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Thread: Ok, what's so great about... Van Morrison?

  1. #1

    Ok, what's so great about... Van Morrison?

    Following on the heels of the Joni Mitchell and Neil Young threads...

    Now, I generally 'get' and appreciate both Joni and Neil but Van the Man leaves me cold. Yet, the man is a legend, the icon of blue-eyed soul. The voice I find clipped and lacking in dynamics, the songs pedestrian, the lyrics full of stock tropes.
    However, almost anyone in the business talks of him as an untouchable in the pantheon of Great Artists (and we're talking about the music here, not his infamous temperament). So, what am I missing? Tell me proggers!

  2. #2
    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    He had a string of great songs back in the '70s that I enjoy from time to time, and yeah, an iconic voice at one time, but I never got the deification. To me, he wasn't greater than his peers, like Joe Cocker or Steve Winwood.
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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Listen to this and tell me he isn't great.

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    Not much from my perspective - never really cared for his music, despite (or maybe because) I've had to cover numerous of his songs over the years in working bands. The fact that he is by all accounts a legendarily unpleasant person doesn't help, either.

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    Member lak611's Avatar
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    I never was a fan of Van Morrison myself. I do like Neil Young. I haven't heard enough of Joni Mitchell to have an opinion of her music.

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    Member Oreb's Avatar
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    I don't understand these threads. If you actually need someone to explain why music by pretty straightforward performers like Van, Joni or Neil is great then it's not for you. Move on.

    Does it matter that this waste of time is what makes a life for you?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oreb View Post
    I don't understand these threads. If you actually need someone to explain why music by pretty straightforward performers like Van, Joni or Neil is great then it's not for you. Move on.

    Oh, I dunno. I don't think it's always unreasonable to ask what it is that causes so many people to rave about a particular artist that leaves you cold. Sometimes that alternative perspective can then act as a way in to appreciating that artist's music. I'd also humbly suggest that what might seem straightforward to some might prove to be the exact opposite to others, unless we know the musical and cultural background of the person asking the question, there's no way of knowing that what constitutes 'normal' for them.

  8. #8
    Member 2steves's Avatar
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    Van had a few great albums early in his career----and he's a great artist. Am I a huge fan? No but I know great unique talent when I hear it. I also know mediocre talent and there is a lot of that out there. Especially in prog.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by kid_runningfox View Post
    Oh, I dunno. I don't think it's always unreasonable to ask what it is that causes so many people to rave about a particular artist that leaves you cold. Sometimes that alternative perspective can then act as a way in to appreciating that artist's music. I'd also humbly suggest that what might seem straightforward to some might prove to be the exact opposite to others, unless we know the musical and cultural background of the person asking the question, there's no way of knowing that what constitutes 'normal' for them.
    OP here. The above quote pretty much sums up why I am doing these threads. I feel enriched and rewarded when people (coherently) explain why something works for them, even if it ultimately doesn't work for me. I like getting the recommendations and samples from proggies too.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teddy Vengeance View Post
    (...) Van the Man leaves me cold. (...)
    Same here.

  11. #11
    I still love Astral Weeks, and I like the ones that came after up until (and including) Veedon Fleece - but it pretty much stops there.

    Saw him in concert on a couple of occasions at open festivals, and the experience was a complete waste of time. How on Earth Too Late to Stop Now could ever reach status of a "classic" live recording is beyond me.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
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    Member Oreb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kid_runningfox View Post
    Oh, I dunno. I don't think it's always unreasonable to ask what it is that causes so many people to rave about a particular artist that leaves you cold. Sometimes that alternative perspective can then act as a way in to appreciating that artist's music.
    For me that's never been the case. I think that if someone needs music to be translated into a completely different medium in order to 'get' it, the music's not for them. It hasn't communicated on its own level. That's different, obviously, to analysis of the music or critique of it: but for me both those activities presuppose an existing affinity with it (otherwise why bother?)

    Quote Originally Posted by kid_runningfox View Post
    I'd also humbly suggest that what might seem straightforward to some might prove to be the exact opposite to others, unless we know the musical and cultural background of the person asking the question, there's no way of knowing that what constitutes 'normal' for them.
    I think that on an anglophone prog-rock message board it's possible to make some basic assumptions about member's musical background - basic as in assuming familiarity with the three chord folk-tinged song as 'straightforward' when compared to some prog stuff. (btw, I'm a long way from saying 'straightforawrd' is an any way inferior to 'not straightforward'). 'Normal's not a word I use(d).

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    I remember that I loved only his perfomance with The Band in The Last Waltz


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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    I still love Astral Weeks, and I like the ones that came after up until (and including) Veedon Fleece - but it pretty much stops there.

