Thursday, 28 August 2014

Swassont Nurf

Van turns 69 on August 31 and every year I ask "how will you celebrate?"  I like to make it an exclusive Van music day around my place.  I usually start with the older Them albums in the morning and continue chronologically till Born to Sing around 2 in the morning.    

Have you ever wondered what a guy like Van gets for his birthday?  He's the classic guy who has everything.  In previous year I've suggested DVD sets of old British comedy shows, a model of his private plane for the desk, a scrapbook of articles from his Them days, striped pyjamas and even a 100 pound voucher for a magic shop. I'm not sure what Van's connection with Pee Wee Herman is with that last gift.  This year I'm suggesting either a Miles Davis boxed set, a hard drive containing as many of his live shows as possible, one of those multifunction fitness trackers or a reproduction family Bible with the various dates of births, deaths and weddings of various Morrison family members written in.  (Van, if any of this is resonating with you, I'd like to be your PA). 

Happy 69th Van.  You're beautiful.  You're the greatest.  You fly so high above the pack of current contemporary music performers it's not funny.  You've given people like myself a lifetime of memories.  I think of the numerous hours I've spent debating ridiculous topics like "is Van a Satanist?" or "does Van have a better voice than Neil or Bob?"  or "is Van as corny as Paul McCartney?"  Recently I found myself in a debate with a 16 year old girl about whether Van is better than a Korean Pop group called Super Junior.  (I was willing to concede that Van wasn't as pretty as those boys, didn't really have the dance moves and didn't match it with the Korean lads in the abs department.) (So you can see how interesting my life is.) 

Again this year I reiterate, Van, we love you.  I speak for hundreds of thousands of fans whose lives you've enriched through your incredible music career.  Here's hoping for a new album in your 69th year.    

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Orangefield - Van's Old School Closes

Van Morrison’s old school of Orangefield High School is being closed after years of declining student numbers.  Van left there in July 1960 at the age of 14 (admittedly turning 15 the very next month).  On a positive note Van’s performing three concerts there this weekend.  On Friday (22/8) and Sunday (24/8) he’s performing two concerts for the school alumni and former staff for the cheap price of 25 pounds a ticket.  On Saturday he’s performing for the general public at 85 pounds  ticket.  All thee concerts are to take place in the assembly hall, which is one of the older buildings on the site.  
The concerts are part of the EastSide Arts Festival.  Specifically the concerts are designed to celebrate the school’s cultural significance to the area.  Over the years Orangefield High School has seen a whole host of important Belfast figures pass through its doors including Brian Keenan, David Ervine, Sam McCready, Eric Bell,  Marie Jones, Van Morrison – to name but a few. 

The current Orangefield High School was formed in 1990 after the former separate girls' and boys' schools were amalgamated.  Education Minister John O'Dowd announced the closure in January and said that the remaining 80 or so students would have to be accommodated at other nearby schools.

The Belfast Board are considering its future use.  Perhaps Van could buy it to be used as the location for the Belfast Van Morrison Museum.  (Note to Simon Gee: get your stuff ready for the buyers from the Museum who’ll come calling soon.)   

Orangefield is another of Van's Belfast nostalgia songs and was released on the 1989 album Avalon Sunset.  The song was a minor hit in the Netherlands, charting at #70.  It was recorded in 1988 at the Eden Studios in London with Mick Glossop as engineer.  

Friday, 15 August 2014

Poetic Champions Compose

This is from Arlee Bird's Tossing it Out blog and contains some opinions from some Christian fans about the 'suitability' of Van's music.  

When I first heard Poetic Champions Compose my inclination was to think jazz, but it is definitely influenced by rock, R & B, and gospel.  My first exposure to Van Morrison was when Gloria hit the charts in 1965.  The group was called Them but Van Morrison's role as lead singer was readily noted.  At fourteen years of age, money was in short supply and I had to be careful about what I spent it on.  Though the song captivated me, it was not enough to spend money on a 45 record.  Gloria received plenty of airplay on radio and was a gritty, raunchy song with a sexuality that a young teen could appreciate.

By the next year my family had moved to East Tennessee.  Gloria was a standard of any self respecting local band and I was continuing to hear the song frequently.  However the band Them had seemed to have come and gone, which was not unusual for bands at that time.  There would be one or two hits and then a band would often be forgotten.  Then in the summer of 1967 Van Morrison returned with the catchy song Brown-eyed Girl.  It was one of the signature songs of the summer of 1967.

