Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Believe it or Not - Part 6

1.  A black moggy named Van the Cat was featured on Ellen DeGeneres' website on the Adoptable Pets of the week  section.  Apparently, he was looking for "someone exactly like you".

  2.  When Marianne Faithfull was asked in the 90s 'who would be the first person you would invite to your birthday party?', she replied, "Van Morrison".

  3.  Soccer legend Paul Gascoigne claimed in an interview in 1998 that Van's Have I Told You Lately was one of his two favourite records.

  4.  Carrickfergus which was on Van's Irish Heartbeat was played at the funeral of John F. Kennedy Jr. 

  5. The music of Van Morrison was used (among others) in an experiment to test whether listening to rock music made you racist

  6. Van is a music giant but stands only 5'5" tall or 165 cm. (Gloria was "five foot four".)

  7. Van was supposedly invited to sing at President George W. Bush's inauguration, but declined.

8.  In the late 1960s he moved briefly to Woodstock, New York in the late 1960s, not because it was a hotbed of the hippie/counterculture movement, but to live near his idol, Bob Dylan, who had lived in that area for 3 years before the famous music festival was held there. However, he was reportedly too shy to actually approach Dylan at that time.

 9.  Van songs were used on 4 episodes of The Sopranos from 1999 to 2007. 

10.  Jackie McAuley, organist in Them, recalled the air of "general weirdness" that surrounded being on the road with Morrison: "There was one time Van didn't say a word for three days. He wouldn't even mumble. That would just drive everybody mad."

11.  In 2002 Van had to battle the Unofficial Club de Van Morrison Big Fan Club based in the Caribbean to gain ownership of the vanmorrison.com domain name.  The World Intellectual Property Organisation assisted in returning the name to the rightful owner. 

12.  Georgie Guinana selected Madame George to be played at the funny funeral she'd have for herself.   

13.  Rob O’Conner puts Van at number 4 on his list of “10 Ugly Rockers”.

14.  Van has claimed that "Van" is East Belfast slang for "Ivan".

15.  In August, 2013 the Belfast Telegraph teased readers with this little item "David Beckham and Van Morrison shared the newspaper pages last week as one advertised a new range of underwear and the other was awarded freedom of the city of Belfast. You'll have assumed by now, if you didn't see the stories yourself, that it was David in the pants and Van with the freedom. That's right."

Friday, 9 May 2014

Another Born to Sing Review

Jason Heller's fairly brief review of Born to Sing is an interesting one, even if he gave the album a lacklustre C+.  AV Club is the source. 

Van Morrison: Born To Sing: No Plan B
By Jason Heller

From 1993’s Big Time Operators to the one-two punch of They Sold Me Out and Carry On Regardless, from 2005’s Magic Time, Van Morrison is no stranger to the fine art of the rant. The fact that these rants dwell primarily on Morrison’s own troubles with the music industry has only added to his reputation as a crank—albeit a crank whose enduring, transcendent work from the late ’60s and early ’70s rightly earns him three or four lifetime passes. To Morrison’s credit, his new album, Born To Sing: No Plan B, contains no overt tirades against all those big-time operators who are always trying to sell him out. Instead he doubles down—by taking on capitalism as a whole.

