Thursday, 28 January 2016

Funny Things People Say - Part 11

Gideon K.   -   Then Van Morrison’s Sweet Thing came on. Sweet Thing! In a coffee shop! Such sublime, intensely personal and beautiful music, just spread out like furniture or cheap incense from a stall in Camden market. I don’t know how people can just go about their business while a song like that is playing. Maybe that’s why the staff were so friendly?

Dr Bent Sorenson   -   For years I listened to at least one Van Morrison track every day, often playing one of his songs to energise myself before going in to teach a class or give a lecture. We're talking major obsession, here...

Kimberlee   -   Whenever I hear Bright Side of the Road by Van Morrison, I'm reminded of one of the toughest years of my life... but in a good way. 2009 was full of heartbreak and struggle — a couple difficult and very emotional break-ups, the most challenging academic semester yet, graduating into the shambles of a broken economy, my closest friends moving states away, living in my parents' basement (I know that's not a big deal, but it sure wasn't my dream as a 22-year-old), and so on and so forth.

Cassie Tuttle   -   Van Morrison, in Brown Eyed Girl sang about being "behind the stadium with you." But I heard: "behind the shady umber tree." Now, as far as I know, there is no such thing as an umber tree, but that's what I heard, and that's what I sang as we cruised along in David's metallic blue Chevy Nova, radio blasting. In a moment of adolescent embarrassment, my girlfriend eventually pointed out my error to me; I nevertheless still hear Mr. Morrison singing about a shady umber tree.

Noel Pride   -   Van Morrison exists as something beyond myself.

Alucard  -   Van Morrison has launched a scathing attack on the Internet, insisting it is responsible for the dumbing down of society and modern culture. Now, I know one can simply search Wikipedia on who the hell is this guy, but out of the blue - does anyone know him?

Gregor   -   My first exposure to Van Morrison was Brown Eyed Girl but keep in mind this was many years ago. During this time before being familiar with any of his other work, I wanted to kill Van Morrison. I was so so so tired of being out and when this song inevitably came on being forced forced to witness half drunken ladies fumble through the words whilst spilling their precious Miller Lites. Of course my hatred for Mr Morrison subsided after I heard Astral Weeks for the first time. 

Nigel Jones   -   For every Jim Morrison there’s a Van Morrison (the two bad boys were early friends) gloomed and apparently doomed, but still with us.

Call Me Ishmael   -   Morrison's output is significantly over-valued, much of his stuff is shouty, sub-Ray Charles  R'n'B that was shit even when Ray Charles did it  but there are gems, especially on Astral Weeks and this, These Are the Days, which are almost enough to make one forgive his churlish, shouty abominations.

Nicky Horne   -   The rudest interviewee by a very long way was Van Morrison – had to kick him out of studio. Barry Manilow and Michael Bolton are next.

Evolve18   -   Lately I've been addicted to the Tupelo Honey record, particularly Moonshine Whiskey. I also want Caravan played at my funeral with everyone drinking whiskey. 

Margaret Dittbemer   -   She doesn’t need me or any other man but she doesn’t know that either, and I’m just hopin’ like crazy she doesn’t think I’m the one because the only time I’ll ever see North Dakota again is in a Van Morrison song late (LATE) at night, I promise.

Maurice Bottomley   -   I love Van Morrison and understand the evident pleasure he gets from projects such as You Win Again but I am disappointed by any venture with his name attached that does not at some point send shivers down my spine.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Astral Weeks (1968) - More Fan Comment

Best Ever Albums is a definitive site for album comparison. There are all kinds of stats and comment about The Man and his output over the years. The comments below concern Astral Weeks.  But why not?  Astral Weeks is considered one of popular music's great works with some saying it is even better than Lionel Richie's best work. Now that might be an exaggeration!

Sam Manning   -   Easily one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever created. Van Morrison's magnum opus deserves its mention among the Beatles and Dylan albums of the 60s. A groundbreaking, unique, smooth, and inspiring record. Sweet Thing is magnificent.

Ape Iron   -   Pure emotion. A bard like few others...

Dr Qwert   -   My personal favourite. There's no other album as layered as this, each listen you can fixate on a different element and how that plays off another. Lyrically solid. Good raw and improvised tone. And utterly unique.

