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Van Morrison - Album by Album discussion - PART THREE

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by DJ WILBUR, Feb 29, 2008.

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  1. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC USA
    This was the last Van album that I connected with right out of the box. When I heard Pee Wee Ellis growling his way though Rough God I was hooked.

    Van seems to be singing about the old testament God, that expresses his anger and displeasure with plauges, famine, and pestilence. I hear this song as an expression of humility, as if Van has been brought down a peg by some "rough" justice. In fact humility and humanity seem to infuse the album.

    Even the recording suits the message, for a change it is not saturated in waves of smothering echo. The sound is sparse, naked and exposed like much of the content. I read some reviews that complained of Van sounding like he had a "cold." I don't hear it that way, instead he just sounds more natural and less processed. The same for the instrumentation, all organic no "snythetic."

    Burning Ground is one of those Van tunes that borders on self-parody but he manages to pull it off. By the time it is over I'm ready to throw off the ropes (jute) of oppression and declare my freedom.

    Piper at the Gates of Dawn is a cliche like "sweet as Tupelo Honey" that Van infuses with a sense of meaning that is illusory. Even though there is very little there, there I enjoy it. Once again the sweet playing sells the feeling.

    The Healing Game is a string of tired metaphors that is redeemed by Pee Wee Ellis's expressive wails and Van's weary tone, that seems to plead for "healing." I don't know how he sings this so that he sounds particularly vunerable and human. He is mining familiar territory, but it is a territoryhe owns and he is giving us a map.

    Sometimes We Cry is another simple statement of humanity. I love the bass guitar intro and the lilting soprano sax. I did have to look up who Johnny Ray was but I connected with the feeling of the song immediately.

    If You Love Me is a sweet sentimental love song accenuated by Doo Wop style tenor saxes. The unvarnished sincereity of the song gives it its charm. I think it is a little under appreciated gem.

    I believe Van's achielle's heel is his senimentality and nostalgia; not his anger, bitterness, and venom as is usually claimed. On this album he keeps that sacharrine syrupy quality under control.

    He also borrows a little melody from NGNMNT. The Waiting Game is filled with loaded metaphors that freely cross the line between the sacred and the profane. The tension inherent in the lyrics give the song life. Van is "the serpent filled with venom", but he is also "looking for perfection" I do not know if this song is about the flesh or the spirit; or if he is telling us the two are insperable. The allusions are often biblical, and the song seems to be an ode to all forms of love.

    The Brian Kennedy effect is kept under control. He remains a background voice. I do not know why Van is so compelled to use Brian when his voice does not suit the music. I have thought it might be the "pretty" "good singer" quality of his voice. Van's voice is so much the opposite, he relies on the rough, raw, expressive nature of his voice to convey feeling. In fact Van often sings off-key and sings in a way that you cannot learn in Julliard. Maybe it is that difference that makes Brian Kennedy appealling to Van.:confused:

    All in all a satisfying album, for my sensiblities.:righton:

    Finally, in the Humor department. Anyone else find it ironic that the portly singer included two songs Fire In the Belly, and This Weight? I think he might try an ant-acid for that fire in his belly, and when he sings, "if I could only lose this weight" I cannot help but think, go on a diet and hit the gym Van! (sorry I can't stop myself):shh: :angel:
     
  2. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    yes, and coupled with that album cover photo, has he ever looked more fire in the belly weighty?
     
  3. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    This is an interesting observation.
     
  4. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    Hhhmm, yes, now that you mention it Van has two achilles heels ;)
     
  5. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    Heh-heh, I didn't say I agreed with Pete, I just said it was an interesting observation. :laugh:
     
  6. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC USA
    Thank you, imagine how interesting it would be if I could type and spell.:D :laugh:

    That's what I get for rushing through my post during my lunch hour.:agree:
     
  7. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    I know the schmaltzier stuff like "Have I Told You Lately" turns off some folks (curbach, I'm looking in your direction, young man!:D ), but does it run deeper with you? Do you have the sense Van is unduly romanticizing the past? Or just plain old obsessed with it?
     
