Monday, 23 March 2015

Tupelo Honey

Tupelo honey is made from nectar collected from the Tupelo tree.  The Tupelo tree which lent its name to Tupelo, Mississippi usually thrives in wet environments. Some of the species are native to eastern North America.

Tupelos of the Nyssa ogeche species are valued as honey plants in the southeastern United States, particularly in the Gulf Coast region. They produce a very light, mild-tasting honey. The Apalachicola River in the Florida Panhandle is the centre for tupelo honey. In a good harvest year, the tupelo honey crop produced by a group of specialised Florida beekeepers has a value approaching $1,000,000.

Characteristics of Tupelo Honey 

Flavor - mild, pleasant, very popular.
Density - good body, 16.0% - 18.0% moisture.
Freedom from crystals - White Tupelo Honey does not granulate.
Colour - light with a greenish cast.
Average Carbohydrate composition - Dextrose 25.95%, Fructose (Levulose) 43.27%, Sucrose 1.21%, Maltose 7.97%, Higher sugars 1.1%. High in Levulose, low in Dextrose.
Freedom from impurities.
Vitamins - thiamine, riboflavin, ascorbic acid, and nicotinic acid, all of which play vital roles in human nutrition.
Minerals - iron, copper, sodium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and phosphorous. These elements are all essential to good nutrition.

Tupelo Honey can be identified by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services based on microscopic pollen counts. The distinctive shape of Tupelo Pollen makes this test possible. Tupelo Honey producers may acquire chemist analysis papers certifying their honey as Tupelo. 

Tupelo Honey like any other excellent speciality honey sells at a premium price. Because of its superb table quality, distinctive flavor, and non granulation it is very popular with bottlers. The demand for Tupelo Honey has expanded to a growing world market. Wewahitchka is the site of one of Florida's largest beekeeping operations, which was the setting for Ulee's Gold, a movie filmed in the area. This premium honey is produced by placing beehives, known by the beekeepers as "Bee Boxes", in the swamps along the Apalachicola and other area rivers. In some areas the bees are placed on platforms and rafts to keep them above potential floods. 

Tupelo honey is highly sought after and is considered to be a premium honey due to its purity and relative scarcity. Pure Tupelo honey is only produced in the Southeastern United States, in the Apalachicola River basin, the Chipola River (a tributary of the Apalachicola) and the  The Ochlocknee and Choctahatchee Rivers in Northwest Florida and Southern Georgia.  These areas are the only places in the world where certified Tupelo honey is produced.  As it is the only place where the white tupelo tree, Nyssa Ogeche, that produces pure Tupelo honey, grows in any abundance.

Van and Tupelo Honey 

Tupelo Honey was released in October, 1971 by Warner Bros. Records. Morrison had written all of the songs on the album in Woodstock, New York, before his move to Marin County, California, except for You're My Woman, which he wrote during the recording sessions.  The album features various musical genres, most prominently country, but also R&B, soul, folk-rock and blue-eyed soul. The lyrics echo the domestic bliss portrayed on the album cover; they largely describe and celebrate the rural surroundings of Woodstock and Morrison's family life with then-wife Janet "Planet" Rigsbee.

Tupelo Honey received most in America where it charted at number 27 on the Billboard charts and in 1977 it was certified gold by the RIAA. Wild Night, Tupelo Honey and (Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball were the three singles were released off the album.  The title song, Tupelo Honey, is a classic love ballad that didn’t receive the exposure it should have for a long time.  A duet of the song featuring Van and Brian Kennedy appears on the 1994 live album A Night in San Francisco. Another great duet of the song with Bobby Bland is one of the tracks on the 2007 compilation album The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3

In 2007, the original version of Tupelo Honey was remastered and included as one of the hits on Morrison's compilation album, Still on Top - The Greatest Hits. Van has also released two filmed performances of the song: Tupelo Honey as performed in concert in 1979 was one of the songs on Morrison's first video Van Morrison in Ireland that was released In 1981. A live performance from Morrison's 1980 appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival is featured on the 2006 DVD Live At Montreux 1980/1974Tupelo Honey remains one of Van’s most popular songs.  

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Van and Acker Bilk

Bernard Stanley "Acker" Bilk, MBE (28/01/29 – 02/11/14) was an English clarinetist and vocalist. He was known mostly for his standout 1962 hit Stranger on the Shore and for his eccentric appearance which consisted of goatee, bowler hat and striped waistcoat. 

Bilk was born in Pensford, Somerset, in 1929. He earned the nickname "Acker" from the Somerset slang for "friend" or "mate". On leaving school Bilk joined the workforce of W.D. & H.O. Wills's cigarette factory in Bristol where he worked for three years.  He then undertook three years of National Service with the Royal Engineers in the Suez Canal Zone. He learnt the clarinet there after his sapper friend, John A. Britten, gave him one bought at a bazaar. After National Service, Bilk joined his uncle's blacksmith business and qualified in the trade.

