Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Two Fans Have a Conversation



Somewhere on the net two friends have a conversation about the Man. 


 Riffin' on Van Morrison

Todd Brendan Fahey   -   Give a listen to Moondance. Especially Crazy Love and Into the Mystic. It's magic, MAGIC, I TELL YA!  Moondance (the album) is one of the most-perfect albums ever recorded. Every song is a gem. ...but I've heard it (in its entirety) a thousand times, and fer my $, Van has recorded more interesting material (not better, just more interesting).

Common One (1980) is criminally underrated--only one bad song on it; the rest of it is inspired genius. Summertime in England (at about 11-minutes long) is a stunner (when he goes into that extended riff, "...it ain't why, it ain't why, it ain't why, why, why, why: it just IS"--you'll lose focus on whatever else you're doing. Haunts of Ancient Peace has a string arrangement that rivals Vivaldi (not kidding).

Poetic Champions Compose (1987) has no bad tunes and is his prettiest and sunniest album. Just joy. Also, Van plays saxophone, harmonica and guitar on all tracks--rare for him. His sax work on the three instrumental tracks are distinctive (you can "hear" Van's voice in the sax--the way he forms his notes and the way in which he comes in contact with the reed and mouthpiece, you can tell it's Van, without looking at the liner-notes).

Into the Music (1979); No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), A Period of Transition (1976) and Hard Nose the Highway (1974), and the first 6 songs from Veedon Fleece (1973), all friggin' classics.  Van Morrison, to my mind, is the greatest overall musician (lyricist, composer, singer, guitarist, saxophonist and harmonica player) of all time. A 40-year body of work, and HE'S STILL DOING IT.

Blues Duke   -   All you left out were Astral Weeks (it can be a tough choice to make, this is Van Morrison we are talking about, but I still think this is his absolute best album) and the Bang Records recordings (first issued as Blowin' Your Mind in 1966-67; most recently issued on CBS as The Bang Masters) not to mention the best of his work with Them.

Todd Brendan Fahey    -   Fer the life of me, I've never been able to get into Astral Weeks. I know it's legend, I know its 5-star reputation...but it just ain't my favourite Van Morrison album. & many of my friends (knowing of my druggie days) wonder why not. But it's not & I can't explain it.

I forgot one of my all-time faves, St. Dominic's Preview (1972). The title track is one of the best songs he's ever written; Redwood Tree, at barely 3-minutes, is a tiny comet. Killer. Almost Independence Day (at over 10-minutes) is (along with Summertime in England from Common One) one of those long, wrenching journeys [comparable--but stylistically very different--to the best epics of early Genesis, like The Cinema Show (from Selling England by the Pound or Supper's Ready (Foxtrot)]. Yer just WORN OUT after its finished. Pulverized. I love it that Van shined on Jann Wenner's bogus "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame" induction with a curt FAX.

Blues Duke   -   I might agree with you about Almost Independence Day if not for T.B. Sheets, maybe the most soul-wrenching song and performance Van Morrison ever delivered this side of Cypress Avenue. Most underrated Van Morrison album: You could choose fairly from several, but my money here would go on His Band and Street Choir.

Todd Brendan Fahey   -   T.B. Sheets is a great song. John Lee Hooker covered it, too (there's been some discrepancy as to who wrote the tune, but Hooker gave an interview before he died and said clearly that Van wrote it).

As for His Band and the Street Choir, I don't share the same view. To me, it's way down the list of Van's greats. Blue Money and Domino are nice little FM-radio ditties, but I don't find much of anything else of value on the album, and I bought the CD and listened to it many times, before trading it for something else; prol'ly the only V. Morrison album I ever "returned."

His very weakest albums, though, are Avalon Sunset (1990?) (great title; I was expecting great things, but it was a disappointment); Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (some of it nearly unlistenable). Beautiful Vision (also don't know the date) has a great title track; and Vanlose Stairway is a very solid tune; Cleaning Windows was a minor FM-hit from the album and is a fun, fun song (riffing about Kerouac, Dharma Bums and On the Road); otherwise, it's dreck.  Too Long in Exile (1994) has some great songs, but is a mixed bag.

But 10 or 11 masterpieces with a few that contain hits/misses is a great career. Haven't kept up with his latest output. He might be spent, artistically. He's over 60 years old, and not many musical artists have produced masterpieces at that age. He'll never retire, though (he'll die in the recording studio, methinks), and more power to him. A few good songs, here and there, past his prime, are still better than the stuff of most 28-year olds. Just my $.02.

