Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Two Van Reissues Hit October 30


Van Morrison's early years at Warner Bros. Records were first revisited in 2013 with the epic deluxe edition of Moondance packed with unreleased studio outtakes. Now the bookends to that classic album, Morrison's legendary 1968 label debut Astral Weeks and and 1970's His Band and Street Choir are also to be expanded and remastered. The single disc reissues will be released on October 30. In addition to remastered audio, each album also features previously unreleased versions of several album tracks.

Astral Weeks failed to make the charts when it was released in the fall of 1968, but 47 years later, the album has achieved a near-mythic status across generations of listeners. The album’s singular fusion of folk, jazz, soul, blues and beyond has earned Astral Weeks its status as an ahead-of-its-time classic.  "Any best-of list is unthinkable - and worthless - without it," writes Cory Frye in the album's liner notes.

The reissued Astral Weeks includes four previously unreleased recordings offering a fly-on-the-wall view of the interplay between Morrison and the quartet that joined him in the studio: bassist Richard Davis, guitarist Jay Berliner, percussionist Warren Smith, Jr., and Modern Jazz Quartet drummer Connie Kay. These bonus tracks include the first take of Beside You, extended versions of Slim Slow Slider and Ballerina, and a stripped-back alternate take of Madame George that emphasises the vibraphone.

Following Moondance's breakthrough success early in 1970, His Band And The Street Choir arrived in November 1970. While Astral Weeks and Moondance contemplate the cosmos and love's rich conundrums, Street Choir resonates with a purposefully loose ebullience on songs like the Top Ten hit Domino, Blue Money, and Call Me Up In Dreamland.

His Band and the Street Choir features some of his most loose and fresh songs. The remastered version is expanded with five previously unreleased bonus tracks, including an early, raw take of Give Me a Kiss without piano, horns or backing vocals. Morrison’s falsetto shines on Take 3 of Gypsy Queen while the alternate version of I’ve Been Working ratchets up the funk quotient.  Take 10 of Call Me Up in Dreamland and an alternate of I’ll Be Your Lover Too.

ASTRAL WEEKS

1. "Astral Weeks"
2. "Beside You"
3. "Sweet Thing"
4. "Cyprus Avenue"
5. "The Way Young Lovers Do"
6. "Madame George"
7. "Ballerina"
8. "Slim Slow Slider"
Bonus Tracks - Previously Unreleased
9. "Beside You" (Take 1)
10. "Madame George" (Take 4)
11. "Ballerina" (Long Version)
12. "Slim Slow Slider" (Long Version)

HIS BAND AND THE STREET CHOIR

1. "Domino"
2. "Crazy Face"
3. "Give Me A Kiss"
4. "I've Been Working"
5. "Call Me Up In Dreamland"
6. "I'll Be Your Lover, Too"
7. "Blue Money"
8. "Virgo Clowns"
9. "Gypsy Queen"
10. "Sweet Jannie"
11. "If I Ever Needed Someone"
12. "Street Choir"
Bonus Tracks - Previously Unreleased
13. "Call Me Up In Dreamland" (Take 10)
14. "Give Me A Kiss" (Take 3)
15. "Gypsy Queen" (Take 3)
16. "I've Been Working" (Alternate Version)

17. "I'll Be Your Lover, Too" (Alternate Version)

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Veedon Fleece - The Fans Speak



Veedon Fleece was Van’s eighth solo studio album and was released in October 1974.  In the year before the album’s release Van broke up with his first wife and visited Ireland shortly thereafter for the first time in six years.  Many of the songs were were written on that trip.  The album didn’t sell well and was a critical failure as well.  Later, Veedon has come to be re-examined and generally declared either “a masterpiece” or “my favourite Van album”.  Here’s what some fans have said:

Weird Brother   -   "Forgotten masterpiece"? Not in this parish. Companion piece to Astral Weeks in stream of consciousness channeled songwriting and off the cuff delivery (plenty choice vocal tics and trademark mannerisms to be had). Journeying westwards as ever, into pastoral Irish tradition, invoking poets -  Blake and the Eternals - and citing metaphysics - discussing Baba, no less - before this became depressingly rote in yer man's oeuvre. Still possible to care about the quest and, lest we gush, get swept away.