Baby Blue Sedan   -   When I first heard this I considered it the worst thing I had ever listened to. If not for the acclaim I would have ignored it forever, but I came back and I'm very glad I did. It's not an immediate or inviting album. It's not easy to connect to. Morrison is a storyteller first and foremost and could care less if you relate to what he's singing about. But the lyrics are true poetry, and the more you hear them and are able to dig into them the better they get. And the instrumentation (which I at first wrote off as a sloppy mix of styles) is pretty unique and is the perfect backdrop to his vocals.

Schnouttz   -   Listening to this album is like falling in love for the first time.

Timhop   -   A truly remarkable record of deep introspection, layered with all kinds of transcendental imagery from his Belfast childhood. Nothing quite like it had ever been done before, and he never did anything quite like it again, except perhaps on snatches of Veedon Fleece.

Mez   -   Such a unique album. I agree with recent reviewer "It is from another world". It is one of the most stellar unique albums I have ever listened too. I revisit this one periodically & fairly regularly. Nice by the fire with some adult liquid refreshments.

Hahol   -   Music from another planet! Impossible to duplicate and categorise! A masterpiece....

D.P.   -   One of my new favourite albums. Beside You calms me like no other song. This is easily one of the best albums ever.

It Says Dilbert   -   I've listened to this album more than 8 times and still haven't been satisfied with it. Every song on this album is good but there is only one "great" track. Best Track: Beside You.

Pizza in a Cup   -   One of the relatively few "universally acclaimed" records that I simply don't get. I have tried repeated listens, but ultimately to me it just sounds some jazz musicians dicking around while a drunk guy shouts bad poetry at you. Much like religion and politics, I just don't discuss this record in uncertain company.

Devilbry   -   This album took me several listens, like 4 or 5 for it to finally "hit me." At first I thought all the songs were repetitive and slightly boring but now I find myself playing this album when I am in a certain mood. This album makes me feel better and can be very therapeutic. You can really feel Van Morrison's emotions coming through his vocals and they can in no way be replicated.

Mighty Ram   -   Only bought and listened to this based on it being in so many top charts over the years. Gradually getting more and more into it, seems to be taking a while so not sure how much higher it will go in my top 100. Hey, it's made it, so there's the seal of approval!

Maverick   -   Such an amazing album - one of the greatest ever. No radio-friendly songs but every one is amazing and they flow so well together. You can't help but almost fall into a trance listening to it. Madame George and the title track are my favourites.

Migglemo   -   Absolutely incredible. Truly mesmerising. Trance music. It was years before I "got" this. Must be given time to take it all in.

Hazey Twilight   -   I'm having a really hard time why so many people consider this as one of the definitive best of all time. It's slow, boring and tedious to get through and every songs sounds exactly like each other. And don't get me started on Van Morrison's voice (EUEEEAAHHHHEUGHEAAAAHHHHHH - seriously, what is he doing?!) This is an album that really confuses me, if you like it, more power to you. But, this is probably another reason why I don't like Folk (despite Pink Moon, Illinois and Bob Dylan being considered "folk", the difference between them is that they subjectively sound better to me).

Sheep   -   Love this album. It has such great bass, singing and it isn't too folksy to turn me off. One of the greats of the 1960s for sure.

Kinky Afro   -   I bought this album after listening to his Best of Volume 1 and was different to what I expected. Doesn't get you straight away and then it just clicks. I've forced this album onto more people than I care to remember as everyone should have this in their life!

Joss H   -   So beautiful, the first time you hear it is like walking into a brick wall but you unravel it as you listen to it more and more. This album is a part of me.

Cromni   -   I discovered this album much later than most of my top 10, but it immediately established itself as a favourite. I had listened to and really admired Van Morrison for a long time, and had even seen him perform. How this gem escaped my attention for so long is scandalous. It's not like I lived under a rock. I got to see him perform the album live a few years ago in LA, and it was disappointing. I liked him better the first time I saw him. I didn't like the arrangements of the songs at all. But then I listened to the album again and forgave him.

J. Huik   -   Visionary is a word I use too much and is used too much by everyone, period. But it applies here, when you consider what fortitude it must have taken for Van to get this album past record execs. This is beautiful music with nary a "hit" in sight. I've listened to this for 20 odd years now and will still listen to it 20 odd years from now.

Sandalsote   -   While this album is almost a perfect piece of music it just seems to be a little less soulful than some of his other stuff. In spirit I think this is a modern album and in a way it lacks some very special aspects of Van's music but creates a different kind of musical magic

M Hurley   -   This is the most beautiful, personal, and layered piece of music I have ever heard. It's the closest thing to perfect I can think of.

I Am The Walrus   -   There are very few albums that changed my perspective on music, especially on first listen. This is one of them. Absolutely incredible.

JoeMT   -   I don't think I could have made it through college without this one. The best study music ever, I wore out the CD from playing it so much.

Elston   -   Possibly my favourite album to play late at night. Astral Weeks is one of the few pieces of music that has made me shed a tear, but the album as a whole is beautiful beyond words. Like many great works of art, it can be hard to get into at first.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Van in Canada

Jeremy Brendan's My Life as a Reptile blog has an interesting review of a Van concert from 2007.  One of the readers argues against Brendan's review even though both were at the same concert.  Shows how subjective life is.  Check out the full review by clicking above.  

Van @ LeBreton Flats, Ottawa  -  July 5, 2007

I awoke Wednesday morning to the sight of my parents looming over my bed. "Get up," my father said curtly. "We're going to see Van Morrison." They got into my Parc Avenue apartment without assistance thanks to my roommates who are allergic to locking doors. After a few brief stops and a lunch at Pizza Donini, we were en route to what promised to be a great rock show.

After unloading their luggage at the Quality Inn on Rideau Street, we took a bus towards LeBreton Flats, a large field near the water where the Ottawa Blues Festival is being held this year.

On the way, I struck up a conversation with a long-haired street person who was also going to the concert. He had been entertaining the entire bus with his personal take on Brown Eyed Girl only minutes earlier. I asked him if he was looking forward to the show. "I don't have the fifty bucks," he said. "But I'm going to be up on the hill sitting and listening. If it rains, I'll be standing." I advised him to find a hole in the fence to gate-crash. "Oh no," he said quickly. "I'm not that kind of guy."

Before long, we were at the site and joined one of two enormous lines of people waiting to be admitted to the show. By my rough count, at least 30 thousand people showed up to stand in circles and talk about office politics (more on this later) while drinking the reasonably priced Molson Canadian ($5.50 per cup).

A Prozac-blunted middle-aged blonde P.R. flack took the stage and began cooing at the crowd. "We've been waiting for him for over 42 years...Van MORRISON!" Of course, he didn't appear for several more minutes since he apparently begins all his shows at the scheduled time of 7:30 PM, not a minute sooner nor later.

As he & his band of seasoned professionals took the stage, the crowd cheered weakly and then resumed chatting. This irritated my parents, veteran hippy rock-and-roll troopers who had been at Isle of Wight to see Jimi Hendrix and up front in NYC to catch the Doors, and my usually pacifist father began to grumble. "I hope these people don't talk during the show."

On the two video screens, you could see him in his white fedora, eyes glued shut, sipping from a water bottle between songs. He only said 6 words during the whole set as far as I can tell--and that was at the end of the show, i.e. "Let's hear it for the band"--and I was disappointed that I had caught an artist of his calibre on autopilot.

As the set dragged on, my parents began to whisper that the crowd was ruining the show. Although we were by no means far back, it was plain to see that many of the people were treating the show as if it were a social schmooze-fest. Some weren't even facing the stage, preferring to talk to Judy from Accounting about her new 2008 Highlander while sipping from a $6 glass of red wine. "I want to hit the guys behind us," said my father, teeth clenched. My mom silenced him and tried to dance in this sea of talking squares.

When Van began singing Into the Mystic, my current favourite from his back catalogue, my hopes bloomed for a spell. "Instead, he limped through the song with all the ferocity of a pampered house cat, phoning it in like some post-alcoholic lounge singer. By this point, I realised that half of the problem was the rinky-dink sound system.

One bright point was the tight performance of Van's backing band. Though I had to strain to hear them at all, they were definitely on time and faithful to his Celtic Soul and rhythm & blues stylings.