Blues Duke   -   I'm guessing that, when Hooker covered T.B. Sheets, it might have been assumed - because Morrison's original wasn't well played or even well spoken, amidst Brown Eyed Girl's radio pleasantry and the confusion of his Bang catalogue (Bang wasn't well administered, especially after founder Bert Berns died, and Morrison's recordings got packaged in at least three different configurations, though Blowin' Your Mind was the original album array), that made it kind of a lost track in terms of recognition - that Hooker had written the song, particularly since it was no secret that Van Morrison admired Hooker greatly.

His Band and Street Choir is certainly one of Morrison's most accessible sets, which may account for why it's underrated as I see it being; after the transcendence of Astral Weeks and the bristling, deceptively simpler Moondance, His Band and Street Choir probably seemed like a bit of a combined holding pattern-slight sellout. But if you consider what else was getting even FM radio play at even that time, His Band and Street Choir looks even better in retrospect, and you could sure do a lot worse for putting a song onto the AM charts than Domino.
On the other hand, I'm surprised neither of us has yet mentioned It's Too Late To Stop Now, one of the absolute best and least pretentious concert albums of the 1970s.

Friday, 14 February 2014

500 Horizons Doesn't Really Like Van



 500 Horizons is a blog dedicated to working through Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums and offering his opinion of them.  He didn't like Moondance so much.

Van Morrison is a genius apparently, at least that's what people keep telling me. He's not just the greatest musician ever to come out of Northern Ireland, or the finest singer to be named after a form of transport, he's the second greatest bandleader named Morrison, he's a bone fide genius with incredible talent and someone I need to respect and admire. But he's kind of dull isn't he?
I don't just means as a person, I'm sure he's an outstanding conversationalist, I mean as a musician he just seems to take the easy road a lot. There are people like Tom Waits who are keen to throw listeners for a loop at every opportunity and contemporaries like Neil Young and Bob Dylan who seem to have an obsession with reinvention. But Morrison's music tends to do what you think it will every time you encounter it and at times he sounds like a tribute act.
Crazy Love sounds like an attempt to make Soul Music in the sound of Sam Cooke which is fine but the falsetto voice he adopts makes it appear that Morrison is trying to do an actual impression of Cooke's finest moments. It's like a weird impression and it makes me want to listen to the original. The title track is a slower jazz number which everyone seems to think they've heard before when they first encounter it. It sounds like a cover because it sounds a lot like lots of other songs you've heard before and is by the numbers enough to do everything you expect it will.
The rest of Moondance is fairly by the book and predictable stuff. Whether you respond to it will probably depend on that most ephemeral and subjective of musical opinions: your opinion of his voice.

I've never really known what makes some people respond well to someone's voice while someone else doesn't. Is it related to something buried deep in our psyche? A subconscious memory perhaps? Are there those who don't like Morrison's singing because he reminds them of their least favourite teacher? 

Despite my inability to pinpoint why I really don't like Van's voice I definitely don't. And if you're not a fan of Van as a singer then Moondance is a difficult listen because his voice is all over it. He's not just a vocalist he's a scat singing musicians who fills in blank moments in the song with some made up stuff that grates even more if you find his voice annoying.

If you like Van The Man's pipes then you probably love this already. If you don't then it might be far too much to appreciate.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I can't even count how many times me and the girls have gotten really drunk and belted out "Brown-eyed Girl" or "Gloria"."

I can. The answer is none. You haven't ever sung those songs while listening to this album. Unless of course you and the girls are the type of people who like to put on an album and then sing entirely different songs over the top of it. Neither of those tracks are on this album.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Van Morrison Reincarnate

Brakeman's post on Grateful Blue details Van's reissue schedule and dates from 2008. 
 
Van Morrison Reincarnate

Re-issue mania continues to give a boost to the slowly dying music industry. I am thrilled to report that it looks like the great Van Morrison finally let somebody with some marketing savvy into the inner sanctum of Van-ism. It has always appeared that Van could care less about the commercial success of any of the albums that he put out. He has always been in it for the music (and some might say also occasionally in it for God) and although many people believe Van to be a guru, nobody has ever accused him of being a marketing guru. The goal of the re-issue craze is to try to get people like us to buy the same music for the second or third or even fourth time because the format has changed or through your own stupidity you have misplaced what was once a jewel in your musical collection.

