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Old 06-22-2008, 08:34 PM   #31 (permalink)
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This is one of my favorites from him so far. Thanks alot for the info on the setting of his career and life for each album, it was important for this one. I could feel the sadness in the songs. 'Listen to the Lion' has to be my fav from this. Volume control is awesome on that track. 'Gypsy' is cool and the horns on 'Saint Dominics Preview' really added to the song with out overpowering anything. Awesome guitar on 'Almost Independence Day'; it's also another one that goes from really loud to almost silent in a second.
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Old 06-24-2008, 09:48 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Following the multifaceted St. Dominic’s Preview Van went right back into the studio and soon after released Hard Nose, his seventh solo studio album. Never had an album so passive been produced amongst a time of such personal turmoil and impending collapse. Shortly after he finished the album, he finished his marriage, and while “Hard Nose…” is far from an emotional eruption, there is a sort of unintentional insincerity to the album’s theme would not be fully exposed until the delightful melancholy that is Veedon Fleece.

Hard Nose the Highway (1973)

Hard Nose the Highway was consistently the worst reviewed Warner Bros album to date when it was released in 1973, five years after the seminal “Astral Weeks” it is a mellow jazz compilation that, admittedly in large part seems more mundane than the usual Van. Focusing on transition and a natural earthy theme, the listening experience provokes leisurely activities at its most sinister and evokes nostalgia throughout. The lyrical imagery is inundated with geographical and metrological metaphor and chatter as the album uses Love and pain only as a sidebar not a central focus...

1. Snow in San Anselmo – Emotional Jazzy opening to the 1973 Morrison Lp and a dynamite overall performance reinforced by the bay Area Symphony Choir. Simple and direct with just enough style. Jazzy bass and back-up vocal driven interludes interrupting the melancholy just long enough to invigorate your interest in the story are a highlight as is the painstaking drawn out title line of each chorus. A song that transports the listener to a otherwise non-descript snow fall in San Anselmo. Overall the song is a complex and captivating introduction to the album. 8\10

2. Warm Love – The most popular single from the album, the layered and lovely Warm Love is hard not to enjoy. A sort grown up answer to “crazy love” and yet a young and light-hearted song, its simple message and contrasting composition make it a delight. With a wonderfully phrased chorus (“and it’s ever present everywhere”) and a punchy verse featuring a familiar but almost forgotten flute accompaniment. 7.5\10

3. Hard Nose the Highway – Poetic and Poignant, the title track features a horn driven chorus which typically meant great things for the listener in Van’s early days. The application of the entire musical entourage throughout the song really elevates its status for me. Horns and keys drive the melody and appropriately so as it is a recurring theme amongst the album. On an album criticized for having average at best lyrics, a very strong performance is present here. Every verse’s opening line is perfectly paced amd apropos. Has the feel of a personal message of encouragement and perseverance more then a story being told or lesson being taught. Energetic outro paying tribute to Moondances’ “These Dreams of You” (“you paid your dues in Canada”) among the further foreshadowing of Van’s personal struggles to come and his determination to prevail. A song that most folks can relate to regardless of class, creed etc. 8\10

4. Wild Children – The most easygoing and traditionally jazzy number on the album. Van drifts in and out of lyrical pattern and inevitably finds room for improvisation both lyrically and musically. Has the feeling of a ball room number strangely enough; its content is debatable, some find it an anti-war song, others a simple song of reminiscences. There are nods to Tennessee Williams, Rod Steiger, Marlon Brando and James Dean and a feeling of remorse. However the song lacks the punch needed to keep interest in the story. 6\10

5. The Great Deception – The most interesting number on the album. Melodic and harmonious with a familiar but original rhythm. A cynical Morrison issues harsh criticism on his mainstream contemporaries in all sectors of the public entrainment cultural and media communities. A sarcastic slap in the face with a clear accusation of hypocrisy. An overlooked classic in my opinion including one of the great lines ever. “…where they rob you with a smile instead of a gun.’ Musically it’s a circular and creative composition with a simple and savvy rhythm. One of the better bass guitar performances of the album as it’s a simply two guitar, bass and drums assembly that gives the signature performance of the Lp. 8.5\10

