Saturday, 23 July 2016

Funny Things People Say - Part 13

Explaining How Ants Increase Their Karma

Steve Danis   -   Van has always been my fave since the early 60's. I live in his wisdom every day. Thank God for creating such a human.

MiG   -   What a curious cover this Keep Me Singing. Beautiful on first glance. Ten seconds later it drives you crazy.

Topeka Roy   -   Over 20 years later Avalon Sunset remains a favourite that never has left my listening rotation and sits alongside the best of Bruce Cockburn and Bob Dylan.  The album starts with the classic duet with Cliff Richard of When God Shines His Light On You, and if that was the only good song on the album it would still make the list of Great Christian Albums.  Whenever God Shines His Light was a big hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at #20 and hitting #3 on the Irish charts.

Rob S.   -   I saw  Van Morrison the first time at Goffert Park at Nijmegen, great artist, I lost my finger tip after the breakdown of the podia, but he will always reminder me of this great time. 

Harry Lime   -   The five most fortunate people in the world are the musicians who were allowed to accompany Van Morrison on the Hyndford Street stage.

Terry MacPherson   -   Van Morrison is a funny guy.  Doesn't have much to say about his commercial success for tunes like Brown Eyed Girl. And will be terminating his contract with iTunes.   Was a little hard getting used to that attitude. But I have a lot of respect for him.  And maybe if we walk a mile in his shoes we'll understand.  

Veronica Mcsherry   -   Love you Van Morrison, met you once in a second hand record shop in Notting Hill and you ran out of the shop before I could say hello.

Benjamin Failor   -   He'll probably erase your comment. I asked him on his Facebook page about some of his references to Alice Bailey and the next day it was gone.

Bella Rattan   -   Van, I saw Aslan in the sky this afternoon, a lion of victory in the clouds, I loved this so much,I love you just call me Mrs Bella Gram,I loved Andy Graham growing up,and I loved bill Gram growing up,I sent Bill Gram my photo to Seattle for a Job,can you track down Bill Gram for me, or Bill Gram junior and have him contact me,does your son have green eyes and red hair?I need work. You rock so hard,you have been my all time favourite musician of all times, all your music is love and making love,memories of great times in my life,you rock my world,you have really great taste,and sex appeal,life is sweet with your love around. 

Make the world turn on its axis,and roll with me, life is so exciting with your kids,hope they can warm up to all this social terrorism, I can feel so much still, I haven't been able to enjoy my life for years but knowing you ,so much good music still,makes my heart full of sunshine and freedom,the sun and rain,thunder clouds,guide me spiritually,life can be so good still,so excited to get to know you, It was love at first sight in blue gene. love the one your with and all that harmony. You’re too much bacchanal, I love it! don't break my heart Van Morrison, let's roll, don't bring up a car though, unless I have wheels.

Friday, 22 July 2016

You Win Again Review

Here's most of Maurice Bottomley's detailed and funny review of You Win Again by Van Morrison. Some consider almost a duets album because of the prominence of Linda Gail Lewis, Jerry Lee Lewis' sister.  After the album was released Van and Linda had a falling out that resulted in legal action, eventually all settled out of court. The album was released in October, 2000 and reached 34 on the UK charts and 161 on the Billboard charts.  You Win Again isn't one of Van's best, that's for sure.   
You Win Again
Van the Man. Legend. Gloria. Here Comes The Night. Astral Weeks. Caledonian Soul. St.Dominic's Preview. The Voice. The Mysticism. The Grumpiness. The Genius. What needs to be said? If the only artist from the sixties blues-beat boom whose post-sixties work not only does not make you wince but actually enhances his reputation (and who happens to possess one of a handful of truly distinctive white blues vocal styles) wants to make a pub singalong rock 'n' roll/country album, why shouldnt he?

Because it’s not very good, that’s why. It’s not terrible but it is a bit naff, both conceptually and in its execution. It is one of those albums that people who go on about the loss of “real” music and bemoan the inability of young bands to cut it live will like as it is as real, live and full of integrity as you could wish for. 

