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Van Morrison Album by Album Discussion: Part 1 (1968-1977)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by DJ WILBUR, Sep 25, 2007.

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  1. FWIW, I love 'Snow in San Anselmo'. Its one of my favourite Van Morrison songs. I also don't think 'Hard Nose' is a pretty good album, certainly nowhere near as bad as what its critical reputation seems to be. 'Green' and 'Autumn Songs' are the only songs that get skipped whenever I play this one.

    I wasn't aware there were a bunch of outtakes from this album on 'Philosopher's Stone'. I might have to check that out.
     
  2. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC USA
    I say Philospher's Stone is a must have. You'll be floored at the quality of the "outtakes".

    This is one thing I like about these threads, everyones take is different. I agree this is not a "bad" record I take critics with a grain of salt. While I find Snow in San Anselmo interesting and bold, I much prefer Autumn Song, it actually touches me. It shows that an artist should feel free to take risks and really connect deeply with receptive listeners rather than going for the lowest common denominator.

    Gentlemen, It's Too Late to Stop Now.
     
  3. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    Thing is, I don't think we've actually established that those tracks were, in fact, outtakes, have we? We haven't been able to confirm anything other than they were recorded in '73. I'm still hoping Jason will dig up that info from the Heylin book so we can know for sure.

    But by all means, pick up The Philosopher's Stone. Van's table scraps make for some good eatin'.

    DJWilbur and I have had crazy weekends, but we intend to keep on schedule and move on to It's Too Late To Stop Now sometime later today. As a result, our reviews will be somewhat less fulsome than usual.
     
  4. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    Rolling Stones 3 star review of Hard Nose



    Hard Nose the Highway is psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent. Its surface pleasures are a little less than those of St. Dominic's Preview and a great deal less than those of Tupelo Honey, while its lyric depths are richer and more accessible than those of either predecessor. The major theme of Hard Nose is nostalgia, briefly but firmly counter-pointed by disillusion. The latter sentiment Van spews out in the album's one ugly, self-indulgent song, "The Great Deception," a vicious indictment of hip urban culture and rock affluence.

    The chief musical mode of Hard Nose the Highway is intimate, quiet jazz, a cornucopia of understated, subtly-shaded and shifting instrumental textures that provide a sympathetic setting for Van's vocal ruminations. Again, Van demonstrates his ability to fuse jazz, pop and rock ideas into a fluid format whose stylistic identity ends up being his and his alone.

    The cut-by-cut schematization of Hard Nose is fairly loose. Side one comprises five songs, beginning with "Snow in San Anselmo" and closing with "The Great Deception." "Snow" is alternately contemplative and rapturous in its recollection of a near-miraculous occurrence. A languid, jazz-flavored verse suddenly erupts into a sped-up refrain that pits the Oakland Symphony Chamber Chorus against a frenetic horn-sax arrangement. Van's introduction of a large chorus seems as unnecessary as the London Symphony Orchestra behind Neil Young, for it exaggerates the volatile emotional dualism that exists at the core of Van's sensibility in the same way that the London Symphony overdramatizes and undercuts Neil's pathos. "Snow" does contain, however, one of Van's best vocals.

    Next is the ingratiatingly melodic "Warm Love," which embodies in all its details a sensuous appreciation of life and music. Because it's the album's strongest tune, it stands the best chance of being a hit single. The title cut, which follows, is an abbreviated, inferior reprise of "St. Dominic's Preview" in its sound, structure and shifting time sense. Here Van pays tribute to the best mid-Fifties pop ("Ain't that some interpretation/When Sinatra sings against Nelson Riddle strings"), then assesses his own rocky past and offers a somewhat cynical directive: "Put your money where your mouth is ... In order to win you must be prepared to lose sometime."

    "Wild Children," which delves deeply into Van's personal mythology from childhood through adolescence, is the album's most historically resonant song. Against early memories of returning soldiers, Van identifies his growing-up with the figures of Tennessee Williams, Rod Steiger, Marlon Brando and James Dean. The musical energy here is relaxed, the poetry terse and poignant: "We were the War Children/Born 1945/When all the soldiers came marching home/Love looks in their eye."

