Sunday, 27 January 2019

Van, Dave Gilmour and The Pretty Things

After 55 years The Pretty Things called it quits in December, 2018 with a final concert at The Indigo venue located within the cavernous O2 Arena in London. The group were joined by famous friends Van Morrison and Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour for their farewell.

The band achieved a moderate amount of fame with some charting singles in the mid 1960s and they created the first album considered a rock opera called SF Sorrow. They began in 1963 in London and took their name from Willie Dixon's 1955 song Pretty Thing. Phil May and ex-Rolling Stone Dick Taylor started the band as a pure rhythm and blues band but experimented with a wide variety of genres over the course of their history. There have been numerous personnel changes over the years as well.

The final show from Thursday, December 13, 2018 was divided into three sets.  The first set was the present Pretty Things line-up and the set list was Honey I Need, Don't Bring Me Down, Buzz the Jerk, Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut, Get the Picture?, The Same Sun, Alexander, Defecting Grey, Big Boss Man, Midnight To Six Man and Mr Evasion.

In Set Two they were joined by Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour on guitar. This set also had previous members of the band to perform tracks from S.F. Sorrow.  The set list was Scene One, S.F. Sorrow Is Born, She Says Good Morning, Baron Saturday, Trust, I See You, and Cries From the Midnight Circus.

Finally, during the third set they were joined by Van Morrison for three songs. Van's contribution with a top British R&B band from the 1960s gave fans some idea how of what Them must have been like. Morrison fronted the band for Baby, Please Don’t Go, Bo Diddley’s I Can Tell and You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover. Gilmour then returned for the final two songs of the set, sitting in on L.S.D. and Old Man Going. The set list for Set Three was I Can't Be Satisfied, Come On in My Kitchen, Baby, Please Don't Go, I Can Tell, You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover, Come See Me, Mona, Pretty Thing, Who Do You Love, L.S.D. There was also a three song encore - Rosalyn, Road Runner and Loneliest Person.

By all accounts it was a really great concert with a huge number of participants taking the stage. The performers enjoyed themselves but the reason for the finish of The Pretty Things was pretty obviously heath. 72-year-old Phil May suffers from emphysema and their brilliant lead guitarist Dick Taylor looked rather fragile at 75 years of age.

Stand out songs included early hits Rosalyn and Don't Bring me Down, a selection of songs from their concept album SF Sorrow including Trust and a homage to R&B icon Bo Diddley, which featured Mona, Pretty Thing, You Can't Judge A Book and Roadrunner.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Jackie McAuley

Van Morrison is the only superstar to emerge from Them but his success may give a wrong impression about the band.  Them were no Red Hot Pokers or some equivalent of a pub performer singing over backing tapes.  The group contained some incredibly gifted members who have made honest contributions to music.  For any hardcore Van fan an exploration of Them and the careers of its ex-members is a must. 

Jackie McAuley is one interesting ex-member of Them.  Basically, he was in a Van Morrison version of Them from January 1965 to April 1965.  Born John McAuley in Northern Ireland in 1946, he grew up surrounded by traditional Irish music and showed his talent on the piano from a young age.  

At nineteen Jack and his brother Pat joined the band Them and went to London. It was at this time Jack met and became friends with American rock and roll legend Gene Vincent. This was to become the most significant change in McAuley's career. "Gene really was the one who gave me the confidence to write'. A few months later Jack left Them and moved to Dublin where he frequented the back room folk sessions at Donahue's pub where a bunch of lads who called themselves The Dublinners often played. Later Jack set up a blues band with a young piano player called Paul Brady called The Cult.

In 1966 the McAuley brothers formed their own version of Them, later known as the Belfast Gypsies (other spellings available) releasing the single 'Gloria's Dream / Secret Police' complete with Jackie's best Van Morrison impression. The producer Kim Fowley says that Iggy Pop told him that Secret Police was one of his favourite records as a teenager. They also released an album called The Belfast Gypsies on Sonnet Records. The Belfast Gypsies became the Freaks of Nature on their next single People, Let's Freak Out. The group broke up at the end of the year.
He then returned to London and joined a little Jazz/rock outfit and went of to the Lebanon for three months. This was in the wake of the Arab /Israeli war, and the impression of the Palestinian refugee camps scattered along the roads, and the suffering, injustice, capitalism, hunger and despair was later to become a driving force in McAuley's lyrics.

Back in London Jack teamed up with Judy Dyble of Fairport Convention to play the folk circuit. They soon signed a contract with Pye Records and recorded an album under the name Trader Horn. Judy Dyble later married and retired from music and Jack went on to record his first solo album for Pye records, entitled Jackie McAuley.

