Thursday, 27 June 2019

Willie and Van - A New Album?

Here’s a 2018 post and some reader comments about a possible Van Morrison
and Willie Nelson collaboration. It’s taken from the oddly named Saving Country Music website. Country music is hugely popular and doesn't seem to need saving, whereas the same couldn't be said about polka music.

It’s very early in the process, and we don’t know if it’s just a few songs or an entire album. But the word out of Pittsburgh, PA is that Irish singing/songwriting legend Van Morrison and country music icon Willie Nelson were recently in the studio together collaborating on an upcoming project. The two were in town as part of a recent stop of Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Fest, and decided to duck into a studio for three days to lay down something fans of both artists will be eager to hear.

The Church Recording Studio in the Overbrook neighbourhood in Pittsburgh received a phone call from Belfast, Ireland in early September, wanting to book the studio. “We didn’t take it too seriously at first, but after pushing them for some details, they revealed it was for Van Morrison,” the studio producer Dave Hidek tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We actually believed them less at that point, so we asked for the standard deposit, and sure enough a check arrived the next day and we knew they were for real.”

Then a little bit later, they received a second unexpected call. “We got a call from Willie Nelson’s management to let us know that he’d be attending as well, which was an unbelievable thought, having those two guys collaborating in our space. Having either one walk through our doors would in itself be a treat, to put it lightly, but both of them together would certainly be an historic experience.”

The two legends played the KeyBank Pavilion on September 9th as part of the travelling Outlaw Fest. It was Van Morrison’s first appearance in Pittsburgh since 1973. Also on site for the recording session were Willie Nelson producer Buddy Cannon, Willie’s son and performer Lukas Nelson, and harmonica player Mickey Raphael, though the project was described as a “future Van Morrison project” as opposed to either a Willie record Van Morrison is guesting on, or some joint project. But we’ll have to see what the future holds, as fans of the two legends salivate over the possibilities.

Willie Nelson just released a tribute to Frank Sinatra called My Way. Van Morrison released a record in April with Joey DeFrancesco called You’re Driving Me Crazy.


Jack Willams   -   Now that is intriguing. I thought Van did a very nice job with his 2006 country music album Pay the Devil. If this a project of his they’re working on, I’d certainly welcome another country project and the notion of him and Willie collaborating.

Kevin Smith   -   I was in attendance at that show. I admit, at first laughing at the notion of calling the show an “outlaw” tour.However, I got over it. Van Morrison was in a word fantastic! He played 22 songs with an 8 piece band that included horns.Wow! Moondance, Wild Night, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria and on and on. He blew the crowd away to put it mildly. Willie sounded great but only played an hour or so. Nonetheless his guitar skills were intact. We all thought Van would join him for some encore but it didn’t happen. Kinda funny afterward, talking to folks there, everyone was talking about Van Morrison and nobody even commented on Sturgill Simpsons set. Sturgill basically did a rock show with some wild lead playing and loads of distortion including a Jeff Beck number. Good stuff but definitely not country. Wonder why Van and Willie wanna record in Pittsburgh of all places? Curious.

hoptowntiger94   -   There was no doubt that 60% of the people were there for Van Morrison. It had been 40 years since he played Pittsburgh. The local sports station was playing Morrison songs as the intro and outro all day without one mention of Willie. It broke my heart. We didn’t get out there until Morrison (pains of owning a business) was well into his set, but did I hear a couple Hank Sr songs in his set?

Kevin Smith   -   Willie played a few Hank Wiilams tunes including Move it on Over. Van did not, although he did play a cover of I can’t stop loving you, originally by Don Gibson. That was a legit country cover although Van's arrangement of it live was more jazz crooner sounding. Also should mention that Lukas Nelson's performance was waaay too short and he basically sounded like a jam band rocker. It was nice to see him come back and play in Willie's band though.

Judith   -   Two of my favourites. It will be a fantastic album.

Luckyoldsun   -   Twenty-Five years ago, this album might have been of huge interest. Now?  Well, if it makes them happy.

Daniele   -   these two legends put out albums like craaazyyyyy!!

Dirt Road Derek   -   Very interesting. Nelson just can’t sit still, always working on something new. I loved the days back when artists were constantly creating, sometimes releasing two albums in the same year, as opposed to the several years wait between albums that we see now. I’m assuming that declining album sales and the pressure to tour more has a lot to do with it.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Van Morrison, Spiritual Rock Star?

Here’s an odd post from the classic music blog:

Van Morrison, Spiritual Rock Star?