    As was the case in St. Dominic's Preview, the second side of the album turns out to be better than the first. The ten-minute "Autumn Song" demonstrates anew Van's gift at creating extended meditations that accumulate emotional power as they unfold in modified, impressionistic streams of consciousness. "Little glamour sun coming round/Take a walk when autumn comes to town," he sings, evoking as few contemporary composers have, the ineffable joys of daily life in attunement to a pleasant environment. The music is laid-back and sparkling, highlighted by the lovely pianism of Jef Labes and the doubled guitars of Van and John Platania.

    "Autumn Song" is sandwiched between two other mellow delights. Joe Raposo's "Green" is an enchanting bit of poetic whimsy set in rock & roll triplets and featuring a lusty horn break that segues into shivering strings. The album closes with Van's beautiful arrangement of the traditional "Purple Heather," which he has transformed into an ethereal "Astral Weeks" reverie that fades out on his inimitable rock scat singing ... "Da da da, Da da da, Da da da ..." echoed between voice and piano, with glissando strings hovering overhead. It is a deliciously satisfying ending that carries us back into the mystic arena where Van always seems most at home. (RS 144)


    STEPHEN HOLDEN



    (Posted: Sep 27, 1973)
     
  5. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    Well, I finally had a chance to revisit Hard Nose over the weekend and my opinion remains the same. This is his worst album of the 70's by a wide margin. I like "Snow In San Anselmo" and "Purple Heather" (although I wouldn't call either tune essential in Van's cannon) and pretty much nothing that happens in between. "The Great Deception" and "Wild Children" are exhibits 1 and 1a for the argument that Van should not attempt to be topical with his lyrics. "Bein' Green" and "Autumn Song" are a bunch of schmaltzy b.s. The title track and "Warm Love" are passable, but "Warm Love" has always sounded like early-Van-by-numbers to me. And that cover art ??? :wtf:

    Amusingly, "Purple Heather" never really registered with me, buried as it was behind "Green" and "Autumn", until I heard Rod Stewart's cheesy AOR arrangement of the song on Spanner In The Works. Rod really brought out the hooks in the song and made go back and revisit Van's take.

    Interesting that the original Rolling Stone review was generally positive. In the first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide from 1978, I'm pretty sure they gave the album only one star. Thus, I initially approached the album with low expectations, but was ready to have them shattered after hearing "Snow In San Anselmo". Unfortunately, the rest of the album emphatically fails to deliver on the promise of that tune.

    As Jason appears to be indisposed, if he hasn't posted something from Heylin by this evening I'll pull out my copy and try to provide some info on the recording of Hard Nose and the additional material that ended up on Philosopher's Stone.
     
  6. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    I was going to post that Rolling Stone review but for some reason I thought someone had quoted from it extensively already. Oops.

    Yes, if you could, that would be great. Sorry I've been out of play here. After getting sick for a couple of days last week I've been playing catch up ever since, and work isn't cooperating with my desire to write long, thoughtful posts.
     
  7. conniefrancis

    conniefrancis New Member

    Location:
    Brookfield, OH
    I like this record a bit more than you do. A lot in fact. I'll agree that it's weak compared to what came before and after, but weak Van is still pretty damned good. I love the title song, probably my favorite on the record. It was pretty thrilling to hear someone hip admit Sinatra was great in 73!
     
  8. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    oh this is a good point, hadnt thought of this cause now I think Frank is cool...but in 73, no way jose.

    very cool point and thanks for making it. Van goes up yet another notch in apprecation in my eyes...
     
  9. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    It's Too Late to Stop Now

    Warner Bros. 2760-2
    (Released February, 1974)

    CD1:

    1. Ain't Nothin' You Can Do (3:36)
    2. Warm Love (3:03)
    3. Into the Mystic (4:28)
    4. These Dreams of You (3:31)
    5. I Believe To My Soul (4:00)
    6. I've Been Working (3:50)
    7. Help Me (3:00)
    8. Wild Children (4:54)
    9. Domino (4:28)
    10. I Just Want To Make Love to You (4:45)
    Total time: (41:39)

    CD2:

