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Son of JayJamJah 06-02-2008 12:15 AM

The Complete Discography thread Van Morrison
Combining my love for the Music with my determination to complete a thread of significance and to be satisfied with the content in the end I present a labor of love with "Van Morrison: 30 Albums I can't live without" A chronological quest to review and discuss the majority of Van's body of work from 1967 to present as well as introduce or produce interesting insights, websites and highlights at a snappy and diligent pace. Here Goes...

Van Morrison began his career as a teenage front man for the appropriately named Northern Irish rock band "Them" in 1964. Van was one of six original members of what would become a revolving door of musicians across the board. Morrison recorded two albums with the group before departing to launch his solo career late in 1966.

The result of nine months of intense self examination and what Van would later call "self sacrifice of integrity and concept" to satisfy the bosses, was Van's solo debut and swan song with Bang Records. In the end Morrison tried to stop the albums release and still does not embrace the album, despite many fans doing so.

Blowin’ Your Mind (1967)

Obviously best known for the lead track “Brown eyed Girl” Van’s solo debut and final album with Bang Records is an inconsistent effort, but one that clearly demonstrates his talent and potential and foreshadows the haunting masterpiece lying in wake (“Astral Weeks”) which would be released 18 months later following a switch to the Warner Brothers label. Album was produced to have a gritty and humble feel, which while aprapo of Van's nature as a person, seems to lack sincerity in it's production. Highlights of the album include a number of relatively poppy numbers and the more unrefined free form compositions like ‘Who drove the Red Sports car” and “T.B Sheets”. On the whole album is good but nothing sensational by Van standards...(continued at end)

1. Brown Eyed Girl – My Beef with this song is only that is what everyone knows Van for, it’s a fine pop song, but Van did not write pop songs. I won’t bother describing the song; you already know how it goes. Personally I like it, but it's the only Van song I'll ever cahnge when it comes on the radio or random play on my ipod or pc. 8\10

2. He Ain’t Give you None – Has a slightly psychedelic nature to it; an avenue Van rarely ventured down. Elements of the freelance style he would fully unveil in Astral Weeks abound, but never fully surfaces. Electric in nature it collides rock with r&b in casual and cool style. More young love and inevitable angst amongst the lyrics which are clever from end to end. As good a song as Brown eyed girl, maybe played 1\1000 the amount of times on FM radio.8\10

3. T.B Sheets – A song so out of place and time it’s unreal. This song is creepy good, from the blistering harmonica fills and interludes to the already grown and grizzled vocals of the barely two decade old phenomenon; it’s a gripping, emotional stumble of a song. Organ, acoustic guitar and percussion layer the song elegantly. It’s hard to place where Van got this one from, it would stick out amongst any of his albums during his first and most prolific decade of music making. Like walking into a bar and instantly becoming the coolest guy there. Daring and devoted a classic amongst many hardcore fans. 9\10

4. Spanish Rose – A Latin style ditty if ever Van had one. A simple and pleasurable song, somewhat predictable but not to the point of distraction. Undeniably catchy although probably equally campy. Nothing to report on lyrically it just progresses the song, the bridge is the songs highlight, it takes the song to the brink of honesty but ultimatley loops back to the refrain. Overall: Rather plain and does not stand out for me. 6.5\10

5. Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye) - Van's first foray into his eventual blues heavy r&b staple. Featuring, in a capacity rarely seen since, back up vocals proclaiming the 8 bar chorus are used as a backdrop to Van's improvisational stream of feeling build as the song escalates and departs at a grueling pace. 7\10

6. Ro Ro Rosey – Hard driving blues number that’s more in the way and style of the album overall. Vocally driven Chorus and blues harmonica interludes are a nice touch and were clearly isolated as Van's strengths by the albums producer. Still lacks the originality and creativity present throughout a lot of Van’s stuff with Warner. A worthwhile listen most times through, but nothing I seek out. 6.5\10

7. Who drove the Red sports Car – Slowest jazziest\blues number of the album. Pounding piano and crying guitar are the dueling harmony of man and woman.Van's vocals act as mediator with partiality relative to the perspective of the narrative. As gentle a track as the album contains but not without a pounding presence of emotion explding through the vocals and lyrics at just the necessary points. 7\10

8. Midnight Special – Cover track, blues style standard. A creative but not unique take on it with another visit from the back-up vocals which while not of poor quality don't fit the puzzle just right. Deliberate and structured Van gives a great effort that sounds more like a 50 some year old man then a 20 some year old one. His voice is a natural for the blues, but his heart is not limited to one genre. 6.5\10

...This album takes a while to find it's identity and probably misses the mark when it does, settling for what was working at the time instead of what was working for the artist. Eclectic out of the gate with a lot of quality but no direction, it's at least a compelling mystery. Later it becomes a careless presentation of several above average but unspectacular blues numbers that lack the creativity Van so clearly thrives on. Still it's like a young star athlete playing on a par team. He stands out despite what's going on around him.

First Time I Listened to it: 1976
Defining Track(s): Brown eyed Girl for the obvious reasons and T.B Sheets for the not so obvious ones.
Line in my head: "I can almost smell your T.B Sheets"

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ***1\2
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 7
Overall Ranking: TBD

Songs from Blowin' Your Mind

Brown Eyed Girl

Live in London 1973

Next up: Astral Weeks - 1968

Laughing Boy 06-02-2008 12:46 AM

I'm not too familiar with Van Morrison aside from Astral Weeks but one of my friends is big on him. This is a good thread idea I may steal it.

vanmorrisonnews 06-02-2008 02:10 PM

This is the album Van did with famed producer Bert Berns - he tried to get Van to sound more "pop" but Van was trying for something else which he would get later next year with Astral Weeks.

British_pharaoh 06-02-2008 02:14 PM

I liked him on the John Lee Hooker track " Never get out of these blues alive"

but his solo stuff isn't pleasing to me

Civic Depreciator 06-02-2008 03:53 PM


Originally Posted by British_pharaoh (Post 486633)
but his solo stuff isn't pleasing to me

Really? He's one of my favorite rock artists ever. What have you heard of his that didn't please you?

Son of JayJamJah 06-02-2008 07:48 PM

@ All

please feel encouraged to weigh in throughout this thread with your opinions\experiences with various albums.

jackhammer 06-03-2008 04:43 PM

Excellent thread. My Van Morrison musical knowledge is limited and anyone who takes the time and effort to make an expansive thread deserves praise.

Son of JayJamJah 06-04-2008 05:24 AM

Following the release of "Blowin' Your Mind" Van departed for Warner Brothers Records, but not without a fight. Bang records fought to stop Van from recording for Warner, but eventually Morrison won out and was finally able to have complete creative control and create his premier opus.