Here I am gazing on the Web for extraordinary witnesses of enlightenment yet very popular in the entertainment realm, so that at least everybody could say “hey, I’ve seen or heard that person!” As my research focuses randomly on any performer from our time, some pages choose to cite the art of singer Van MorrisonHis work is thoughtful, often spiritual in nature, and combines elements of jazz , R&B , Celtic traditions, and stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

Van Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1945 and was named George Ivan Morrison. Better known as the Celtic sorcerer, Morrison began playing different instruments and composing songs in an Irish show band during his teen years. His musical heritage was inevitable since h e was exposed to music from an early age with his father collecting American jazz and blues albums and his mother being a singer.

Journalists have described Morrison as one of the most serious singers with high moral values, something that lacks in the music business. His lyrics and music are influenced on the works of poet and New Age prophet William Blake, Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, J.D. Salinger, occult and spiritualist poet W.B. Yeats, Alice Bailey, and of many other religious visionaries. Those authors add mythic powers to Morrison’s singular musical vision and his articulation of emotional truths.

Astral Weeks was his first album after he moved to America . It gained good reviews from critics. Rolling Stone magazine once reported that a man claimed to see God while listening to this album under the influence of nitrous oxide. If you listen to the record you’ll notice that the artist uses a form of symbolism instead of current narrative. Very much like using spiritual images because they are stronger than words. And this work was released in the late 1960s, when a New Age consciousness was spreading in the U.S.

His idiosyncratic and spiritual musical path has lead him to create more than 30 albums, among them are Moondance, Tupelo Honey, A Period of Transition, Beautiful Vision, No Guru No Method No Teacher, Irish Heartbeat, Avalon Sunset, Enlightenment, Days Like This and The Healing Game.

On his official site, Alan Pert sums up Morrison’s spiritual exploring on the album Days Like This. “Morrison continues his lifelong exploration of the human psyche, offering up highly entertaining and danceable tunes about everything from love to manic depression. While all of Morrison’s albums from the early 1990’s had expressed a desire to go back to childhood and early adolescence when “everything made more sense” and he was most capable of experiencing the elusive “sense of wonder,” the memory in Ancient Highway is of being older, of feeling isolated and restless, of needing to leave home and childhood behind forever, and he is afraid of failure: “I keeping praying to my higher self, don’t let me down…”

Extract from Ancient Highway

There’s a small cafe on the outskirts of town
I’ll be there when the sun goes down
Where the roadside bends
And it twists and turns
Every new generation
And I’ll be praying to my higher self
Don’t let me down, keep my feet on the ground
There’s a roadside jam playin’ on the edge of town
In a town called Paradise near the ancient highway
When the train whistle blows
All the sadness that Hank Williams knows
And the river flows
Call them pagan streams and it spins and turns
In a factory in a street called Bread in East Belfast
Where Georgie knows best
What it’s like to be Daniel in the lion’s den
Got so many friends only most of the time

I picked Morrison’s music up because he is still creating innovative material and is not like others rock stars who recycle their greatest hits. “Great art incarnates truth, gives shape to beauty, and joins inner longing with outer form. Van Morrison has provided Christians and non-Christians alike a glimpse into the childlike vision ” according to the insights of Carl Olson. More recently, Morrison had the opportunity to duet Crazy Love along with the late Ray Charles, on the 2004 Genius Loves Company album. Ray Charles was one of Morrison’s influences during his years in Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Avalon Sunset (1989)

The following post is from The Punk Panther's Music Review site:


1. Whenever God Shines His Light
 2. Contacting My Angel
 3. I'd Love To Write Another Song
 4. Have I Told You Lately
 5. Coney Island
 6. I'm Tired Joey Boy
 7. When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God
 8. Orangefield
 9. Daring Night
 10. These Are The Days

 Just as Bob Dylan's Damascus moment in 1978-79 had shocked the music world and resulted in the release of three devotional Christian-themed albums, so Van Morrison's supposed conversion to evangelical "born again" Christianity similarly shocked people. Granted, he had been spiritual on his albums now for many, many years. Had he converted to Buddhism, Scientology, or indulged in transcendental meditation, it would have been no surprise, but to declare himself "born again" was a left field move, even for one as wilfully perverse as Morrison. 

His brief flirtation with this form of Christianity came after meeting Cliff Richard, but although Cliff was impressed with Morrison's initial zeal, he eventually came to doubt that Van was serious enough about his faith. Either way, Richard duetted with Van on the blatantly religious Whenever God Shines His Light, to great effect, actually. Many people have derided the song, and the collaboration. Not me. I have always loved it. Richards' voice is crystal clear and a perfect foil for Morrison's gruff growl. The song has rhythm, soul and some great hooks. Lay off it - it's good.