    1. Bring it on Home To Me (4:26)
    2. Saint Dominic's Preview (6:13)
    3. Take Your Hands Out of My Pocket (3:58)
    4. Listen to the Lion (8:25)
    5. Here Comes the Night (3:12)
    6. Gloria (3:53)
    7. Caravan (8:45)
    8. Cyprus Avenue (9:25)
    Total time: (50:53)

    Musicians:
    David Hayes: Bass
    Teressa "Terry" Adams: Cello
    Bill Atwood: Trumpet
    Nancy Ellis: Viola
    Tom Halpin: Violin
    Tim Kovatch: Violin
    Jeff Labes: Organ/Piano/Arranger/Keyboards
    Van Morrison: Guitar/Keyboards/Saxophone/Vocal/Producer
    John Platania: Guitar
    Nathan Rubin: Strings/Violin
    Jack Schroer: Piano/Arranger/Saxophone
    David Shaw: Clarinet/Percussion
    Ted Templeman: Producer

    As fond and familiar as I am with ITLTSN, I find myself in the position of having little to say about it. However, when I played it over the weekend, what struck me most was how well the album was recorded. This becomes especially apparent in the latter stages, during the breakdown in "Cyprus Avenue," when Van brings the song to a complete halt--which seems awkward on record but was probably captivating for those actually in the audience--before cuing shots from the band by emitting grunts of "Baby!" "Mama!" and "All right!" et cetera (I always wonder if he did kicks or jumps a la The Last Waltz to accentuate these shots:laugh: ). I am always amazed that the crowd sounds like a group of individuals in one place, as opposed to the usual crowd-as-white noise one usually hears on live albums. I love the moment when, during the breakdown, a guy yells out "Turn it on!", to which Van confidently replies, somewhat lasciviously, "It's turned on already."

    If the live version of "Listen to the Lion" lacks the mystical intimacy of the studio version, it makes up for it in sheer chutzpah: this strikes me as being a difficult song to pull off in a live setting, yet the band are completely in sync with Van, their intensity rising and falling with him, as opposed to reacting to him. Make no mistake, the Caledonia Soul Orchestra were bloody hot players.

    If HNTH was a signal that Van was in a holding pattern of sorts, then the release of a double live CD would tend to accentuate this impression. As holding patterns go though, it's a thrilling document of Van in full flight with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra.

    Legend has it there are zero overdubs on the album. Can anyone confirm this?
     

    Attached Files:

  10. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    :laugh: which is why I basically passed this one along to you Mr. Tom.

    I couldnt really think of anything to say on this live album either, though you did a good job. but ask me to write about one of my treasured Van bootlegs though and look out.

    my original suggestion not to spend a week on live albums stands....can't wait to see how you all keep this one going for the next 7 days.

    Still, I almost never play this album, though I only have a recent remaster and i hate the way it sounds even before I stumbled into this forum in fact.

    so its a hard one for me to like cause I cant stand listening to it. i need a nice ole vinyl copy of this one i think to hear how it should really sound.
     
  11. MikeP5877

    MikeP5877 Non-essential

    Location:
    OH
    One of the greatest live albums of all time. Everything blows me away, from the first chorus of "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" to the last notes of "Cyprus Avenue". His take on "Bring It On Home To Me" is stunning, even better than Sam Cooke's original.

    I like the ambience of the recording, it gives one a sense of "you are there". As was mentoned about 25 pages ago, the album was originally planned to be a triple, including songs like "Sweet Thing", "Purple Heather", "Come Running" and others. When (or if) this ever gets remastered, I hope they include this extra material. As it is, a needledrop of the original acetate circulates in pretty fine quality :shh:


    It should also be mentioned that there are a fair number of R&B songs that are unique to this album:

    Ain't Nothing You Can Do
    Take Your Hand Out of My Pocket
    I Believe To My Soul
    Bring It On Home To Me
    Help Me
    I Just Want To Make Love To You

    This album is a perfect culmination to my favorite Van era. :thumbsup:

    ps - The album cover of ITLTSN is one of my all-time favorite album covers, second only Ray Charles Modern Sounds in C&W Music.
     