The sleevenotes are written by Jools Holland and the set is like one of those on his BBC2 show Later. Get two legends, use the fact that one of them is the sister of Jerry Lee Lewis (not Van)—hey why don’t we do some good ol’ country-rock classics?—We’ll have a ball and show these young uns what great music is all about. Backing band? This lot will do. How can we fail with Van’s voice, Linda Gail’s genetic connections and Jools' blessings? Well, you can. The results sometimes work as a live event but you wouldn’t want to keep a record of what is essentially superstar karaoke.

The songs are all wonderful, historically significant and foreground Hank Williams (three numbers) as songwriter or Jerry Lee as interpreter (Let’s Talk About Us, Ol Black Joe). For the rest Cadillac, Shot of Rhythm and Blues, Real Gone Lover, etc. all remind us what a rich seam of Americana was mined in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s. But what is the point unless something is added or the versions are so stunning you are transported back in time?

I love Van Morrison and understand the evident pleasure he gets from projects such as these but I am disappointed by any venture with his name attached that does not at some point send shivers down my spine. The highlights of this collection are Linda Gail’s piano playing-stylistically similar to her brother’s—and the re-working of Boogie Chillen which, given Van’s long relationship with Hooker’s music, can hardly ever be devoid of interest. The rest is lacking in inventiveness and emotional depth—two qualities Van has in the past rather made his own.

A big part of the problem is the band. The Red Hot Pokers (great name, guys) are the band you come across playing the free sessions of blues or country music festivals. They played progressive rock in the ‘70s, hated punk, split up and got mortgages in the eighties but got together again at a christening and play an R&B set every Wednesday at The Old Bullock, Suburbia. Perhaps not, but that’s who they sound like. Run of the Mill, music lovers. And, by the way, isn’t country/rock bass and drumming hopeless? I had forgotten.

Next, some of the songs are just too familiar. I might just prick up my ears at an undiscovered John Coltrane take on Jambalaya. Short of that I need a lifetime or two break from it—ditto one or two of the other tracks. Also, am I alone in feeling a bit queasy about non-ironic versions of Ol’ Black Joe in the 21st century? In fairness, that is the track where Lewis produces some astonishing honky-tonk piano dynamics and lifts things above the humdrum.

I am also unconvinced by the duets. Lewis gets rather pushed out and Morrison sounds reined in by the format. I think it would have been wiser to divide the material between the singers and let their different styles flower more freely. On the best track, the aforementioned Boogie Chillen, things work because Van takes the guitar part, Lewis belts hell out of the keyboards and lets Van do his Hookerish thing on vocals. This is the one cut with real energy and will remind some of Van way back in the day with Them doing Schoolgirl or some other blues classic. It is raw, rough and almost falls apart but it does have a real kick. Apart from that , whether up or downtempo, the results are never more than competent. There is one original composition, Morrison’s No Way Pedro. It is rubbish.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Random Van Fan Opinion

The Internet allows music fans to freely express their thoughts about all manner of things.  Here are some random opinions about the Great Man.  

Gary   -   I have nothing against John Mellencamp.  His 1994 version of Wild Night (with Me'Shell Ndegeocello) isn't really bad.  But if you put it up against the 1971 Van Morrison version (which can found on his fifth studio album, Tupelo Honey), it's simply no contest. 

Ryan Foley   -   Of the many astonishing aspects of the Astral Weeks creation story, the one I find to be the most stunning is this: when Van Morrison trotted into Century Sound Studios for the album's first recording session, he wasn't even a month past his 23rd birthday. 

Consider the mindset of the average early-twenty-something, an individual freshly removed from settings in which standards of responsibility and accountability are largely and obnoxiously absent. How does a newly-minted 23-year-old become so ruthlessly committed to a particular artistic vision? Where does an individual of such physical and emotional immaturity acquire a voice of such titanic fervour? When has someone so inexperienced drawn from such a deep well of experience? At 23, Morrison already understood that it's possible for one to grow old while also preserving childlike senses of delight and wonder. 

Chris Bradford   -   I was at the birthday show at the Mountain Winery (2013). It was a typical Van show, nothing special. What was frustrating was seeing the clock onstage counting backwards from 90 minutes. So, exactly at 90 minutes, he is gone. He needs to take a page out of Springsteen’s work ethic and loosen up, maybe play a little longer, give people their money’s worth. Oh yeah, stop with the songs about how fame has messed him up and people won’t let him be and all the hand-wringing. We don’t care! 

