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:    

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. 

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