Astral Weeks (1968)

Reviewing an album you’ve listened too ten thousand times prior is a near impossible charge when objectivity is considered. Therefore it is reemphasized the objectivity is abandon within my review of Van and his albums. To use what’s probably absurd hyperbole, Astral Weeks saves lives. Still, I can count two in my personal universe it has salvaged. It is a masterpiece of feeling, of passion, of Love. It is what Van wanted to do and what had been running through his mind since he began hearing the songs run through his mind. Van wrote each part and plays almost every instrument on every track in the live tapes. He also co-produced a great portion of the album. Van’s personal life and social skills suffered as a result of his connection to his music, which dominated his life. Consistently ranked among the greatest albums of all time and deservedly so in my opinion...

“Still the most adventurous record made in the rock medium, and there hasn't been a record with that amount of daring made since." Elvis Costello

1. Astral Weeks – Emphatic and perfect. Beautiful and transcending of mood, age or station of life, a masterpiece introduction to a cycle of brilliant explanation pertaining to emotional truth and freedom. The greatest musical personification of Love I’ve ever heard. Departs in a humming tranquility that exudes the message of the whole album perfectly. Playful guitar patterns palpable lyrics as violins hum builds drama and mood around the song alongside the flute which pickups on the guitars raw jubilation. A cycle itself while moving as freely as the soul and spirit of the music. 9.5\10

2. Beside You
– Melancholy illuminates the opening notes, desperation feeds the lyrical desperation. Urgency is the contrasting feel from the deliberate pace of the rhythm. Each measure is an experience; the story unfolds with brilliant dramatics, each chapter more compelling and critical then the last. Stand-up bass is a strong backdrop for the frantic acoustic lead and mystic tones of flautist John Payne. An amazingly relaxing song from start to finish. 8.5\10

“There is no better music to fall asleep by, Astral Weeks is pure and calms your mind, body and soul” Jared Bench

3. Sweet Thing – Carefree and effortless, the simple strumming and distant yet considerable vocals build with the supporting cast, a beautiful cavalcade of music. Featuring string interludes, interruptions and accompaniments; a cycle within a cycle gaining kinetic momentum with each revolution. The passion is unrelenting as each note pierces the willing soul. Van’s take; "Sweet Thing" is another romantic song. It contemplates gardens and things like that...wet with rain. It's a romantic love ballad not about anybody in particular but about a feeling." A favorite of mine for quite a long time; as personally poignant as music gets for me. 9\10

4. Cyprus Avenue – Easing into the design, simple rhythms follow exact fills as the lyrical phrasing, pacing and volume develop the story. As poetic as is necessary without an ounce of insincerity. The utilization of string instrumentals behind improvisational, stream of sentiment lyrics and phrasing develops the number into a pulsating uproar relative to the natural feel prior. The freedom Morrison allows the song gives it a chance to fully develop and come full circle with beautiful implementation. One of the better bass tracks on the album, controlling the music and moving the lot along. Cryptic and casual lyrically very interesting concept perhaps first revealed on this track. The Violin’s entrance midway through the song gives it a bravado that is needed to maintain the flow of the story and the feel. 9\10

5. The Way Young Lovers Do – A crucial vertex of a song within the unintentional concept. A swinging, dramatic number in a very different style then its predecessors yet falls into place completely at home amongst the seeming chaos. Mystery is its identity and it displays that within the album. With a wonderful musical build, it only fails to shine for me because it was initially my least favorite track on the album.. Layered and precise, it uses the entire musical repertoire to create a personal stamp on Astral Weeks. A different type of love song, more bold and conceptual then on the nose and trite. Very surreal dichotomy between music and vocal style is the songs strong point. 8.5\10

“An emotional outpouring cast in delicate musical structures, Astral Weeks has a unique musical power. Unlike any record before or since, it nevertheless encompasses the passion and tenderness that have always mixed in the best postwar popular music, easily justifying the critics' raves.” William Ruhlmann

6. Madam George – Calling back to Cyprus Avenue and reversing the cycle using a different key and adjusting the pacing and building. The same type of calculated and captivating vocal performance persists to drive the song. A moving and motivating bone chiller; still brings me to tears on occasion. The song follows a persistent melody but evolves and emerges throughout with purpose and determination. Bass and acoustic strumming folk style opening gives way to elegant string breezes and graceful flute melody. Stream on consciousness lyrics demonstrate the commitment to tell the story inside the creators mind in a poetic and particular method. 9\10

7. Ballerina – Energy and anticipation not embodied since “Sweet Thing” makes an entrance in the hearty and dynamic Ballerina. ‘Stepping up’ throughout, it builds with painstaking execution towards its goal of intoxication. A bold proclamation of Love beyond surrounding perception or analysis; dynamic at its surface, personal at its core. So many subtle evolutions throughout keeps the listener compelled and at attention. Pushing the cycle full circle, the track entertains and advances with outstanding assiduousness. Another fitting improvised finale pushes the song to its limits. 8.5\10

8. Slim Slow Slider – The haunting, mellowing finale; a bitter sweet goodbye to what has been and rebirth of another day or way. The lyrics discuss saying good bye and death and the song ends as abruptly and ominously as it began. Completing the cycle that began during the title track (lyrics: "would you...could born again") :Slim Slow Slider" fulfills it purpose quickly and desipates before you can say good bye. 8.5\10

“…its mystic poetry, spacious grooves, and romantic incantations still resonate in ways no other music can.” Alan Light

...Defying explanation, Astral Weeks can transform you, there is nothing else like it in music not before and not since. It's this complete originality combined with it's musical purity and raw emotional fortitude that makes it one my all-time favorites by Van or any other artist. Consistency sets apart from other albums that followed with similar structure, there is little doubt in my mind that this was the album Van was born to make.

Here's a Link to the Greatest Review of Astral Weeks Ever

First Time I Listened to it: 1973
Defining Track(s): Impossible to isolate any single track as more important then another on this album, it is the most consistent and complete collection I've ever heard.
Line in my head: "I may go crazy before that Mansion on the Hill"

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) *****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 10
Overall Ranking: TBD (1 or 2)

Next up: Moondance - 1970

bsmix 06-05-2008 11:25 PM

Yeah man thanks alot for this. My Van Morrison songs were 'Gloria' and 'Brown Eyed Girl'. Astral Weeks is awesome, I'm still just hearing all of these songs for the first time. super mellow violins, flutes, xylophones, harpsichords, whaaat. thanks again

Son of JayJamJah 06-06-2008 07:53 AM

I'm really glad glad your enjoying it so far, and it's awesome that your digging the music. What are your favorite cuts from Astral Weeks so far?

