The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Van Morrison


           One of the jazzier albums I included on my FIFTEEN FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES list was Poetic Champions Compose by Van Morrison. When I first heard the album my inclination was to think jazz, but it is definitely influenced by rock, R & B, and gospel.  In my earliest exposure to Van Morrison I would have called him rock, but Morrison has referred to himself as Celtic Soul.

            My first exposure to Van Morrison was when a song called "Gloria" hit the charts in 1965.  The group was called Them but Van Morrison's role as lead singer was readily noted.  At fourteen years of age, money was in short supply and I had to be careful about what I spent it on.  Though the song captivated me, it was not enough to spend money on a 45 record let alone an album.   "Gloria" received plenty of airplay on the radio station I was listening to at the time, WLS in Chicago.  It was a gritty, raunchy song with a sexuality that a young teen could appreciate.

              By the next year my family had moved to East Tennessee.  "Gloria" was a standard of any self respecting local band and I was continuing to hear the song frequently.  However the band Them had seemed to have come and gone, which was not unusual for bands at that time.  There would be one or two hits and then a band would often be forgotten.  Then in the summer of 1967 Van Morrison returned with the catchy song "Brown-eyed Girl".  It was one of the signature songs of the summer of 1967.

           This hit was to be followed up by a series of Morrison standards like "Moondance", "Tupelo Honey", and "Domino".  The sound of these never caught on with me.  I don't know what it was about them--all of my friends who had bands were covering these songs and the Morrison albums of this era were showing up in the record collections of most of my friends.  The Morrison sound was not "my bag"-- Van was just not my thing.  I basically ignored Van Morrison for nearly twenty years as an artist I did not particularly like.

        In the mid-80s I developed a keen interest in Contemporary Christian Music.  I started studying the genre and researching every publication I could find that dealt with CCM.  In 1987 I ran across a rave review of Morrison's Poetic Champions Compose which described it as a Christian work.  I immediately obtained a copy of this newly released album and I was amazed.  It was still the Morrison sound that I remembered, except now I really liked what I was hearing.  I went out and bought a copy of Morrison's  No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, which is another album the review I had read had raved about.  It too was a great album.  I had the two rotating in play for the next few weeks.  What had I been missing all of these years?

           A few weeks later--it was late June of 1987--I was on Highway 97 in British Columbia on my way to the city of Penticton.  It was a warm Saturday evening in the Okanagan Valley.  We had stopped and bought a bag of fresh cherries since the cherry harvest had just begun and cherry stands were open all along the highway.  Traffic was slow.   I had turned the radio on to pick up a music program on CBC and they began playing "Wild Children" from Van Morrison's 1973 album Hard Nose the Highway. 

         That did it for me.  Whenever I was working in Canada back then, I would buy a lot of cassette tapes so I could get rid of my Canadian money since the exchange rate meant I would have a loss.  In Canada I would tend to spend more than in the United States, which isn't saying much because when I was working on the road I spent a lot of money no matter where I was. After hearing the "Wild Children" song I started buying every Van Morrison cassette I came across.  Van Morrison had become the greatest in my eyes and even the old songs I had dismissed sounded good to me.

         Later when I was switching over to CDs, Van Morrison was one of the artists who made the transition from cassettes.  I have most of the Van Morrison collection on CD and cassette and he now stands as one of my favorite artists.  All those years had gone by with me ignoring the great music this artists was putting out.

          Are there any artists that you thought you didn't like only to find out years later that they were really quite good?  Have your musical tastes changed much over the years?  


       

19 comments:

  1. I didn't have much time for Jazz, but later got interested in instrumental trio groups. Guess I just had to grow into it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A most interesting post Lee, information I didn't know before. I guess we do learn something new everyday,

    Take care.
    Yvonne,

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have always loved Van Morrison. One of my favorites still! I would have to say that "Moondance" was my favorite "Tupelo Honey" another. I think I have one of his cd's. I will have to check. And no I can't remember all of the cd's that I have. It's sort of funny Arlee as my 15 year old was playing a Rob Thomas song the other night and I commented "Oh I love that song" to which she replied "I got it off of one of your cd's." Ooop's I guess I need to look through them once in a while!
    I listen to the satellite radio more often now. Love Di ♥

    ReplyDelete
  4. Van Morrison's music definitely conjures up some great summer memories. I never seem to tire of his great classic style.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've always liked the Morrison "hits" but I'm glad you gave him a deeper look here, thanks Lee.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Will-- I tend to lean toward small ensemble groups in jazz and classical as well, but I enjoy all forms.

    Yvonne-- I know I learn something new everyday, but the problem is I often forget it the next.

    Di -- I know what you're saying. It's hard for me to keep up with all the music I have. I keep meaning to set up some kind of organizational system.

    Rae -- Yeah, since I rediscovered Van he's a favorite of mine.

    Matthew -- I like a lot of Van's more obscure stuff, I guess cause it seems fresher than the hits.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a great blog. I'm glad I found it. I love Van Morrison. He was one of my favorites in the late 60s. Brown Eyed Girl was his best song ever...at least for me.
    Thanks for dropping by my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I never cared for U2 as a teen, but in the 90's my tastes changed and now I like some of their music. "Beautiful Day" is my favorite. And "Gloria" - is it the same song as Morrison's?