  12. conniefrancis

    conniefrancis New Member

    Location:
    Brookfield, OH
    I was lucky enough to see this tour in Pgh, at the old Syria Mosque, in 73. It was without a doubt one of the best shows I've ever seen. It was also the one and only time I ever rushed up and jumped up on stage at the end (had to touch Van!). I was intercepted before I got to him, but I did get his can of Tab, which I kept through several moves, finally disposing of it in 87. Ah, what do you want, I was not quite 19....
    So, of course, I love this album. All of it but most especially side four.
     
  13. Original CD edition also sounds nice in my opinion. I have the old Polydor 2-CD set (fatboy case), and it sounds nice to me, a well recorded live album. Original vinyl is most likely still better, but the original CD edition is fine.

    I never heard the original WB CD version, but I am sure it also sounds nice. If someone has the WB CD edition, I would be very grateful to hear a short clip of it so that I could compare it to my WG Polydor. In case somebody has already done that homework, I would appreciate if you share your findings.

    It's a great live album in my opinion, and I really love the cover version of "I Believe to My Soul".
     
  14. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    Hey, don't worry, I almost picked up one of Lou Reed's cigarette butts after one of his shows...and I was in my 20's!:laugh:
     
  15. conniefrancis

    conniefrancis New Member

    Location:
    Brookfield, OH
    I didn't even dump out the Tab till I threw it out!:laugh:
     
  16. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

    Just a great selection of material, impeccably recorded - one of the best live albums ever. And I'm still in love with his cellist!
     
  17. AudioEnz

    AudioEnz Forum Resident

    This gets my vote for the best live album ever! The strings, even though they sound shaky on occasion, add a lot to the overall sound.
     
  18. Buzzcat

    Buzzcat New Member

    Location:
    Madison, WI
    I'd be hard pressed to name a better double live from the 70's.

    I only have this on vinyl and the recording sounds extremely convincing cranked way up.
     
  19. adriatikfan

    adriatikfan Forum Resident

    :agree: :agree: :agree:

    Best Wishes
    David
     
  20. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    Location:
    Charlotte,NC
    A couple of decades ago, I was listening to ITLTSN, probably the vinyl. Late Sunday afternoon sun was pouring into my den. Van was channeling the Lion. A woman I was very close to at the time was in the kitchen, fixing herself an iced tea. She looked up in the middle of one of Van's growls and said, "That man needs some singing lessons."

    I divorced her, of course.

    This is not just one of my favorite live albums, or one of my favorite Van Morrison albums, it's one of my favorite albums, period. It is a great collection of songs including some classic Van tunes re-interpreted into mystic soul perfection. And it sounds wonderful. I have the vinyl, which I haven't listened to in years, and ONE of the Polydor cds. Disc one was lost somewhere along the line. When I recently got a digital amp and some new speakers, ITLTSN was one of the first things I listened to. It was magnificent.

    Talk about Van around here got me to download the full album from iTunes last week and I've been listening to, and thoroughly enjoying, that first set again. When the re-master comes out, I suppose I'll have to decide what to do, but I'll probably try to find the Polydor cds. I'm not sure they can be improved on much.

    The best thing I can say about this album is that there are a few classic Van songs on here that are actually better than the incredible originals. ITLTSN is a tragically under-appreciated album. Everyone with a pulse should have a copy. Especially my ex.

    Tim
     
  21. willy

    willy hooga hagga hooga

    You said it :righton:
     
  22. Craig

    Craig (unspecified) Staff

    Location:
    North of Seattle
    This is the one I'm most interested in getting bonus tracks for with the re-issues.
     
  23. Guy E

    Guy E Senior Member

    Location:
    Antalya, Turkey
    I suppose cover art shouldn't be all that important, but I've often wondered if I might not have given Hard Nose The Highway a bit more consideration had it come in a different sleeve... one that I didn't feel like putting back in the bag.
     
  24. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    These are possible bonus tracks:
    Young Lovers Do *** (4:02)
    Purple Heather *** (5:40)
    Come Running *** (2:42)
    Sweet Thing *** (4:46)
    Blue Money *** (3:58)
    Green *** (4:14)
    Wild Night *** (4:24)
    Send In The Clowns (3:50)
    Satisfied (6:59)
     
  25. Craig

    Craig (unspecified) Staff

    Location:
    North of Seattle
    Yep, I'll take the three star ones since they are from the same time frame. ;)
     
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