  8. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC USA
    Yes, in some sense Van does seem obsessed with the past. He occasionally passes into the maudlin territory.

    Perhaps the perfect Van album is a large part venom, and syrup, a helping of R&B and gospel, with just a pinch of jazz.:righton:
     
  9. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    just a pinch? :yikes: ....two pinches at least....
     
  10. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC USA
    Is that why they say he is well heeled?:help:

    Yes, maybe more than a pinch of jazz as long as it is well greased.:agree:
     
  11. peterC

    peterC Aussie Addict

    Location:
    sydney
    The unofficial Van website is back up with a new name and URL. Some interesting reading in the what's new section.

    http://van-the-man.info/
     
  12. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    Ahh, terrific! Thanks so much, Peter.:righton:

    Here's that line from the review of The Healing Game that left a few of us so baffled:

    I really have no clue what this reviewer is on about.
     
  13. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC USA
    Thanks for the link Peter, I love that site.

    Yes, Tom that is the "head cold" review. I don't know what he's on about either.
     
  14. albert_m

    albert_m Forum Resident

    Location:
    Atl., Ga, USA
    I was surprised to see that one of the Best Buys near me had the 3 disc “Still on Top” collection and even though I have essentially all of this material, I picked it up. It does have an “alternative” version of the Healing Game.

    Add this to the album version, Best of 3 version, John Lee Hooker version…. That’s a lot of the Healing Game.
     
  15. mrbillswildride

    mrbillswildride Internet Asylum Escapee 2010, 2012, 2014

    This three Cd set also has some of the Moondance/Band~Chior songs sounding much better to me, than some of my Cd versions... Into The Mystic and And It Stoned Me in particular... not sure the mixing, mastering though...

    :cheers:
     
  16. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    BACK ON TOP

    BACK ON TOP
    1. Goin' Down Geneva
    2. Philosophers Stone
    3. In the Midnight
    4. Back On Top
    5. When the Leaves Come Falling Down
    6. High Summer
    7. Reminds Me of You
    8. New Biography
    9. Precious Time
    10. Golden Autumn Day

    Another very good and strong post “Glory Period” Van album IMO…Precious Time, Golden Autumn Day, Philosophers Stone…I love this album. I played the heck out of it when it came out, finally a great Van album (I didn’t get Days Like This til recently) after all the dreck...

    The climb begins with a jaunt, bluesy, boogie to Geneva. Love the arrangement on this one, everything just jaunts along and he’s singing in an adenoidal way, but I love the tone on his voice here….

    odd to have “Philosophers Stone” follow “Geneva”, but after a few seconds you forget the jaunt of track one. The Stone is a beautiful song beginning on the “highway all alone, searching for my home” theme…one could argue he’s forever on the same few topics based on these first two songs. I love the sound and instrumentation on this song. Something about the lyrics bug me, but LOVE Brian’s subtle influences and that harmonica solo…interesting that Van’s singing is so different on this one too compared to Geneva. I love the way this song builds and builds…really a wonderful production on this one…

    In The Midnight”, another gorgeous instrumentation behind this one. Just a beautiful love song, one that I float along to like on a cloud while its swirling out of my speakers…my feet are not on the ground. Now this song features my single favorite Brian Kennedy vocal towards the end…almost an homage to 50s style singing…its like the “money shot” in a porno movie, just a great climax.

    Back On Top”…another attempt to have a hit single…really should have followed Geneva then had the Stone as track 3…another boohoo, I’m famous leave me alone….his songs about this topic are tiring at this point…he doesn’t mind cashing his paychecks does he? So WTF…shaddup about this topic….he’s lucky to be where he is been..sheez…

    When The Leaves Come Falling Down”…another lovely song, ah paris, ah Chet Baker...two of my favorite things name checked in one song....this one is poetic really, maybe the best on here lyric wise…and its one of my favorite “mellow Morrison” cuts of all time and along with “Golden Autumn Day” perfect cuts for one of those themed cd mixes with an “Autumn” theme….We should probably come up with an Vautumnal playlist in here, maybe even one for each season...whats on your van springtime playlist???

