Category: Van Morrison

Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey

ARTIST: Van Morrison 

TITLE: Tupelo Honey

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION:  #27

SINGLES: Wild Night (#28), Tupelo Honey (#47), (Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball (#119)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Moonshine Whiskey

LINEUP: Van Morrison, Ronnie Montrose, Bill Church, Rick Schlosser, Connie Kay, Jack Schroer, Mark Jordan, Gary Mallaber, John McFee, Ted Templeman, Bruce Royston, Luis Gasca, Boots Houston, Ellen Schroer, Janet Planet

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A love song album to his wife, Janet Planet, after they moved to California.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Moving to California at the behest of his wife, Janet Planet, Van Morrison’s Tupleo Honey is filled with songs about love and their new adventure, while reflecting on their old life in Woodstock, NY.

Morrison’s songs this time were fairly straightforward in their subject matter, for a change, but the way Morrison sings them, the arrangements he and Ted Templeman came up with, and the evocative playing by the band is what makes them special. The feeling it puts into songs like the title track, “Moonshine Whiskey”, or “Old Old Woodstock” is almost incomparable.

I can’t find a fault with this album, to be honest. It’s an album of love songs, but it’s not goopy or cloying. It’s heartfelt.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Tupelo Honey is a honey made in Mississippi from the pollen of tupelo trees.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. This isn’t even streaming, as Morrison doesn’t like it since it’s about his now ex-wife Janet Planet.

 GRADE A+: This one hits me right in the heart.

Van Morrison – His Band and Street Choir

ARTIST: Van Morrison

TITLE: His Band and Street Choir

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION:  #32 US, #18 UK

SINGLES: Domino (#9), Blue Money (#23), Call Me Up in Dreamland (#95)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe Street Choir

LINEUP: Van Morrison, Alan Hand, Keith Johnson, John Klingberg, John Plantania, Jack Schroer, Dahaud Shaar. Judy Clay, Emily Houston, and Jackie Verdell sang some backing vocals. Shaar, Janet Planet, Larry Goldsmith, Andrew Robinson, Ellen Schroer, and Martha Velez were the street choir.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After an aborted vision of an a cappella album, Morrison regroups and releases a loose follow up with a few leftover songs from earlier efforts.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Morrison’s follow-up to Moondance was originally conceived as songs with a small choir backed by acoustic guitar. But as the original recordings went on Morrison was displeased, and then decided to call in his backing band to salvage the songs and sessions.

With some leftovers from his last two albums, and some new ones in the mix, this album of shorter songs felt relaxed. The musicians, most of them having spent time on the road with the singer, knew what he wanted and what he liked, and the feel of the songs is loose yet sympathetic to the melody and lyrics. The album has an R&B feel feel, led off by his tribute “Domino”.

The issue is that some of the songs aren’t on the level as his other two albums. There are some fantastic performances, but some perfunctory. It’s a good record, but not great and after two outtasite ones, a bit of a let down.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The record company renamed the album. It was originally called Virgo’s Fool. That coupled with the aborted a cappella sessions left a bad taste in Morrison’s mouth about the record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some outtakes again.

 GRADE B+: Not quite up to the standard he set with his last two albums, but those were hard to follow.

Van Morrison – Moondance

ARTIST: Van Morrison

TITLE: Moondance

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION:  #29 US, #32 UK

SINGLES: Come Running (#39)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: There are so many that are known from this record.

LINEUP: Van Morrison, John Klingberg, Jef Labes, Gary Mallaber, Guy Masson, John Plantania, Jack Schroer, Collin Tilton. Judy Clay, Emily Houston, and Jackie Verdell added backing vocals.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “…one has to live.” That quote was from Morrison about making of Moondance, which toned down his stream of consciousness and distilled his vision into a jazz-folk-rock concoction that was right in the public’s wheelhouse.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Van Morrison started this project in mid-1969, writing songs in Woodstock, NY, in a distinct effort to make his music more palatable to the masses without sacrificing too much artistic vision. What he came out with was an album that was folk songs with jazz arrangements sung by a rock singer.

Some of his material was still out there, lyrically. It may have taken some sleuth work to determine what “And It Stoned Me”, “Caravan”, or “Into the Mystic” was really REALLY trying to say. But a lot of the album celebrates joy and love; peace and nature. He sounds as happy and joyous as he can in delivering the vocals.