    ReplyDelete
  9. I guess it takes just the right song. I can't think of any band like that, but I'm sure there's a couple. Usually I connect immediately or I don't, though.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Leeuna --- I hope you will continue to visit this blog.

    Alex -- No, U2's "Gloria" is more of a religious song while Morrison's was about a hot babe.

    L. Diane -- Sometimes it takes awhile for an artist to grow on me. Other times I am just turned off initially then maybe later I hear the same song in a different circumstance and it sounds good.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love love love Van Morrison!

    On a jazz note, I recently discovered a jazz place and it is fabulous! There's not a bad seat in the house and live jazz is awesome sauce-age jazz. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I haven't thought about "Gloria" in years. Boy, did that bring back some fun old memories.

    ReplyDelete
  13. rLEE-b ~
    From 1984 until perhaps 1994, Van Morrison was my very favorite of all singers/songwriters and his record "Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart" was my all-time #1 favorite album in my extensive collection. (At one point, I owned every LP Morrison had ever made.)

    But then later I began to really delve into the meaning of some of his lyrics and became very disturbed by much of it.

    In truth, although he has referred to himself publicly as a "Christian", Van Morrison is more an adherent of New Age beliefs. Over the decades, he dabbled in all sorts of spiritual areas; I think he was always a man in search of a religious path.

    But the major influences on him in his later adult years has been the New Age systems like Rosicrucianism, Helena Blavatsky's 'Theosophy', and most of all, Alice Bailey's teachings which originate from the 'channeled' so-called "Ascended Masters" - or what I would refer to as "demons".

    The New Agers (many of whom are, in actuality, Luciferians) tend to appropriate Christian terminology and then redefine it. It's really pretty deceptive.

    So, much of Morrison's lyrics must be examined carefully; never assuming that what sounds very "Christian" at first blush is necessarily the meaning he himself ascribes to it.

    I eventually reached a point where I was so uncomfortable with so much of his material that I purged my album collection of all but 6 of his recordings. And although I still own "Poetic Champions Compose" and "Hymns To The Silence", there is one track on each of them that I do not play ("The Mystery" & "Green Mansions"). Maybe I'm being overly sensitive about this, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    Someday, Google the lyrics to "Rave On, John Donne" and "High Summer" and see how they strike you. I don't want either of those songs played in my household.

    I don't know how much you have researched the New Age Movement and the Occult, but there is a difference between a Satanist and a Luciferian - at least to hear the Luciferians explain it there is. But I am convinced it is all originating from the same dark source. And sadly, I think Morrison (unless he has changed drastically since "High Summer" was recorded) is more of an Occultist than he is a Christian.

    I still love some of his stuffs, but I'm very cautious about what Morrison music I play.

    Heck, the spirituality-based album "Inarticulate Speech..." even included this: "Special thanks: L. Ron Hubbard".

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

    POSTSCRIPT: Have you ever heard the live version of "Wild Children" from 'It's Too Late To Stop Now'? I think it's even better than the studio recording. Great song!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Palindrome-- Jazz is most effective in live performance--you get the true impact of musicians interacting and playing from the heart and soul.

    Jane -- Yes, Gloria was such a classic.

    StMc ---My answer to the Dylan/Young debate also applies to this. I don't pay much heed to the lyrics and have not studied them. If I were concerned about the Biblical correctness and morality of lyrics, most of my music would be in the dumpster. Then if I started dwelling on the beliefs and the lives of the artists most of the rest of the CDs would follow. I would have little music left.

    Likewise film, visual art, and literature would mostly have to go. I have also been on a spiritual quest much of my life. I have looked into and studied other beliefs and I don't think this is wrong at all.

    At least Van hasn't succombed to wild living, drugs, women, and promotion of inanity in his music. He has given in to asking age old questions and pondering on deep topics. The lyrics to me seem to show some intelligent thinking.

    But I'm there for the music. I don't know what Van's beliefs much more than I know Nils Lofgren, but I'm not listening to either one of them for a lesson in theology--it's all about the music.

    The other day the question came up about Yusef Islam or Cat Stevens or whatever his name is. I made a snide comment about his Islamic beliefs and one of your music friends suggested that I separate the man from his music. Exactly my point! As I had stated in my original assessment of Cat, I never really liked his music to begin with and his conversion to Islam had nothing to do with that assessment.

    If I read William Blake's poetry, it's not to became a Christian mystic. If I listen to Wagner, it's not to become an anti-semite. I'm not going to the arts for my theology.

    Re: "High Summer"-- it seemed to me what was being expressed was through the persona of the woman and not Van's personal belief. This is not an uncommon viewpoint in many artistic ponderances.

    "Rave On, John Donne" -- merely seemed to be an ode to poets he had studied and that may have influenced his writing style. I remember reading the same poets. It appears to be a lineage of versification that leads to the tradition that Van is following in.