Pat Mustard 06-06-2008 08:19 AM

If anything I'm slighlty perplexed that you rated the individual songs on AW relatively low, especially given your transparent love for the album. The Way Young Lovers Do is one of my very favourite songs.

I'll be interested to hear what you make of Veedon Fleece, one of VM's most divisive works. Personally I love it, particularly the first half.

Son of JayJamJah 06-06-2008 05:55 PM

I'll save my feelings on Veedon, save to say I own the album on four separate formats. I didn't give any song on AW lower then 8.5\10. That's, as you'll see, a very good score. I could have easily made them all 9.5 or 10's but honestly it's the way they all fit together more then how good they are individually that makes me enjoy the album as much as I do. Please keep posting thoughts, comments, input as you see fit. Thanks Mustard.

bsmix 06-06-2008 07:02 PM

'Astral weeks' or 'Sweet Thing'. The violins ending each line in the second half of Sweet Thing are such a cool touch. Is he admitting he is a pedophile in 'Cypress Avenue'? "Nobody, no, no, no, nobody stops me from loving you baby/ So young and bold, fourteen years old"

Son of JayJamJah 06-07-2008 06:25 AM


Originally Posted by bsmix (Post 487921)
'Astral weeks' or 'Sweet Thing'. The violins ending each line in the second half of Sweet Thing are such a cool touch. Is he admitting he is a pedophile in 'Cypress Avenue'? "Nobody, no, no, no, nobody stops me from loving you baby/ So young and bold, fourteen years old"

Never heard anyone interpret it that way, Cypress avenue is a place from his childhood and that line could be about him or the girl in the song.

A lot of people interpret Astral Weeks as a work of fiction played out in song style. Madame Geroge is supposedly about S&M and a transvestite protagonist.

Personally I think people read too much into things sometimes. Van likes to stuff a lot of information into a single line and stretch another line or single word for all it has. His music has predominantly been about, Love, spirit and faith and my guess is Astral Weeks main story line is such.

The violins kick in after the line "I shall drive my chariot down your streets and cry" and I agree it's a very dramatic moment and one that stands out for me as well.

bsmix 06-07-2008 01:19 PM

I swear I'm not a sexual predator. hmm you're prob right. weird he mentions drinking wine. car vs carriage seemed weird too

Son of JayJamJah 06-07-2008 05:23 PM

Moondance (1970): Part One
Following Astral Weeks release Van took a sort of hiatus, the first, though by far shortest, of what would become a pattern following on of his “darker” song cycle style albums. Almost a full year after the release of Astral Weeks Van entered the studio and began constructing the concept he had for Moondance. Intentionally contrary but executed with the same passion regardless. The result is the best example of what Van Morrison was, is and hopefully will continue to be.

Moondance (1970)

This was the first Van Morrison album I ever listened to, ever bought and ever loved. Almost the anti-Astral Weeks in the sense that the songs stand out individually much more then collectively, still there is a tremendous consistency in quality and a unique nature that is somehow more soulful and sincere then much music of similar styles. Poppy and brash at times, nostalgic and optimistic throughout. Every song is a celebration of either a good time had or bright things to come. From the opening track’s “Rain let up and sun came up” till the finale “Glad Tidings” Morrison shows that the dark side of Astral Weeks which deals with the agony of life at times is worth the struggle because of the beauty and happiness displayed in Moondance…

1. And it Stoned Me – Country style R&B ditty recanting a day in the life of a young Van Morrison. Horn driven chorus as Morrison expresses his childhood apprehension towards leaving the countryside. The optimism builds from verse to verse as first the kids are soaked by the rain, then the sun comes out to dry them in verse two are their fortune changes. Arriving at their destination they embrace the day and jump fully clothed into the pond, their positive attitude is rewarded in the final verse when they while thirst encounter a stranger who shares who gives them a drink. This song’s placement is no accident. This is Van pulling his from the depths of Astral Weeks fatale finale into the celebration awaiting them. 8.5\10

2. Moondance – Has probably become the most popular song from the most popular album Morrison has ever released and it’s doubtful that’s how it was envisioned in its infant stages. This jazzy and jumpy proclamation of confidence within the uncertainty of love has become a pop radio staple but was originally thought of as more of a sophisticated song, a foray into Jazz but a young man who prided him self of incorporating all elements of music he felt into his own. The stand up bass contrasts the flute behind a steady rhythm section as the songs snaps from note to note with that characteristic Morrison grace. Probably better then I give it credit because I take it for granted due to its success and relative over exposure. At least an 8\10

3. Crazy Love – Acoustic style ballad driven by a delicate vocal and a soothing bass line. As relaxing a track as the Van had introduced as of the time. A good song that has the ability to be even better when the listener is in the mood. There is almost no disturbance to the song, it paces along very consistently as one does when trying to pass through a room without waking someone. The bridge is as close to a step-up as there is. Best known version my be duet with bob Dylan. 8\10

4. Caravan – Some songs are better live then they are on LP, while great either way, Caravan is magical live. Van makes it this way by pouring his heart and soul into every performance. Caravan is a fun song that celebrates the radio and music in general while using gypsy life as a sort of parallel vehicle\metaphor. Highlighted by a gentle acoustic backup and a pulse setting horn section, includes on of Morrison’s more extended instrumental works on the albums final takes. With a powerful punchy bridge driving the song from verse to chorus and back the song is up-beat and energetic and mellow from the beginning; a real solid piece of the Moodance puzzle. 9\10

5. Into the Mystic – The first four bars of this song are perfect. It just doesn’t get any better then this. This song gives me Goosebumps almost every time I hear it. The gentle rhythms of the verse lead into the dramatic escalating pre-chorus before exploding into the powerful symphonic chorus ascending “into the mystic”. With horns, strings, brass and keys all at work in perfect synchronization the song is a spiritual musical journey that takes a hold of you and won’t let go. As unselfish a song as there could ever be, it allows you to exist among it as if perfectly designed. Morrison describes it’s neutrality best: "Into the Mystic" is another one like "Madame Joy" and "Brown Skinned Girl". Originally I wrote it as "Into the Misty". But later I thought that it had something of an ethereal feeling to it so I called it "Into the Mystic". That song is kind of funny because when it came time to send the lyrics in WB Music, I couldn't figure out what to send them. Because really the song has two sets of lyrics. For example, there's "I was born before the wind" and "I was borne before the wind", and also "Also younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was one" and "All so younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was won"...I guess the song is just about being part of the universe.” Exactly. 10\10

(to be continued...immediately)

Son of JayJamJah 06-07-2008 05:29 PM

Moondance (1970): Part Two
Van in late 1970...