Now, I’ve heard this album a bazillion time (a couple of girlfriends really loved it) but in trying to pick something new out of it I noticed that in simplifying his music he took a bit of the wonder and surprise out of the music and lyrics. Just a little bit, but it knocked it down a notch.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He got out of Woodstock after the concert since everyone congregated there. Also, the vocals were delivered live (for the most part).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A few outtakes, and there’s a mongo edition that has most of the session tapes.

 GRADE A: A staple of FM rock in the 70’s and a lasting legacy for Morrison.

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

ARTIST: Van  Morrison 

TITLE: Astral Weeks

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION:  #55 UK

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Cypress Avenue, The Way Young Lovers Do, Madam George

LINEUP: Van Morrison, Jay Berliner, John Payne, Richard Davis, Warren Smith Jr., Connie Kay, Larry Fallon, Barry Korfield

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After a nasty contract dispute with Bang! Records, Morrison is free to express his muse and eschews his previous hit-making style. He made an album that’s unique too this day.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Follow your muse. That’s what musicians are always told. (Also, they’re told to make hit records, but that’s the dichotomy of the music biz). Van Morrison definitely did that, throwing off “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Gloria” and making something that’s a symbiosis of the lyrcis and music following each other.

Recorded over three (maybe two) sessions (with some string overdubs that Morrison HATED after the fact), the musicians, seasoned jazz studio cats, were in one room, together, and Morrison in the vocal booth with his guitar. The band just followed his lead and created on the spot. Edits were made to tighten up the songs, but basically the performances were as they happened on that take.

This was never meant to be a hit (it never did chart in the US despite selling over 500,000 when all was said and done), but an artistic statement. That was the philosophy of Warner Brothers – have great artists do their work and it will pay off. The story about how Warner’s received his contract and the recording of this album can fill a book.

I’d love to say that I love every track on this album, but I can’t quite get my head around track two “Beside You”, yet that may be one I haven’t cracked yet. Yet this is a great record to put in your ears, read a tome, and sip some cabernet. It fits that kind of mood.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is personal, but when I was in elementary school we had these magazines that Scholastic put out. Dynamite and Bananas were the names of the ones I received, and in one of them they named the best albums of all time. Now you’d think that magazines for tweens in the 70’s would have more current records on there appealing to that demo. But they listed Astral Weeks. I just can’t see anyone at 11 years old wanting to groove to “Madame George” or unpack “Slim Slow Slider” or “Astral Weeks”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some alternate cuts.

GRADE A+: Now I don’t get one cut, but I’m taking the rap on that. I mean, everything else is perfect, from the lyrics inspiring the singer inspiring the musicians and so on. This album works on so many planes of existence (ethereal and astral, if you would).

Van Morrison – Blowin’ Your Mind

ARTIST: Van Morrison         Blowin.yourmind

TITLE:  Blowin’ Your Mind

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #182 US, #11 UK

SINGLES: Brown Eyed Girl (#10 US, #60 UK), Ro Ro Rosey, Spanish Rose

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: TB Sheets, Midnight Special

LINEUP: Van Morrison, Eric Gale, Gary Chester, Al Gorgoni, Huie McCracken, Paul Griffin, Garry Sherman.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: These tracks weren’t really supposed to be an album, but they were compiled by the owner of Bang Records and started a contract dispute that carried over for a whole year.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After leaving Them and heading to New York City, Morrison signed a contract with Bang Records that really put him in a jam, as it gave the company nearly complete control of this material. These songs were originally going to be singles, but “Brown Eyed Girl” was a big hit, so, here comes the album.

You wonder how they’d make “TB Sheets” a single, anyway. That’s neither here nor there, really. The album does seem cobbled together with some songs definitely here just for B-side material. A lot of this seems rambling and jammy – not unlike Astral Weeks, but not with that quality, either.

“Brown Eyed Girl” and “TB Sheets”, though, are must haves for any collection. For those uninitiated, “TB Sheets” is an almost ten-minute long story about someone visiting a girlfriend who is dying of tuberculosis, which is astonishing in its realism and fatalism.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The cover of the album is what irked Morrison the most – all psychedelic and druggy when the material wasn’t near psychedelic rock.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some alternate cuts..

GRADE: B: The first side, excellent. The second just mediocre.