Van Morrison

Greatly Appreciated

Van Morrison  (born 31 August 1945) is a Northern Irish singer-songwriter and musician.  He rose to prominence in the mid-1960’s as the lead singer of the R&B band Them, with whom he recorded the garage band classic “Gloria”.  His solo career began with the release of the hit single “Brown Eyed Girl” in 1967.  His album Moondance established Morrison as a major artist.  Morrison continues to record and tour, producing albums and live performances that sell well and are generally warmly received, sometimes collaborating with other artists, such as Georgie Fame and The Chieftains.  Morrison has received six Grammy Awards and the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music; and he has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  (More from Wikipedia)
Even before I played Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 the first time, I knew I would love it, because I was already familiar with a lot of these bands.  In fact, I picked up the debut albums by Blues Magoos and the Electric Prunes in the same shipment from Columbia Record Club back when; and it wasn’t long before I also had the first album by the Shadows of Knight, with their killer cover of Van Morrison’s Gloria”.  The Seeds’ “Pushin’ Too Hard” was another favorite, though it was awhile before I got an album.
(January 2011)
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The Amboy Dukes’ raw treatment of Big Joe Williams’ “Baby, Please Don’t Go” from the band’s first album on Mainstream Records was included on the original Nuggets compilation album and already features Ted Nugent’s signature guitar licks.  Additionally, and incredibly, “Baby, Please Don’t Go” was originally the “A” side of the early single by Van Morrison’s band Them that includes the immortal “Gloria” on the flip.  In his book Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles, rock historian Paul Williams has said of this record (as quoted in Wikipedia):  “Into the heart of the beast . . . here is something so good, so pure, that if no other hint of it but this record existed, there would still be such a thing as rock and roll. . . .  Van Morrison’s voice a fierce beacon in the darkness, the lighthouse at the end of the world.  Resulting in one of the most perfect rock anthems known to humankind.”
(April 2011)
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The concert event The Wall – Live in Berlin, a July 1990 performance of the 1980 Pink Floyd album The Wall took place at the site of the Berlin Wall that had come down eight months previously.  The concert was organized by Roger Waters, who had been the frontman for the band during their hitmaking period in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, though he left Pink Floyd in 1985 over creative differences and attempted to prevent the other bandmembers from continuing to use the name (they settled out of court in 1987). 


Roger Waters had said during an interview in July 1989 that the only way he would perform The Wall live again was “if the Berlin Wall came down” – and four months later, it did.  Attendance at the concert site itself was a record-breaking 450,000, and it was also broadcast live worldwide.  Scorpions opened the concert with “In the Flesh” and also performed on three other songs.  Guest artists included Cyndi LauperMarianne FaithfullThomas DolbySinéad O’ConnorJoni MitchellVan MorrisonBryan Adams, and Levon Helm and Garth Hudson of the Band.  Tim CurryAlbert FinneyUte Lemper and Jerry Hall are actors who also performed, mostly during “The Trial” sequence toward the end.  As the concert was performed, a gigantic wall (550 feet long and 82 feet high) that appeared to be made of large styrofoam blocks was completed; at the end of the trial, the judge declared:  “Tear down the Wall!”, and the wall was pushed over, row by row. 


(April 2013)


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Besides Mouse and the Traps (officially Mouse and Positively 13 O’Clock), the only other band to be featured on the original Nuggets album and also on Pebbles, Volume 1 is the Shadows of Knight.  They are best known for their fantastic cover of “Gloria” that outsold the original “Gloria” by Van Morrison and Them in the United States 


(September 2013)

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While recording their third and most successful album, EasterPatti Smith Group encountered Bruce Springsteen who was recording his fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town in the adjoining studio.  The Boss had recorded “Because the Night” but was unsatisfied with it and did not include it on the album.  Jimmy Iovine was the producer and engineer on both albums; he passed along a copy of the tape of the song to Patti Smith, who recast the song and included it on her album.  The first performance of Because the Night was at a Patti Smith Group concert on December 30, 1977 at New York’s CBGB club, with Bruce Springsteen joining in on guitar and vocals.  Bruce and Patti share songwriting credits on Because the Night, which is probably Patti Smith’s best known song.  Easter also includes several songs about Patti Smith’s feelings on organized religion; and her debut album, Horses includes her version of Van Morrison’s “Gloria” that had the spoken-word introduction, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”. 