This hit was to be followed up by a series of Morrison standards like "Moondance", "Tupelo Honey", and "Domino".  The sound of these never caught on with me.  I don't know what it was about them--all of my friends who had bands were covering these songs and the Morrison albums of this era were showing up in the record collections of most of my friends.  The Morrison sound was not "my bag"-- Van was just not my thing.  I basically ignored Van Morrison for nearly twenty years as an artist I did not particularly like.

In the mid-80s I developed a keen interest in Contemporary Christian Music.  I started studying the genre and researching every publication I could find that dealt with CCM.  In 1987 I ran across a rave review of Morrison's Poetic Champions Compose which described it as a Christian work.  I immediately obtained a copy of this newly released album and I was amazed. 

It was still the Morrison sound that I remembered, except now I really liked what I was hearing.  I went out and bought a copy of Morrison's  No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, which is another album the review I had read had raved about.  It too was a great album.  I had the two rotating in play for the next few weeks.  What had I been missing all of these years?

A few weeks later--it was late June of 1987--I was on Highway 97 in British Columbia on my way to the city of Penticton.  It was a warm Saturday evening in the Okanagan Valley.  We had stopped and bought a bag of fresh cherries since the cherry harvest had just begun and cherry stands were open all along the highway.  Traffic was slow.   I had turned the radio on to pick up a music program on CBC and they began playing Wild Children from Van Morrison's 1973 album Hard Nose the Highway. 

That did it for me.  Whenever I was working in Canada back then, I would buy a lot of cassette tapes so I could get rid of my Canadian money since the exchange rate meant I would have a loss.  In Canada I would tend to spend more than in the United States, which isn't saying much because when I was working on the road I spent a lot of money no matter where I was. After hearing the "Wild Children" song I started buying every Van Morrison cassette I came across.  Van Morrison had become the greatest in my eyes and even the old songs I had dismissed sounded good to me.
Reader Comments

Diana   -   I have always loved Van Morrison. One of my favourites still! I would have to say that "Moondance" was my favourite Tupelo Honey another. I think I have one of his CDs. I will have to check. And no I can't remember all of the cd's that I have. It's sort of funny Arlee as my 15 year old was playing a Rob Thomas song the other night and I commented "Oh I love that song" to which she replied "I got it off of one of your cd's." Oops I guess I need to look through them once in a while!

Rae   -   Van Morrison's music definitely conjures up some great summer memories. I never seem to tire of his great classic style.

Matthew Rush   -   I've always liked the Morrison "hits" but I'm glad you gave him a deeper look here.

Rae   -   Yeah, since I rediscovered Van he's a favorite of mine.

Matthew   -   I like a lot of Van's more obscure stuff, I guess cause it seems fresher than the hits.

Leeuna   -   What a great blog. I'm glad I found it. I love Van Morrison. He was one of my favorites in the late 60s. Brown Eyed Girl was his best song least for me.

Stephen T. McCarthy   -   From 1984 until perhaps 1994, Van Morrison was my very favorite of all singers/songwriters and his record Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart was my all-time #1 favorite album in my extensive collection. (At one point, I owned every LP Morrison had ever made.)

But then later I began to really delve into the meaning of some of his lyrics and became very disturbed by much of it. In truth, although he has referred to himself publicly as a "Christian", Van Morrison is more an adherent of New Age beliefs. Over the decades, he dabbled in all sorts of spiritual areas; I think he was always a man in search of a religious path.

But the major influences on him in his later adult years has been the New Age systems like Rosicrucianism, Helena Blavatsky's 'Theosophy', and most of all, Alice Bailey's teachings which originate from the 'channeled' so-called "Ascended Masters" - or what I would refer to as "demons".

The New Agers (many of whom are, in actuality, Luciferians) tend to appropriate Christian terminology and then redefine it. It's really pretty deceptive. So, much of Morrison's lyrics must be examined carefully; never assuming that what sounds very "Christian" at first blush is necessarily the meaning he himself ascribes to it.