    Anyway, I enjoy his music.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I really like Van Morrison, but he marks a couple of my life's 'generation gaps'--one when I was 18 and met a much older 'young man' (he was 28) who I was interested in... my failure to have a clue who Van Morrison was was a sore point for him.

    Many years later, as I was still listening to grunge and heavy metal, my husband went through a Van Morrison phase and I gave him a terrible time for having suddenly got old on me.

    Last weekend van Morrison appeared on my daughter's iPod (she is 15)... I guess the joke is on me.

    ReplyDelete
  16. rLEE-b ~
    I'll try to keep this one pretty short and bittersweet.

    I certainly was not attempting to rain on your Van Morrison parade nor to negatively influence your opinion of his music. And I'll add that I agree with the vast majority of your response.

    Indeed, if I could not separate the man from his music, I would be forced to trash my entire Pat Metheny collection, which would leave an awful hole in my heart and in my CD collection. So, I agree with you... up to a point.

    BUT!...
    There is a line that I personally feel should not be crossed. As spiritually inclined persons, I believe it is important that we guard our consciousness and are aware of what we permit it to be exposed to.

    Music that CELEBRATES spirtiual teachings that emanate from "the dark side" (or "demonic influence" to be more precise) is NOT something I want my mind exposed to. Even though I'm not going to suddenly follow those beliefs simply because I'm hearing songs sung about them, I don't feel it's any wiser for me to deliberately listen to them than it would be for me to deliberately sit in on some Wiccan or Luciferian services on a regular basis - even as a total skeptic.

    If my avoiding those things is no more meaningful than a simple display for God that my devotion is to Him alone, that's good enough for me. Even though I suspect that there's superior reasons to avoid them and the subconscious or subliminal ideas that I might not fully understand but nonetheless might be absorbed at some deeper level, unaccessed by my conscious mind.

    Am I overly cautious about this stuffs? Maybe. I don't know. But as I said before, I'd rather play it safe now and not risk being sorry later.

    Van is not the only man whose music I have had to trim due to some reservations about lyric content. I likewise jettisoned a Tom Waits album for similar reasons as well as Blue Oyster Cult, etc.

    As far as "Rave On, John Donne" and "High Summer" are concerned, I believe you are misinterpreting them. In the former song, he is certainly CELEBRATING many influences - some of which I have no issue with. But amongst them, he is clearly celebrating Blavatsky's Luciferian "Theosophy", also Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn, both of which are occultic systems that are totally un-Christian at best and downright Luciferian at worst.

    In "High Summer", he seems to be expressing the standard Luciferian viewpoint that Lucifer (often presented as brother or even twin brother to Jesus) is actually a positive character who is simply misunderstood and is getting a bum rap by being unjustly persecuted by the Biblical God, "Jehovah" and His angels.

    Personally, I don't want to hear that stuff sung under my roof, regardless of the fact that I disagree with it entirely.

    I ain't trying to bring you down, make you uncomfortable, nor ruin Van The Man's music for ya. I just thought maybe you would be interested in learning my take on it by my sharing with you some information I gained after some years of in-depth study into occult beliefs.

    But I'm now "Over And Out" on this subject, Brother. No harm intended.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've always enjoyed classical music - even worked for a classical radio station for a time. Eventually the station went Top 40 and for a couple of years 'Disco' ruled and I became quite familiar with a new genre of music, which actually I found quite enjoyable (dated now, but enjoyable at the time.) I've always had an uncanny knack for picking a Billboard topper and knowing the pieces that would languish and disappear. By the way, I forgot to mention the other day - I too would have had a tough time eliminating Charlie Parker.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Paula-- I was essentially raised on mostly classical, big band, and jazz and pop vocalists (Sinatra, etc). I've always had a pretty open mind toward music and enjoy most styles.
    I will doing a list of best classical on June 14 and inviting others to contribute their own lists as well. I'm sure participation will be small, but I'd love to hear some of your favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I wasn't around for the releases of many of Van Morrison's hits but my sister seemed to have the tapes/cds laying around and I just loved his raspy voice with so much power and passion in it. My top songs I would have to say are "Jackie Wilson Said", "Domino", "Gloria", (as cliche as it sounds)"Into the Mystic" and of course his cover of "Baby Please Don't Go" which was originally recorded by Joe Williams I believe.

    As for bands I never gave a chance to growing up, I would say "Pink Floyd". I always just catergorized them as a group I wouldn't like without even giving them much of a try (kind of like how I thought just by the name that the Grateful Dead was a hard rock band... haha soooo wrong). Once I gave Pink Floyd it's due attention during college they really caught me off guard. I am glad I listened to them after I began to play guitar because my appreciation for their signature slow moving intros and outros really grew. Otherwise I probably would have considered it boring but today I love it!

    Arlee, if you are into jazz ensembles you may want to check out a band that grew in the New Orleans scene in the late 90's that my cousin turned me on to named "Galactic". Mostly instrumental music which I originally thought I would not at all like since a voice in music usually ties it all together. However, there is so much going on that you forgot about a voice and focus more on the harmony of all the instruments working together. One song I love in particular is "Shibuya". I have the "Live at Tipitina's" album that I play pretty regularly

    Later,
    Tommy Z

    ReplyDelete

Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee