Sunday, 24 April 2016

Funny Things People Say - Part 12

Candice   -   Now I know who Snoop Dog is, but who is Van Morrison? 

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. The Who, who hoped to die before they got old, have got certainly old – yet, strangely, are still alive.

Fatboyfat   -   We settle down. And for about twenty minutes, things are going alright. We get a little bit of Van the Man, from the Astral Weeks album. Some Proclaimers. Even an instrumental Pogues number. My iPod appears to have gone Celtic on me. I'm thankful. I don't own any Enya.

Alex in NYC   -   Astral Weeks is an awful, sickly wedding cake of wobbly self-indulgence.

Gene Kerrigan   -   It was getting on for eleven and Van Morrison's band was on stage doing Moondance, blowing an extended intro, warming up the crowd while the little big man looked into his soul or trimmed his nails or did whatever it is international rock stars do while they're keeping the punters waiting for the best part of an hour.

Jason Mendelsohn   -   Do you think Moondance’s  placement suffers because the Band did it first and arguably better? Or am I reading too far into Van Morrison’s musical sidestep of the folk community?

Chris Wenjek   -   In the Days Before Rock 'n Roll is seriously flawed. This song should have been the album's centrepiece; Morrison turned it into a "gag" song. Instead of singing, Morrison gets Paul Durcan to speak through most of the song in a mimicking and thoroughly annoying voice.

Jeff Fallis   -   There is a soupiness, an inoffensive, middle-of-the-road quality, a leaden, dozing sound to much of Van Morrison’s work in the ‘80s and ‘90s that bothers me, makes being a fan of his occasionally embarrassing.

Marian Berghes   -   I just discovered Van Morrison...speechless.  I can't explain to myself how come I didn't knew about him until a month ago or so. Just...amazing songs.

Money Magnet Magnate   -   Van is Irish, and as such has been known to imbibe a 'little Irish' from time to time.

Money Magnet Magnate   -   He may have tapered off to mellow. He used to be one of the "old school" like Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris. I knew someone many years ago who had been one of his tour managers.  She thought he could put anybody under the table.

Judith Russel   -   I always listen to him in the shower.

Stefan Lindblad   -   I have always  loved the music by Van Morrison. I have gotten so much inspiration while working on a large scale or small scale painting. When drawing for pure joy or an illustration assignment. His music have always put me on track when I have to get going. I would love to make a cover to any of his records simply because that. So Van if you read this just give me a call. 

Daniel Evans   -   I don't think he got the coverage he deserved. He's getting on now though! How would you promote him? How would you market this old Van?

Fin   -   You've surely heard Brown Eyed Girl?

Kurt   -   IMO, Van Morrison's legacy suffered a lot because of how he treated his fans in the early days. Morrison would often show up for his concerts over an hour late, then only play for 20-30 minutes. Not the best way to treat your ticket-buying fans, and just the opposite of the way a band like the Grateful Dead would treat their fans.

Tim Phelan   -   From what I have read though, he usually drinks a lot of coffee before a concert, and not booze. I know, it's hard to believe since he is Irish.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Van Awards: Take 2

Sir Van: He's got to behave himself now!

This post is an update of an earlier one about Van Morrison's various honours and awards.  Numerous awards have naturally flowed to this gifted musician, composer and performer who has made a unique and dynamic contribution to the global popular music culture.  His influence on fellow musicians and his fans is incalculable.  

International and Civil Honours

In June of 2015 Van Morrison was named as a recipient of a knighthood during the Queen’s annual Birthday Honours celebration.  Van was knighted by Prince Charles on February 4, 2016.  His knighthood represents the United Kingdom’s highest individual honour and was awarded for his “services to the music industry and to tourism in Northern Ireland.”

Order of the British Empire (OBE) (1996)

Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (1996)  -  from the government of France

Honorary Degrees

Van has received Honorary Doctorates from two universities.  The University of Ulster (1992) awarded him a doctorate in literature while Queen's University Belfast (July 2001) awarded an honorary doctorate of music.  (Though really we all know Van's education came from The School of Hard Knocks (2008))

Music Awards

Morrison has received a number of major music awards in his career, including Grammy nominations and awards and various Hall of Fame inductions. 