I am sure the folks at the front of the stage, i.e. within spitting distance of Van's Gucci loafers, got to hear it but for the rest of us, all 29 thousand of us, this concert was a bust. Even mildly upbeat performances of Brown Eyed Girl and Gloria didn't silence the chattering fools, and as Van exited stage right at 9 PM with no encores, my father opined bitterly, "I'm never coming back to the Ottawa Blues Festival. It's lost its intimacy."

If you will do me the pleasure, allow me to use the rest of this screed to write an open blog post to Van Morrison.
Dearest Van,

Hello, Mystical Sailor. Your album Moondance from 1971 has become a core part of my musical history, bringing back Proustian levels of childhood memories with each listen. My parents practically raised me on your works. Up until today, I would consider myself a big fan of Van.

You should consider your options. If you are going to piss all over your legacy by putting on heartless, soulless soul performances at Big Ticket Festivals, then retire. Leave the stage to people who actually give a damn.

Yes, Van, I'm aware that you've been in the music business for decades. Why should you listen to me? What do I know? I'm an unwashed, mostly broke troubadour with greasy hair and some drug problems. I don't even know my scales on guitar. I get bad gas on regular occasion. Still, I know that I want my music served hot, steaming hot, not bland and tasteless like a bag full of rice cakes.

Point is, some people play music because they love it. You used to. What happened to that moony, pukey, bittersweet poet, that powerful little mountain of a man? Is your reservoir depleted? Are you punching a clock? I sincerely hope that this was just a fluke and not representative of all of your shows these days.

Anonymous Reader Comment   -   Wow....did you ever experience something different from what I did! We were against the middle barrier about halfway between the stage and the sound tent, and I have to tell you, NO one was talking--if they weren't quiet, they were singing! No one was standing---they were all dancing! And we heard every note, every word he sang. Just to discuss, tho---no it wasn't intimate, not at the MBNA stage, but Van Morrison tours so rarely, and it HAS been over 40 years....ya gotta figure he'd be popular! To go to one concert, ignore the other stages, and say it's not intimate--well headliner concerts at Bluesfest never were. 

The band was awesome. Well, it's an all-star band so go figger. But check your Van history: he performs EXACTLY as long as he is signed for (notice he didn't short change us, either), he never speaks to the audience, he rarely opens his eyes. None of what he did was a surprise. And let's face it...$50 was cheap these days, don't you think? Besides that he NEVER does many hits, and certainly did a few songs people who've seen multiple Van shows have never heard live. In fact, if you like Greatest Hits concerts, Ottawa was given a gift by Van Morrison. Man, I wish you'd been with us. 

A Third Opinion

Professional journalist Peter Simpson also recorded his thoughts of the concert. The full version can be seen at the Ottawa Citizen website.  

There’s little doubt that Wednesday was, overall, a big opening night for Bluesfest at its new (old) site. A reported 35,000 people squeezed into the new festival plaza in front of the Canadian War Museum on Lebreton Flats. It was a beautiful night. The rain held off, and it was neither too hold or too cold. On stage was the unparallelled voice of Van Morrison, in the capital for the first time since the 1960s.

We had to go quite a ways through the crowd towards the back to find a place where we could see the stage and have at least a bare minimum of elbow room. Problem was, we were “seeing” the stage from so far away that watching it was pointless. We couldn’t even ascertain how many musicians were on stage, as they were simply too far away. Without question, it was the farthest I’ve ever been from a Bluesfest stage and still been well within the crowd. We watched the numerous giant video screens, and tried not to notice the lag between the video and the sound.

The sound was the big problem. I overheard at least a dozen conversations between people wishing the volume was louder. One woman in a brown hat gamely tried to start a chant, “Turn up the music. Turn up the music,” but her cry was lost in the cocktail chatter that competed with the music from the stage and at times threatened to drown it out.

Regardless, people seemed to be in a festive mood, which may have been helped by the excitement of a big opening night at a new location, and by the unexpectedly co-operative weather. But there is no doubt that a lot of people in the back third of that huge crowd were disappointed by the low volume. At times Van the Man seemed little more than background music.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen

On the Bruce Springsteen fan site called Greasy Lake, a contributor named "Jack Knife" asked if any Bruce Springsteen fans disliked Van. Here are some of the many interesting thought that were expressed.    