6. Green – “Green is the color of spring” A tribute to his daughter, a non-original Van composition taken from of all places Sesame Street. Elegant and gentle, easy to move through and appropriately ordinary, a quality song but nothing special. Piano, horns and electric guitar drive the bluesy R&B rhythms. The remaining instrumental performances are simply complementary and fail to stand out. A few very nice escalations in between verses stand out in a steady performance. 6.5\10

7. Autumn Song – While relaxing and musically very strong, not a lot going on here. A nice bit of contrast and return in the jumpy jazzed up chorus between the blues style electric guitar and constant rhythms of the verse. At ten and half minutes it’s a real mood song more then anything and one of Van’s longest. Van allows a little leeway for the stream of conscious lyrical and vocal performance but nothing remarkable or even comparable to the exploits of songs from the albums predecessor St. Dominic’s Preview with tracks like “Listen to the Lion” 6.5\10

8. Purple Heather – The re-arranged traditional ballad done in true Morrison style. The final track of the album is the most openly exclamatory ditty amongst the sometimes presumed muck, probably the most charismatic number to be found, piano lead is outstanding and the strings provide that familiar buzzing accompaniment in the back drop. With a deliberate rhythm and vocals trying to escape from the first note it’s a clear cut build song. A celebratory track, and also the final recorded on Van’s first completely and intentional solo production job. A wonderful instrumental featuring contrasting pianos and strings (violin, viola, cello) really give the song a strong identity as a complete work. 8.5\10

…Shortly after Van completed Hard Nose he was divorced from his wife Janet Planet. As mentioned it was initially considered a failed effort, however most hard core fans have always enjoyed the album and in fact a lot of mainstream media has come a round to it in the years since. Rolling Stone which initially bashed it as “uninspiring and habitual in nature” whatever that means, has changed it’s official tune now boasting "Hard Nose the Highway is psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent." At times it ranks amongst my top five or six albums from Van, and never fails to disappoint after a long respite. At the moment Purple Heather is one of my favorite songs. This album is unquestionably amongst the quintessential Van Morrison and required listening for well rounded music fans.

First Time I Listened to it: 1974
Defining Track(s): “The Great Deception” best captures the cathartic and cynical nature of the album. “Warm Love” is the biggest commercial hit.
Line in my head: “Hey Kids dig the first takes, ain’t that some interpretation”

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 7.5
Overall Ranking: TBD

Next up: Veedon Fleece- 1974

Last edited by Son of JayJamJah; 07-03-2008 at 02:25 PM.
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Old 06-30-2008, 05:50 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Default Veedon Fleece (1974)

With the divorce finalize Van went back to Ireland for holiday and back into the studio for his most personal, cathartic and poignant production since Astral Weeks. This would be the final unraveling of the young Van, the prolific Rhythm and Blues Rock superstar and spirit divided and confused. The end of the beginning, but nowhere near the end. This album marks a return to the basics and the start of a transformation.

Veedon Fleece (1974)

Veedon Fleece is a metaphor for anything and everything, it is the unknown, it’s what we are all searching for, what we can’t define or quantify. That’s all bunk of course if you ask Morrison who casually concludes; “It’s fiction, I made it up” regardless there is little denying that while a more optimistic and celebratory cycle, Veedon Fleece is a return to form from Astral Weeks, musically it’s superior at moments, but lacks the flow and consistency of Van’s WB debut. Divided into three sections within the album, a sort of delicate playful introduction, a heart pounding, escalating climax of a middle and a love song infused final stanza that reignites the Van who lived between Astral Weeks and Veedon Fleece, if only in a more sentimental and tender fashion…