2007 Grammy win  -  Brown Eyed Girl (HoF - Outstanding Contribution)
2005 Grammy nomination  -   What's Wrong with This Picture? (Contemporary Blues Album)
1999 Grammy win  -   Astral Weeks (HoF Contemporary Blues Album)
1999 Grammy win  -  Gloria (HoF - Contemporary Blues Song)
1999 Grammy win  -  Moondance (HoF - Contemporary Blues Album)
1999 Grammy nomination  -   Shenandoah (Pop Collaboration)(with The Chieftains)
1998 Grammy win  -  Don't Look Back (Pop Collaboration)(with John Lee Hooker)
1996 Grammy win  -  Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? (Pop Collaboration) (with The Chieftains)
1995 Grammy nomination  -  In the Garden/You Send Me/Allegheny (Rock Vocal Performance) (with The Chieftains)
1989 Grammy nomination  -  Irish Heartbeat (Traditional Folk Recording) (with The Chieftains)

1983 Grammy nomination  -  Scandinavia (Rock Instrumental Performance) (with The Chieftains)

His various Hall of Fame inductions began in 1993 with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Morrison was notable for being the first inductee not to attend his own ceremony.  Robbie Robertson from The Band accepted the award on his behalf.  In 1999 Morrison became the first musician inducted into the Irish Music Hall of Fame and was presented the award by Bob Geldof.  Morrison's third induction was into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003 for "recognition of his unique position as one of the most important songwriters of the past century." Ray Charles presented the award, following a performance during which the pair performed Morrison's Crazy LoveThree of Morrison's songs have also been included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.  They are Brown Eyed Girl, Madame George and Moondance.

Morrison's 2004 BRIT Award was for his Outstanding Contribution to British Music. He was presented with the award by former Beirut hostage, John McCarthy, who while testifying to the importance of Morrison's song, Wonderful Remark called it "a song ... which was very important to us." He has also been nominated seven times for Best British Male at the Brits.

He has also been awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1995, the BMI ICON award in October 2004 for his "enduring influence on generations of music makers", and a 2007 Oscar Wilde award for Irish writing in film.  He was presented the award by Al Pacino who compared Morrison to Oscar Wilde as they were both "visionaries who push boundaries".

In April 2006 the mayor of Nashville declared a Van Morrison Day to honour the singer.

He was voted the Best International Male Singer of 2007 at the inaugural International Awards in Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London.

In September 2014 Van received a Slim Harpo Legend Award for his recognition of the music of Slim Harpo and for his recognition of Louisiana Blues music. Van's rendition of the Slim Harpo song Don't Start Crying Now has been performed by him live 137 times throughout his career and was one of the first songs that he ever recorded with the band Them in 1964.

On October 13, 2014 Van received two BMI Million-Air awards for 11 million plays of Brown Eyed Girl and 5 million plays for Have I told you Lately.

In June, 2015 Van received two awards. Tom Jones presented Van with the Prudential BluesFest Lifelong Achievement Award to recognise and acknowledge Van’s contribution to Blues and Soul music.  The Songwriter's Hall of Fame announced on April 8, 2015 that Morrison would be the 2015 recipient of the Johnny Mercer Award. On June 18, 2015 he received the award at the 46th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner in New York City.

In 1995 Van's Days Like This was nominated for Album of the Year in the UK awards called the Mercury Prize.  

Other Awards and Recognitions

Van Morrison was awarded the GQ Legend Award on September 2, 2014 at the British GQ Men of the Year Awards ceremony held at the Royal Opera House in London.

In August 2013, it was announced that Morrison would receive the Freedom of Belfast, the highest honour the city can bestow.  On November 15, 2013 Morrison became the 79th recipient of the award, presented at the Waterfront Hall for his career achievements. After receiving the award, he performed a free concert for residents who won tickets from a lottery system.