    Precious Time” might be my favorite attempt at his to cut a radio hit. Man that honking horn and the vibe just make me smile and tap my feet every time…lucky for me I grabbed both parts to this cd single and have 4 great live cuts from 98 : “Jackie Wilson”, “Call Me Up In Dreamland”, “Naked n the Jungle” and “Give Me a Kiss”…great stuff..

    the few tracks left to discuss, well I dig the whole record, love the band, the bass playing, the way its recorded. In a way its Van by numbers but when you colour it in you get a post Hymns masterpiece IMO and if I could only have one record from the 90s…this might be the one I reach for…
     

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  17. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    Oh, yeah, it's a special album, all right. Good review, William. The 'money shot' comment was tad bizarre, but I think I know what you mean. Just remember this is a family thread.:tsk: :nauga:

    I won't have time to post anything until tomorrow but I just wanted to say, has anyone else heard that the figure on the cover is not Van?
    Seems to me I heard that somewhere...
    If true, that would be totally consistent with his nature, wouldn't it? Err, backing out of a photo shoot?
    I can see the photographer calling central casting: "Get me a fedora and a rotund gentleman--stat!"
     
  18. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    as YOU probably know, i'm running outta Vadjectives after a year of talking about this guy...hahaha...besides with all the Brian bashing...i wanted to get my point clear, how amazing I found this particular Kennedy vocal to be....now there can be no doubt....

    hahaha....i knew you were gonna comment on that one!!!!:righton:
     
  19. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    I thought it was waaaaaaay funnnnnny! :laugh: We need more humor--it's good for us. And I'm a family guy myself and all that. And I know the feeling like that on songs. I was trying to post about Mary Margaret O'Hara's Year in Song, and there's a part of that song that becomes like that.

    Maybe I need to get that song.

    Groove on "Vanjectives"!
     
  20. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    Hhhhmmm. Based on previous comments in this thread I know that I am going to be in the minority here, but oh well :hide: I strongly dislike this album, the first Van album I have felt active antipathy for since Hard Nose The Highway. I count one very good song in "High Summer", one pretty good song in "Philosophers Stone" and everything else ranges from boring to annoying, emphasizing the twin achilles heels ;) of bitterness and smarminess. To top it off the disc is way too loud and it features Brian Kennedy again :sigh:

    This album is the reason I have so many holes in my collection of Van's later material. After shelling out for this swill, I had to step back and consider how many more Van albums do I really need to add to my stack when I'm only going to get one or two good songs out of the deal. And he just keeps churning them out one after another after another every year. Ugh, I can't take it any more :help:

    Unlike with the previous albums in this thread I have made no effort to re-listen prior to our little discussion. I will wait until all the supporters of the album have weighed in and re-listen with those additional perspectives in mind. Hopefully, you guys can point me to a hidden gem I've missed. And if someone could explain the lyrics about the mugging in "Golden Autumn Day" I'd be eternally grateful :confused:

    But don't mind my curmudgeonlyness (is that a word :winkgrin:). You guys go ahead with your love fest :cheers:
     
  21. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    I wasn't really chastizing William, just putting on the prude act as part of our good cop-bad cop routine.

    Well, I don't know about the love fest part, because I'll be heaping some displeasure on "New Biography."
     
  22. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    That one is especially egregious. Thanks for bringing up such a bitter memory ;) Cue Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride: "Perhaps you'd like to give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?"
     
  23. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    :biglaugh:
     
  24. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    you'll notice i didnt even mention that one
     
  25. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    Time-wise, I'm guessing "New Biography" was written in response to the '97 Collis bio which went to great lengths to cast aspersions on Van's character and music at every opportunity. It's a pretty nasty piece of writing in places. Collis's inability to get Van onside to work with him is one of the reasons for the spiteful tenor of the text, or so I've read.

    It's interesting to note, in the lower left-hand corner of the Heylin book, the words "A New Biography," which I assume was deliberate, since he too ran into some trouble with the Van Police.
    [​IMG]
     
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