1. Fair Play – Slow and soothing, the opening tack sets a mellow and serene tone for the album. Moving the listener across the plane of thought like a accomplished dancer across the parquet. Lyrically a fantastic performance, musically exquisite with so much happening on so many levels; each instrument telling its own story. Piano keys step through the verses around the bass and acoustic guitars. Van wallops the opening vocal performance diving head first into the chorus with an appropriate lyrical accompaniment (“Geronimo” and the converse “High-ho Silver”) Van’s story is that of his life and that theme is continual through every chapter of the album, very strong opener. 8.5\10

2. Linden Arden Stole the Highlights – Following the theme of “Fair Play” Linden Arden is slow and meticulous. The Piano’s keys are the counterpart to the flutes fluttering melodies on Astral Weeks. The ebony and ivory and accompanied at first by guitar then full string arrangements. Continuous building the intentionally ominous mood of the album, it acts as the bridge from the first and third songs, together the three from the “first chapter” of the album. Inspired by an incident Van witnessed in a dental office waiting room. A perfect bond in between very different, similar songs. 8\10

3. Who was that Masked Man – Van’s vocals go to their highest register and while it’s not exactly faultless, it works for the song complimenting the subtle orchestral sound behind its lead acoustic guitar. This song acts as the final act of Van’s decent back into the haze of his untrusting wounded past. The most direct reference to the despair of the divorce. There is desperation and hopelessness not present since Astral Weeks as Van cites, loneliness, longing and personal anguish and even hints at suicide. The dark conclusion of the first chapter trilogy within Veedon Fleece with departing line “No Matter what they tell you, there is good and evil in everyone”. 7.5\10

4. Streets of Arklow –The album takes a turn down a darker, even more ominous but more hopeful path with Streets of Arklow. Musically more through and fully engaged back in the sorrowful but determined world of Astral Weeks, it’s raw with humming violins, other strings and punchy piano fills throughout. Fascinating lyrics filled with references to a bright and beautiful surrounding and backed by Celtic style flute and piano take center stage however as the keys and strings bring framing and mood to each measure. The song introduces the listener to the new direction of the album very well as the story continues to develop. 8.5\10

5. You don’t pull no punches, But you don’t push the River – Assertive from the beginning, a continuing Celtic influence is present as is a heightened sense of urgency. No longer walking the streets, but not stalking them note by note. Taking the listener on a musical journey as the pulse steadily builds throughout the song as layers are added musically and lyrically. Seemingly improvised through most it features Van’s foray into verbal fascination with the self accused meaningless title line “Veedon Fleece” who\which the protagonist and his holy and poetic sidekicks search far and wide for. “William Blake and the Eternals standing with the Sisters of Mercy, Looking for the Veedon Fleece” Easily the most intense song on the album and a strong effort which brings the cycle to an appropriate apex. A brilliant composition; the frenzied crying and growling of the final lyrical revolution is the icing on cake and a heart pounding side one finisher. 9\10

6. Bulbs – A reenergizing effort moving out of the second chapter of the album, fun and free. A tale of emigration to America upon reflection from holiday back home. Almost a stand alone song, but necessary to bridge the overall cycle and tell the complete story. Simple strumming and heavy acoustic (stand-up bass) follow futbol metaphors into blue street light brass driven country guitar licks. With a steady, constant build from the first note it transforms itself from mellow folk cry to fast paced honky-tonk style rhythm and blues. Electric steel guitar plucking and acoustic strumming perpetrate the melody until “her 100 Watt bulb just blew”. Featuring all those wonderful performances as well as lyrical interludes in the traditional Van styling it’s a complete victory of a song. Outstanding lyrics, flawless musical execution and creative construction: Simply put a romp of a song. 9.5\10

7. Cul-de-sac – Mellowing back out but presenting an interesting jazzy contrast (to bulbs) with the same two featured instruments and a theme featuring Van’s reflection on moving to America in the forefront. Both build from the start to end, but Bulbs picks up pace while Cul-de-sac gathers emotion. A smooth transition from the climatic “…Don’t pull no Punches…” and the reinvigorating “Bulbs” into the love song filled finale chapter. This is a more mature Van then the one from Astral Weeks realizing that he has simply loved and lost and will Love again. You can hear the cautious but convincing confidence in his voice as he convinces himself it’ll all be okay, first in a whisper then a growl then a scream. 8\10

