Friday, 12 June 2015

William Mann on The Man

William Mann has an excellent blog that any music fan has to visit.  He basically reviews albums from his extensive vinyl collection.  Here are some of his comments regarding the great Hard Nose the Highway (1973).  Click here to find his other Van reviews.  

Sandwiched between Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972) and Veedon Fleece (1974) Hard Nose the Highway (1973) is often forgotten or neglected by music historians. This is a tragic mistake. Filled with the very melody of melancholy, peace and tranquillity this is one of my favourite “go to” albums of Van Morrison.  This is an essential LP in my collection and a month probably does not go by when I don’t spin it – in awe of Van the Man’s greatness. It truly amazes me that I reside in the minority of those who recognise its greatness.

Melancholy rules this album and perhaps it’s my age or the events that recently passed through my life but I appreciate the concept and tone of a record like this.

Comments on a Few Songs from the Album

The first track, Snow in San Anselmo is really just about a lost soul. Who else could sing lyrics that would otherwise be meaningless but make them sound so very relevant but Van Morrison. It’s hands down one of my favourite songs of all time. An astonishing beautiful orchestra with a stunning backing choir accompanied Van. This song hits you in the gut every time. I also love the first verse of this one.

And the pancake house is always crowded
Open 24 hours of every day
And if you suffer from insomnia
You can speed your time away

The second song Warm Love always takes me back to 20 years of age and in love with the future Mrs. Mann and what’s wrong with that.

Warm Love    
The sky is crying and it’s time to go home
And we shall hurry to the car from the foam
Sit by the fire and dry out our wet clothes
It’s raining outside from the skies up above

The title track, Hard Nose The Highway is simply wonderful. Every once in a while I actually hear it on Sirius Radio’s Deep Tracks which is really cool .  The opening lyrics of this song, which there are not many actually set the tone for simply a great tune.

Hey kids dig the first takes
Ain’t that some inspiration
When Sinatra sings against Nelson Riddle Strings
Then takes a vacation

Wild Children is basically about soldiers surviving and returning home from war (in this case WW II) searching for life and love.

We were the War Children
Born 1945
When all the soldiers came marching home
Love looks in their eye

“The Great Deception” completes side one. If you ever felt lost and on the other side of “normal people” this song could be for you.  I truly just love this song and the lyrics are just scathing. I can only imagine this track was based on Van’s disillusion of society at the time.

The Great Deception    
Did you ever hear about the great deception
Well the plastic revolutionaries take the money and run
Have you ever been down to love city
Where they rip you off with a smile
And it don’t take a gun

Don’t it hurt so bad in love city
Don’t it make you not want to bother at all
And don’t they look so self righteous
When they pin you up against the wall

I guess it is hard to explain why I continue to find myself championing this album. Although Hard Nose the Highway is and always has been considered one of Van’s weakest efforts I’ve always considered it far more worthy then that – and that is absolutely has many unique strengths all its own.

It should also be noted that this was the very first album that Van Morrison had complete control over. Why all the acceptance problems with this album? Well I basically think its timing. The basic problem is that Hard Nose the Highway is sandwiched between two all-time classics, Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic’s Preview and then was followed by perhaps Van’s masterpiece, 1974’s Veedon Fleece.

Then it is also true that Van left some sheer classics on the cutting room floor when putting together Hard Nose the Highway which I believe many have never forgiven him for. So Hard Nose the Highway is, I believe often criticised for what it could have been rather then what it is.

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