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!

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