I have a hunch Van Morrison will be quite successful at this and since he is re-releasing TWENTY-NINE remastered CDs, all with quality if not significant bonus tracks, there must be some other people sitting in a board room somewhere who also believe this will be financially rewarding. Half of my Van Morrison collection is on vinyl and some of his CDs that I own are of poor sound quality, obviously not remastered. I just ordered the newly re-issued and re-mastered Wavelength CD, one I never owned but always mulled over buying. (I had to get something new and check the sound quality before rushing out to drop money on music that I previously bought in another format!) The reviews of the sound quality have been glowing and the master plan is to roll out 29 of Van's gems over the next 13 months in 4 batches. Each will contain upgraded booklets (a rarity in today's CD world) and previously unreleased bonus material. Here are the release dates:

January 2008 (7 titles)   -   Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974), Wavelength (1978), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985), Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)
June 2008 (8 titles)   -   Veedon Fleece (1974), Common One (1980), Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983), Live At The Grand Opera House, Belfast (1984), No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), Enlightenment (1990), A Night In San Francisco (2CD Live Set) (1994) and The Healing Game (1997)
September 2008 (7 titles)   -   Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), A Period Of Transition (1977), Beautiful Vision (1982), Poetic Champions Compose (1987), Hymns To The Silence (2CD Studio Set) (1991), How Long Has This Been Going On (Live At Ronnie Scott's) (1995), Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)
January 2009 (8 titles)   -   Hard Nose The Highway (1973), Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains) (1988), Too Long In Exile (1993), Days Like This (1995), The Story Of Them (2CD Set) (1999), The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast (with Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber) (2000), Down The Road (2002) and What's Wrong With This Picture? (2003)

Noticeably absent and desperately in need of a significant sound upgrade are Astral Weeks (1968) and Moondance (1970) and the remarkable His Band & The Street Choir (late 1970). Apparently the dispute between WB and Van remains unresolved. All of these great works have both been languishing around on crappy-sounding non-remastered CDs for over 20 years now and counting.

So now I pose the Question of the Day: What is your favourite Van Morrison album? Hard to pick but I damn near wore out Astral Weeks when I bought it for $3 at Wazoo Records. When I arrived in Ann Arbor one of the first stores I popped into was Wazoo.

A creaky climb up the wooden steps to the second floor nest of rock and roll history. Rare photos, liner notes, out-of-print albums, vintage rock and roll articles including a piece from the Michigan Daily detailing exactly why "Paul is dead!" A mind opening experience for any 18 or 19 year old. Virtually every album I still own has a red circle sticker with a hand written $3, $4, or $9-rare! My favourite time to visit was when I had a dead hour between classes. Not time for much else but plenty of time to sift through the treasures. It was always nice to show up to my Spanish class or my American History lecture with a couple of "new to me" albums under my arm. Although I loved vinyl, especially the packaging, I was the first guy in my dorm to have a CD player.

Detroit rock jock legend Aurthur P. did a radio show on WLLZ one Saturday night in the fall of 1982 and debuted the concept of “digital” music, playing parts of each track, first from a vinyl album and then the same track in “Compact Disc” format. I listened in head phones and was totally blown away. To me it was like listening to the future. I knew in an instant this was where music was going. A CD player was the only request on my Christmas list that December but luckily I also got five CDs as well. I quickly added five more titles but those ten CDs (including Moondance) got a lot of play that term. By the time I moved into the Delt House in the fall of 1984 I would estimate that about 1/3 to ½ of the rooms had a CD player. Records were still the $hit and the storage of said albums was the dominant feature in everyone’s room. Last weekend I pulled my turntable out of storage and hooked it up to a stereo in my workout room so I can get some use out of my old albums that my daughter Morgan is suddenly fascinated with. “Dad, I have never actually heard music from an album or seen a record player that actually worked.” 

 Reader Comments

Candyman   -   LOVE the topic - from many different angles.  First - Astral Weeks, basically hands down. As good as some other albums are (and yes, they are albums...), Astral Weeks is on top. I was a senior in high school and reading Rolling Stone 15th anniversary Top 100 albums (on the crapper in the house I now live in...) and Astral Weeks came in at #7 (recently dropped to #19 on their top 500 list) I had never hear it before, and it was very impressionable that it was top 10 without me hearing it. Next day I went to the used record store and was blown away. Completely. 
In addition, for my wife and I, that was "our" album when we were living at 812 McKinley. We burned a 4 foot candle in a wine bottle any evening we were enthralled and in love, which was pretty much all the time. Man, what times. 