8. Comfort You – Into the Love song portion of the album. Continuing the cycle with Veedon another turn, carrying elements from the previous songs, especially the early songs, Comfort You brings it down some more and brings the strings to center stage with the acoustic guitar and violins. Subtle lyrically and not at all cliché, the piano provides a friendly accompaniment for another very strong vocal performance. Relaxing, satisfying song and well placed as a final turn for the album. 8\10

9. Come here my Love – Poetic and intriguing lyrical, subtle musically, perhaps the most tranquil song on an intentionally relaxed or at least melancholy album. Guitar is the driving force and only notable performance. Never really makes its move just sort of short and sweet reinforcing Vans expectation of new love. 7\10

10. Country Fair – Haunting, excellent and comforting. An all-encapsulating tale the final track of the albums final chapter does not let down. Starting with brilliant guitar work and harmonizing flute and vocal side bars, as “we stood out and watched the river flow” through the Country fair in one of the most innocent and unassuming love songs in all of Van’s catalog. Easing from stanza to stanza, portion to portion it departs as the albums enters with balance and order amongst chaotic surroundings and contents. Expectedly smooth. 8\10

…This was the first Van album I ever listened to on the day it was released. I was 17 years old had just graduated high school earlier that summer and had just begun to really dive into this music. At the time, Zeppelin and the Who was rocking the world, especially for me and my friends, but this was a music I related to in a different way, a more personal way. Like Astral Weeks, Veedon Fleece initially went largely ignored. Hard Nose was dismissed as average and this was out of left field, a return not the peppy stylings of Moondance, Street Choir and Tupelo Honey but to the melancholy of Astral Weeks, still over time it’s become a classic fro fans and critics alike and never disappoints me.

First Time I Listened to it: 1974
Defining Track(s): Bulbs is a masterful composition and stands out amongst the album however “You don’t Pull no Punches, but you don’t Push the River” is the defining track without question.
Line in my head: “Ain’t it lonely when your living with a gun”

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) *****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 8.5
Overall Ranking: TBD (Top 10)

Next up: A period of Transition - 1977

Last edited by Son of JayJamJah; 07-01-2008 at 07:11 AM.
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Old 07-03-2008, 02:11 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Default Robert Christgau

Following the release of Veedon Fleece Van did not record a studio album the next three years. With the next few posts I will bring some more detail to the overall picture of the discography with independent reviews and accounts as well as cover Van's 1973 Live album "It's too late to stop now" with a unique styled review and his show stopping performance at 1975's "The Last Waltz" while performing two songs alongside the Band in their farewell show.

So if you’ve been following this thread you probably got the impression that I am pretty big fan of the music and hopefully you are too, but just too prove I am a fair guy I’m bringing in another opinion here.

This is Robert Christgau…

from Wikipedia

He is an American essayist, music journalist, and the self-declared "Dean of American Rock Critics".

A little background…
Christgau grew up in New York City, where he says he became a rock and roll fan when disc jockey Alan Freed moved to the city in 1954. He left New York for four years to attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, graduating in 1962. While at college, Christgau's musical interests turned to jazz, but he quickly returned to rock and roll after moving back to New York.
He initially wrote short stories, before giving up fiction in 1964 to become a sportswriter, and later, a police reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger. Christgau became a freelance writer after a story he wrote about the death of a woman in New Jersey was published by New York magazine. He was asked to take over the dormant music column at Esquire, which he began writing in early 1967. After Esquire discontinued the column, Christgau moved to the The Village Voice in 1969, and he also worked as a college professor.
In early 1972, he accepted a full-time job as music critic for Newsday. Christgau returned to the Village Voice in 1974 as music editor. He remained there until August 2006, when he was fired "for taste" shortly after the paper's acquisition by New Times Media.[3] Two months later, Christgau became a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. In 2008, Christgau left Rolling Stone and followed Joe Levy to Blender, where he became co-chief music critic. Christgau had been a regular contributor to Blender before he joined Rolling Stone.
Christgau has also written frequently for Playboy, Spin, and Creem. He has previously taught during the formative years of the California Institute of the Arts. As of 2005, he was also an adjunct professor in the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at New York University.