Moondance - continued

6. Come Running – This is the song that made me buy this album. Poppy and confident Van instructs his admirer to simply “come running” to him. He even details the outcome of her actions as specifically as the lyrics can allow. Oddly, it was the only remaining song from Van’s initial Astral Weeks demos for Bang Records. A light hearted song of very care free subject manner it is simply a toe-tapper and a very good one. It’s in large part Van’s ability to go back and forth from a song like “Into the Mystic” to this that makes the album so successful. It’s strong, demanding chorus elevates this song for me. Van jumps out and back into place lyrically, adding to the care free nature of the song. Another extremely well placed horn section is the final piece to the puzzle. 8.5\10

7. These Dreams of You – Van’s biography describes it as a song about a dream he had where as the lyrics dictate among other things “Ray Charles was shot down” and “We played cards in the dark”. Very surreal lyrically yet it keeps it’s story structure it’s more firm and structured musically and contrast creates an interesting mood for the song. Probably the strongest lyrically performance of the album all things considered. Sad at times, but never losing faith nor insistence (“…you are an angel”). Perhaps the most unfortunate of songs in terms of its outcome is Van is thrown out, kicked when he’s down and up against the wall. Still there is a determination and that prevailing optimism in the voice of Morrison as despite their unfortunate nature Van still cherishes the dreams of his love and would not trade them for anything even though it hurts. 8.5\10

8. Brand New Day – With a soft and sanguine start, this song is about hope and it reflects that lyrically and musically. With a chilling steady strummed acoustic chorus and its electric bass fills backed by harmonizing vocals it give new life to a tried and true musical format. Van was “inspired” to write this song by hearing “The Weight” (Take a load off Annie) by the Band. He set out to write the song he felt when he was lifted by their song. Each verse is an ascending celebration with musical tempo and key to correspond. An excellent song and probably Van’s “favorite from the LP” as he’s hinted. The lyrics while not particularly insightful or original are secondary to the overall message and tone of the song which is supremely hopeful. 9\10

9. Everyone – Another up-tempo and uplifting number but in a more care free way. The all-inclusive romp of song you may remember from the movie “The Royal Tenenbuams” is a ballad of hope as Morrison envisions, if somewhat indirectly as is his nature, for a quick end to brooding civil war in his home land of Ireland. “and make dreams come true if we want them to” and “we shall walk again…just like we use to” are among the song’s hopefully imagery. Musically highlighted by the organ and flute which had stand out performances amongst an otherwise very steady and circular musical pattern. A solid jumpy song that moves at a fast and fun pace. 8\10

10. Glad Tidings – The final song of Moondance encapsulates the spirit of the album immaculately. With a strong and steady opening and lyrics of love leading into a celebratory chorus. The horns and strings build around the humming drum and bass rhythms which open the song and allow for continuity throughout while still having a free flowing and unpredictable aspect to the music. With a creative and beguiling lyrically structure. The song takes about faith and the happiness and satisfaction in seeing positive results from commitment. It is a song of well wishing and good intentions and an end to a cycle of a different kind with a much more desirable departing message. 9.5\10

...Moondance is a powerhouse of hits. Each track has the capacity to be a radio hit as well as a fan favorite for the nuance and diverse nature of the songs and their relatable upbeat message of hope and happiness. What’s so startling about this album is how different it is from Astral Weeks and yet how great it is. At such a young age Van had already became as dynamic and multidimensional a musician as almost any of his era.

First Time I Listened to it: 1971
Defining Track(s): Moondance, Into the Mystic, Caravan. For commercial success, iconic status amongst many fans, myself included and how great it was live respectively.
Line in my head: "I dreamed you paid you dues in Canada and left me to come through"

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) *****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 9.5
Overall Ranking: TBD (1 or 2)

Next up: His Band and the Street Choir - 1970

bsmix 06-11-2008 02:10 PM

I definitely see what you mean contrasting this with Astral Weeks... these songs are much more individual. I've never been a big fan of brass though and there is alot. Moondance doesn't seem like a hit at all, that's weird it was so successful. I like 'Into the Mystic' and 'Caravan' and the classical sounding piano in 'Brand New Day'. And that bass in 'Glad Tidings' is catchy and draws you in, that was an awesome surprise for a last song.

Dr_Rez 06-11-2008 03:19 PM

Great review Jay. I look forward to more.

Son of JayJamJah 06-11-2008 07:41 PM


Originally Posted by bsmix (Post 489413)
I definitely see what you mean contrasting this with Astral Weeks... these songs are much more individual. I've never been a big fan of brass though and there is alot. Moondance doesn't seem like a hit at all, that's weird it was so successful. I like 'Into the Mystic' and 'Caravan' and the classical sounding piano in 'Brand New Day'. And that bass in 'Glad Tidings' is catchy and draws you in, that was an awesome surprise for a last song.

I'm so glad your diving into this music, I really appreciate your input. I'm guessing you favor Astral Weeks overall, but I'll ask anyway, It's the classic "Van the Man Fan" argument. Moondance or Astral Weeks? Also would it be interested if later on down the line in this thread I revisit the argument with another post contrasting the two featuring quotes from critics, musicians, fans and Van himself?

Thanks again!

Son of JayJamJah 06-11-2008 09:52 PM

His Band and the Street Choir
Following up Moondance a scant seven months later is Van's fourth studio album and evolving proof of his seemingly unique prolific and dynamic nature...

His Band and the Street Choir (1970)

The second album of 1970 and really, while partly a spill over from Moondance, another stand alone classic. Loaded, again, with shorter more self contained songs, it as another celebratory tale and while not as great as its predecessor, an ultimately enjoyable album. Featuring a steady and sure nod to a number of Van’s musical idols and inspirations most notably Fat’s Domino and the R&B sounds of early rock and roll. A lighter more graceful version of Moondance without the emphatic brilliance but still a bright brimming example of Morrison’s dynamic excellence. Featuring more brass and less of the flute and piano styling on the prior records, one of the most successful and well reviewed albums of Van’s early years.