Max Abelson   -   At the onset of every serious relationship I’ve ever had, all 109,028 of them, I’ve watched Martin Scorsese’s documentary The Last Waltz with the special lady, just to make sure that our interests were appropriately aligned. If she didn’t cry with happiness at any point in the mega-extraordinary movie about The Band’s last concert, well then I knew things were doomed. And if she didn’t scream “turn it up! tell me one more time! oh lord!” along with Van Morrison while Van freaked out in his purple sequined jumpsuit, kicking along to the music. If she was wearing a purple sequined jumpsuit too, then I’d marry her.

Freemason Alan   -   Satisfied, Wild Honey and Spirit all give clues that the tortured genius that Morrison undoubtedly is was a peace with himself and that he had found this peace through meditation.  Common One reflects that and for me at least it retains its trance like power to this day.  There is little doubt that Morrison was more in touch with his Inner Mystic during the making of this album than at any other time in his career.  Whilst Morrison claims that he never thought about this album in terms of its commercial success you do get the feeling that he is embittered by the lack of understanding some of the commentators of the day displayed.  Certainly the fact that songs from Common One were the centrepiece of Morrison's live shows for many years indicate that he was immensely proud of an album that can draw you in and make you feel the music in every fibre of your being.  I shall certainly never forget the first time I saw Summertime in England performed live.

Jeremy Milks   -   Bloody hell, Van Morrison can sing the shit out of anything. There Stands the Glass was the first track on his country covers record, Pay The Devil in 2006 and it was originally a big hit for Webb Pierce in 1953. Actually, Van sort of mumbles this one - but it's great for one of two reasons... either Van singing anything is gold or the song itself is so strong it can withstand any performance and still kill. A little of both, I guess. If we were still civilised enough to have jukeboxes in every corner bar, this would be as good a choice as any if you wanted to get shitfaced in style. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Dangerous Minds Explores the Contractual Album

The Dangerous Minds website is an eclectic mix of things including politics, culture, feminism, etc.  There is also a lot about music including the interesting critique of Van’s contractual obligation recordings from the late 1960s.  The recordings represent a nadir in recorded popular music and have become part of the Van myth industry.  For the full article about these recordings and other Van articles click on the link above. 

The “revenge recordings” of Van Morrison provide a fascinating test case of the limits of authenticity in pop music—how inauthentic and desultory can a gifted musician’s performance be and still retain musical value, if such it does?

The two years after the release of Brown Eyed Girl in June 1967 was a heady period for Van Morrison. He suddenly had a smash hit on his hands, reaching #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, his scorned New York record producer Bert Berns died, and he jumped from Berns’ Bang Records to Warner Brothers, for whom he would record and release his masterpiece, Astral Weeks

After the death of Berns on December 30, 1967, Morrison found himself in a contract dispute with Berns’ widow Ilene; among other things, Morrison was barred from performing on stage or recording in the New York area. Morrison was already annoyed because he had had no say in the release of Blowin’ your Mind in September 1967 and had only found out about it when a friend called to say that he had purchased it in a store.

As part of the process of switching from Bang to Warner Bros., Morrison had to deliver an album to Bang, and he did so in a single session (almost certainly), although nobody seems to have documented what date that session was. The titles make for an amusing read: Ring Worm, Chickee Coo, You Say France and I Whistle, The Big Royalty Check, and Want a Danish? certainly don’t sound like usual album fare. The longest of the songs clocks in at 1:36, and the shortest at at tidy 53 seconds. The whole thing—consisting of 31 songs—lasts just 35 minutes, and it would take a foolhardy gambler indeed to wager that the recording session took even five minutes longer than that.

You can feel the heat of Morrison’s contempt for the poppy fare he’d been pressured to produce for Berns—the first few songs directly reference Twist and Shout, with titles like Shake and Roll and Stomp and Scream, and a later one, La Mambo, is some kind of debased version of La Bamba. Lyrically, there’s frequent mention of two phrases funky Broadway and Sock it to me, baby, although there are others as well. 

Several songs go in for some abuse of a random fellow named “George,” including Here Comes Dumb George, Dum Dum George, Hold On George, and Goodbye George. Me, I’d rather get to know the eponymous female of Shake It Mable. Blow in Your Nose is obviously a cutting reference to his first album for Berns, Blowin’ your Mind!—as is, I suppose, Nose in Your Blow.