Mr Mungbean   -   The greatest voice ever to grace my ears.  Like Astral Weeks the lyrics seem like streams of consciousness, Van's vocals like free jazz and the instrumentation is lush and pastoral. This is not a groovy R'n'B record. This will make a grown man weep.  It's stunning from start to finish.

Lord   -   Possibly, the best recorded singing, music and writing ever to be gifted to mankind by possibly the best poet/singer/composer (on a par with Leonard Cohen, in my mind, and that's saying a lot).  Veedon Fleece is more than an emerald....more than a thousand emeralds.

Count 5   -   An neglected gem of Van Morrison's discography that is overlooked on Van best of's, which is probably a good thing since the albums is probably best appreciated as a whole. An extremely intimate song-cycle, Veedon Fleece is similar in depth and mood to Astral Weeks, but it is no mere imitation. Where as Astral Weeks is a unclassifiable melding of folk, jazz and blues, Veedon Fleece brings Van's love of Irish music and country music to the fore. Veedon is a deliberate, thoughtful and unheralded masterpiece that casts a powerful spell all its own.

Unearth   -   Veedon Fleece happens to be a very personal album for my wife and I and what beautiful music it is. Going back to the meditative song cycle, the format that spun the magic of astral weeks, Van once again plumbs the depths of heart and soul. This is deeply intimate music. A warm embracing cocoon of shared secrets. Geronimo.

Bjenny   -   Warm , pastoral and sad eyed. I just bought it recently after being intrigued by the bad cover for so long! I grew up with Van constantly playing...but my folks never had this for some reason...I wonder why it's never been celebrated like it should have been? Living in the shadows of Astral Weeks cant be easy, but this record sounds like it really doesnt care...it would be spinning in its own parallel universe forever, regardless. For me, the best combination of Van's Celtic mystisism, gentle instramentation and trancendental blues.  
Timregler   -   This is as close as Morrison ever came to recapturing the sound of Astral Weeks.  Not that it was his intention to do that.  Van the Man is never one for looking back.  This is a great album filled with soul.  Check out his emotion in the falsetto Who Was That Masked Man positively gripping.  I also love You Don't Pull No Punches But You Don't Push The River.  You gotta love the title alone, but it's another soul revealing tour de force. 

Rumblefish   -   Astral Weeks is a great album. Veedon Fleece is greater. Simple as that.
Meeballsaque   -   This is my sad album. Sad in a good way. Self pity, battered ego, broken heart and a bottle of whiskey sort of thing. It belongs to a time when I seemed to get dumped rather a lot. This record came to my youthful collection courtesy of my godfather going all cd and getting rid of all his vinyl (something he inevitably came to regret) about the same time I'd bought a recycled Rotel record player. Talk about destiny. Anyway, I adore this album with its rolling piano and haunting recorder.
ListyGuy   -   Not Van’s best, but some good stuff here. Come Here My Love is a great song, and Streets of Arklow is cool. The album also has some strange parts, like the bizarre noises Van makes at the end of Cul de Sac.
Theressomecolors   -   I can't understand what he's saying 50% of the time but I FEEL every bit of it.
40footwolf   -   I've seen Veedon Fleece compared to a more grizzled Astral Weeks multiple times, but it's too structured to really warrant that comparison. Morrison grunts and mutters his way through a collection of soul tunes with Irish folk influences that are sometimes ambitiously composed but frequently don't lead anywhere revelatory. There should be no arguments about the standouts here-Fair PlayStreets of Arkow, You Don't Pull No Punches and Country Fair. Everything else is serviceable but either sounds derivative of past work ("Comfort You") or falters with the concept of lonesome gentility that the album toys with (Who Was That Masked Man).