1. Domino – Hammering out the sounds from the first note, energetic and inspired it’s a jazzy opener to the second album of 1970. Horns drive the sound from end to end as the guitar sways back and forth along with the bass. Steady percussion rounds out the sounds as the brass pushes the song into its signature chorus complete with the revolving resetting instrumental outro\intro. It’s the unbridled love and admiration Van delivers this number with that makes it more then a pop song and a hit single. It’s a damn good song that’ll move you side to side. 9\10

2. Crazy Face – This one will sneak up on you, and before you know it, you’ll love it. Each listen provides a new level to the lyrical or musical composition that adds to the overall picture and purpose of the song. The horns scream out the chorus in place of Vans signature vocals. The verses and mesmeric and melodious and packed with nuance and feeling. Core-shaking instrumental interludes and forays into variable vocal registers and cadence. An abrupt but satisfying finale completes the pact. 8.5\10

3. Give me a Kiss – Old style R&B number that never fails to satisfy. The addition of the horns in the second verse give the song the pep and panache necessary to fit the album and serve justice to van’s creativity. Do-woppy back-up vocals and punchy horns that define an era define this song. Surprisingly delightful if not as original as a number of Vans’s other work and this and surrounding albums. 8\10

4. I’ve Been Working – A definite stand out. This songs pulls you into a smoke filled studio on the day of its creation and immerses you in it’s essence. Jazzy and with a soulful swing as it motors from end to end in with a stammering swagger. Funky at its soul; it blends funk\jazz\blues\R&B seamlessly. With its “one word say’s it all” chorus there is no doubting the drive behind this song. Rumored to have been reworked from an original version jettisoned from Astral Weeks, that’s not beyond belief although it’s hard to see where a version like the final product would have fit, the origins are unquestionably alike. 8.5\10

5. Call me up in Dreamland – An elegant and effortless soul churner. Graceful spirit and urgent anxiety are the catalyst for this forceful remnant dropped from Moondance into perfect place at the tail end of side one. Included amongst a cavalcade of instrumentation is a simple but satisfying sax solo inspired by or inspiring the round about ageless lyrics of the song. “Never to grow old on the saxophone” Van spits and snarls as the lyrics to open each verse are unleashed. This contrasting style along side the harmonious and full chorus propel this one to elite status. 9\10

6. I’ll be your Lover, too– Soft and slow with guitar plucking lead and vocal emphasis put where needed. It’s a bit of a slow if ever developing song, but a style that Van had visited before and would revisits several times over in the future. Strong lyrical performance with poetic prose and phrasing to match. The influence on Lyrics of T.S Elliot and William Blake is most notably present on this album and this song in particular. 7\10

7. Blue Money – Another old time styled R&B tribute number, with as much playful and self effacing innocence as any Van track prior or since. Typical Van the Man musical evolution from section to section and bar to bar. Incorporating the entire arsenal including some of Van’s goofiest vocal bridge work ever. The piano pounds away the rhythm as the lyrics dance to and fro amongst a brass background. Blue Money was one the biggest hits from the album and remains critically acclaimed and universally loved by fans. 8\10

8. Virgo Clowns – A noble and punchy sort of ballad amongst an R &B country canopy of acoustic guitars and well placed stings and brass backing. The Fog horn provides another subtle note to a song that delicately adjusts itself from punchy to strummy throughout while instructing the occupant to “let your laughter fill the room”. You’ll discover another level of the music with every listen. Impossible not to enjoy if for nothing else it’s originality and nuance. 8.5\10

9. Gypsy Queen – Feathery light and gentle as Van ventures to falsetto and whispery tones in this reassuring walk through the clouds. Guided by bass and brass mainly the starry bells musical backdrop sets the necessary mood. An interesting song that can turn off a novice listener or fan. Another solid number amongst a quality compellation and while not a personal favorite all the time a song I occasionally really enjoy. 7.5\10

10. Sweet Jannie – Simple bar-blues style number, which seems out if place other then the fact it’s clearly a style Van has always had allegiance towards. Very safe and limited because of its structure it fails to excite and evolve in the necessary manner. A well executed but unneeded break from the already loose format of the album. Selfishly I give it 6.5\10

11. If I ever needed Someone – Soulful and spiritual foreshadowing though almost certainly unknowingly. There is no question the conviction of Vans pleas for divine intervention from the opening moments of the song. With gospel style back-up vocals and a step-up style bass and drum section, it’s strong musically, spiritually and lyrically. Still if there is a critique it is another somewhat safe and predictable musical effort leaving you wanting just a little more. 8\10

12. Street Choir – The clear cut standout performance from the album. Prodigious and prestigious with an ambiguous central dynamic revolving around Van’s potentially rhetorical inquiry “Why did you leave America, why did you let me down” It’s impromptu opening, church style organs as the yin to the bellowing and fluttering horns yang, a harmonica led interlude in the songs late-middle and the fraught and frantic vocals are the elements that drive the song to excel as it does. Still a personal favorite. 9.5\10

“…“His Band and the Street Choir” is another beautiful phase in the continuing development of one of the few originals left in rock. In his own mysterious way. Van Morrison continues to shake his head, strum his guitar and to sing his songs. He knows it's too late to stop now and he quit trying to a long, long time ago. Meanwhile, the song he is singing keeps getting better and better.”
“Van Morrison: Rock on.”

John Landau, Rolling Stone 1971

First Time I Listened to it: 1974
Defining Track(s): Domino, I’ve Been Workin’, Street Choir.
Line in my head: "Why did you leave America"

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: Tupelo Honey - 1971

kansashotmomma 06-11-2008 10:32 PM

i love van morrison especially into the mystic

ProggyMan 06-11-2008 11:29 PM

You know where I stand, Moondance, Veedon Fleece, Weeks, then Tuplo Honey.

bsmix 06-12-2008 04:32 AM

I'd be really interested in the comparison, but Blowin' Your Mind could be my favorite right now. I'm just listening to most of this for the first time but for a first (or any) record how could you dream of topping Brown Eyed Girl, He Ain't Give You None, and T.B. Sheets as your 1,2,3? Astral Weeks is epic and I'm gettin into Moondance. Thank you for all the info here.

Son of JayJamJah 06-12-2008 07:20 PM

Tupelo Honey
Continuing his prolific production Van released his fifth album in four years with 1971's "Tupelo Honey" The album became his best selling US release to date and flexed mass appeal by crossing genres often times within single songs.