Tilting at windmills is exactly the kind of grand, romantic gesture Morrison has long extolled in song—as well as pursued in real life. Here, though, the windmill gets the best of him. “Money doesn’t make you fulfilled / Money’s just to pay the bills,” he mumbles magisterially in Born To Sing’s first song, Open The Door (To Your Heart)—which might be construed as a heartwarming sentiment if it weren’t for paranoid lines like, “Don’t you think I know who my enemies are?” Musically, the song is as clear as the lyrics are muddled, a simmering soul track whose chiming, rising guitar licks echo those of the Morrison classic Wild Night.
If the ranting ended there, the album would be stronger as a whole; Going Down To Monte Carlo lopes along in a loose jazz gait, evoking ghostly memories and hazy days, and the disc’s title track is a stately, swinging, Ray Charles-esque march that proudly asserts Morrison’s own hard-won struggle to become—humility be damned—one of the most lauded pop singers of all time. It’s thrilling to hear Morrison not only own it, but trumpet it. But by album’s end, the cynical If In Money We Trust sours things with a funky, minor-key vamp that serves only as a bucket for Morrison’s bile. While babbling about the human race’s fixation on money, he fails to realize the song is just as guilty. And when the album closes with the exhausted R&B of Educating Archie”which begins with the unlikeliest Morrison couplet of all time, “You’re a slave to the capitalist system / Which is ruled by the global elite”—it leaves a lingering aftertaste of bitter cliché.

The remainder of Born To Sing is salvaged by solid, serviceable, latter-day Morrison material like the dewy-eyed, instantly familiar Mystic Of The East—not to mention a remake of his 1993 instrumental Close Enough For Jazz, a summery, horn-spiked romp to which the singer adds a handful of breezy verses. His voice remains in sturdy form, all rumble and husk, and his once sinuous cadence feels wizened, not weakened, by the occasional arthritic crick. His band, meanwhile, is warm, organic, full of charm, and generous of soul. Not to mention subtle. If only Morrison himself could have managed that.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Funny Things People Say - Part 5

Adrastos   -   Van sings like a drunken angel but often acts like a drunken demon. I've seen him live 7 or 8 times and you never know who's going to show up. He's been great, mediocre, bad and downright insulting. Van the man is one of the most erratic and irascible artists ever to hit the stage. His live performances run the gamut from sublime to wretched. You never know what you're going to get with Van and, frankly, my dear, he doesn't give a damn.

Sloane   -   What if flowers were too scared to bloom? Shakespeare too self-doubtful to share his writing? Van Gogh too heart-broken to paint? Van Morrison too shy to sing in front of people? What if peacocks wanted to keep their beauty to themselves?

Dylan Moran   -   I'm in show business. I live in a big egg with Dana and Van Morrison.
Danny Baker   -   I once stood behind Van Morrison in a queue for tea and sandwiches and saw that, while his entire frame is pleasingly roly-poly, his jolly old nut sat there like a big juicy tomato that, if punted free from the mother ship, would roll in a true line for miles and miles. 

Ken   -   What's Van got against Plan B? Plainly he's not into North London hip hop.

Sam Smith   -   Despite your loading the dishwasher with added vigour as jangle-punk opener Serve The Servants segues into the crunch of Scentless Apprentice, you know Dad will inevitably shut off In Utero and put on some Van Morrison.

James Warner   -   If you engage life from the back porch, you may only startle it briefly, before it continues on its way.  If you chose Van Morrison over the highway, nobody celebrates your wisdom.

Soccer mom in denial   -   I'm sorry but Van Morrison can have complete and utter contempt for Brown Eye Girl because he has recorded 3 million songs (approximately) since it was a hit in 1967 (a year before I was born) and he is 1.5 million years old (thereabouts). He is entitled to his contempt for a song that has been around longer than cell phones or the internet.
Jeff Matthews   -   Precisely what “other audio-entertainment options” a consumer is going to “choose” for one’s automobile when shopping at Best Buy is not clear—unless Best Buy now offers, say, Van Morrison to ride with you and sing Brown Eyed Girl while you commute.

Steven Stockman   -   About Born to Sing, in a combination of the paranoid and the prophetic somehow Van Morrison conjures some magical rapture that transcends who he is and leaves us with a musical place to go when peace and beauty are hard to find in the world around us. I think this might be an hejira, a sanctuary or a trysting place for me for a much longer time than anything else he has released in over twenty years.

Brian Evans   -   Some people criticize Van's personality like no one else in the world is grumpy.  He strikes me as perfectly normal.  But then I've got a pretty broad definition about what normal is.