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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. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    side one is a great side, some good songs on side two, but I don't listen to it very often. This is not one of my top 5 Morrison albums.
     
  2. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    We'll be moving on to His Band and the Street Choir in about four hours.
     
  3. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    And the disagreements may be about to begin. . . :angel:
     
  4. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter


    Oh there you are, we were awaiting on you Bee. Yes, I got a lot of very negative comments on my pay the devil van avitar, which i thought was tres cool, but this new one is quite a find, isnt it? :shh:
     
  5. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    Woohoo, let the games begin. :laugh:
     
  6. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

    Closely followed by the healing...
     
  7. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    ... in gardens all wet with rain, on a golden autumn day.:righton:
     
  8. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    HIS BAND AND THE STREET CHOIR (1970)

    1. Domino
    2. Crazy Face
    3. Give Me a Kiss
    4. I’ve Been Working
    5. Call Me Up in Dreamland
    6. I’ll Be Your Lover, Too
    7. Blue Money
    8. Virgo Clowns
    9. Gypsy Queen
    10. Sweet Jannie
    11. If I Ever Needed Someone
    12. Street Choir


    How does an artist follow up Astral Weeks and Moondance? or does an artist ever manage to follow up such a one two punch? Well yes, just not with this very pleasant soulful folksy and somewhat gospel in spirit put your feet up and meander with me Van outing. This is his Woodstock period where he might have been chasing the Band/Dylan energies of that place a bit...Certainly this album can sit nicely next to any of The Bands first few records IMO but they are not their equals...

    One of the things about this album that struck me when I first heard it (and this album along with Every Picture Tells a Story I had the same reaction to) was the way the acoustic guitars “sounded”. They were so big, so real, so vibrant, so alive sounding. Hence, both of these albums just resonate for me with big acoustic guitar resonance and I’m not a guitarist, so I don’t know if it’s the make of guitars, the wood, or was it recorded that way? a recording technique, mike placement, or what? ....but as a young record listener who’s ear opened over time, these two recordings really hit me with the way those guitars just spoke to me, probably why I hang out in this forum now…some of you will surely understand what I'm talking about.

    So this album is a pastiche of all of Van sounds, and probably the first one to really blend all of his styles in one place, gospel, folk, rock, soul, r&b etc. Opening with the funky drive of Domino, a song I still just love love love. It might be the single one song that really made me a true Van Morrison fan and I still love it to this day.

    Besides Domino I think my favorite on this one right now is Virgo Clowns (at one time the album was to be called Virgo’s Fool). Its such a gorgeous song and I’m sure the “funny face” of the song is Planet Janet or whatever her name is.

    Other songs I like a lot, I’ve Been Working, Blue Money, If I Ever Needed Someone, Call Me Up in Dreamland….so 6 great songs for me on here….

    and I could get critical of some of the other 6 songs on the album, as this is one of the only Van albums where I’m not digging half of the songs…Crazy Face, Gypsy Queen, Sweet Jannie, Street Choir…..and I’m not going to address the sleeve notes penned by Planet (I’m leaving that for Tom).

    but musically it’s a really great romp, and a great listen. Lyrically he’s thrown in a couple of misfires for me, but it sounds really really good…It’s just not one of his albums that I reach for very often when I’m in the mood for 70s Van.

    I’ll close with something copied from the Van Morrison website a quote from the Planet muse herself. It sums this record up nicely:

    There's a small picture of Mary Martin, Van's miracle worker of a manager at the time (the lady with short hair and glasses) on the inside dust jacket: I remember her once saying to me at about the time of the recording of this record, "Janet, don't let him get too happy - the music will start to suffer." I thought at the time that it was a most shocking sentiment and naturally paid no attention to her point. My one and only obsessive activity during my time with Van was this fool's errand: To MAKE him Happy! As misguided and ultimately futile as this mission of mine was, during the time we became The Street Choir and made HB&TSC I really thought I was winning the battle!


    For me she was losing!
     

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  9. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    “Domino” is one of Van’s finest singles. A pulsing bass, liquid guitar riff, driving horns, and typically spirited vocal all blend in a lyrically irrelevant tribute to Fats Domino (in particular), and the radio (in general). (For those keeping score, that’s another reference to a musician, and yet another reference to the radio).
    That the rest of the album, for the most part, comes as coldly anticlimactic stands as the biggest indictment of His Band and the Street Choir, the first album in Van’s solo career that can safely boast with confidence the claim “Contains more than 50% filler!”

    “Give Me One More Kiss” and “Sweet Jannie” are similar blues shuffles which seem dashed off in a perfunctory manner, both featuring the kind of forced jollity which suffuses the album as a whole, but “I’ve Been Working” is real corker, described by Brian Hinton in Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison as “a hypnotic strut.” (I love that phrase.) The fact that this version sounds listless when compared to its live counterpart on It’s Too Late to Stop Now takes some of the sheen off the album version, but the pure-‘70's organ swooshes (think of an organ impersonating a cat’s meow) and Van’s peerless vocals prove to be the redeeming factors.

    “Call Me Up in Dreamland” stands as the most overtly objectionable track on the record. The somewhat contrived “Aren’t we having fun!?!” vibe is at its absolute zenith here. Despite Van’s vocal, the whole thing sounds like the result of a Salvation Army band joining forces with a hippie commune to produce an “Up With People”-style show.
    Similarly, “Blue Money” is embarrassingly goofy (apart from the lyrics) with one of the female members of the Street Choir (is it Ellen Schroer, Martha Velez or Janet Planet?—my blue money’s on Janet;) ) adding some extra “doo-dah”s that sound hilariously feeble, especially with Van offering one of his trademark “All right”s in guttural response. Ultimately, the tune sounds like some bizarre take on the Sesame Street theme.