Clinton Heylin in Can You Feel the Silence? points out that Thirty Two contains a pretty withering condemnation of Berns’ production style:

[Morrison] would later parody what he viewed as Berns’s tendency to over-produce in one of the ‘revenge’ songs recorded to get out of the Bang contract … mockingly chanting, ‘Yeah, we’ll get a guitar … we’ll get three guitars / No!, No!!, we’ll get four guitars / and we’ll get Herbie Lovelle to play drums / and we’ll do the sha-, sha-la-la bit.’

The lyrics to Dum Dum George are pretty direct as well:

This here’s the story about dumb, dumb George,
Who came up to Boston one sunny afternoon.
He drove up from New York City,
And he was freaky,
And he wanted to record me,
And I said, “George, you’re dumb.”
And he said, “I know. Why do you think I make so much money?
I wanna do a record that’ll make number one.”
Dumb, dumb.

It has been asserted that these tracks, variously called the “revenge songs” or the contractual obligation album are “devoid of any substance or originality or artistic merit,” but that’s very far from clear to me. Clearly Morrison felt that they were worthless, there’s little disputing that. And they obviously show very little variation. But in terms of sheer musical merit, they’re not bad at all—they’re funny, which is always a blessing, and Morrison’s urgent guitar strumming and rich voice are highly pleasurable to listen to. Morrison’s anger also makes for an interesting listen. Of course, we get almost none of Morrison’s vocal range and he sounds utterly bored by the songs, which matters. I still think they make fairly good tracks to put on at a party.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Keep Me Singing (2016)

Our man crush love interest, Van Morrison, will release his 36th studio album, Keep Me Singing on September 30 this year, along with the single Too LateKeep Me Singing will be Van’s first album of original material since 2012’s Born to Sing: No Plan B.  It will feature 13 tracks.  Twelve will be originals and one will be a cover of the 1963 blues standard Share Your Love With Me.  

Supposedly “in support of the album”, Morrison will play a number of concerts in the U.S. and the U.K., although it hardly looks like the “world tour” some writers are suggesting.  For concert information always go to the source and by that I mean Van’s officialwebsite

So Van wants us to help “keep him singing’?  Van, I’ll do what I can.  Can I implore readers of this humble blog to buy this album?  Can you buy copies for friends and family too?  Can you turn up to his concerts as well?  I figure if his income stream from this professional musician gig keeps on steady he may resist the urge to return to his occupation as a window cleaner.  So friends (and I use the word in the Facebook era sense only), let’s roll up our sleeves and keep Van singing.  This is our mantra and our game plan.  It’s too late to stop now. 

Keep Me Singing track listing:

Let It Rhyme   -   Hope this isn’t a writer’s block ditty.
Every Time I See a River   -   Considering where he lives this could be a lot.  Collaboration with Don Black. Played at Nell's on June 15, 2016. 
Keep Me Singing   -   As I said, we’ll do what we can.  Start saving everyone.
Out in the Cold Again   -   Hasn’t paid his electricity bill?  Keep buying Van product.
Memory Lane   -   A worthy successor to Penny Lane?
The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword   -   Cliches never make good song titles. Wish ISIS would take this on board. 

Holy Guardian Angel   -   Christian theology 101. 
Share Your Love With Me   -   Blues standard written by Alfred Braggs and Deadric Malone. It was a hit for Bobby Bland (1963), Aretha Franklin (1970) and Kenny Rogers (1981).
In Tiburon   -   If this song title was In a Tiburon it might be referring to the Hyundai car of the same name. However, knowing something of Van’s history he is probably referring to the Marin County, California, town.  The town name derives from the Spanish word for ‘shark;.  (Is this another reference to the big time operators, who ripped him off?)

Look Beyond the Hill   -   Too close to the suggestion of “over the hill”.
Going Down to Bangor   -   Britain has left the EU so location changes from Geneva to Bangor.
Too Late   -   The Reader’s Digest version of Too Late to Stop Now?
Caledonia Swing   -   Instrumental. The song Celtic Swing moves north. 

Two Random Pictures Which May or May Not Relate to This Post