Monday, 29 July 2013

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.

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.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Van's Abandoned Choppin' Wood Album 2001

In October 2000 Van Morrison began work on his second collaboration with Linda Gail Lewis. During the previous month Van's country album You Win Again had been released.  The new collaboration was provisionally entitled Choppin’ Wood and contained Linda Gail Lewis’s vocals and piano parts overdubbed on all but one track.  For reasons not fully known, the working relationship between Van and Linda suddenly soured.  The tour were touring together in support of You Win Again when the relationship breakdown occurred.  Linda Gail Lewis then made certain claims about Van, including harassment, but the whole issue was never proven one way or the other. 
Van completely stopped Linda's involvement in the new project and refused to let her hear any of the new songs.  She then quit the tour and the album was eventually discarded.  In 2002 Van released Down the Road (which contained some of the Choppin' Wood songs) to mixed reviews.  The fans, as always, found that the new album contained at least some gold. 

The bootlegged Choppin' Wood has appeared on the net and most people commenting rate it as superior to Down The Road.  The track listing for Choppin’ Wood is as follows:

01. Choppin' Wood
02. Hey Mr. DJ
03. The Beauty Of The Days Gone By
04. Down The Road
05. Princess Of Darkness
06. Just Like Greta
07. For A While
08. Mama Don't Allow
09. Meet Me In The Indian Summer
10. All Work And No Play

Down the Road was released in May, 2002 and charted at #6 in the UK and #26 in the US, while consistently charting in the top 20 across Europe. The two singles from the album were Hey Mr. DJ and Meet Me In The Indian Summer which reached 58 and 116, respectively, on the British charts.

The track listing for Down the Road is as follows: 
1. Down the Road
2. Meet Me in the Indian Summer
3. Steal My Heart Away
4. Hey Mr. DJ
5. Talk Is Cheap
6. Choppin' Wood
7. What Makes the Irish Heart Beat
8. All Work and No Play
9. Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby?
10.The Beauty of the Days Gone By
11.Georgia on My Mind
12. Only a Dream
13. Man Has to Struggle
14. Evening Shadows
15. Fast Train

Fan Comments about the Choppin' Wood Bootleg
Anonymous   -   Great sound quality and nice songs too. Van sounds very relaxed.
thebasement6725   -   Meet Me In The Indian Summer is a really strong song on Choppin' Wood.  Some of the lyric appears on a track Celtic New Year from the Magic Time album (2005) as does a different version of Just like Greta it's longer here with a keyboard solo and the contribution of Linda Gail Lewis.

Anonymous16   -   Great Artwork on the cover! and Great sound.