Monday, 2 December 2013

Van Morrison, Americana and Roots Music

A Minneapolis lawyer with the nom de plume of Plainsense has an interesting blog called The Great Roll Call.  It's mostly political stuff but a bit of music creeps in from time to time.   Here's a recent post he did on Van. 

Which track is my favourite off of Moondance:  All of them.
Moondance comes from the era of the long playing vinyl record.  Unlike today's compact disc or the mp3, which make it almost too easy to skip to the most accessible, and sadly, often most commercial tracks, vinyl records, more often than not, allowed artists the freedom and room  to tell a story.

By story I do not mean a continuous plot line with the same characters, but rather a loosely based concept or theme that created and told if not a story, at least a mood. 

Although the best LPs did not necessarily have a formal beginning, middle and denouement, the best took you on a memorable trip where the journey was more important than the eventual destination.  Moondance is certainly such an album.  From the opening song And it stoned Me with its reference to  American Music forefathers (i.e. “Jelly Roll”)through several soul numbers that were written and performed with the authenticity of some of the great Northern Soul or Memphis  labels, Moondance is a tour de force.

While I do not rank Moondance as my favourite Van song, the sum of the parts that make up the album Moondance make for one of the greatest LPs of the 60’s-70’s rock era. 
That said, what is my favourite Van Morrison album?   The answer may surprise you but is the reason why Van Morrison is one of my favourite musicians.  My favourite Van album is not Astral Weeks,  Moondance, or even Into the Music , don’t get me wrong,  I love all of them, but my personal favourite is A Night in San Francisco.  The reason I love A Night in San Francisco so much because this is, in my estimation Van Morrison’s  love letter and thank you to American Music. Van is not only a lover, but a student of American Music. 

The musicians Van assembled for the two nights of shows that were recorded live included several icons of American Blues and Jazz, heroes and mentors of Van, who sadly were well past their prime.  Even sadder, some had been compromised by the ravages of age and addiction and were being ignored if not forgotten by the public and shunned by their colleagues.  Nevertheless Van incorporated these musicians into the immensely talented large band he assembled for the occasion and then gave them the support and encouragement to spotlight their talents and they rose to the occasion.  

And that is why a lover of Americana and Roots music loves Van Morrison’s music, because Van Morrison passionately loves American Music.  A beautiful vision indeed.  (Out of respect I am not mentioning  the great  musicians of whom I speak but it is apparent to anyone who reviews the liner notes and is familiar with the latter stages of these great musicians' careers.) 

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