Third, it is simply incredible music.

In the Rolling Stone article on the album, it stated that Van came into the session without knowing any of the musicians, handed out the music, holed himself in his sound booth, and told them to play how they wanted and felt. It is such a cohesive fabric of music - how could it be relatively random? Amazing. I spent my high school years at The Record Exchange picking thru vinyl. Nothing better. $4 or so for this or that. Plus the photos, the sleeves, the liner notes. Heaven. A by-gone joy, much like the Charleston or whatever.

In 1985 when I was a freshman on Bursley Lewis 6 (sixth floor) with Adman and Danny T., I was one of two people with a CD player. Was a total novelty and 'wow' thing. Used to get CD's in the mail from my brother. Crazy. Different time for sure. Keith Stults had an outrageous collection that early. St. Dominic's, Street Choir, Tupelo are great.  

Assman   -   That Wavelength album cover is pretty funny. It has a disco feel to it. Reminds me of the Grateful Dead's Go To Heaven album cover. Van is The Man! 
Anonymous   -   One of the things that makes Van the Man so important musically is that you can always find someone who was inspired/changed/awakened/brought to tear by almost any one of his CDs. He is the living oxymoron of "constant change." His personality is a bit more caustic so I've heard. In one article I read he said he gets infuriated when people stop him in airports and ask "Do you still have the dogs?" Apparently the dogs on the cover of Veedon Fleece were not his and were just part of the photo shoot but his adoring fans always wanted to believe they were his canines as they just seemed to fit together. Reviewing your list of Van's work it is amazing how much music he has produced, and how much of it is truly great.
Taxman   -   Top 5 Van albums:  
1 – Astral Weeks – how great is this album? It’s timeless - its style is really hard to categorise and impossible to imitate
2 – It’s Too Late to Stop Now – one of the best 10 live albums ever.

3 - His Band and the Street Choir – Van at his R&B best
4 – Moondance – I listen to it less b/c I’ve heard half the songs 1000 times but when I do listen, I am never disappointed

5 – St. Dominic’s Preview – another Van R&B classic 

I love his late 80s and 90s stuff – even the smooth jazz cheesy stuff. He can do no wrong in my eyes (except when I see him live and he plays 55 minute concerts @$100 a pop.  A hidden Van gem but I don’t see it on this list either is A Philosopher’s Stone – a 2 CD collection of unreleased songs from the 70s and 80s that is actually remarkable.
 
bg93245   -   For me it would be... No Guru No Method No Teacher. But i think it really has to do with where we are in our lives when a album hits hard and deep.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Van Morrison is a Chick Magnet


The Record Changer has an important message to all young males:  Get Into Van Morrison and You'll Get Chicks!  Here's most of the post:    

VAN MORRISON IS A CHICK MAGNET  
There’s an old story that’s gone around for years. Maybe it’s true, or maybe it’s apocryphal. But it goes something like this: A teenage boy has a big crush on a girl and she won’t give him the time of day. So he asks his dad for advice on how to get her interested. His dad gives him the usual fatherly advice – buy her flowers, hold doors open for her, take an interest in her, be a good listener, blah, blah, blah. You know the routine.

Anyway, the son tries everything and no matter what he does, the girl just won’t give him a shot. Desperate, he goes back to his dad and asks him one last time if he can think of anything that might turn the tide in his favour. And his dad, realising the kid is really in love, goes upstairs to the closet in his bedroom, and pulls out a shoebox. In the shoebox is a cassette tape, and he takes it back downstairs and hands it to his son, and says, “Here. Take this and give it to her. By the end of the night, you’ll have her eating out of the palm of your hand.” The son asks him what it is, and he tells him, “It’s the tape I used to get your mother to fall for me.” And the son asks what’s on it, and his father says, “It’s a collection of Van Morrison songs.” The son is puzzled, but hopeful, and out the door he goes to see the girl.

 
In the meantime, dad walks out to the kitchen to get a snack, and his wife is sitting at the kitchen table clipping coupons from a circular. She asks her husband if he talked to their son about his “girl problem.” “How did you know about it?” he asks her. And she replies, “He came to me first, but I told him you were the expert. So how did it go?” And he says to his wife, “Well, nothing I told him the first time worked, so I gave him the tape.”