The album also sold well, and saw Morrison grabbing a little bit of the mainstream. I knew people back then who certainly were not Morrison fans, yet they had Avalon Sunset in their CD collection, alongside their Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA. I aways found that rather strange - why this but not Poetic Champions' Compose or Hymns To The Silence? Have I Told You Lately? has become well known due to Rod Stewart's more than acceptable cover of it. Morrison's original shows that, like Someone Like You on the previous album, he can write a straight-up love song. The keyboard-replicated wave sounds at the beginning are most atmospheric. It is simply a beautiful song. Funnily enough, in his Christian theme, the song could easily be addressed to God. Maybe it was.

Contacting My Angel is a meditative piece that sounds as if it should have been on Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart. Morrison growls some of his vocals and fetchingly whispers some of the rest of it, talking of a "little village", a theme he would revisit later in his career. It is all a bit stream of consciousness. I'd Love To Write Another Song features Georgie Fame, who was beginning a long recording relationship with Morrison here. It is jazzy and jaunty - saxophone, brass and rhythmic shuffling drums. Morrison would do a lot more songs like this over the next twenty-five years.

Coney Island is a wonderful little oddity. A short melody that has Morrison reciting memories of earlier days on the Northern Irish coast. He speaks the words and it is all intensely personal. It gets you thinking "he's not such a bad bloke after all, he'd be okay on a trip to Coney Island" as he ruminates on "autumn sunshine magnificent..and all shining through..". I'm Tired Joey Boy is a moving and mournful Irish lament that is most endearing. Short but very sweet and uplifting. When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God? is the album's other big, essentially spiritual song, which sees Morrison questioning his own ability to meet the demands of his faith. It is slow, tuneful and dignified, appropriately. Orangefield is another beautifully orchestrated piece of Van nostalgia, Cyprus Avenue-style for the sleepy Belfast neighbourhoods of his innocent youth.

Now, then comes Daring Night. A true Morrison classic as he evokes the Lord of the Dance and the Goddess of the Eternal Wisdom in a most "new age" way for a born again Christian. The backing slowly rises to meet Morrison's challenge, organ swirling, drums pounding, keyboards clanking. Morrison whispers "don't let go. don't let go" and then goes all spontaneous. Marvellous stuff. I remember driving through County Cork on holiday with this playing full volume. These Are The Days is one of those almost hymnal songs he often uses to close an album. It is a song with a sanctified, holy feel about it, just sublime and achingly beautiful. The soulful, gospelly "na-na-na" fade out vocal seem so right, as well, as the great man leaves another album, his listeners well satisfied.

The bonus track on the remastered CD is an uplifting, entrancing slowed down version of When The Saints Go Marching In, which I love dearly. I love the bit where Morrison growls "St Francis of Asissi comes marching in...". Gets me all tearful.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Believe it or Not Part 12

The guitarist on Them's first recorded track - Don't Start Crying Now - was Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame.

How's this for an ad - Learn English from Astral Weeks by Van Morrison using the LingQ language learning system to learn from content of interest.

Gloria was a number one in the Netherlands on four separate occasions.

In 2019 Van put out his 40th studio solo album and continues to retain the popularity he established as a member of Them in the mid 1960s. His music is particularly played at weddings and used in hundreds of movies.

The Pope Ondine claims that Madame George is the wife of WB Yeats according to Marianne Faithful.

Van recorded vocals with Frank Zappa on Zappa's Dead Girls of London.

In 1990 the American group Poi Dog Pondering released the song U Li La Lu which contained the lyric line: If I should die in a car wreck, May I have Van Morrison on my tape deck.

Van's first appearance on record was The Monarch's single Twingy Baby backed with Boozoo Hully Gully. It featured Van on saxophone.

At The Irish Digital Media Awards in February 2018 the company Eyekiller  received the award for Best Creative website for the Exile Productions - Van Morrison official website.

There's a Facebook group called Van Morrison Soul Healing.

Van and Linda Gail Lewis met at a Jerry Lee Lewis convention that Van went to as a fan. Jerry Lee is Linda Gail's brother.  Van and Linda recorded an album together, had a much-publicised fight and later Van deleted the album. 

Van had a part in a German movie called Glide in the early 1960s. He played the role of a jazz singer.

Ben Kassoy listed Astral Weeks among his 17 Best Songs to Have Sex to listed on the GQ website.

The Right Proper Brewing Company has an Astral Weeks beer on tap. It’s described as a Dry-Hopped Foeder Beer that is dry, floral and  tropical.