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Old 06-02-2008, 12:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 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

Last edited by Son of JayJamJah; 07-15-2008 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 06-02-2008, 12:46 AM   #2 (permalink)
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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.
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Old 06-02-2008, 02:10 PM   #3 (permalink)
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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.
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Old 06-02-2008, 02:14 PM   #4 (permalink)
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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
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Old 06-02-2008, 03:53 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by British_pharaoh View Post
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?
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Old 06-02-2008, 07:48 PM   #6 (permalink)
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@ All

please feel encouraged to weigh in throughout this thread with your opinions\experiences with various albums.
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Old 06-03-2008, 04:43 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Excellent thread. My Van Morrison musical knowledge is limited and anyone who takes the time and effort to make an expansive thread deserves praise.

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Old 06-04-2008, 05:24 AM   #8 (permalink)
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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

Last edited by Son of JayJamJah; 06-04-2008 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 06-05-2008, 11:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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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
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Old 06-06-2008, 07:53 AM   #10 (permalink)
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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?
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