In August 2014, a Van Morrison Trail was established in East Belfast by Morrison in partnership with the Connswater Community Greenway. It is a self-guided trail, which over the course of 3.5 kilometres leads to eight places that were significant in the early life of Van and helped inspire his music.  

On October 17, 2002 the Ireland Postal Service issued four stamps depicting famous Irish music performers. The four stars depicted were Phil Lynott, U2, Rory Gallagher and Van Morrison.  The Van Morrison stamp had a postage value of 57 cents. 

Recognition on Lists

Morrison has also appeared in a number of music lists. 

Time's Best 100 Albums  -  (lists Astral Weeks and Moondance)

WXPN's 885 All Time Greatest Artists  -  (Van Morrison, number 13)

MOJO's 100 Greatest Albums (August 1995)   -   (Astral Weeks, number 2 and Too Late To Stop Now, number 75)

Q's 50 Best British Albums (July 2004)  -  (Astral Weeks, number 11)

VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Rock 'n' Roll (2000)  -  (Van, number 25)

Rolling Stone's Greatest Artists of All Time (2004)  -  (Van, number 42)

Paste's 100 Greatest Living Songwriters (2006)  -  (Van, number 20)

Mojo's 21 Best Live albums (Nov, 1998)  -  (Too Late to Stop Now listed)

Q Magazine's 100 Greatest Singers (April, 2007)  -  (Van, number 22)

Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers (Nov, 2008)  -  (Van, number 24)

Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums (2003)  -  (Moondance, number 65 and Astral Weeks, number 19)

Rolling Stone's  500 Greatest Songs (2004)  -  (Brown Eyed Girl, number 109, Gloria, number 208, Moondance, number 226, and Into the Mystic, number 474) 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Van's Live Appearances by Country

Oz - 7 Concerts in 1985

Gunter Becker's Vanomatic site is gold.  He's collected all manner of stats and facts pertaining to the great man and has them arranged in an easy-to-use format.  As one simple example, here's a list of Van's live performances by country.  At the site you can also see this information expanded out to include numbers of performances in each city and even each venue. Then there's other information which lists how long each of Van's 3000+ performances lasted and which songs and medleys were played. Mr Becker never sleeps apparently.    

USA  -  952
England  -  794
Germany  -  514
Northern Ireland  -  217
Ireland  -  159
Netherlands  -  122
Spain  -  99
Wales  -  76
Scotland  -  75
Canada  -  53
Sweden  -  47

Switzerland  -  43
Italy  -  42
Norway  -  38
France  -  36
Belgium  -  31
Denmark  -  31
Austria  -  15
Australia  -  7
Finland  -  6
Portugal  -  3
Greece  -  2
Czech Republic  -  1
Iceland  -  1
Liechtenstein  -  1
Poland  -  1
Serbia and Montenegro  -  1

Not the Private Plane Van Normally Uses to Get to These Places

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Album Opinions - Hymns to the Silence

Have you ever held this distinctive light brown album in your hands?  It was released in 1991 and was Van’s twenty-first studio album.  It peaked at No. 5 in the UK and number 99 on the US Billboard charts.  It was his first ever studio double album and lasted for just under 95 minutes.  Personnel included regulars like Haji Ahkba, Derek Bell, Candy Dulfer, Georgie Fame, Katie Kissoon, Nicky Scott and Kate St John.  On release many people commented that it "would have made a great single album" but that slightly lukewarm reception has been re-evaluated over the years.  Now it's hailed as a classic, though a somewhat idiosyncratic one.  Here some opinions from the internet. 

Kurt Harding   -   I am surprised by the number of people who strongly like one disc but thought the other filler. In my view, there are some great songs and a few throwaways on both of them.  On disc one, my favourites are Professional Jealousy, Ordinary Life, So Complicated, and the soulful See Me Through Part II.  On disc two, I like All Saints Day, Be Thou My Vision, Carrying A Torch, Quality Street (the music more than the words), It Must Be You, and I Need Your Kind of Loving

Marsha Lyons   -   I hardly ever listen to the first disc. But the second is one of my favourite of so many wonderful Van recordings.  Listening to him recall treasured memories of his youth in Hyndford Street always brings tears to my eyes, and then as this song ends and Be Thou My Vision starts, the tears well over the brink.  When Van sings of spirituality and Christianity, he always leaves me aching and hungry for more meaning in my life.

