turn of Van Morrison, cool and enigmatic in a dark suit and white hat. I’d never seen him perform live before and loved the fact that he does everything on his own terms. There was no banter between numbers and no attempt to charm the audience. “He’s not very chatty, is he?” whispered my daughter. Neither of us cared though because he just got on with the music. And what stunning music it was, the soundtrack of my life really.

After just over an hour of jazz, soul and rhythm and blues, Van the Man nodded to his band and left the stage. I fully expected him to return but a middle-aged woman standing next to me smiled knowingly and pointed out a man in a white hat disappearing down the steps at the back. “He’s notorious for that,” she said. “He often wears a black hat so you don’t even see him go. I should think he’s on the Chipping Norton road by now…”. 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Ed Dove's Astral Weeks

Ed Dove has written quite a tribute to Van’s classic Astral Weeks.  His Manderley Again blog is about all kinds of stuff including African Football (Americans insert “soccer” here.)  Brilliant stuff.  Check his blog for the full review.
Someone asked me recently what the finest piece of art that I’ve ever experienced in my life was, the piece of work that remains fresh and revealing and in which genius is so undoubtedly evident. I couldn’t answer them straightaway, and indeed, it took me a long while of concentrated thought to come to any kind of conclusion.

I am fortunate enough to have gazed up at Adam’s finger tip touching God’s as Michelangelo depicted it on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel in Rome, to have read the Book of Job uninterrupted and to have marvelled at David Ginola terrorising defences in the white of a Tottenham shirt…a sight that can only be described as a masterpiece. However, there is one piece of work that for me, touches more emotion than anything else, and displays genius more clearly than anything else I have ever experienced.

People had for years told me of the magnum opus that is Astral Weeks, a 1968 album by Northern Irish musician Van Morrison. Looking back I had often been caught by brief moments of curiosity when the album appeared, as it unfailingly would, on the “Rolling Stone’s-top 10 albums of last century” or “NME’s-top 10 greatest records of our time”.  However, I had never managed to actually go out and possess the music which so many people had promised me would change my life.

It took the mother of an old girlfriend to place a disc, in this instance a vinyl, in my hands and really force the music upon me, promising that things would never be the same again for my ears. She was right, and although the girlfriend, and a little more unfortunately, the mother, are history in my life today, Van’s lush R&B and harrowing folk music stays, often as more of a comforter and an upper than a girl could ever be.

Morrison found the zenith of his career with this work and it is remarkably mature for a man who was only 23 year old when it was recorded. Many account this to the emotional turmoil he had faced in the time proceeding its creation, as even though he is best known for his signature song, Brown Eyed Girl, in Astral Weeks we find the cut away soul of the musician, one far, far away from the happy go lucky character who “made love in the green grass” in his earlier hit.

Astral Weeks is far more, though, than just a one off hit, the unified nature of the tracks give it a great hint of being a concept album, and each song acts as one part of a whole, each contributing to paint for us this picture of London, Dublin and Belfast, and the nostalgia and drama that accompanied the artist as he explored their streets and their characters. In this sense, the work reminds me a great deal of another Irishman, James Joyce, and his book, The Dubliners, which finds 15 seemingly unrelated short stories, which could all be viewed as individual works, but which mean so much more when placed together to peak at the epiphany found in The Dead, the novella that concludes the work.

I’ve always found it important, when considering an album, to evaluate it within some kind of genre or other, however this is almost impossible to do with Astral Weeks, and indeed adds to its appeal. The jazz element and employment of jazz musicians makes this timbre hard to ignore, but the nature of the lyrics, sung often as an Irish folk song, occasionally as a pop song and sometimes even spoken, shouted or whispered, and composed well within the ‘troubadour tradition’, makes the record far more complex than straight jazz. I’ve listened to this music hundreds of times, and I am still discovering new things about it, and more facets to its sound.

What makes this album so remarkable is the emotion that Morrison conveys within the songs. I have never before, or since, found such a poetic presentation of anguish as I have in the album’s second song, Beside You, a tale of faithfulness towards a fated lover. Nor have I ever caught sight of such a haunting embodiment of regret as I do in the album’s closing number, Slim Slow Slider, where we find Van’s mournful lyrics and poignant vocal complimented perfectly by the almost transcendental playing of a faint soprano saxophone. He manages to touch the inner core of one’s soul and one’s emotional self through his virtuoso, painful and often overwhelming singing, which some say is the closest Morrison ever came to expressing himself. However, this album is so much more than just personal expression, or self discovery, it is so sincere, so unswerving and so revealing that it is a lesson in the heart, and a voyage between “the viaducts of your dreams”.

Ed Dove

Monday, 8 July 2013

Please No Smoke! (1967)

Please No Smoke! is possibly the first Van Morrison bootleg as a solo performer. It comes from that brief time post-Them when Van became involved with a Dutch group called Cuby and the Blizzards.  It comes from a show in Deventer,  Netherlands on September 3, 1967.  The album is featured on the Van Morrison Cafe site run by Mat Brewster.  Mat started the Midnight Cafe site which is home to lots of bootleg albums taken from live shows.  So many Van shows came his way that he decided to start a separate Van site.  Brewster's interest is making as many of Van's shows as possible available to all.  The site doesn't contain any official releases.     