Berryman   -   Effortlessly cathartic and verbose, Veedon Fleece, sounds like the wiser, road-weary cousin of Astral Weeks. Van's stream of consciousness style speaks descriptively through characters, most notably Linden Arden, a man misunderstood and consumed by his own nature. The beautiful companion piece, Who Was That Masked Man, is helplessly love-struck and yearning for the divine in hopes of reaching one's higher nature; a disquieting utterance to a momentarily bewitched world alive with the prospect of hope and atonement. Vulnerable and unflinchingly stern in its sentimentality, Veedon asks for redemption but falls fittingly short for its own honest pragmatism. Transcendental midnight music for reconciling with fear and desire.
Nervenet   -   I know in my heart of hearts that this is not a great Van Morrison album. And yet, I find that almost any time in the last nine months I've had a craving for Van's music I've gone for this one over any of the other nine or ten Van albums I own. I am not sure I can figure out why, but I think there are a couple reasons. Most of these songs are mildly melancholic, mid-tempo meanders that just sort of drift by in their pretty way and then move along to make way for the next one, but fit perfectly with certain moods.
Rupert Lenz   -   All in all, Veedon Fleece is one big longing for love, peace and harmony... say, a longing for home wherever or whatever it is... a longing of the soul that eventually became so strong it's making the soul arrive there. All those images of nature and fairness and the folky pace of the music are nothing but a help to get there. And the wailing complaints about despair and violence, as their counterparts, are telling you why. This music is pure inspiration that directly made its way into songs, and we're being given the favour of having an experience that there is a higher force and purpose, no matter how far we are from it, or even divided.  If only we can listen we can also have an epiphany.
7_AA_1KS   -   Veedon Fleece is, for me, as coherent a stab as Van would ever make at both a withdrawal from stardom, a quiet meditation on English pastoral themes a la William Blake and simply great songwriting which manages to ebb and flow. For a long time, it was a bit of an overlooked epiphany in the catalog due to its having spawned no significant hit singles or radio-ready themes. Even Bulbs, the single subsequently released to try and boost the albums' sales is tinged with a sardonic bitterness aimed at showbiz cronies in the record business.
Coming off of his divorce with his wife, Van settled down in the countryside and let a simple honest flow of creativity come right out. It's the kind of record you need to be alone with at night when you're trying to find some glimmers of hope in your solitude. It's a look at how superficial much of the seventies were becoming with a back-to-basics straightforwardness that reveals a lot of the ugliness behind the world. Van avoids self-glorifying isolation and pain - he prefers to simply tell the truth to himself through some abstract imagery and calming settings.
SandyMc   -   The overall effect is just daydreamy afternoon. Linden Arden Stole the Highlights has a classic simple melody with its delicate evocative piano motif. The quietly intense “You Don’t Pull No Punches” could be respected as one of his best, and flipping onto side two, Bulbs lifts the mood completely into real country party joy. As for the lyrics, I’ve given up completely on scrutinising him here, I don’t think it’s the point, you’ve just gotta dig the feel man.
Streetmouse   -   Let’s get the bad news, or should I say interesting news, out of the way first ... Van Morrison has never been know for wonderful album covers, matter of fact, his Hard Nose The Highway has to be one of the all time worst covers ever.  I have no idea what he’s trying to convey with this hand-tinted image of himself and two Irish Wolfhounds, harkening back to an era that suggests some sort of antique portrait, rather than a young man attempting to break new musical ground.  Though according to Mr. Morrison, the cover is full of mysticism and suggested meanings, echoing hidden aspects of his life at the time. This is the eighth studio album by Van Morrison, and was recorded shortly after his divorce from Janet Rigsbee.  Both Melody Maker, and Rolling Stone printed quite horrid dismissive reviews.

lanky_caravan   -   Where's Veedon Fleece at Hollywood Bowl?!  Now that would get me excited, for real, actually I would probably have to move out to LA to see that one.  As he had previously done on Astral Weeks, Van completely disregards concerns for being commercial.  It starts off gently with a heart-wrenching performance on Fair Play.  As inscrutable as the lyrics are, a theme arises of loneliness.  Sadly, my fondness for Veedon Fleece has increased almost incrementally with my own loneliness.  Don't know if that's a coincidence, but its true.