Tupelo Honey (1971)

The fifth studio album for Morrison and the pinnacle of happiness and self content in Van’s early life. His marriage to Janet at the time was thriving and commercially and critically his music was very well revered and received. The result is a country spirited blissful nine track gambol and the third straight nostalgic and celebratory opus. Tupelo Honey finds its comfort zone early and cruises along unremitting with some of the more soulful songs in each genre of Vans repertoire…

1. Wild, Wild Night – Energetic opener was a strong performer as a single. Seems out of place as a lead track but probably there, like a lot of Van’s albums, because it was the first single. Thrilling bass line and frenzied lyrics feed the song into your unconscious as the horns build the back drop in between measures. A really excellent overall composition. One of Morrison’s strongest up-tempo efforts from any album or era. A personal favorite of mine for quite a long time. 9\10

2. Like a Cannonball – Brazen, brash and blithe with a simple, strong circular melody and a free from old time rhythm. It’s an inoffensive if ultimately forgettable song. Playful lyrics that mirror the presumed mood, the domestic bliss Van was feeling at the time. Horns and flutes are the key instrumentation to give it a mood matching sound. 7.5\10

3. Old Old Woodstock – Mellow and harmonious with a casual build and paced with a strong bass line. An ode to rural good times from childhood, another song of satisfaction in a more subtle manner. The Piano is the dominant instrument within the song, providing the energy via the role of catalyst for the percussion and guitars. Built around the title line lyrically it’s not very complex but provides a nostalgic mood reflective of the song throughout. 8\10

4. Starting a New Life – A sort of thematic track reflective of the albums overall nature. Ironically and perhaps more notable then typically observed is the theme of rebirth as cited in Astral Weeks “to be born again” but instead here it seems to point to family life. Country Music influence present but still with an R&B soul. Features a harmonica solo as well as occasional back-up behind the vocals. The song is short and sweet, simple and repetitive musically but catchy and enjoyable. 7.5\10

5. You’re My Woman – A raw emotional proclamation; a celebration of life and love new and eternal. Steadily developing from the dramatic opening cadence of the verse to the spectacular cry of a chorus. Outstanding vocal performance and diverse instrumental line-up including keys and horns which are paramount to the songs ability to reach the listener, eventually culminating for a fantastic finish. Jazzy “really real” bridge is yet another highlight as it unveils a microcosm of the songs whole unfolding in a heart beat. As raw and real a proclamation of devotion and love as there could be. A well written song to say the least. 8.5\10

6. Tupelo Honey – “You can take all the tea in China…” Title track and one of the strongest commercial successes from the album. Maybe Van’s most notable and traditional love songs. Really in sync with the rest of the album, combining elements from all of the previous tracks and sort of rounding out the first portion of the album. Light and smooth instrumentally as it drifts from chorus and verse and all about throughout the song. Builds and slows occasionally and includes a freestyle lyrical tangent in signature Van style. Excellent presentation and emotion from start to finish. 8.5\10

7. I Wanna Roo You – One of the more folky efforts of the album. Has a playful and incredibly fitting feel almost transporting your thoughts to the Scottish plains. Poetic standard lyrical prose with a fitting fun chorus. More country\bluegrass guitar work is present an unquestionable signature of the album. Fails to stand out for me, but another enjoyable effort. 7\10

8. When the Evening Sun Goes Down –Bar room style piano stamps the melody for the song over a Beatles-like guitar riff. Electric guitar heavy musical interlude. Innocent and playful lyrically, simple and circular. Feels like you’re riding a merry-go-round as a Van the Man Cover band does a Blue money remix. Not sure what the purpose of this song is. By no means a bad song but the low point of the album for me. 6.5\10

9. Moonshine Whisky – Shifty and unpredictable. Changes tempo, key and tone almost constantly, finding a pattern amongst the chaos eventually. Another song with a palpable build that can send Goosebumps down your arms and legs and chills down your back in the right mood. Country style guitar in the title chorus and stirring poignant verse\bridge sections scattered amongst the song give it a compelling contrast within the song. The song deteriorates from whatever structure it still has as Van begins to “get funky” and follow feeling rather then sheet music of lyrical notes. As Van slurs out the final chorus and flows into the stream of conscious vocal culmination there is an undertone of hopelessness and helplessness to the song which is a frightening bit of foreshadowing. Almost an admission by Van that he can not or perhaps will not ever be happy. 8.5\10

…Buried beneath the outward joy and jubilation of “Tupelo Honey” is a menacing darkness, a sort of admission of fate by Morrison, that even now at the height of his happiness, when he’s attained all he ever hoped there is still emptiness and despair. This album is the first hint that he is still haunted and there is more room to grow and more scars to show. Despite how enjoyable its joyous disposition externally is it’s that dynamic underlying ambiguity that is so intriguing and gripping about this album. His approach to both love and life has changed in its musical presentation and there is an emotional cause for this effect undoubtedly.

First Time I Listened to it: 1974
Defining Track(s): Wild, Wild Night, Tupelo Honey, Moonshine Whiskey.
Line in my head: "Gonna put on my hot pants and promenade down funky Broadway 'till the cows come home"

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) ****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 8
Overall Ranking: TBD

Next up: Saint Dominic’s Preview- 1972

sleepy jack 06-12-2008 11:17 PM

When the time comes.

Whenever Bob Shines His Light on Van by Van Morrison & Bob Dylan : Reviews and Ratings - Rate Your Music

Team review? (once I track it down?)

Son of JayJamJah 06-14-2008 04:42 PM

Time Warp Media

Van Morrison: The Rolling Stone Interview
Blue Money & Tupelo Honey

by John Grissim, Jr.

This sullen, tweedy-looking little man, light sweater-vest pulled over checkered dress shirt, not saying a word, standing stiffly up there behind the mike, working his magic..."Into the Mystic," "Moonshine Whiskey," "Tupelo Honey." Six thousand people were packed into this old Ice Follies hall called Winterland to hear Van Morrison, but two songs later, when the mike went dead for an instant on the first verse of "Moondance," he took the snap as a sign. He finished the song instrumentally, thrashing at his acoustic rhythm guitar, barely allowed another song--an instrumental--to be completed, and stalked off the stage, up the back ramp, out of the smoke, away from the cheers...

Mark Naftalin, the pianist, was the first to reach him, darting into his path, pleading, not over dramatically, "Van, you gotta go back out there. We're really on!" Bill Church, the bassist, joined in, seating, eager, but Van just shook his head, still saying nothing, and marched into the dressing room. Taj Mahal, who'd played earlier, dashed in. "C'mon, man, you gotta go on again. They love you, it's beautiful. Let's get it together!" Van took a deep breath and finally sighed, resigned to his showbiz fate. Two more numbers: "Blue Money" and "Domino" to send the crowd crazy again.

Then Van Morrison dismissed his band and the Street Choir.

Two days before, he had told his manager and agent that Winterland would be his last booking. Now, despite the show he seemed to do, despite the apparent rapport with his band, and despite the audience response, he quit. Here, in November, 1971, he was convinced the world was crashing in around him.

