This is a long-ish post which you may not be arsed to read all the way through, so let me draw your attention to the fact that at the end there is a call-out for yet another Afterword a list.
It’s turning out to be a pretty good year for Van Morrison. He turns 70 this weekend and is celebrating with two hometown gigs on Cyprus Avenue. He released his Duets album which whilst hardly his greatest hour was well received and appears to have sold well. Almost his entire back catalogue is finally available again after a ludicrous hiatus. He has been knighted. And knocking all of that into a cocked hat, in recent weeks there have been many posts in praise of him here on the Afterword. So here’s another one.
I have been listening to Van for over 40 years. I remember watching and marvelling at an Old Grey Whistle Test broadcast of a live Caledonia Soul Orchestra performance sometime in the mid 70s. My main source for finding music then was the record section of my local library. This led to some fairly quirky introductions to many of the greats. I didn’t hear Astral Weeks or Moondance for years, but I knew every groove of Tupelo Honey and TB Sheets. And from then on Van has been there throughout my life. ‘Hard Nose The Highway’ at Uni. ‘Wavelength’ when me and Mrs BB were first stepping out.’ Beautiful Vision’ when I first started working. ‘Poetic Champions Compose’ when our kids were born.
I love the way he uses his voice like a jazz musician uses his instrument –improvising, extending, working around a theme, going deeper and deeper. Risking seeming ridiculous by not playing safe, but as a result fining something in the music – soul, emotion, transcendence, whatever you want to call it. Those songs live and on record when he extends himself are extraordinary; there is nothing else like them in pop music, and they are his work I treasure most. But, as he is always keen to remind us, he can write great upbeat pop songs – ‘Brown Eyed Girl’,’ Jackie Wilson Said’, ‘ull Force Gale’ – and classic love songs – ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?’, ‘Tupelo Honey’, ‘Carrying a Torch’. He’s a craftsman as much as he is an instinctive soulman.
I don’t know how much the books we read, the films we see, the music we listen to shape us. They certainly don’t necessarily make us beeter people. But they are part of who we are, and they certainly enrich our lives and help make them worth living. In that respect I owe Van more than just about anyone else. Happy birthday Van…
But enough of my yakking – this is the Afterword, let’s have a list. Inspired by that recent Dylan thread, let’s have your top five Van Morrison tracks in order 1 to 5. It’s a ridiculous question I know – I certainly can’t answer it conclusively, but I’ll have a go in the comments below. I’ll let it run for a week or so after which I’m happy to add up the scores on the doors. Hell, I might even do a Spotify playlist just because – finally – we can.