Here are his brief reviews and grades for each of the albums we’ve covered so far starting with Moondance in 1970…

Moondance [Warner Bros., 1970]
An album worthy of an Irish r&b singer who wrote a teen hit called "Mystic Eyes" (not to mention a Brill Building smash called "Brown Eyed Girl"), adding punchy brass (including pennywhistles and foghorn) and a solid backbeat (including congas) to his folk-jazz swing, and a popwise formal control to his Gaelic poetry. Morrison's soul, like that of the black music he loves, is mortal and immortal simultaneously: this is a man who gets stoned on a drink of water and urges us to turn up our radios all the way into (that word again) the mystic. Visionary hooks his specialty. A+

His Band and Street Choir [Warner Bros., 1970]
Morrison is still a brooder--"Why did you leave America?" he asks over and over on the final cut, and though I'm not exactly sure what he's talking about, that sounds like a good all-purpose question/accusation to me--but not an obsessive one, and this is another half-step away from the acoustic late-night misery of Astral Weeks. As befits hits, "Domino" and especially "Blue Money" are more celebratory if no more joyous than anything on Moondance, showing off his loose, allusive white r&b at its most immediate. And while half of side two is comparatively humdrum, I play it anyway. A

Tupelo Honey [Warner Bros., 1971]
Van seems to be turning into a machine and a natural man simultaneously. I like the machine a whole lot--this super-bouncy product is almost as rich in cute tunes as The Shirelles' Greatest Hits. But I worry that domestic bliss with Janet Planet--who here abandons liner notes to pose with hubby fore, aft, and centerfold--has been softening Van's noodle more than the joy of cooking requires. A-

Saint Dominic's Preview [Warner Bros., 1972]
"Jackie Wilson said it was reet petite," he shouts for openers, and soon has me believing that "I'm in heaven when you smile" says as much about the temporal and the eternal as anything in Yeats. "Listen to the lion," he advises later, referring to that lovely frightening beast inside each of us, and midway through the eleven-minute cut he lets the lion out, moaning and roaring and growling and stuttering in a scat extension that would do Leon Thomas proud. The point being that words--which on this album are as uneven as the tunes--sometimes say less than voices. Amen. A-

Hard Nose the Highway [Warner Bros., 1973]
The relaxed rhythms are just lax most of the time, the vocal surprises mild after St. Dominic's Preview, the lyrics dumbest when they're more than mood pieces, and the song construction offhand except on "Warm Love." B-

Veedon Fleece [Warner Bros., 1974]
I count it as progress that his muse is feeding him baseball metaphors, but Morrison hasn't vented his Gaelic soul so unabashedly since Astral Weeks. He'd get away with it if there were more than one decent song on side two. Soothing, evocative late-night music that indulges his discursive side. Favorite title: "You Don't Pull No Punches but You Don't Push the River." B+
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Old 07-07-2008, 12:48 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Default Part One: It's Too Late To Stop Now (1974)

In between Hard Nose and Veedon Fleece Van released his first live album, the 1973 summer tour compilation entitled “It’s too late to stop now”. If you don’t own this album and like this thread, you need to change the first statement. I could tell you about how not a single track on this album was altered from its original live recording. I could tell you how Van declared which performance would be included prior to the performances based on how he was feeling leading into the song. I could tell you how it was supposed to be a 20 track album, but a glitch in the tape on one track and a single missed guitar note on Moondance led Van to exclude those tracks. However, you need to know little else then the simple fact that this is among the greatest live albums ever recorded. Please listen while you read, I’ll send you a copy on request if you promise to buy or delete within one month. Scouts honor I suppose for the Americans at least.