Jeeeesus   -   Comparisons with Astral Weeks are optimistic. Linden Arden's niggardly two-and-a-bit minutes have Morrison stretching his vocals to the limit for the first time since "Beside you" in recounting the bizarre tale of a drinkin' man with a penchant for decapitation.  Accompanied by an undulating piano melody that sounds like it was written for a harpsichord, it really is unlike anything else in the Van index.  The other obvious parallel lies in the sparse, fluid final track, as Country Fair takes on the impossible task of emulating "Slim Slow Slider" and nearly measures up.  Two difficulties: Streets of Arklow may have been recorded 30 years ago, but its tremulous whistle had to be as insufferably Oirish.  And what the bejabers is going on at the end of Cul-de-sac?  It sounds like he's rooting for truffles.


Alain Robert   -   This is Van's rural pearl. No good-times Americana as on Tupelo Honey though, but brooding and mysterious introspection, drenched in his Irish roots. Of all Van's albums, Veedon Fleece comes closest to his mystic masterpiece, Astral Weeks.

Kurt Harding   -   Veedon Fleece was one of the Van Morrison recordings I missed in the mid-70s. Along with Astral Weeks, Veedon Fleece is generally held to be one of the most inaccessible and mystical works in the Morrison canon. But despite the similarities and the near reverence with which the earlier Astral Weeks is regarded, I think that Veedon Fleece is a much better album. While Astral Weeks can be rambling and flaccid, Veedon Fleece is tighter and more focused.

Van involved with dog fighting?
B. E. Jackson   -   Veedon Fleece almost demands to be mentioned in the same sentence as Astral Weeks. Both albums sound really personal to me, and both albums feel like they were written in such a carefully planned kind of way as a means for listeners to become really attached to them.

Angeline   -   I came of age through Van Morrison, and, in particular 'Veedon Fleece' when it first came out. At that time I found it intoxicating, deep, and inspiring. This album and 'Astral Weeks' were on the top of my list of favourites.

Kari   -   This is one Van Morrison record that seems to have gotten better with age. When it first came out, and for many years after, it seemed that Veedon Fleece did not get its due as a great record. The objectivity of hindsight reveals that Veedon Fleece certainly belongs with Astral Weeks, Moondance, His Band and Streetchoir, Tupelo Honey and St. Dominic's Preview as Van's greatest work.

Fire Boyon   -   Van's voice is often echoing, sustained, never coming down. At his best there is no other that can convey the spirit within. Haunting ballads. Never disappointing.

S. Kennedy   -   I think it is a better album than Astral Weeks.
Msnvwls   -   The album on which the artistic flowering began on Astral Weeks came full circle, Veedon Fleece was Morrison's last record for three years. It's also one of the more subtly heartbreaking records ever made, recorded shortly after his divorce with Janet Planet and imbuing Weeks' introspective stream-of-consciousness with a sadness that stood in stark contrast to his recent hits like Jackie Wilson Said, Tupelo Honey and Moondance. Easing the listener into its particular, understated frequency with the low-key but deeply soulful Fair Play, Fleece unfolds slowly, preferring intimate compositions that highlight the breadth of Morrison's range as a singer and his sultry, vulnerable side: while tracks like Who Was That Masked Man allow him to be laid bare, a more impenetrable composition like the Irish folk tale "Linden Arden Stole the Highlights" is imbued with a sense of sadness by the mournful melody and Morrison's breathtaking vocal performance (arguably the best he ever gave).
Amoux   -   Beautifully delicate, but to be painfully honest I found it to be incredibly boring. I expected so much more, and I can't sit here pretending that I'm enjoying this drab. The main problem is that Veedon Fleece has nothing which to me is that memorable. Van Morrison's voice, which I've never had a problem with is becoming increasingly annoying. His performance on Who Was That Masked Man is excruciating.  