Bilk played with friends on the Bristol jazz circuit and in 1951 moved to London to play with Ken Colyer's band. Bilk returned west and formed his own band in Pensford eventually called the Bristol Paramount Jazz Band. Like the Beatles and Van Morrison they accepted a six month residency in Germany.  Bilk went to Düsseldorf, playing in a beer bar seven hours a night, seven nights a week. After returning from Germany, Bilk continued to play his version of jazz to increasing popularity.  

He wasn’t internationally known until 1962 when he released the instrumental called Stranger On The Shore.  The song took up residence in the UK charts for 55 weeks and became a US number one record in May 1962.  Bilk was the second British artist to have a single in the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. (Vera Lynn was the first in 1952.) Stranger on the Shore sold over one million copies, and was awarded gold status.

Bilk's success tapered off when British rock and roll made its big international impact beginning in 1964 and he shifted direction to the cabaret circuit. Bilk continued to tour with his Paramount Jazz Band, as well as performing concerts with his two contemporaries, Chris Barber and Kenny Ball. In 2005 he was awarded the BBC Jazz Awards' Gold Award.

Van Morrison

Not much is known about the connection between Van Morrison and Acker Bilk. Van is a respecter of all honest musicians.  Bilk would have earned his respect simply because of his finely honed playing, his longevity and his commitment to doing things his way despite the ever-changing music trends.  Bilk appeared on three albums by Van Morrison: Down the Road (2002) and What's Wrong With This Picture? (2003). 

On Down the road Van took Bilk’s instrumental piece Evening Shadows and wrote some lyrics before the two recorded it together. Bilk’s clarinet work is distinctive on the track.  On What’s Wrong With This Picture? Bilk played clarinet and co-wrote Somerset.  Bilk was born in the beautiful English county of Somerset and Van resided there for many years.  Also, years earlier Bilk had recorded a song called Summer Set.  

Monday, 9 March 2015

Van, Eric Bana and Uncut Magazine

Here's some of a post by Krankiboy at the Krankiboy Kronicles blog:

Just watched Troy on cable for the second time. Go ahead, mock me. You can call me a fan of homo eroticism masquerading as manly violence. Actually no, don't do that. It could unravel years of therapy. My friend gave me some copies of UNCUT magazine so I'd have something to do between my flashes of deviant brilliance, catatonic sleeping and walking my dogs.

At first I naturally assumed, just like you did, that Uncut Magazine was devoted exclusively to men who had not been circumcised and their foreskin exploits. Not so. It's a rock n' roll mag. I saw this in the stack and wondered what Eric Bana was doing on the cover of a music magazine.

Does it not look like Eric Bana?

The nose is slightly off but I find the similarity to be quite remarkable. Look at the eyes. Eerie. If Bana does play Van Morrison in some movie, I think I deserve at least 25% of any profits and 50% of the Van Morrison action figures. Damn, Rock n' Roll action figures. That's brilliant. I think I need to take a nap after that fabulous brainstorm.

And both Van Morrison and Eric Bana look a bit like my official Rocktographer and Aussie mate. I know what you're saying... all white people look alike. Well that's narrow minded of you. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Van's Fan Wall is Coming

At Van's official site a fanwall is under construction.  It should be great and I hope many fans will take the opportunity to share stories and opinions about the great man.  Meanwhile, here's a sample of the many thousands of bits of opinions about the man that one can find on the net:  

Cat in the Hat   -   Would anyone care to venture a guess on what percentage of Baby Boomers were influenced directly by Van's music?

JoAnna M   -   I was familiar with Moondance, Brown Eyed Girl, etc. Then one day on the radio I heard a song that captured me and it was Into The Mystic. I immediately went out and bought an album, then another, then another, then another. The feeling I get when I listen to his music is something I can't explain. I am 58 years old and the emotion, well the emotion makes me want to leave everything behind and go to another place (I don't know where). He has captured my spirit and lifted it so high. Thank you Van!

Chris   -   Van Mo is the best. Right now I am hooked on the The Healing Game ... That harmonica intro on Rough Goes Riding just locks me in.
 Dean P.   -   Such a huge body of introspective work from a man who's shy and private. You have to respect the tormented-artist that he is. Some of my Van favourite tracks include Redwood Tree, Natalia, Bright Side of the Road.

Kshugrue   -   I would list all Van's albums as essential, but if I were to only own one it would be Astral Weeks

10 Essential Songs:
Sweet Thing
Tupelo Honey
In the Garden
Listen to the Lion
Madame George
Astral Weeks
St. Dominic's Preview
Into the Mystic
T.B. Sheets
Joe Harper Saturday Morning

Nancy Bell   -   Dump the jute, and let the goldfish go.