"What tape?” she asks.

“The Van Morrison mix tape.”

And his wife starts screaming at him. He finally calms her down and asks her what she’s so angry about, and she tells him, “How could you do that? He’s 16! Thanks to you he’ll be married by morning.”
That’s the power of the music of Van Morrison. The guy is a chick magnet. He’s that rare artist who touches a chord with both sexes. Guys love him because he’s got the Rhythm & Blues background, and he hires the best players for his bands. There’s Jazz in his music, and lyrics that mean something. There’s never been a guy who ever lost at love, and didn’t pledge allegiance for the rest of his life to Van Morrison after hearing the Astral Weeks album. Because you hear that one, and you say to yourself, “This guy gets it. He’s been there. He’s as confused and forlorn as I was. He understands me.”

Women, on the other hand, love the poetry, and the romance in Morrison’s records. They melt when they hear Moondance, or Tupelo Honey, or Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.  If you pick the right songs, a Van Morrison mix tape will melt the coldest heart.
I’ve been listening to Van Morrison a lot the past couple of years. Of course the first time I was aware of him was when I was 10 and Brown-Eyed Girl was all over the radio. I knew nothing of his band Them until later. If you’d mentioned Gloria to me, I’d have said, Shadows of Knight!

But thanks to Rolling Stone and the amazing critics who wrote for the magazine back in its early years, I came to realise that Morrison was highly esteemed, and that many of his records were considered as essential as those of Bob Dylan or Neil Young. So I started to investigate further. When Domino and Blue Money were on the radio, I saved my money and bought Astral Weeks. I was nursing a broken heart at the time, and that record was the soundtrack. From that point on, I was all in. During the 1970’s, I kept tabs on him, and bought as many of his records as I could afford. I kept right on buying them through the 1980’s as well. But by the early 90’s, I was beginning to feel Morrison was repeating himself, and that maybe I didn’t need to buy everything he was putting out.

I heard them all in the record stores I was working in, but I just didn’t feel compelled to own them. I had about 15 already, and I told myself that was enough. In 2010 I decided maybe I ought to buy The Best of Van Morrison Vol. 3 (released in 2007) just to see what he’d been up to during the years I’d lost touch. I knew some of the material on it, of course, but most of it was new to me, and I was astonished by what I heard. This was two CDs jam packed with superb music – far better than anything else I’d heard during the period. So I decided to make it my business to backtrack, and try to rediscover Van Morrison.
Over the past two years, I’ve bought 19 Van Morrison albums. And that’s what I’ve been listening to the most over the past couple of years. What I discovered, of course, is that an average Van Morrison album is still far superior to the absolute best work most other artists can muster. And when you think Morrison is repeating himself, he might be, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worth listening to. There’s always something extra to discover in his music.

Van Morrison is an anachronism these days. He doesn’t belong in the high-tech world of the 21st century. The music matters to him. He pours his heart and soul into everything he records, and in a world where attention spans are shrinking and literature and music have been devalued, an artist like Van Morrison is under appreciated and largely ignored. The records sell for a few weeks when they’re first released, and then they fall off the charts, and he’s forgotten until his most devoted acolytes resurface to buy his next release. In a more balanced world, he would be revered by all, and his work celebrated by millions.

I’m just happy I didn’t stay away forever. I was guilty of taking for granted one of the great artists of the past century. But I won’t make that mistake again. A Van Morrison comes along once in a lifetime if you’re lucky. To turn your back on such good fortune is a sin. 

Here is a list of the 19 Van Morrison titles I added to my collection, and brief impressions of them – keeping in mind that I’ve not lived with them as long as I have some of his earlier classics. But it’s my hope that you might be encouraged to re investigate Van’s work if you’ve been guilty, as I was, of neglecting him. If nothing else, it’s a great way to pick up girls because the fact is, Van Morrison is a chick magnet. 

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)  -  I passed on this one upon release because it didn’t impress me the way its predecessor, Beautiful Vision had. Thirty years later, it sounds wonderful.

Live at The Grand Opera House Belfast (1984)  -  A concert album that captures the period from Into The Music through Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. Excellent performance, and a nice overview.