Warthur   -   Veedon Fleece finds Van Morrison vocally returning to the stream of consciousness approach that was so distinctive on Astral Weeks, but this time set against a solid folk rock musical backdrop, often resorting to something as simple as a bare piano track to provide backing for his vocal performance. The change in tone achieved by this is stark: whereas his ramblings on Astral Weeks seemed natural against the music presented on it, here the contrast between vocals and music is more troubling, casting Van as someone who has lost his moorings and is drifting helplessly whilst we stand on the shore and watch. It's a subtle but powerful effect which makes Veedon Fleece a truly intriguing album, though I do find myself wishing for more adventurous fare from the musicians.
Halvor   -   Amazing album, this one really strikes a mood and sticks with it.  It did take me a while to appreciate this.  This has an amazing feel to it - sad and melancholy but also drifting and indistinct - really beautiful. This is what Astral Weeks should have been. 
mulletguy16   -   Possibly better than the venerable Astral Weeks (everyone's favourite Van album). even if it's not better, it definitely has his best tune, "you don't pull no punches...". The album has a similar magical vibe to it as the aforementioned masterpiece of an album, but for some reason I prefer this one ever-so-slightly. Maybe because I spin it at work twice a week and it is entirely embedded in my subconscious. I consider it essential.

Friday, 18 September 2015

What's the Meaning of Real Gone?



On an answers site Zhengyue asked "What's the meaning of “real gone” as in the song Real Gone by Sheryl Crow?"  Someone brought up Van's Real, Real Gone that predates it and suggests he has "gone one better".  


For the hard core Van fan who won't find much of interest in this post:  By Real, Real Gone, do you think Van is referring to his epiphany on Cyprus Avenue or his general love of great artists like Ray Charles, James Brown, etc. who take him away to another place and time?


Real Gone?

Bill Lefurgy   -   "Everybody's lookin' for a way to get real gone."
Does that mean something cool?


Kris   -   Gone for good? 

Shoe 2   -   Van Morrison went one better with his classic Real Real Gone

Paul Richter   -   Let's not forget Boney M's camp disco classic Rasputin and the lyric  "There was a cat that really was gone."

Bill Lefurgy   -   The term generally means something like absent from normal concerns or behaviour in a way that's cool or outrageous in a hip way. The Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions defines real gone as "really cool; mellow and pleasant. (See also gone.) : Man, this music is real gone." 


It can also mean mellowed through drugs or alcohol. The top Urban Dictionary definition says "another word for high." In some uses, the term leans more toward excited behaviour; Straight from the Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang defines it as 1. Far out, wild, totally sent and 2. Insane. The term has been around for a while, as evidenced by the 1954 cartoon "Real Gone Woody." The earliest reference I could find to the term is 1941 in Google Books, in These I Like Best: The Favourite Novels and Stories of Kathleen Norris.

Hugo   -   In fact, the Kathleen Norris reference you found is originally from Little Ships, first published in 1925. 

Durango Mustafa   -   What about Tom Wait's 2004 album called Real Gone? Where does that fit in the Real or Real Real Gone canon? Anybody? 
                   
Bill Lefurgy   -   Interesting that the term was used that far back. 
                   
Hugo   -   The OED has two relevant definitions of 'gone'. The first has citations from 1598: Lost, ruined, undone. Also, a gone case, a hopeless case; gone sensation (feeling), a feeling of faintness or utter exhaustion.. I think this applies to Maggie needing coffee in Norris 1940. The fourth has citations from 1946 defining it as very inspired or excited; ‘out of this world’; extremely satisfying; excellent; especially in the phrase 'real gone'. Slang (orig. U.S. jazz musicians'). 


And there's a "Mr. Markham's real gone on that young lady," he said to himself. at the top of page 123 in the 1890's Heart of Gold, that is more like "a hopeless case" than "out of this world", but I suppose both could apply. 