Anne   -   Among the many reasons I am entranced by Van Morrison's music is that he always has kept it just that -- the music. No celebrity chaser him, he's clearly allergic to the music machine. You are either captivated by his work or not, and any relationship you need to have with him is contained in those albums. He is speaking soul-to-soul with anyone that is willing to listen, and that is more genuine communication than any of celebrity profile articles. Why do people obsess about him being moody (and I have watched him walk off stage during several concerts, always leaving us to be entertained by his astonishing bands)? As we all know, emotional people make enduring art. The music is transporting. There are very few artists today whom I observe lie and breathe music on an almost cellular level, and he is the most multi-faceted of them all.

NotEasyBeingGreen   -   I'm a little on the young side for the average Van fan (I'm 36) but I realised that if I had to take the entire catalogue of just one musical artist with me to a deserted island, I'd choose Van's. Here are five albums why:

1. Tupelo Honey
2. Into the Music
3. Astral Weeks
4. Beautiful Vision
5. Avalon Sunset

If you like Van and don't own all of these, for God's sake, go out and get them!

Rick   -   For me there will always be Astral Weeks and then everything else. Not the first Van I ever listened to, but the one I always returned to. One of the great trip albums!

Amber   -   Van will ALWAYS be the man....At 32 years old, I am young for a Van fan - but was indoctrinated by my parents from a young age. His music is at once spiritual and clarified yet equally wandering and lost. He manages to captures the bittersweet angst and luster of living.......

Bill   -   Too many favourite Van tunes to list but a few I never seem to tire of...
Sweet Thing (Astral Weeks), Aryan Mist (Beautiful Vision), See Me Through/Soldier of Fortune/Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (A Night in San Francisco)

Susan Carter   -   Van Morrison was always appealing to me but then in 1979 I heard Into the Music whilst living in Boulder, CO; I couldn't hear it often enough! My love-life was questionable at the time, and that album pierced me to the quick.Long story....It's the spiritual and the sexual! He captures both and they become one! I LOVE HIM!!!!!

Jack   -   I think Astral Weeks, St. Dominic's Preview, Moondance and Tupelo Honey are key. The rest will follow.

Mortimer   -   I have been a Van Morrison fan since I first heard Moondance and Tupelo Honey. As a musician, I enjoyed playing his songs on stage. When I first saw him live, I was overcome by his passion and I can totally relate to him being moved so much by the emotion of what one is playing that sometimes the audience is an irritant. Although it would be hard to pick out a favourite album or song of Van's, the song that helped me through the darkest moment of my life was Beautiful Vision. My two-yr-old son had been killed in an accident and I was sunk in a deep depression. My husband brought me the tape when I was in the hospital - and I found such solace in the images and words in the title song. It is still a mystery to me how he could write those words with such feeling and understanding. I will be forever grateful to him. Thank you, Van, for ALL your work!

Marsha   -   I love Van Morrison--don't know all his music, but I listen over and over, in my car, to his greatest hits. Makes me feel loved, plain and simple. 

Keith   -   Van even has a song, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, that describes what his music strives for. In that song he actually sounds as if he has reverted to childhood. Never fails to put a lump in my throat.

Ion   -   There are two songs of Van Morrison's that I listen to over and over; namely, Too long in Exile, which is almost like a drug for me; it replenishes my immigrant heart with much needed pain. I guess I just like to feel sorry for myself, from time to time. The other song is Cry for home which I like to torture myself with for the same reason, i.e., homesickness.

John Gilligan   -   "I didn't perform (Brown Eyed Girl) for a long time because for me it was like a throwaway song. I've got about 300 other songs I think are better than that."  - Van Morrison

Phyllis McKee   -   In the late 1960s, the Band was playing at Boston's Symphony Hall, one of the first rock shows to appear at that venue. It was a loud, boisterous crowd, smokey clouds ascending to the ceiling. We were really ready for the music to start, when, unannounced, this guy came on stage singing Brown-eyed Girl. He wasn't on the bill, and he was singing this top-40s hit, which wasn't very cool in those days. The crowd started with a low rumble, and the boos got louder and louder. They forced this guy off the stage! (It was Van Morrison)
Jack   -   I have gone through a number of musical phases. Van Morrison's music was the Jackpot. Most recently I discovered a song Van did called Till I Gain Control Again. It's a country song. In my mind, one of the best country songs I've ever heard.

Todd   -   Big Van-Mo fan here! Few stand the test of time as he has. My favourite Van song is, all of 'em; especially Into The Mystic

Elizabeth   -   Into the Mystic - into my soul. The Van Man has been my favourite for years. 

Sophie   -   Van the Man is (*in my opinion*) the greatest vocalist and arranger in rock/pop music history. He is without peer. He has been on my turntable, CD player, iPod, computer for 40 years and I never tire of his music. Astral Weeks, the live Too Late to Stop Now and the masterful Into The Music will live forever!