Grigory's Girl   -   This is an epic masterpiece from Van. It's slowly turning into one of my favourite Van albums. Van made a lot of great albums in the 1990's, but aside from his fans most industry "experts" ignored him. It's their loss. This is one of his most complex, eclectic albums, with some of the best, most moving work he's ever done. I'm Not Feeling It Anymore is an angry song. Other songs in this vein are Some Peace of Mind and Why Must I Always Explain. They're also really good, despite Van's anger. The cover of I Can't Stop Loving You (with The Chieftains) is incredibly moving. Village Idiot is a real charmer. Van's cover of See Me Through Part II (Just a Closer Walk with Thee) is one of his best songs, and a great cover of a great gospel ballad. Van's monologue during the song sends this song into that great spiritual realm that Van has gone to his whole career.

Andrew Macgowan   -   IMHO this is The Belfast Cowboy's consummate masterpiece, even stronger than St. Dominic's Preview or Into the Music. The Man sums up his entire career in this album.  

The Slut of San Fran   -   This is simply the Man's Exile on Main Street

Curbach   -   For me, too much of this album is given over to two of the less interesting themes in Van's recent music - overt (conventional) religion and griping about the nature of show-biz and celebrity. Dropping a few of these songs would have yielded a more compact and powerful album.  Still, the best tracks on this set are as transcendent and moving as Van's recent work gets. Carrying A Torch, the title track, I Need Your Kind of Loving, Hyndford Street, and Take Me Back are all masterpieces. Carrying a Torch may be the best song Van has done in the last 20 years. None of the rest is bad (except maybe Village Idiot). 

J. E. Harris   -   I'm completely speechless. I'm a major Morrison fan and I thought that I'd heard it all, but I was completely floored by this one. Every single track is a classic and he makes the standard, I Can't Stop Loving You, his own. How do you compare the stars in the sky? There's Village Idiot, which I played ten times in a row. What a wonderful song. Then, there's Professional Jealousy, I'm Not Feeling It Anymore, another ten timer, Take Me Back, I Need Your Kind Of Loving, etc.  

Glenn Fink   -   I was a huge Van fan at the time this was released and I remember buying it when it was his most current album. I wasn't disappointed. I've heard almost every album that Van released previous to this one, and I can honestly say I don't think he has released any album stronger than this one since 1974's Veedon Fleece. In particular, Take Me Back is probably one of Van's very best pieces, even though it consists of 2 chords.

Guy Sayles   -   I often play the first three songs of Disc 1 as a kind of spiritual discipline.  Yes, I know that some people doubt that Van Morrison could be much of a spiritual guide, but, countless times, these three songs have re-centred me.    

Pieter Uys   -   Hymns To The Silence is an opus magnum where Morrison's talent reaches awesome new heights. The album impresses on many levels: the lyrical ingenuity, melodic beauty, intelligent arrangements and above all the expert mastery of many different musical styles, including country, folk, soul, rock and gospel.  Although every track is memorable and tuneful, my favourites include I'm Not Feeling It Anymore with its galloping rhythms and flowing melody, the rocking Ordinary Life, a wry observation on life, the jaunty, jazzy So Complicated and the beautiful authentic country song I Can't Stop Loving You.  Perhaps the greatest moment is Be Thou My Vision, an extraordinarily powerful hymn that is one of this artist's best descriptions of spiritual ecstasy. Hymns To The Silence is an uplifting work of genius on a par with Astral Weeks, Moondance and Tupelo Honey but provides greater variety than any of them.