Hunky Dory   -   I must suggest a great record by Gone which is called Let's Get Real, Real Gone for a Change. Brilliant.  Also, who is gonna come out with something called Real Real Real Gone? Great name for a mature cheese. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Van at the Maritime

The Van Heritage Trail has increased interest in Van’s early Belfast history.  One significant landmark in the Van story was the Maritime, but sadly the building was torn down years ago.  Up until R’n’B came to Maritime the Belfast music scene was dominated almost exclusively by the showband phenomenon.  Nattily attired bands played cover versions of the latest hits.  Van was part of the scene in a showband called The Monarchs

A Really Great Album
In 1964 things were about to change.  In April 1964 a spartan seamens' hostel in College Square North, Belfast, which had formerly been a Royal Irish Constabulary police station, was transformed into the Club Rado and a new rhythm 'n' blues movement in the city was inaugurated.  The promoters were 'The Three J's', enterprising young promoters who helped make the club Belfast's answer to Liverpool's Cavern.  They were instrumental in Them’s history and are mentioned in the Them song The Story of Them.

Them came about at the beginning of April 1964 when Morrison responded to an advert for musicians to play at the new R&B club being created at the Maritime Hotel. The new R&B club needed a band for its opening night and eventually Van and other musicians gathered together as Them for the Maritime launch. For that first gig Them consisted of Eric Wrixon, on keyboards, Van playing saxophone and harmonica and sharing vocals with Billy Harrison, who played guitar. Ronnie Millings drummed. They followed Eric Wrixon's suggestion for a new name, taking their name from the Fifties horror movie Them!

On April 14, 1964, an ad in a Belfast newspaper asked: Who Are? What Are? THEM. Similarly curious ads followed until the Friday before the gig (April 17, 1964) announced that Them would be performing that evening at Club Rado at the Maritime Hotel. Attendance at the two hundred capacity venue quickly grew with a packed house by the third week.

Billy Harrison commented on the opening saying, "Until that Friday night, the Maritime had mainly been a jazz club," he said. "When we played the first gig in the Maritime Blues Club, there must have been around 60 people there and half of those were jazz fans, who'd just come along, out of curiosity.

"I remember that opening night was a good one. The next week, there were about 150 people. By the third Friday, there was a big queue outside. And that was it. Some of the other bands came along to start playing and the blues scene in Belfast exploded."

The early Them performances at the Maritime were electric by gig goers at the time. Van proved to be an energetic and spontaneous front man.  Morrison ad libbed lyrics and ran around the stage as he performed.  "Them lived and died on the stage at the Maritime Hotel" but only very rudimentary recordings survive.

The band's strong R&B performances at the Maritime attracted attention. While the band did covers, they also played some of Morrison's early songs, such as "Could You Would You", which he had written in Camden Town while touring with The Manhattan Showband.  The Them song Joe Harper, Saturday Morning, refers to the Maritime caretaker who frequently let the band use the hall for rehearsals when they could not get a room above Dougie Knights record and bicycle shop in Great Victoria Street where many bands of all musical persuasions practised.  Van’s Gloria, the classic song he had written at eighteen years old, took shape here and could last up to twenty minutes.

People from Uncut Magazine
Them were notorious for the instability of the line-up.  Numerous Northern Ireland baby boomer males have ex-Them on their CV.  Morrison and Henderson would remain the only constants, and a highly unsuccessful version of Them even soldiered on after Morrison's departure. In his The Beatles and Some Other Guys: Rock Family Trees of the Early Sixties, Pete Frame cites no less than nine line-ups of the band between 1964 and 1966.

One fan's recording, of Turn On Your Love Light, the group's most popular number, made its way to Mervyn and Phil Solomon, who contacted Decca Records' Dick Rowe, who then travelled to Belfast to hear Them perform. Rowe and Phil Solomon agreed on a two year contract with the members of the band then signed up to Solomon. Morrison, at eighteen had to have his father sign for him. Within a few weeks, the group was taken to England and into the Decca's recording studio in West Hampstead for their first recording session. 

Over a two year period they released two albums and ten singles, with two more singles released after Morrison departed the band. They had three chart hits, Baby, Please Don't Go (1964), Here Comes the Night (1965), and Mystic Eyes (1965), though it was the b-side of Baby, Please Don't Go, the garage band classic, Gloria, that went on to become a rock standard covered by Patti Smith, The Doors, Shadows of Knight, Jimi Hendrix and others. 

Footnote

After he left the band, George Ivan Morrison would go on to record a few albums and have some success.