(February 2014)


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The Wikipedia article on Slow Train Coming also states (with no footnotes), in apparent violation of their NPOV (neutral point of view) policy:  “In a year when Van Morrison and Patti Smith released their own spiritual works in Into the Music and Wave, respectively, [Bob] Dylan’s album seemed vitriolic and bitter in comparison.”  Neither album is particularly Christian, from what I can tell


(August 2014)


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In 1967Kim Fowley produced the sole album by the Belfast Gypsies and also co-wrote some of their songs.  The band included some members of Van Morrison’s first band Them before he left to become a solo artist.  The album was misleadingly named Them Belfast Gypsies (particularly as the title is laid out on the cover).  Allmusic gives the album 4 stars, and Richie Unterberger notes in the write-up for the album:  “Their tense version of ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ is one of the greatest obscure Dylan covers, and the magnificent harmonica on ‘Midnight Train’ is a highlight.” 


(January 2015/1)


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As described above, the resulting debut album, Crawdaddy Express by the Crawdaddys was comprised mostly of covers of R&B classics by Bo DiddleyWillie DixonChuck Berry, and John Lee Hooker; plus a few from other sources, such as the old Hank Snow tune “I’m Movin’ On” and the magnificent Van Morrison song “Mystic Eyes” that opened the first album by Them.  Only a few familiar songs were included on the album, such as “You Can’t Judge a Book” and “Down the Road a Piece”.  Just two original recordings were included on the album, the title song “Crawdaddy Express” and “Got You in My Soul” (both written by Ron Silva and Steve Potterf). 


(January 2015/2)


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The only song on Magic Lantern not written by the bandmembers in Haymarket Square is one of my all-time favorite songs, “Train Kept A-Rollin’” – in a world filled with great train songs, this might the best of them all for my money.  The first time I encountered Train Kept A-Rollin’ was on the Pebbles, Volume 10 LP, one of the first Pebbles albums that I purchased.  This rapid fire rendition by the Bold (also known as Steve Walker and the Bold– which actually has some train sounds in the intro and at the end – is still the best I have heard; but like the Bo Diddley song “I’m a Man”, the Van Morrison song “Gloria”, and the timeless Louie Louie that was written by Richard Berry, I have never heard a version of Train Kept A-Rollin’ that wasn’t great.  
(June 2015)
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French Kiss (movie soundtrack) – The soundtrack for French Kiss, the Meg Ryan/Kevin Klein vehicle from 1995 has a lot of the sort of Paris-themed music that one expects from Hollywood (including two different treatments of Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris”, no less).  The album starts off with a bang – “Someone like You” by Van Morrison and a lovely rendition of the Edith Piaf classic “La Vie en Rose” by Louis Armstrong – but the album has too much score and not enough songs for my taste.
(December 2015)
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Stephen Cook with Allmusic gives the album 4½ stars and writes:  “Taking Brit blues invaders like Themthe Animals, and the Yardbirds as a template, not to mention plenty of ’60s garage inspiration, San Diego’s Tell-Tale Hearts forged a fairly original beat homage between 1983-1986.  A bit too gritty and blues-based to really fit in with L.A.’s contemporary Byrds and pop-psychedelia revival (the Rain Paradethe Three O’ClockPlasticland), the Hearts only cut one album, an EP, and a smattering of singles and live tracks. . . .  Compiled by bassist Mike Stax and featuring the snider-than-Van Morrison vocals of Ray Brandes, the 21-track collection includes studio highlights like ‘(You’re a) Dirty Liar and ‘Me Needing You, as well as some super lo-fi demo covers and a live rendition of the Seeds’ ‘Satisfy You.” 
(September 2017)
Last edited: April 7, 2021