Please, No Smoke! (bootleg vinyl LP)
KUX 009 (Released April 10, 2003)
Side A
One More Time
If You And I Could Be As Two
Hey Girl
Sad Eyes
Mystic Eyes

Side B

Just For Fun
Appleknockers Flophouse
Travelling With the Blues
Hobo Blues
Window Of My Eyes (symphonic version)
Gli Uragani - Your Body Not Your Soul

All of side A recorded in Buitensocieteit, Deventer, Holland, March 1967.  The first vinyl Van-content bootleg in many years. 500 were pressed.   

Cuby and the Blizzards 
Cuby & the Blizzards are a Dutch blues group, founded in 1964 by vocalist Harry Muskee and guitarist Eelco Gelling.  The band's first single was Stumble and Fall in 1965. Immediately they were a big hit in the Netherlands. In 1967 they toured with Van Morrison (after he had left Them), recorded an album, ' Praise the Blues ' with U.S. blues musician Eddie Boyd and scored a hit with Window of my Eyes.  The line-up of the band changed regularly, but founders Harry Muskee and Eelco Gelling remained at the core of the band until 1976, when Gelling left to join Golden Earring. Muskee then decided to drop the name C+B and to form the Harry Muskee Band. This band recorded one album before Muskee decided to leave the music biz.
In 1980 he formed the Muskee Gang.  In 1996 Cuby + Blizzards re-formed without Eelco Gelling, who was replaced by Erwin Java on guitar. In 2004 they went on a theatre tour to honour John Lee Hooker. C+B came to an end when Harry Muskee died of cancer in 2011.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Another Fan Disses Modern Van

I don't like it.  How many more people are going to say "Van's good but not as good as he was way back when"?  Who is?  Have you heard Paul McCartney lately?  What about Neil Young?  Or is just when we were young everything seemed great?  From Rock's Back Pages comes the following edited post. 

Astral Regrets by Rob Steen (04 Mar 2009)

“DON’T BOTHER”, the owner of Octave in Lewes High Street, my ever-so-friendly local record store (sincere apologies if that sounds as if I’m gloating over my good fortune in having such a thing), was unequivocal. Which was exactly what I wanted to hear. My favourite album by one of my most cherished musicians, rendered live from Hollywood, 40 years after its extraordinary birth? I’d rather spend the money on secondhand socks. 
Don’t get me wrong. For this listener, Astral Weeks remains not merely Van Morrison’s most inspirational and inspiring three quarters of an hour. An accidental fusion of folk, blues and jazz, Belfast and the Mississippi – only the studio clock prevented Morrison, unthinkably, from diluting the contributions of Modern Jazz Quartet duo drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis – it also remains one of the few unique recordings in the history of popular song. From the stand-up bass-acoustic guitar-swishy-drum overture to that wondrous opening line – “If I venture in the slipstream/Through the viaduct of your dreams” – right down to the hauntingly sudden, suitably deathly halt of Slim Slow Slider,  it still sounds as fresh and rich and daring as it did when I first heard it five years after its release.  

I also yield to no man in my love and admiration for Morrison’s first decade as a solo act. His first eight studio albums (Blowin’ Your Mind included) were all crackers to varying degrees – how many can legitimately claim that sort of feat? There were two stone-cold classics (Astral Weeks and Moondance), three works that almost matched them (St Dominic’s Preview, Hardnose The Highway and Veedon Fleece) and two more (His Band And The Street Choir and Tupelo Honey) for which the vast majority of songwriters would have willingly exchanged their soul. Amid all this, he also served up It’s Too Late To Stop Now, the single greatest justification for the invention of the live album. So far, so wonderful. 
Unfortunately, the past 30 years have been considerably less fruitful. Admittedly, maintaining that sort of pace, in qualitative as well as quantitative terms, was always going to be next to impossible – ask Bob and Joni, his two main rivals for the World Heavyweight Songwriting Championship belt. All the same, it would be stretching the bounds of decency and compassion beyond endurance not to admit that, bar Common One, Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart and parts of Days Like This, those subsequent records, flowing all too freely, have left me cold, drained as they were of everything bar professionalism, self-caricature and vitriol.

Forever at odds with the media, the music business and pretty much everything modern life has to offer, his public persona, reinforced by all those lyrical shots at Big Time Operators, has been that of the prototype Grumpy Old Man. The sense of someone content to take the paycheque and waddle through the motions has been impossible to avoid. Which is why I gave up on him about half a dozen albums back. And why I gave only a semi-moment’s thought to attending that performance of Astral Weeks in Hollywood late last year. Tempting as it was to imagine seeing him play songs I’d given up hope of ever hearing live, it was far easier to envisage a show devoid of genuine feeling.
None of this detracts from the bottom line: I still listen to Van Morrison as much as I do to anyone (with the possible exception of Todd Rundgren). He fits so many moods. If I want joy, I put on Wild Night or Jackie Wilson Said or Straight To Your Heart Like A Cannonball. If I want despair, I plump for TB Sheets or Slim Slow Slider.  If I want to hear this most expressive, resonant and thrillingly unique of voices at its most expressive, resonant and thrilling, I flip on Madame George or You Don’t Pull No Punches or the live versions of Caravan and Wild Children. If I want to jazz things up, it’s Moondance,
Green, Snow In St Anselmo or I Will Be There. Or if, as is more often the case these days, I simply want serene, ineffable beauty, it’s Fair Play or Autumn Song or Listen To The Lion or Ballerina.  

So thank you, Van, for all your gifts, which I will appreciate so long as my ears continue to function, but no thanks, I won’t be investing in your latest bit of product. Sorry, but some risks are simply too great.

###Update### Since the Live Astral Weeks album Van has released Keep it Simple and Born to Sing (No Plan B).  Both albums contain some great songs.