Saturday, 27 June 2015

Neil Young and Van Morrison

The Neil Young News blog from Thrasher’s Wheat is a good tribute to an artist loved by many Van fans.  Here’s one Van-related post from the site. 

Neil Young and Van Morrison

Veteran music critic Greil Marcus has a new book out on Van Morrison titled When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison.

QUESTION: Given how you describe Morrison in the book, do you see any comparable artist? The one that comes to mind is Neil Young.

MARCUS: Neil Young is probably the best analogy. I think that's really on the mark. Not that they're identical or maybe even that similar, but... There's a moment on Over and Over on Ragged Glory where something absolutely extraordinary happens in the middle of the instrumental break. The only way I've ever been able to describe it to myself is that the song turns over. I've only heard that one other time, in one other piece of music. So I don't think it's something anybody can aim for or really replicate.

Now whether Van Morrison is his own listener in the same way, probably not. But they're both people who can be enormously frustrating in terms of making tiresome music, making albums that you never want to listen all the way through let alone ever play again, but that you can't ever write off. You have no idea what they're going to come up with.

Reader Comments

Setlistthief   -   Man, I just love Over and Over. Pure pop-rock ecstasy. You could dance all night long to that bouncy beat and melody. What a fun song it must be to play.

Jonathan   -   Agreed.  Over and Over is beyond fantastic. Isn't that the track where you can near Poncho and Billy shouting in the background somewhere near the final verse? I'm pretty sure it is. That and White Line are two of my favourite Ragged Glory tracks.

Anonymous   -   "But they're both people who can be enormously frustrating in terms of making tiresome music, making albums that you never want to listen all the way through let alone ever play again, but that you can't ever write off. You have no idea what they're going to come up with."

The quote above rubs me the wrong way. Seems like exactly like the type of contrived statement a critic would make , as if somehow their putdowns make them a sophisticated arbiter of how good the artist is.  Maybe the fact that the music seems "tiresome" to critics is because they don't get it.
Blogger Doc   -   In my "Rediscovering Neil" Phase, Ragged Glory and Chrome Dreams 2 have both been in heavy 'rotation' so to speak. There is something about Neil's music that in my eyes really is unique, more than any other artist I've listened to over the years.  Most artists have that signature album. In some people's eyes that might be say, Van's Astral Weeks.  But the beauty of Neil is, there might be an album you've never really appreciated or got into the first time round, but on "rediscovery", found that you couldn't play it often enough until the 'earworm' on some tracks was well and truly embedded. So in the end, it doesn't surprise me that people draw analogies to Neil and his music and sound.  Van is just another.

Anonymous   -   Greil has great taste in music but his writing is often obtuse and harder to understand than some of later period James Joyce. He makes a sweeping statement in his book about 15 to 18 years of bad Van albums. I would argue that there is a similar period for Dylan from about 1978 to 1992 but that period of time includes a couple of my favourite Van albums - Irish Heartbeat and Avalon Sunset.

Anonymous   -   Neil fans are some the most rabid fans that I have encountered in my life. However, I have a very good friend that puts us Neil Heads to shame when it comes to Van Morrison. Though low in numbers (an assumption) Van fans have demonstrated to me an allegiance and loyalty not seen too often. With good reason I can add. Van is unique in vocal and delivery and is usually accompanied by tremendous players. I also think his limited touring (scarcity) results in high demand here in the States. He is an unparallelled gem and worth the investigation.

Anonymous   -   Read as little as possible of literary criticism- such things are either partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today, and tomorrow the opposite view. Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them.

Mr Henry   -   I've seen Van Morrison a number of times, but the first time was the best. It was April 1971 and one of my first concerts. To this day, it remains one of the best shows that I have ever seen. Tupelo Honey was the album that everyone was listening to at the time, and it was what we were all expecting to hear. But instead of playing to everyone's expectations, Van was already onto something else, a new kind of music that he was calling Caledonia Soul. We were hearing the songs that would be on Saint Dominic's Preview and he was playing and singing long meditative versions of each one.

No one even recognised Van when he first came on stage; he'd cut his hair and shaved his beard, and was pretty much blending in with the large and incredible band that he had assembled to play. The concert lasted a couple of hours and Van was obviously in another world while he was performing. The band left the stage and would then come back to encore...six times!!! The show was at a large old movie theatre in Providence and there were less than a thousand people there at the peak. By about the fourth encore, most of the audience was half way out the door when they would come back on, and we'd then scramble back for another great number.

Both artists are able to sometimes tap into a place that is mystical and timeless and their best recordings and live performances are completely in the moment.

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