During the seventies Jack became a session musician and worked on numerous albums which included the top Jamaican reggae band The Heptones, albums with 'Jim Capaldi' and 'Rebop' of the band Traffic, and two albums with keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman, another with jazz singer Viola Wills, etc. He then joined one of his old heroes Lonnie Donegan as Musical Director and spent a few years as his sideman. His song writing was realized in 1982 when he got together with his friend Johnny Gustafson (from the Merseybeats and Roxy Music) and penned the Top ten hit Dear John for Status Quo.

He set up a Celtic rock band called Poor Mouth in the mid-1980s. His career as a performer was nearly ended in 1988, however, by an accident with a kitchen knife that came close to costing him his left hand. He managed to recover with extensive therapy and work, but as a result of that near-tragedy, he didn't get around to cutting another album of his own until the 90s. McAuley has continued to perform up to the present.
Over the last three decades or so Jackie McAuley has played numerous concerts and fesitval appearances and released albums and singles on his own or in partnership with various groups of musicians. Of particular interest is his interpretation of a number of Them songs for the album Them Good Old Songs released in 2015. In 2017 he published a book called I, Sideman about his early days in music.  

Jackie McAuley’s Releases

Them   -   Here Comes The Night (1965) (single) and The Angry Young Them (1965)

The Belfast Gypsies   -   Them Belfast Gypsies (1967) and People let's freak out (1967) (single)

Trader Horne   -   Sheena (1969) single, Here Comes The Rain. (1970) single and Morning Way (1970)

Jackie McAuley   -   Jackie McAuley (1970), Turning Green (1970) single and Rockin’ Shoes (1971) single

Schooners Rig   -   Producer (1982)

Status Quo  -   Dear John (1982) single (writer with J. Gustafson)

The Poor Mouth   -   Gael Force (1989) and Big Pete’s Birthday

Jackie McAuley   -   Headspin (1991), Fretwork (1996), Shadowboxing (1998)
Bad Day At Black Rock (200?)

The Harbour Band   -   Cruisin’(2004)

Jackie McAuley & the Regular Gas Band   -   Them Good Old Songs (2015)

Jackie McAuley Band   -   The Radio Waves (ep 2016)

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Catacombs Tapes

According to someone named Root on the EP site, Van "abruptly" released the long sought after Catacombs Tapes on iTunes UK on November 8, 2018.  Apparently the download was taken down the next day. Here's his or her post:

Yesterday was a very good day for Van Morrison completists. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is without doubt one of the most necessary and most particular albums of the 1960s. The album was recorded in New York in September and October 1968 and launched a couple of weeks later. Morrison composed the music in Boston through the summer season of 1968, and a sequence of gigs at a venue known as the Catacombs, situated at at 1120 Boylston Avenue within the Fenway, proved pivotal to the method. 

One of many gigs throughout that run on the Catacombs was recorded, however the tapes have by no means been heard by the general public. Till yesterday, that is. The Catacombs tapes document a present from August, 1968. A Boston musician and author named Ryan Walsh has spent years looking for them. Peter Wolf advised Walsh that he had the Catacombs tapes in his possession but had not listened to them for years. He added that an individual must “bake the tapes” earlier than they may very well be performed. That is, a specialist Wolf knew in Maine must actually bake the tapes in an oven, a course of that might allow the tapes to face up to playback with out disintegrating or being shredded.

Walsh made the Catacombs tapes a pivotal a part of an ebook on Morrison he launched earlier this year known as Astral Weeks: A Secret Historical past of 1968. As Walsh pertinently asks in his ebook, “What did the Astral Weeks songs sound like earlier than producer Lewis Merenstein’s jazz ringers obtained maintain of them?” Good query. Yesterday Walsh posted an exceptional sequence of tweets discussing the choice by Morrison to launch the Catacombs tapes on iTunes UK for the seemingly goal of retaining copyright to them.

Right here is that tweetstorm:  That is completely bananas. Immediately, @vanmorrison unceremoniously launched the 1968 Catacombs Tapes as a reside album on iTunes UK. That is the legendary recording I spend the entire #AstralWeeks1968 ebook making an attempt to trace down & hear…and, uh, now YOU can too! 

1) Probably the most sensible interpretation of the horrible cowl artwork & UK-digital-only distribution is that this launch is a “copyright dump,” i.e. its predominant operate is to protect Morrison’s copyright of the recording (in any other case, come January, it could turn out to be public area).

2) Tom and John (the Boston musicians who seem on this recording) let me know they signed releases for Van’s lawyer this fall, so we suspected some sort of launch was imminent. I assume we simply thought, oh , perhaps you’d design a pleasant cowl and/or CREDIT Tom & John!