I eventually reached a point where I was so uncomfortable with so much of his material that I purged my album collection of all but 6 of his recordings. And although I still own Poetic Champions Compose and Hymns To The Silence, there is one track on each of them that I do not play (The Mystery & Green Mansions). Maybe I'm being overly sensitive about this, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Someday, Google the lyrics to Rave On, John Donne and High Summer and see how they strike you. I don't want either of those songs played in my household.

I don't know how much you have researched the New Age Movement and the Occult, but there is a difference between a Satanist and a Luciferian - at least to hear the Luciferians explain it there is. But I am convinced it is all originating from the same dark source. And sadly, I think Morrison (unless he has changed drastically since "High Summer" was recorded) is more of an Occultist than he is a Christian.

I still love some of his stuffs, but I'm very cautious about what Morrison music I play.  The spirituality-based album "Inarticulate Speech..." even included this: "Special thanks: L. Ron Hubbard".

POSTSCRIPT: Have you ever heard the live version of Wild Children from It's Too Late To Stop Now? I think it's even better than the studio recording. Great song!

StMc   -   I don't pay much heed to the lyrics and have not studied them. If I were concerned about the Biblical correctness and morality of lyrics, most of my music would be in the dumpster. Then if I started dwelling on the beliefs and the lives of the artists most of the rest of the CDs would follow. I would have little music left.

Likewise film, visual art, and literature would mostly have to go. I have also been on a spiritual quest much of my life. I have looked into and studied other beliefs and I don't think this is wrong at all.

At least Van hasn't succombed to wild living, drugs, women, and promotion of inanity in his music. He has given in to asking age old questions and pondering on deep topics. The lyrics to me seem to show some intelligent thinking.

But I'm there for the music. I don't know what Van's beliefs much more than I know Nils Lofgren, but I'm not listening to either one of them for a lesson in theology--it's all about the music.

The other day the question came up about Yusef Islam or Cat Stevens or whatever his name is. I made a snide comment about his Islamic beliefs and one of your music friends suggested that I separate the man from his music. Exactly my point! As I had stated in my original assessment of Cat, I never really liked his music to begin with and his conversion to Islam had nothing to do with that assessment.

If I read William Blake's poetry, it's not to became a Christian mystic. If I listen to Wagner, it's not to become an anti-semite. I'm not going to the arts for my theology.

Rae   -   High Summer seemed to me what was being expressed was through the persona of the woman and not Van's personal belief. This is not an uncommon viewpoint in many artistic ponderances.  Rave On, John Donne merely seemed to be an ode to poets he had studied and that may have influenced his writing style. I remember reading the same poets. It appears to be a lineage of versification that leads to the tradition that Van is following in.

Watery Tart   -   I really like Van Morrison, but he marks a couple of my life's 'generation gaps'--one when I was 18 and met a much older 'young man' (he was 28) who I was interested in... my failure to have a clue who Van Morrison was was a sore point for him.

Many years later, as I was still listening to grunge and heavy metal, my husband went through a Van Morrison phase and I gave him a terrible time for having suddenly got old on me.  Last weekend Van Morrison appeared on my daughter's iPod (she is 15)... I guess the joke is on me.

Stephen T. McCarthy   -   I certainly was not attempting to rain on your Van Morrison parade nor to negatively influence your opinion of his music. Indeed, if I could not separate the man from his music, I would be forced to trash my entire Pat Metheny collection, which would leave an awful hole in my heart and in my CD collection. So, I agree with you... up to a point.

There is a line that I personally feel should not be crossed. As spiritually inclined persons, I believe it is important that we guard our consciousness and are aware of what we permit it to be exposed to.

Music that CELEBRATES spiritual teachings that emanate from "the dark side" (or "demonic influence" to be more precise) is NOT something I want my mind exposed to. Even though I'm not going to suddenly follow those beliefs simply because I'm hearing songs sung about them, I don't feel it's any wiser for me to deliberately listen to them than it would be for me to deliberately sit in on some Wiccan or Luciferian services on a regular basis - even as a total skeptic.

If my avoiding those things is no more meaningful than a simple display for God that my devotion is to Him alone, that's good enough for me. Even though I suspect that there's superior reasons to avoid them and the subconscious or subliminal ideas that I might not fully understand but nonetheless might be absorbed at some deeper level, unaccessed by my conscious mind.

Am I overly cautious about this stuff? Maybe. I don't know. But as I said before, I'd rather play it safe now and not risk being sorry later.   