Avalon Sunset (1989)  -  You could skip the mix tape, and just give the girl of your dreams a copy of this one. Romantic doesn’t begin to describe it.

Enlightenment (1990)  -  Excellent from start to finish. Among the latter day albums, it ranks with Days Like This, Avalon Sunset, and Back On Top.
Too Long In Exile (1993)  -  A solid collection of songs. Nothing too spectacular, but a good listen from start to finish.

A Night In San Francisco (1994)  -  A double live set that is really a showcase for Morrison’s band and his skills as a bandleader. The set covers his entire career, and as concert albums go, this is probably the first, best choice in Van’s catalogue.

Days Like This (1995)  -  Cut for cut, this is about as strong an album in his entire catalogue. Highly recommended.
How Long Has This Been Going On? (with Georgie Fame) (1996) -  I love this record, and it’s made me a huge fan of Georgie Fame. I only knew him prior to this as a Van Morrison sideman, and as a one hit wonder in the U.S. with The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde back about 1967. Because of this album, I went on a search for Fame’s records, and I bought several after getting this one, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I now count him as one of my great discoveries of the past couple of years. I even gave him his own file in my ITunes program. He and Morrison are simpatico here, and this album is a joy from beginning to end.

Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (1996)  -  Mose Allison was introduced to me by The Who’s recording of Young Man Blues. Pete Townshend was a fan and even wrote liner notes for an Allison album. I owned a few of his records when I bought this one, and was struck by how much his songs suit Van Morrison’s style. Though it was released to mixed reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and play it frequently.
The Healing Game (1997)  -  Another straight collection of songs, but this one again raises the issues Morrison has with the record industry and with fame. Records like this one helped foster the “grumpy old man” reputation the media have saddled him with in recent years. But I understand where he’s coming from because I’m of the same opinion about the world we’re living in now, and like Van Morrison, just trying to navigate my way through it each day with a minimum of aggravation. So this one speaks to me as the others do.

The Skiffle Sessions-Live In Belfast 1998 (with Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber) (2000)  -  If there’s a wild card in Morrison’s entire catalogue, it’s this one. It’s more fun to listen to than any record in his catalogue. He and Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber sound as if they’re having the time of their lives here, and the audience reaction is adulatory to say the least. I’d recommend this to anyone who just wants to have a great time for an hour or so and forget about their problems and what’s happening in the world. Skiffle is infectious, and it’s easy to understand after listening to this why it swept Britain in the late 1950’s.
You Win Again (with Linda Gail Lewis) (2000)  -  A duet set filled with country and rockabilly numbers. It’s a bit odd at first hearing Morrison singing duets with a woman – especially one like Lewis, but after awhile, you get use to it. It’s not a great record or one I would reach for often, but it does show off Morrison’s facility with just about every genre of popular music – much like one of his idols, Ray Charles.

Down The Road (2002)  -  Another fine set, but one that, initially at least, sounds like all the others. And that’s his curse. He’s so consistent that after awhile you take the quality for granted, and you don’t listen as closely as you should. But, as with the others, stay with it, and you’re richly rewarded.
What’s Wrong With This Picture? (2003)  -  This one, on the other hand, jumps out at you immediately. The melodies are more distinctive, and the lyrics more personal. It’s beautifully produced, and the arrangements are superb. Don’t overlook this one.

Magic Time (2005)  -  This one is almost an MOR easy listening kind of record, but Morrison is too great a vocalist and song stylist, not to mention songwriter, for it to be just that. It winds up being another of those romantic albums he only makes occasionally that you can listen to with a lady at your side, and the wine chilling in the bucket.

Pay The Devil (2006)  -  A straight country music record, and while Morrison doesn’t sound comfortable on a few of these tunes, as an exercise in genre hopping and a change of pace, it’s fine.
Keep It Simple (2008)  -  Here’s another really good collection of songs with more of an R&B feel to them than his previous few records. This is one I’d have initially dismissed on a cursory listen, but it reveals itself as something special the more you listen to it.

Astral Weeks Live at The Hollywood Bowl (2009)  -  A terrific performance of his classic. He doesn’t stray too far from the original, but it’s just different enough to make it worth hearing, and worth owning if you love the original – and who doesn’t?

Born To Sing: No Plan B (2012)  -  And here we are in 2012 with another album of new material, and he sounds as he always does. Is it worthwhile? Of course. It’s Van Morrison singing good songs with a first-rate band.