    I’ll note at this time that “Blue Money” and “Call Me Up in Dreamland” were the follow-up singles to “Domino.”

    It’s not all bad news though. “I’ll Be Your Lover Too” presages the haunted, spare acoustic sound Van would pursue with the stunning Veedon Fleece in 1974; so too does "Virgo Clowns," but it is Van-dalized;) by some tagged-on laughter which sabotages the effect of the song. “Gypsy Queen” harkens back to the R&B of Moondance with a clear and silky falsetto, and “If I Needed Someone” strives to be this album’s “Brand New Day.” While it doesn’t quite reach those heights, it possesses an anthemic quality which makes it feel like the logical album-ender...making the appearance of “Street Choir” all the more anticlimactic; the final anticlimax in an album rife with them.
     
  10. MikeP5877

    MikeP5877 Non-essential

    Location:
    OH
    Go figure.... His Band And The Street Choir is my favorite album in Van's "Pastoral Trilogy" of Moondance-HBATSC-Tupelo Honey

    Hearing “Domino” and “Blue Money” on the radio is what led me to Van Morrison’s music in the first place.

    Maybe it’s the happy pictures in the gatefold, but this album gives me a feeling of pure joy and freedom everytime I hear it. No, it doesn’t have the otherworldliness of Astral Weeks, or the majesty of Moondance (side 1), nor the restless spiritual questing of “Listen to the Lion” and his later work. What we have here is just Van Morrison, his band, and the street choir making a joyful noise. The fusion of R&B with Celtic Soul simply does not get any better than this as far as I'm concerned.

    And if you want to hear a killer "I've Been Working", check out the live version from Pacific High Studios 1971.
     
  11. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    oh, good one
     
  12. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    Too right!:righton:
     
  13. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    Except for Domino and I'll Be Your Lover, which are killer, this album completely bores me -- and occasionally offends me. It's very much stuck in its time and place, which says much about Morrison himself at this point in his life. I'll find a few quotes from Can You Feel The Silence and post them a little later.
     
  14. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    Interesting as I thought I'd be in a minority about this album....Tom and Jason seem to like it even less than i do....curious to see the fans and dissenters on this one...

    Still from snooping around the net, it gets stellar reviews everywhere I look and I assumed it'd do the same in here...maybe not...

    i'm very interested to hear what others have to say about this one...
     
  15. dotwacky

    dotwacky Forum Resident

    Location:
    milwaukee, wi
    That pretty much sums it up for me. Objectively, it's not the greatest album he would ever make, but I gladly forgive/ignore all of its faults, probably because this is the first album of his I ever bought, so it holds a special place in my heart.

    However corny, that is my rationale, if one is needed.
     
  16. JPartyka

    JPartyka I Got a Home on High

    Location:
    USA
    I agree. In fact I'd go so far as to say that nothing Van did between Astral Weeks and the Too Late to Stop Now live set in '73, apart from Side 1 of Moondance and the song "Tupelo Honey," does much for me at all. I find most of his '80s work far more interesting.

    But His Band... and Hard Nose the Highway are the two albums that leave me particularly cold. I just can't shake the feeling that he wasn't trying very hard on His Band..., particularly regarding the songwriting.
     
  17. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    :righton:
     
  18. JayB

    JayB Forum Resident

    Location:
    CT
    Geez tough crowd!

    Any album with "Domino" "Ive Been Working" "Blue Money" & "I'll Be Your Lover" is ok in my book.."Working" is one of my favorite "fun" Van tunes-the groove during it is just nasty (in a good way!) Though I do agree that it's even better live..I always like cranking that song while driving..

    Not Van's best album, but an enjoyable listen overall for me.
     
  19. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    It should be interesting and educational when we get to the 80s stuff. I only have No Guru..., which I think is one of his best, and the Chieftans album, which I like quite a bit of. This thread is going to cost me, I can tell already. :laugh:
     
  20. elborak

    elborak Forum Resident

    I'll likely post more of my take on this album later when I have more time, but here are some quick observations.

    I find that when I'm reaching for some Van, I rarely grab this album. It's perhaps overwhelmed by the quality of what came before and after, but there never seems to be the time when I say "What I need now is HB&TSC", which definitely happens with Astral Weeks, St. Dominic's, Beautiful Vision, and several others.

    It's also the very rare Van album that I feel contains, well, not very much Van. Disagree if you like, but there's very little on this album that could only have been done by Van. You listen to "Madam George", "Listen to the Lion", "Into the Mystic", and a myriad of other Van tunes and it's almost impossible to imagine anyone else doing them justice. He occupies the song completely. Only one or two tracks on this album feel that way to any degree. It's the performances that are lacking, not so much the writing.
     
  21. willy

    willy hooga hagga hooga

    'Virgo Clowns' is one of my all-time fave Van songs, with its lovely, rich 'Desolation Row'-esque acoustic guitars. Not a fave album though, and why was Van wearing a dress?
     
  22. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    oh sweet, i was beginning to think I was the only one in here really digging this one. As I'd posted in my initial write on this album, I'd love if some guitarists, or recording engineers can maybe chat about the way these acoustic guitars sound on this recording. they just hit me like almost no other acoustic guitar recording? I love how they sound on here....:love:
     
  23. Craig

    Craig (unspecified) Staff

    Location:
    North of Seattle
    Not mine...
     

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  24. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    wow, now thats a commitment to Van....its almost Scvandalous.
     
  25. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    That's Vantastic, Craig!

    From Brian Hinton's Celtic Crossoads:

     
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