3) To listen to this you will want somebody within the UK to purchase it for you, which is insane, I perceive. I’d additionally think about these information can be on…every kind of web sites now that they’ve been formally launched.

4) That is the precise recording I heard and performed for Tom and John besides that the audio has been additional cleaned and boosted, AND there’s one additional tune (Sit Down Humorous Face), however, sure, that is Peter Wolf’s recording.

5) Tom Kielbania (bass) is over the moon about this launch. That is the one audio proof he had something to do with any of this (and settles the controversy about whether or not he certainly wrote the bassline for ‘Cyprus Avenue’ (and different AW songs) as he has claimed).

6)…in addition to demonstrating that the Boston trio actually did develop the acoustic, pastoral sound of Astral Weeks within the weeks earlier than they have been changed by jazz musicians in New York. You’ll agree while you hear, I’m positive.

7) I nonetheless can’t let you know who slid me a replica.

8) The digital liner notes don’t point out the venue identify, the opposite musicians, and even that it was Wolf who recorded it. They left the cool tape-unspooling noises in there as an alternative of fading songs out, which was the precise alternative.

9) The poster for the live performance right here, courtesy of the David Bieber Archives (would have made a pleasant album cowl, proper?). Right here’s Eric Kraft’s evaluation of those concert events for Boston After Darkish as effectively.

10) Possibly the possession of Astral Weeks is ready to change-over to Van and he’s planning on a greater launch of this materials as a part of a field set package deal? Or perhaps not. This complete factor is VERY Van Morrison.

11) The lone, surviving Astral Weeks studio outtake, Prepare stays unreleased nonetheless, in fact. That is the tune during which Van sings about Cambridge, MA like its essentially the most mystical place you ever did encounter. It’s very cool.

12) Prepare IS on this reside bootleg, however will get minimise off earlier than the verses about Massachusetts.

13) I actually am so blissful you all get to listen to this now. I didn’t thoughts getting pestered about it, however I did begin to fear when ppl began asking Marissa in regards to the tapes.

14) Now all we want is a demise certificates for Mel Lyman.  As Walsh factors out, individuals who don’t reside within the U.K. must wait till they hit “every kind of web sites now that they’ve been formally launched.” 

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

More Van Album Ratings

Dezmond is a mega blogger from the Gonna Need a Bigger Boat blog and offers some interesting opinion about Van’s musical output.  Below are his list of ratings minus his comments.  Check ot his site for more Van content by clicking above. Here’s an edited version of his take on Van’s albums:

The Story of Them Featuring Van Morrison (compilation) (1997) ****
Blowin’ Your Mind! (1967) ***
The Bang Masters (compilation) (1991/1967) ***
Payin’ Dues (compilation) (1994/1967) ***
Astral Weeks (1968) *****
Moondance (1970) *****
His Band and the 
Street Choir (1970) ****
Tupelo Honey (1971) **
St. Dominic’s Preview (1972) *****
Hard Nose the Highway (1973) ***
It’s Too Late To Stop Now (live) (1974) *****
Veedon Fleece (1974) ****
A Period of Transition (1977) **
Wavelength (1978) ***
Into the Music (1979) ****
Common One (1980) ***
Beautiful Vision (1982) ***
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983) **
Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast (live) (1984) ****
A Sense of Wonder (1985) **
No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986) ***
Poetic Champions Compose (1987) ***
Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains) (1988) NR
Avalon Sunset (1989) ***
The Best of Van Morrison (compilation) (1990) *****
Enlightenment (1990) **
Hymns To the Silence (1991) ***
Too Long in Exile (1993) **
The Best of Van Morrison, vol. 2 (compilation) (1993) ****
A Night in San Francisco (live) (1994) ***
Days Like This (1995) **
How Long Has This Been Going On? (with Georgie Fame) (1996) NR
Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (1996) NR
The Healing Game (1997) **
The Philosopher’s Stone (compilation) (1998) ***
Back On Top (1999) **
The Skiffle Sessions – Live in Belfast 1998 (live) (with Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber) (2000) NR
You Win Again (with Linda Gail Lewis) (2000) NR
Down the Road (2002) **
What’s Wrong With This Picture? (2003) **
Magic Time (2005) **
Pay the Devil (2006) **
Live at Austin City Limits Festival (live) (2006) NR
The Best of Van Morrison, vol. 3 (compilation) (2007) ***
Van Morrison at the Movies – Soundtrack Hits (compilation) (2007) ****
Still on Top – The Greatest Hits (compilation) (2007) ***
Keep It Simple (2008) **
Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl (live) (2009) ****
Born To Sing: No Plan B (2012) **