    Saw him in concert on a couple of occasions at open festivals, and the experience was a complete waste of time. How on Earth Too Late to Stop Now could ever reach status of a "classic" live recording is beyond me.
    Ever hear Common One? That's in the Astral Weeks/Veedon Fleece vein but with longer songs, 'When Heart Is Open' is kind of has the 'In A Silent Way' vibe- I was totally captivated by that track in particular. I would say Common One was not only the album that made me want to hear as much of his work as I could (after only knowing Astral Weeks/Moondance...the only albums critics ever talk about) but represented the start of me turning away from the neo/retro prog stuff and to other music. That one album opened up a whole new world for me.

    The shorter songs on Saint Dominic's Preview also have that R&B flavour of Moondance, but the longer songs like 'Listen To The Lion' and 'Almost Independence Day' are something else.

    One of relatively few artists associated with an earlier decade who did not damage his reputation in the 1980s.
    Last edited by JJ88; 03-27-2017 at 12:45 PM.

  15. #15
    Oreb, if these artists are 'straightforward' (although I can hardly put Joni in that category), yet still receive critical praise from all corners, the respect of very talented peers, and 50 years' stock of iconic status, doesn't that beg the very question, 'Why?' (And not st all in a snide way).

    For me, hearing people explain why they like something, especially something that eludes me, has a type of cognitive therapy value. For example, I did not like Pinot Noir until a fan gave me insight on how to pair it, when it's best to drink it, best makers and vintages, what to focus on while tasting etc. --- and this ultimately led me to enjoy Pinot Noir.

    A musical equivalent for me would be Miles, Bitches Brew era. I didn't get it at first but my ears were guided and moulded by the insights and appreciation of others who were fans, and it finally clicked with me, much to my benefit. In short, i don't think musical appreciation is necessarily something immediate, and can be aided by discussion and examples.

    Regardless, don't take the thread title too literally. It's really just an invitation to talk about tried and true artists and what fans see as their virtues, not to prove anything to me per se.

  16. #16
    As a mobile DJ, I played Brown Eyed Girl as much as any other oldie. Some other great tunes he recorded/wrote include:
    Have I Told You Lately (covered by a lot of singers and played very often at weddings)
    Blue Money
    Gloria
    Moondance (the tune was the major basis for the movie August Rush)
    Domino
    Here Comes The Night
    Crazy Love
    Days Like This
    Into The Mystic
    Wild Night

    I pretty much only liked his hits. I never really got into his catalogue. I've heard some of his albums played in record stores, but they just didn't grab me.
    That list alone, however, at least merits a purchase of The Best of Van Morrison.

  17. #17
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    I dont know whats cool about VM, but he lived in my part of Copenhagen for a couple of years.

  18. #18
    I only have a few albums, but I usually reach for A Night In San Francisco. A well recorded live album with a bit of everything. Jazz, blues, and classic songs. Plus Georgie Fame, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Junior Wells.

  19. #19
    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    One of relatively few artists associated with an earlier decade who did not damage his reputation in the 1980s.
    this is a good point

  20. #20
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Svetonio View Post
    I remember that I loved only his perfomance with The Band in The Last Waltz
    That's one of the tracks I usually skip over.

  21. #21
    ...that he "wrote" a song called Ring Worm ?

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    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    I like his tune Real Real Gone, but it seems like it ends just when it's getting going.

  23. #23
    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jubal View Post
    As a mobile DJ, I played Brown Eyed Girl as much as any other oldie. Some other great tunes he recorded/wrote include:
    Have I Told You Lately (covered by a lot of singers and played very often at weddings)
    Blue Money
    Gloria
    Moondance (the tune was the major basis for the movie August Rush)
    Domino
    Here Comes The Night
    Crazy Love
    Days Like This
    Into The Mystic
    Wild Night

    I pretty much only liked his hits. I never really got into his catalogue. I've heard some of his albums played in record stores, but they just didn't grab me.
    That list alone, however, at least merits a purchase of The Best of Van Morrison.
    Yes, an impressive list of classics, beyond what you listed even. I could easily fill a CD-R with faves, but just one. And I've heard one live CD, one where he chews his way through nearly every song. If I didn't already know the tunes, I couldn't have discerned the lyrics, much like the above performance in The Last Waltz. His studio catalog is definitely worth visiting though.

  24. #24
    Member Guitarplyrjvb's Avatar
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    I have a 2cd compilation of his called "Still on Top" that I love, but haven't really investigated further.
    Last edited by Guitarplyrjvb; 01-23-2017 at 12:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    Ever hear Common One? That's in the Astral Weeks/Veedon Fleece vein but with longer songs, 'When Heart Is Open' is kind of has the 'In A Silent Way' vibe- I was totally captivated by that track in particular. I would say Common One was not only the album that made me want to hear as much of his work as I could (after only knowing Astral Weeks/Moondance...the only albums critics ever talk about) but represented the start of me turning away from the neo/retro prog stuff and to other music. That one album opened up a whole new world for me.
    Yeah, Common One really clicked for me. Before that, I like Hard Nose the Highway, as well as his latest, Keep Me Singing (which I'm guessing can be found at Starbucks, though I could be wrong). Two songs that stand out for me are "Haunts of Ancient Peace" and "Snow in San Anselmo," which both happen to have choirs singing on them.

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