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, " 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.

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