Van is not the only man whose music I have had to trim due to some reservations about lyric content. I likewise jettisoned a Tom Waits album for similar reasons as well as Blue Oyster Cult, etc.

As far as Rave On, John Donne and High Summer are concerned, I believe you are misinterpreting them. In the former song, he is certainly CELEBRATING many influences - some of which I have no issue with. But amongst them, he is clearly celebrating Blavatsky's Luciferian "Theosophy", also Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn, both of which are occultic systems that are totally un-Christian at best and downright Luciferian at worst.

In High Summer he seems to be expressing the standard Luciferian viewpoint that Lucifer (often presented as brother or even twin brother to Jesus) is actually a positive character who is simply misunderstood and is getting a bum rap by being unjustly persecuted by the Biblical God, "Jehovah" and His angels.

Personally, I don't want to hear that stuff sung under my roof, regardless of the fact that I disagree with it entirely.  I ain't trying to bring you down, make you uncomfortable, nor ruin Van The Man's music for ya. I just thought maybe you would be interested in learning my take on it by my sharing with you some information I gained after some years of in-depth study into occult beliefs.

tzhomes   -   I wasn't around for the releases of many of Van Morrison's hits but my sister seemed to have the tapes/CDs laying around and I just loved his raspy voice with so much power and passion in it. My top songs I would have to say are Jackie Wilson Said, Domino, Gloria, (as cliched as it sounds) Into the Mystic and of course his cover of Baby Please Don't Go which was originally recorded by Joe Williams I believe.

As for bands I never gave a chance to growing up, I would say Pink Floyd. I always just categorised them as a group I wouldn't like without even giving them much of a try (kind of like how I thought just by the name that the Grateful Dead was a hard rock band... haha soooo wrong). Once I gave Pink Floyd its due attention during college they really caught me off guard. I am glad I listened to them after I began to play guitar because my appreciation for their signature slow moving intros and outros really grew. Otherwise I probably would have considered it boring but today I love it!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Favourite Van Songs II

Here's a great post from the Missed Music blog.  Some great comments about a few songs.  interesting to note that only Precious Time from the last 30 years or so makes the cut as one of his favourites.

More of my Favourites from Van Morrison

It is rare for me to have a favourite anything. Favourite movie? Favourite book? Favourite meal? I can give you a top five, but a single favourite is rare. Van Morrison is my favourite musician. Since I really started getting into his music some 18 years ago, he has endured as my very favourite. He is an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, an inspiring singer, a brilliant bandleader, and an unparallelled songwriter. I have been fortunate enough to see him play live a couple of times and am richer for the experience.
That is not to say that I have enjoyed every song the man has written and performed. I haven’t. But can you claim to enjoy every work by any artist? In any medium? Some of Van Morrison’s work doesn’t reach me. Of course, the man has released 38 albums. I can tell you that from 1968 to 1974 the man could do no wrong. Any album you pick up from that era is wall-to-wall platinum. After that there are great moments on nearly every album.

I published a mix of my very favourite songs by Van Morrison last year, but there were enough gems left over that I wanted to put together another. Give these a listen and please, do yourself a favour and pick up some vintage Van Morrison if you don’t already own a bunch.
Come Running – I like to kick off a mix with an energetic up-tempo song. Here you go.

Glad Tidings – Everyone involved in this song sounds like they were having fun: the horn players, the backup singers, and Van himself.
Crazy Love – No one wrote love songs like this one. I have to say it’s a great song for sex.

Streets of Arklow – A deliberate intro and haunting flute work set the mood for Van’s longing wail.
Purple Heather – This is from Hard Nose on the Highway

Wild Children – This is nostalgia in music form and nobody does it better.
I’ve Been Working – This song sneaks up on you a bit but by the end it’s a real horns-laden rocker.

Send Your Mind – Some seriously vintage work from Van from 1967, before Brown Eyed Girl was a hit.
(Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball – So many of the songs on Tupelo Honey were just irresistible. Here is another that just has such a sunny feel. I love it.

Joyous Sound – This is an energetic, fun song that somehow hit the cutting room floor, but was released years later on his career-spanning collection of B-sides, The Philosopher’s Stone.
Precious Time – This is a later song from Van (1999) but it feels like a throwback to his Tupelo Honey days.