Jack Knife   -   I've been listening to Van Morrison's His Band & the Street Choir album this afternoon, and it reminded me of a conversation I once had with another Bruce fan. She bought Bruce's first album when she was in junior high school, and has been a loyal fan ever since. When I mentioned that I'm also a Van Morrison fan (mainly his early albums, but some of his later work as well) I asked how she feels about ol' Van. She answered, "I HATE Van Morrison, CANNOT STAND his music".  

I was really surprised that she had such a negative reaction, because I would guess that anyone who loves Bruce's first album  would also love Van's first few albums (Moondance, Astral Weeks, Street Choir, Tupelo Honey, etc.). Lots of similarities, musically, artistically, etc., in my opinion. I love all of those albums, and listen to 'em a lot. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I'll bet that Bruce himself would be kind of surprised if one his fans doesn't like Van, because he's often said that he's a big fan of Van the Man.  So please come forward if you don't like Van Morrison! 

Cowgirl   -   Love Moondance!

Doah   -   Are you kidding me? I love Van Morrison! I have all his CDs and that's a heck of a lot. I have Hymns To The Silence autographed and framed in my hallway. That album is a modern masterpiece.

New York Serenade   -   Astral Weeks = CLASSIC! The imagery of Madame George and the sweetness of Cyprus Avenue certainly show how they influenced Bruce.

One and only   -   Huge Van fan. He was booed endlessly in Philly when I saw him a few months back. People could not believe the show just abruptly ended but every time I've seen him it is the same length

G-Man   -   Van Morrison is a musical genius. He's right behind Bruce in my book. By the way, if you haven't yet picked up the DVD, Live at Montreaux, you need to do so NOW. It's phenomenal (just played it again today, as a matter of fact!). You can definitely hear Van's influence on Bruce's early music on this DVD. I just don't see how a Springsteen fan could NOT like Morrison .

Davalav   -   Van's an over-rated turd. But that's just me.

Joe Roberts   -   I don't like Van.

Stacks   -   Not really into him.

G-Man    -   Davalav, yeah, that's just you. Like him or not, fine. But no way is he over-rated. His brilliance is under-rated, if anything.

John F   -   I don't like him either. I don't like his voice and I find his music dull and uninteresting. I used to own a number of Van's albums. He's one of those artists with Sacred Cow status you feel you have a duty to like. I just realised one day that his music - and in particular his voice - does nothing for me.  I think the extent of influence over Bruce is being exaggerated here. 

Babs   -   I like Van's music but not impressed at all with the man. I walked out of one of his concerts.

Todd112   -   I am a big Van Morrison fan. He was the one person that my wife and I always wanted to see live. Two years ago Van played at the Orpheum in Boston and as a surprise treat for my wife I got tickets.Just a great weekend and wonderful show. The ticket stated "Show 7:00 p.m. Sharp". We were in our seats at 6:30 and Van walked out ten minutes before 7:00 p.m. Half the audience were still in the lobby drinking.

Cozmic Kid   -   He is overrated and boring as hell.  But I bet it's good music if you want to commit suicide by sleeping yourself to death.

North Side Jimmy   -   Perhaps the non-Van fans here do not appreciate how many ideas Bruce "borrowed " from Van. The copycats line in No Guru No Method No Teacher is usually seen as a reference to Bruce. But I suppose if you do not listen you'll never know. He even got to the folk stuff ahead of Bruce as seen here. 

John F   -   You mean the lyric:  Copycats ripped off my words, Copycats ripped off my songs, Copycats ripped off my melody. Which words, songs and melody did Bruce actually 'borrrow'? The 'copycat' lyric does, however, give us an insight into Van's mind: rather than being flattered that he might be an inspiration to others the moody, arrogant, mean-spirited little toe-rag prefers to throw his toys out the pram. I think this self centred little prick of an attitude goes a long way to explaining the coldness and emptiness of much of his supposedly soulful music.

G-Man   -   Most artists have tortured souls, not happy-go-lucky, smiling-all-the-time, fun-people-to-be-around. Morrison has had his share of demons, and I'm sure he still fights them. But, they have been sources of inspiration for some truly remarkable music.  Just put on Meaning of Loneliness.