It’s too late to Stop Now (1974)

I had the great fortune of attending one of the shows on this tour; not sure if any of the tracks made the cut but I can tell you what didn’t. In addition to the dismissal of Moondance and what is believed to have been T.B Sheets Van intentionally did not include the never released song “I Paid the Price” the most direct nod to the divorce he ever put into music or otherwise for that matter. But most notably excluded were the performances from the upcoming Veedon Fleece album. At our show it was the highlight of the evening. Van played Cypress Avenue went into a rough version of the opening verse of Streets of Arklow, the music went quiet he started chanting “searching for the Veedon Fleece” the plays what is clearly a young version of “Bulbs” with maybe the same lyrics maybe not and I thin an extra verse. Anyway it was amazing and the band played a 5 minute instrumental of Domino with improvised solos over the melody while Van recovered off stage…

Set List

1. "Ain't Nothin' You Can Do"
2. "Warm Love"
3. "Into the Mystic"
4. "These Dreams of You"
5. "I Believe to My Soul"
6. "I've Been Working"
7. "Help Me"
8. "Wild Children"
9. "Domino"
10. "I Just Want to Make Love to You"
11. "Bring It On Home to Me"
12. "Saint Dominic's Preview"
13. "Take Your Hands Out of My Pocket"
14. "Listen to the Lion"
15. "Here Comes the Night"
16. "Gloria"
17. "Caravan"
18. "Cyprus Avenue"

This funky promenade begins with stirring rendition of the Joe Scott and Deadric Malone’s “Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do” originally pressed by Bobby “Blue” Bland the Blue Band in the late 50’s. Horns blare in between robust shouts of the helplessness of heartache. “Electric Lights go out” as Van exposes another of his early 50’s R&B\Soul influences. “Warm Love” the quintessential hit from “Hard Nose the Highway” is next as it’s picked up from the same show. Delivered in punchy fashion throughout the verses as Van follows the rhythm exact before faded comfortably back into the typically melody for the chorus. “The Sky is crying and it’s time to go home” as Van rains down the chorus in improvised fashion the last time around slurring his way through the performance for emphasis. “Into the Mystic” is next, as always Van interprets the song in a new way for the performance. A lighter horn section the studio version plays the part admirably as keys and strings fill in the cracks. “I just want to rock your soul baby” It’s almost impossible to screw this song up. Another Moondance number is next with “These Dreams of You” an interesting number as it was originally a dedication of Love and happiness despite the flaws to his now ex-wife Janet. Van kicks it up a number and focuses on the surreal imagery of dreams that frames the song beyond the more personal meaning. “Go to sleep don’t even say one word” as the song falls into a jazzy instrumental with even more soul then the album version. A surprise and welcome addition to his foremost Live compilation. “I Believe to My soul” is a Ray Charles song, and Van does it justice as few others could in such a large shadow. Staying almost completely true to the original with a more well rounded sound incorporating more instruments in the background. The first number included from “…Street Choir” is “I’ve been Working” which doesn’t carry the same weight outside the context of the album typically but gets a funked up makeover for it’s Live appearance as keys and bass guitar slide and bend their way through the music. This performance among the whole stands out as one of the most all-inclusive elemental performances fusing jazz\soul\rhythm&blues\funk into a thrashing rock number.