This night, he'd been half-paralyzed by stage fright, which strikes just about every time he approaches a stage. But there were other circumstances. Just before the show, an LA Times reporter who'd heard about his impending "retirement" cornered him in the dressing room for a high-pressure interview. Van was caught unprepared and got completely unnerved, let his confidence be sabotaged. And Van kept saying he didn't know, for sure, why he wanted to to break away at this stage of his career. He was tired of being so nervous in front of large crowds. Tired of the road. Tired of doing the hits. Tired of the whole business.

Don't wanna discuss it,
Think it's time for a change,
You may get disgusted, and think I'm strange,
In that case I'll go underground,
Get some heavy rest
Never have to worry, about what is
worst and what is best....

But this story has a happy beginning. Van stayed in seclusion for just a few weeks, and right now he's on the road again. Crowds going crazy again.

"People have told me that I have this cult following, but I don't think that's true at all. It's really just people who have been hanging in with me for a long time."

But there is a cult of followers. And they love to give testimonials. "So there I am stuck for three days in my crummy apartment on the Lower East Side in the middle of a blizzard, right? I've had it with New York and my plane doesn't leave till Monday. I'd never heard the record but I happened to put it on and listened to it and then I just kept playing it over and over. Six, maybe eight times a day. It just kept bringing me up." This is Jeanette telling how -Astral Weeks-helped-pull-me-through story. She escaped New York, her psyche intact.

An art student back from an eight-month bus trip through India and Afghanistan tells of picking up hitch hikers, many of them with knap sacks loaded with cassette recorders and tapes of his albums.

The name of the bus: THE VAN MORRISON.

A psychiatrist friend swears he has on repeated occasions been privy to certain higher truths listening to "Into the Mystic" with headphones while under the influence of an exotic gas. And a few nights ago in a bar a 40ish woman, overhearing Morrison's name, cheered: "He's my boy, I got his Tupelo Honey -- first album I've bought in three years." Asked why, she got a bit misty: "Well, it's warm... and it's got the kind of jazz that my father used to love."

Whether or not such endorsements parallel the feelings of his audience at large, there's no question that Van Morrison writes and performs songs that carry immense impact, songs that have a way of becoming associated with personal milestones. More often than not, it's his voice that makes it happen.

Dave Mason: "There's no one to compare his voice to. It's unique. That, together with the overall effect of his band and his arrangements, makes you feel so good, so alive."

Jackie DeShannon "Van is a great blues singer, one of the rare few who can drag you through the most down lyrics, really make you feel them, yet at the same time bring you up. Billie Holiday had that quality. So did Janis. Astral Weeks just brings you up from the lowest low. That album just cleansed my soul."

John Lee Hooker: "He's my favorite white blues singer--and one of the greatest around."

Taj Mahal: "I love his ideas and the way he approaches his music. He lives it, he puts the feeling on you, and that's where it all starts from."

Tom Donahue (record producer and manager at KSAN-FM, San Francisco): "He's got the voice and lyrics that remind you of generations of hard times and misery and that kind of black Irish soul."

There is no lack of hard times in Van's background. He was born August 31st, 1945, the only child of working class parents, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at a time when post-war Europe was in economic shambles. With jobs impossible to find, his father left his family behind and went to America where he lived in Detroit and for several years worked as a railroad electrician. Van grew up listening to the family collection of jazz and blues records. He heard Leadbelly, John Lee Hooker and Ray Charles as well as Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley.

"My family was supposed to move to America when I was five. Things didn't work out, but like all the kids I grew up with thought they were American anyway. See, Belfast is not like England, even though it's a part of Great Britain. It's got its own trip going. The American influences are stronger than the English influences because of all the Irish who have emmigrated to the United States in the last few generations. Like all my relatives lived in Detroit and Toronto. Places like that."

While in grade school Van got a taste of the bitterness that today divides Northern Ireland. "I wasn't even aware of religious prejudice until one day a couple of kids I'd never seen before came up to me and two friends and started swinging. They were going around punching out Catholics. Or Protestants, I forget. It was weird, 'cause at the same time we were fighting 'em we were asking why they were trying to beat up on us. They stopped when we said we weren't whoever they thought we were. The whole thing was unreal. I really feel for what the people are going through over there, but I couldn't give you an elaborate statement because I haven't been home in over five years and I haven't followed the situation that closely."

Van began to sing at age 12, and by 13 was playing guitar, sax, and harmonica. During his early high school days he played in several neighborhood bands, some with names more reminiscent of Surf City than Belfast. "I used to play in a group called Deanie Sands and The Javelins. This chick Deanie and I did the singing and I played guitar. We did a sort of country-blues-rock type of music." Away from the Javelins, Morrison spent a lot of time hanging out in Belfast clubs regularly visited by American bluesmen such as Jesse Fuller, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim and Champion Jack Dupree.

At 16, Van dropped out of high school to turn professional. With a group called the Monarchs, he toured England and the Continent, playing five sets a night at raunchy clubs that insisted they sound like a loud jukebox. "In some of those clubs," he remembers, "the audience might've worked us over if we didn't do at least three encores of 'What'd I Say.'" For Van it was a drastic change: "I was under age. I had to get special permission from the British Embassy in every country. We worked Germany a lot, playing US Army bases and places like the Odeonkeller in Heidelberg and the Storyville clubs in Frankfurt and Cologne." Van often did stand-by duty on bass and drums in addition to sax, harp, and guitar. Those months abroad were chaotic and exhilarating, a life of cramped, sweaty backstage rooms, trains, hotels, and learning what it's like to be bored and wasted on the road.

It was in Germany, too, that Van, as a Monarch, recorded his first single--"a really bad song," he recalls--"but we gave it a dynamite instrumental track." It was a bitter experience, this encounter with a producer wanting strictly commercial product. "But we needed the session money. You do when you're drinking your pay every night."

In 1964, Van was 19 and back in Belfast, this time to form Them out of the nucleus of the Monarchs plus a couple of old friends. The group found work at the Maritime Hotel and soon turned it into a home turf. There, under Van's direction as lead singer, Them developed a hard -core regional following. For Van, the first two years were the only time that Them was truly Them:

Yeah, good times, wild sweaty, cruddy, UGLY, and mad,
And sometimes just a little bit sad,
Yeah, they sneered and all, but up there, we just havin' a ball.
It was a gas, you know,
Some good times....

To read the entire article follow this link

[From Issue 111 — June 22, 1972]

Son of JayJamJah 06-17-2008 04:32 AM

I'll be posting another review tonight or tomorrow morning, any final comments on the previous reviews\media so far?

bsmix 06-18-2008 02:24 AM

lots of horns in HIS BAND.. 'Virgo Clowns' is maybe my favorite. I really notice more of a country sound and lots of electric guitar in Tupelo Honey.