North Side Jimmy   -   Van is obviously a prickly cantankerous old soul. But if you catch him in the right mood he is a phenomenal performer. Seeing him "in the mood" is a "top 5 concert of all time" experience for me.  He also always had a fantastic band, great great musicians. 

Erie Canal   -   Spiritual, engaging, often enchanting, Van Morrison has produced a contribution to Popular Music at times second to none. A superb all round musician, with a mournful voice, superb lyrics, he has made a big impact on my personal music tastes. Probably the best writer of a love song there has ever been and there are at least 5 classic albums in his repertoire ranging from early Astral Weeks, Moondance, and St Dominic's Preview (the vocal range on Listen to the Lion is phenomenal) through to the majestic No Guru, No Method, No Teacher,( listen to the gorgeous arrangements around Foreign Window) and Days Like This, he is with doubt an absolute treasure.

North Side Jimmy   -   I for one would not have argued with Lester BangsFamed music critic Lester Bangs wrote in Creem, 1975, that when Springsteen's first album was released "many of us dismissed it: he wrote like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, sang like Van Morrison and Robbie Robertson, and led a band that sounded like Van Morrison's".

Pointblank   -   I agree Van the man has a lot of soul - in the same way that Neil Young or the Dead have soul. In comparison to either, Bruce is just another pop star. Van's an amazing songwriter, and a fantastic recording artist. But a horrible performer. In that respect, Bruce blows him out of the water every day of the week.

Shaggy   -   Been a fan till I saw him live - blinked and he disappeared when the big red clock at the side of the stage counted down to zero

Frankie80   -   My brother, who introduced me to Bruce, has given me music over the years to test out, whirl around, and try on for size. I LOVE "Jackie Wilson Said" (I'm a Jackie Wilson fan) but there's that song on St. Dominic's Preview about the lions that I hate. He starts growling like a lion and it sounds like an old drunk guy. I found the other songs on the CD depressing.  Just don't get the appeal of Van Morrison, I guess.

Skin2Skin   -   Love Van Morrison and have since I was a kid. I am sure part of Bruce's early appeal for me was the Van/soul influence. Taste is subjective, but Van's body of work is pretty damn impressive whether it's to someone's personal taste or not. Of course, Van is in no way the live performer Bruce is. OTOH, I'd have to say Van's catalogue outshines Bruce's, in terms of breadth, depth, and quality (even though I personally prefer Bruce's and think his is slightly more consistent).

North Side Jimmy   -   So you do not like Listen to the Lion. Well, I hate a few Bruce songs but I love Bruce. I can live without ever hearing Mary Queen of Arkansas ever again thanks. I don't even like Lost in the Flood. Ramrod and Crush On You can die now as far as I am concerned. But I love Bruce. I find some of Astral Weeks hard going but I love Van Morrison.

G-Man   -   Bruce is in a category by himself when it comes to live performances. But, Bruce's discography over thirty years cannot compare with Morrison's, IMHO. He's soooo much more than Astral Weeks, or Moondance, or Street Choir, or St. Dominic's Preview, or Veeden Fleece, etc.He has delved into more musical genres than anyone can imagine, and has pulled them off successfully! I've said all along that no white person has more soul than Van Morrison, nor can sing the blues better than Van Morrison. I don't think there's anyone better than charting those horns, either. 

But, Morrison's greatest weapon is his voice ... a truly remarkable voice. Often times, it's just another instrument in his songs. On Listen to the Lion he becomes the lion. The way that Morrison can wrap his voice around his words is amazing ... how he twists one word, or elongates one syllable ... from a whisper to a roar and then back to a whisper again. In fact, when he's on, he doesn't sing his songs, the song sings him. He's just a conduit. I don't think there's never been a performer who gets more "into the music" than Morrison.

Again, for the zillionth time, check out Morrison's Live at Montreaux. That's the concert DVD that Bruce should release. Put on the 1980 disc and prepare to be mesmerised. No gimmicks, no trickery, no split-second editing, just a man and his band delivering transcendental music. And, actually, I like the way he just walks off the stage when he's done. He doesn't need validation from the audience. 

Mdfan   -   His music reminds me of a kinky old girlfriend. So he's OK with me.