Madame Joy – An earlier recording of Madame George off of Astral Weeks that was released on The Philosopher’s Stone. I love any version of this great song.
Fair Play – It’s possible that Veedon Fleece is my favourite album by Van Morrison and this is a big reason why. It’s full of emotional songs like this one.

You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River – Here is another gem from Veedon Fleece. This one is sadder, more moving, and nearly 9 minutes long.
Almost Independence Day – Another brilliant, 10-minute epic, this one from Saint Dominic’s Preview.

Listen to the Lion – Van wrote a lot of these epic pieces. This one is over 10 minutes and is a gorgeous love song.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Funny Things People Say - Part 6

Charlie   -   I guess I have a connection to Van Morrison since he is friends with a friend of mine, and they talk on the phone on occasion.  Van Morrison is one of the greats and one of my favourites.

Jim Miller (Rolling Stone)   -   Veedon Fleece is mood music for mature hippies and Morrison’s vocals suggest a pinched vocal nerve drowning in porridge.

Sheila   -   Boring song? Any time Van Morrison starts “riffing”. Which is in every song. The only Van Morrison song I like is when they do Raglan Road with The Chieftains. Other than that? Every 25 goddamn minute song could easily be a 3 minute song, and be FAR better. Stop “expressing yourself”, please.


Peter Cook   -   Had I been like Van Morrison, who never talks to taxi drivers, none of this would have happened. That’s the power of networking and coincidences.

B.S. Mix   -   Astral Weeks or Sweet Thing. The violins ending each line in the second half of Sweet Thing are such a cool touch. Is he admitting he is a paedophile in Cypress Avenue? "Nobody, no, no, no, nobody stops me from loving you baby/ So young and bold, fourteen years old".

Kory French   -   As a staunch Van Morrison fan of over 15 years, owner of 33 Van albums, three DVDs, having read two biographies on the man, and seeing him perform over five times, I can pretty much confirm that from everything I have seen and learned--yep, the guy is a real Irish prick!

Jimmy Chen   -   When I’m completely wasted I start singing alone in my condominium and believe that I sound like Van Morrison. I believe that it’s moving, and that it’s a shame I’m not being recorded. Sorry Van, and all my neighbours.

Frank Coulson   -   As I was watching the news on TV a commercial for a new Van Morrison CD caught my attention. The title struck me, Born to Sing: No Plan B. Being a Career Counsellor, I always encourage students to have a plan B & C in their lives so the title caught me off guard.

Scot Hacker   -   I’ve been trying to figure out exactly when Van jumped the shark for good, and have subjectively pinned it at Common One, just as the twilight’s last gleaming transformed the 70s into the 80s.

Altrockchick   -   As much as I love the 60s, I’ll never understand the fascination with Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, an album that should appear next to the dictionary definition of colossal bore. So what if they improvised a lot? Big deal. Jazz musicians had been doing that for years. So what if it was “stream of consciousness”? Big deal. Stream of consciousness is only interesting when the consciousness being streamed is interesting, and Van Morrison is really not that interesting. Weird and anti-social pretty much describes his behaviour, and if I wanted weird and anti-social stream of consciousness, I could just go down to where the homeless guys hang out, screaming about aliens and zoo people. Astral Weeks may have given Morrison cult cred, but cults are formed by terribly insecure people who need to feel they have superior intellect or insight. A few of these losers latched on to this completely unappealing piece of shit and formed a cult to make them feel superior to the rest of us idiots who “just don’t get it.” Screw them. Astral Weeks sucks and that’s the end of the discussion.  

Jaden   -   Nothing really frightens me anymore.  Hunt me down Van Morrison. Swing that axe hard. I have been watching movies in your house and all I wanted was to simply meet you. You chased me down like a wolf and all the while I was staring directly into your eyes. Hunt me down. Show me I still have something to fear.

Auto da fe   -   Saw Van a few years back at a small venue here in south Florida.  He is a total fave of mine.  Cleaning Windows is musical Perfection.  Definitely not Mr Personality on stage, but I was not there to buy a ShamWow or Multi-chopper !
John Boy   -   Britain is a country where old men say Happy Birthday to Van Morrison and remember his songs and the hair they had when they were young.   Like me, Van had a lot of hair when he was young and I suspect that, like me, his hair has departed from his head. In my case, I wear a baseball hat for warmth and sun protection and in his case he has adopted a trilby hat.