“You gotta help me, I can’t do it all by myself” The second section of the album opens with “Help Me” a cover of another 1950’s Blues standard this one penned by Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Dixon. Van has always made a habit of covering the music he feels he owes a debt of gratitude to at his live performances and it is about the only time other then when introducing the band he’ll address the audience. With a fun finish it’s an essential to the album for the experienced listener. “Wild Children” is an often forgotten song from “Hard Nose the Highway” noted mostly for the references to Actors and Playwright influences like James Dean and Tennessee Williams. Van’s voice is flawless with all the elegance of a studio recording packed into a single take Live. Van ups the ante and the pulse of the performance with the ironically reclusive “Domino” the top hit of the “Street Choir” album. Several altered lyrics hint at an untold story as Van continues to battle his stage fright and generally private nature to find true happiness within the music that runs through his mind. Still “Don’t want to discuss it” and still “time for a change” but now Van breaks into a light accompanied bridge building toward a final frenetic crescendo to the Live version of his ode to the Fat Man. Willie Dixon’s often covered “I just want to make Love to you” is the next number on the docket as Morrison first shyly then more confidently always interpreting every note, every word as a piece of the story. Sam Cooke lends his music to the next number as Van covers the heart wrenching “Bring it on Home to Me” with a sputtering slur and a heart full of soul behind music so raw you can reach out and feel it. A brilliantly written song, perfectly interpreted and executed to fit the artist. As close to being as good as the original as you can get. Finally the second section of my review ends with another personal favorite. The nostalgic “St. Dominic’s Preview” serves as the canvas for Van’s next exploit as his incorporation of viola and violin leads along with more deliberate lyrical delivery pays tribute to the folk inspired esplanade through memory lane without losing the necessary reverence for the seriousness of his homeland conflict that inspires this somehow hopeful song of apocalypse. “That’s the way it all should happen when your in the fairytale state your in” Maybe more then ever the message of this song is clear…an end is just a new beginning.

(To be Continued)
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Old 07-07-2008, 12:52 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Default Part Two: It's Too Late To Stop Now (1974)

Back to the Blues with Sonny Boy’s “Take Your Hands out of My Pocket” . At first the more complex sound of Van’s blues imagination throws you off, but the fullness of the sound eventually only serves to reinforce the melancholy of the music. Most artists would never be so bold as to try a song like “Listen to the Lion” live, but not only does this free form bellow hold up it may be an even more revealing and reassuring version. The varying levels of volume, while not as exact as studio production allows, are very capably executed by the talented band that backs Morrison. He takes the middle of the song to introduce the band in between verses “All my tears like water flow…” as Van fights each word squeezing every ounce of meaning and feeling he can from it before moving on to the next. “Here Comes the Night” is a song that Van has been known for covering since his days fronting “Them”, the most famous version is probably the one with the Stones where Jagger is brilliant alongside Morrison. This like, Brown Eyed Girl and Gloria have become the standards the casual and corporate types at the shows look forward to Van playing. I love this one too though. Its fun and catchy just try and not love it. Almost like he planned it that way, as it usually does, “Gloria” follows next and brings the masses to their feet with seal arms a flapping and hands a clapping as they parrots Van’s first famous chorus. “G-L-O-R-I-A” yeah we all know this one. It’s a great song, often imitated never duplicated, but rarely does Van go all out with anymore. The penultimate track for “Too Late…” is Van’s favorite track to perform live and what would become, especially amongst musicians, a couple years after this version one off the most talked about Live numbers in rock music history. “Caravan” from 1970’s “Moondance” is the perfect atmosphere for Van to explode on the stage as pour out the words with the sort of desperation only a man at the edge of his emotions can muster. Van always changes the lyrics and usually the way he pronounces “radio” and “electric light” in the bridge. This song is about the journey, fittingly as its called Caravan and uses Gypsy life as a metaphor for the places music can take you. It builds as Van’s emotion and conviction does, ending with Van, the Horns, Strings, the Drums and typically the crowd wailing away giving it everything they got. This album closes with “Cypress Avenue” the only number from “Astral Weeks” to make the final cut. From the outside it seems like an odd exclusion, however it’s rare that Van covers Astral Weeks live and when he does it’s usually about 50 straight minutes of organized medley. From the opening line this is a special performance. Van removes Cypress from it’s Astral Weeks wrapper, removes “The Mansion on the Hill” verse and blends the now half a decade old composition into the context of “Too late…” perfectly without losing it’s singular brilliance as a part of the 1968 LP. Maybe my favorite live track ever and a great excuse to listen to album all over again after your done with the first pass.