Elysa Gardner   -    Musically, Hymns taps into most of the varied sources that Morrison has incorporated through the years. A Celtic strain runs through much of the album, becoming prominent on Village Idiot, a poignant ballad with lyrics evoking Fool on the Hill and on a version of the traditional hymn Be Thou My Vision featuring members of the Chieftains on pipes and whistle. Ordinary Life is straight-ahead blues, though, and So Complicated and the ebullient All Saints Day offer swinging R&B in the spirit of Ray Charles. It Must Be You has a light-jazz feel, but Morrison's rapturous vocal imbues the track with vitality.
Patty   -   This is my Friday night after work music, my Saturday night party music, and my quiet Sunday morning music rolled into one. Yes, I too, never get tired of the second CD. Hymns to the Silence and Carrying a Torch are beautiful. I even like Village Idiot a lot.

Scott Mc Nally   -   This double disc set came out in 1991. Public radio in the US was playing it often and I just had to hear more. Though it swings too wildly between moods to have a sustained flow to it, it contains what I feel are some of the best songs he'd written since Moondance. Every style he had ever done up to this point is covered, not rehashed. His reading of I Can't Stop Loving You with The Chieftains is priceless. It ranks right up there with Ray Charles splendid version. On Hyndford Street is an incredible spoken word reverie set to ambient electronic sounds. The mood he evokes there is incredible. The second disc also has Carrying A Torch which is one of the most heartfelt ballads he's ever penned.
There's another spoken word piece called Pagan Streams, but it falls a bit short as does his version of the hymn, Be Thou My Vision. In spite of a few short comings, this disc holds a special place in my heart as its overall spiritual tone helped get me through a very difficult few months in my life, after the sudden death of my partner of eight years at the hands of two car thieves in Detroit.

Eric Saczawa   -    When I first bought this album, Brown Eyed Girl was about the extent of my VM knowledge. Boy did I learn a lesson: Van the Man has so much more depth than Brown Eyed Girl displays.  Van takes us through an incredible journey of soul, gospel, blues, jazz, Celtic, and meditative music. The only element that remains constant throughout is that beautiful voice in the foreground.  Gems like Take me Back will surely transport you to a time or place in your life where there are no such things as "problems." The title track is soothingly angelic, followed immediately by Hyndford Street, which is more a poetry reading than a song, but incredibly moody. Carrying a Torch, It Must be You, and I Need Your Kind of Loving are heart-wrenching romantic pieces.   
A. Customer   -   If you are a Christian who can't stand the smarmy elevator sounds that pass for Christian music today, and you want to hear a few songs that will really move you.  Listen to Van's See Me Through, By His Grace, and Be Thou My Vision on this album. Other good (non-religious) songs include I'm Not Feeling it Anymore, Why Must I Always Explain, and Ordinary Life

Mkolesa   -   great album and maybe the last Van album I'd recommend to someone whole-heartedly.  It was actually the first Van album i bought on release.  I agree that disc one has things that i tend to skip, but the high points more than make up for the lows, especially Why must i always explain', 'just a closer walk with thee', and 'take me back'... wow! yes, disc two is more consistent, but i just don't feel touched in the same way. I remember listening to it quite a bit when my mother passed not long after it was released, it had that special healing quality to it.

Jan H. Stafl   -   Out of all 40 albums that Van has released, this is the best for those who share his spiritual, meditative quest. The second CD reaches transcendental heights, especially on the title cut, and the narrative Hyndford Street which follows. May you continue your quest, Van, and take us with you!

Anonymous   -   If you are a Christian who can't stand the smarmy elevator sounds that pass for Christian music today, and you want to hear a few songs that will really move you, listen to Van's See Me Through, By His Grace, and Be Thou My Vision on this album. Other good (non-religious) songs include I'm Not Feeling it Anymore, Why Must I Always Explain, and Ordinary Life.

Shell-Zee   -   Take Me Back...Take Me Way Way Back.  I remember when life felt so right and so good. In the days before cyber technology...Before life became a twenty four by seven marathon...In a time when Sunday afternoons felt so bucolic and peaceful.