Son of JayJamJah 06-18-2008 08:55 PM

Following another successful release in 1971 with the Country rock styled “Tupelo Honey” Morrison, despite his outward appearance was beginning to feel his marriage and the person he had become within it slipping away. It later be known that during the recording his relationship with wife Janet was falling apart and divorce had become a question more of when then if. This album he decided would focus on nothing more then music and exactly whatever kind at whatever moment he wanted to create...

St. Dominic’s Preview (1972)

Van’s sixth studio album features several firsts for the artist. It’s noted as his first album not to focus on Love as the central theme; it’s also the first to repeatedly combine elements from both Astral Weeks and Moondance. With his marriage falling apart behind the scenes, Van demonstrates his personal maturation by focusing his musical energy not on self loathing and pity but instead by embracing the chance to fully engorge himself in the music. Sometimes underrated and somewhat overlooked, by rarely disregarded, St. Dominic’s Preview is a shining example of all out effort and commitment to honest and personal music.

1. Jackie Wilson Said – The first song is always a radio song, usually the biggest hit commercially in the end, that’s Van’s M.O since “Blowin’ Your Mind” opened with “Brown Eyed Girl” Following a tried and true formula from the past two albums, Van leads off Saint Dominic’s Preview with a jazzy upbeat radio single paying homage to a childhood hero musically. Inspired by Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite” as the opening lyrics cite, a full band behind the peppy lyrics constructs the energy and atmosphere of the song. 8.5\10

2. Gypsy – Interesting songs are always favorites of mine and Gypsy is if nothing else interesting. Skittish and jagged it’s a haunting follow up and the best performance Van has turned in, in this style to date. The songs lyrics spell out the formula and necessary imagery to create the song’s transient and torrid mood. “Sway to sounds of two guitars around the campfire bright; then mellow out like violins in the morning light.” Despite its blistering chorus and choppy, crumbling half-broken verses and bridge it’s a rather satisfied and celebratory song. 8.5\10

3. I Will Be There – Old time R&B jazz style song featuring a youthful sound. Lyrically satisfactory if not ordinary but it’s all in the delivery anyway here. Rugged and ragged Van on vocals backed by piano and brass alongside the standards. With a definitively and distinctly full sounding bridge floating into the second piano solo backed verse and then into with a horn led instrumental and capped off with a powerful final chorus and all inclusive escalating outro it is again, two in a row, a high point within a genre\style for Morrison. 8.5\10

4. Listen to the Lion – Vocally driven hypnotic perfection. Beautiful and beguiling, one of the longer songs Van’s ever released at over 11 minutes; each one necessary to express the angst is clearly feeling over his internal revelation (“all my love come tumblin’ down”) Van and it’s impending consequences (“I shall search my very soul”). The song is not just an internal monologue but a plea to others to follow his ambition. Let the Lion inside yourself out, be as courageous and proud as you can, stand up for yourself, love yourself, and be true to yourself. Instrumental tranquility as bass and percussion create a bouncy pulse and swim in the stinging acoustic and vocal leads. Bells and triangles ring behind the scene as back up vocals reinforce the suffering artists plea to himself and all. Van himself spends a good portion of the song caught in the music’s wake and growling like a Lion himself. Infinitely relaxing and at some point of almost everyone’s life relatable, a very memorable cut. 9\10

5. St. Dominic’s Preview – The apocalyptic title track almost steals the show amongst a brilliant assembly of diverse and dynamic tracks. As soulful and nostalgic as the greatest gospel music, as melodious and entrancing as the most aesthetic pop music. Featuring a dominant performance from a backing brass section and as palpable and enjoyable lead guitar work as has been seen in a long time within van’s work. A brilliant lyrical performance scanning nostalgia, prophecy, mysticism and all with the natural ambiguity we’ve come to expect. The only song to embrace both the Moondance and Astral Weeks sides of the album. With my favorite cycle of verse, pre-verse and chorus ever as well as a poignant and cathartic personal sentiment it’s my second favorite stand alone Van song ever. 10\10

6. Redwood Tree – Morrison outdoes himself again as he reaches the pinnacle of country pop\rock with a powerful and peppy story telling song. Lyrically well assembled and with esoteric phrasing and emphasis throughout as well as obvious soulful punches. Horns and bass standout outside of the vocals and guitars and keys provide rhythm and occasional flair. A potentially pop hit that sort of faded into relative obscurity but also noted by fans as a fond memory, Morrison makes this song with a vocal performance that makes it believable and authentic. 9\10

7. Almost Independence Day – Ending side the album just as he ended side one Van feels his way through an eerie environment finding an esoteric and alluring dysfunctional landscape for his final gasp on the most overlooked and underrated album Van the Man has produced. The song is an amazingly celebratory extravagant venture as Van looks forward to a metaphorical (or maybe not so) Independence Day. The bellowing foghorn appropriately overwhelms the rest of the music and only the punchy portions and Van’s sharpest shrieks can be fully heard as played. There is emphasis on the acoustic guitar the one tie that has continued to bind throughout. 8.5\10

...This album has always stood out for me; it's the most consistent album outside of the big two and if maybe too rangy to fit most tastes at least technically sound and undeniably to itself and the artist true. The break-up and his impeding breakdown are inevitable at this point, what he hinted in "Moonshine Whiskey" is coming to fruition, this is the next natural progression as Van pours out his emotion putting himself first without being spiteful or petty. Brilliant production taking full advantages of a raised budget and technological advancements in the profession. An album I appreciate more and more all the time.

First Time I Listened to it: 1973
Defining Track(s): St. Dominic’s Preview, Listen to the Lion
Line in my head: "Meanwhile Back in San Francisco, trying hard to make this whole thing blend"

Star rating: (1-5) (from my personal catalog) *****
How it made me feel today: (1-10): 9.5
Overall Ranking: (Top 5)

Next up: Hard Nose the Highway- 1973

bsmix 06-22-2008 08:34 PM

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.

Son of JayJamJah 06-24-2008 09:48 PM

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

Son of JayJamJah 06-30-2008 05:50 PM

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

Son of JayJamJah 07-03-2008 02:11 PM

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+

Son of JayJamJah 07-07-2008 12:48 PM

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)

Son of JayJamJah 07-07-2008 12:52 PM

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

Son of JayJamJah 07-14-2008 10:03 AM

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

Son of JayJamJah 07-15-2008 11:11 AM

Anyone still following this thread or should i scrap it?

adidasss 07-15-2008 01:38 PM

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...

Ghostrider 07-15-2008 01:59 PM


Originally Posted by JayJamJah (Post 497779)
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.:thumb:

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