The Band
• Theresa "Terry" Adams: cello
• Bill Atwood: trumpet, backing vocals
• Nancy Ellis: viola
• Tom Halpin: violin
• David Hayes: bass guitar, backing vocals
• Tim Kovatch: violin
• Jeff Labes: organ, piano
• John Platania: guitar, backing vocals
• Nathan Rubin: violin
• Jack Schroer: alto, tenor, baritone saxophones, tambourine, backing vocals
• Dahaud Shaar: drums, backing vocals

…So there’s that, the ability throughout to mimic studio performances and\or re-imagine the phrasing and pitch and sometimes lyrics of every note makes the album an adventure that few fans could ever hope to experience first hand. I’ve had the fortune of attending over 20 of Van’s live shows over the years and he is, if I’m being honest, hit or miss. It’s always good if you like the music as much as me, but every now and then there is that look in his eyes and that urgency in his voice, and when that element is there he can deliver the kind of overwhelming emotional performance that captivated us all when we first heard Astral Weeks or Moondance. Tomorrow Night I will be attending what very well could be my last Van Morrison concert at the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit about an hour from my home. It’s the “Keep it Simple” tour, the album is his strongest in years and there has been speculation this may be his last tour for a while if not forever. Here’s to hoping that look is there and I get one more stirring performance.

First Time I Listened to it: 1974 (Bought it same day as Veedon Fleece with the totality of my Graduation money after paying my parents back.)
Defining Track(s): You need em’ all in this collection.

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 9

Last edited by Son of JayJamJah; 07-07-2008 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 07-14-2008, 10:03 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Default The Band: The Last Waltz

In 1976 The Band decided to play their farewell Live show and to invite a few friends to help. Among them were Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters and Van Morrison. The concert was later turned into the Martin Scorsese film “The Last Waltz”

Van Morrison and The Band Caravan at The Last Waltz

Van’s performance was his first in over two years as he had been in hiatus since the release of Veedon Fleece shortly after his divorce. Van performed "Tura Lura Lural (That's an Irish Lullaby)" then “Caravan” his go-to move for Live performances. After the dazzling performance complete with the traditional drawn out give it all you got ending, Van acquired his most notable nickname “Van the Man” from Robbie Robertson as the band’s guitar player glossed him whilst Van “seizured” his way off stage.

Van at Last Waltz

"Van Morrison turned the show around...singing to the rafters and ...burning holes in the floor. It was a triumph, and as the song ended Van began to kick his leg into the air out of sheer exuberance and he kicked his way right offstage like a Rockette. The crowd had given him a fine welcome and they cheered wildly when he left."
-Greil Marcus

"By now it was after midnight, and the crowd was subdued. The momentum of the show had been lost halfway through Joni’s set … this was Van’s first appearance on stage in more than two years - and The Last Waltz was suddenly revived with a spectacular version of ‘Caravan’. Van burned through his great song - ‘Turn it up! Little bit louder! Radio!’ - complete with kicksteps across the stage at the end. Van turned the whole thing around. God bless him for being the showman he is. "
-Levon Helm

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Old 07-15-2008, 11:11 AM   #38 (permalink)
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Anyone still following this thread or should i scrap it?
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Old 07-15-2008, 01:38 PM   #39 (permalink)
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I just read through it all and you should definitely not scrap it. It's a fantastic read. I'm downloading Astral Weeks as we speak...
“Think of what a paradise this world would be if men were kind and wise.” - Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle. | Goodreads | Letterboxd
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Old 07-15-2008, 01:59 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by JayJamJah View Post
Anyone still following this thread or should i scrap it?
Keep going JJJ, you're doing a great job so far. I hate to admit it but before reading your dissertation/discographie the only Van Morrison album I was really familiar with was Moondance. Now I will definitely be visiting the torrents to fill in the gaps in my VM collection.
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