Astral Van

I have been a Van Morrison fan since Moondance. Over the decades I have built a fairly complete collection, so large that I’m splitting it into two posts.  The first song of his I was familiar with was Gloria – though at the time I didn’t connect it with him. It was a cut on The Blues Magoos’ Electric Comic Book. 

His music journey has from from Irish garage-band rock with Them, to his early searching solo years after Astral Weeks, then Moondance, a return to traditional Irish, a transcendental mystic time of great spiritual discovery, to his present sense of looking back – even re-recording some of his early work. Each period has great work by this restless musical spirit.  

There are several books about him. I have read Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 which is an excellent look at the pop scene of the time & his formative US years. Many of the songs it discusses are found on Bang Masters (67). I picked this up in February 1993. Brown Eyed Girl was his solo break-though. Mostly good solid soulful rock. The Bob Dylan inference shows on some tracks.

I have as mp3: Astral Weeks Expanded Edition 68 – which has extended versions a few tracks. The jazzy/chamber music setting is sweet &, at the time, quite revolutionary so radio stations didn’t know what to do with – musically a clear influence on the chamber rock of groups like Antony & the Johnsons. 

A stand-alones I have Moondance 70, His Band and The Street Choir 70, Tupelo Honey 71, St Dominic’s Preview 72, Hard Nose The Highway 73. At one time I had them as cassettes & upgraded to cd. Moondance remains a classic, timeless album. A more commercial recording than Astra Weeks. The music is celebratory, romantic & fun. The next ones are less hit-song driven, his sound changes from one to the next, choirs on one, more horns on another. I had most of these as cassettes at one time. Also mp3’s of Veedon Fleece 74, A Period of Transition 77.

Listening one can sense how his real life is reflected in his music. The end of his marriage, the wrestle with booze & drugs, his spiritual longings & his search for ways to express though lyrics & music his need to balance his expectations, fame & friends. In some ways a male version of Joni Mitchell but with a more rock sensibility. All of these are great albums but if you are unfamiliar start with Moondance & then Astral Weeks. 

More Van next week.

Anticipation 4

It was as he said ‘I want to know’ that he realized he did, in fact, accept The Book. It didn’t matter what he did, he couldn’t avoid his fate so he might as well start living to enjoy it. It didn’t matter what he did as long as he did something. The idea of making a decision that was not escape frightened him. That was also in The Book – ‘Martin will make the fearful choice after death.’ He regretted that it was someone else’s death.

So, this was the day. Overcast & slushy. No Michelangelo skies. As he dressed he wondered exactly what he would be doing at the moment of impact, the fulcrum of healing? Saving a drowning child? Taking a good shit? ‘What becomes the healing the world the most?’ he inhaled ‘God’, held it; breathed out, ‘Thank you.’ Then reversed the order.

Recently he had been pre-occupied by what would become of him after that moment. The Book ended with ‘On that February 14 Martin will begin the healing of the world.’ Nothing followed. Not that The Book had even been helpful in any important way. He had frequently wished it had said things like ‘Martin will become a doctor, or ‘wear those blue shorts to the beach.’ It only commented ‘… will then no longer feel lost.’ The horoscope in the newspaper was more helpful.

He hoped that once he got the healing started he could begin to live his own life for himself.

A list of To Do Today on the fridge had only one item on it – ‘Replace plug on corner lamp.’ That meant a trip to the hardware store, people, uniformed sales clerks. All the things he’d rather avoid.

The elevator in his building wasn’t working, again. Luckily he only had a six flight walk. In the carpark he discovered his arial had been snapped off, again. At least this time they hadn’t scratched a map of the world on his roof.

He went the hardware store in the mall. Found what he wanted quickly then went over to Finest Burgers in the food court. Ordered one with works & found a quiet spot that faced the dining area.

He looked at the hamburger & the fries. Fries overcooked to just the brownness he liked. The first bite was perfection. He knew it wasn’t the most healthy food but the combination of salt, ketchup & grease exploded in his mouth in the most satisfying way. A way he knew alfalfa sprouts couldn’t come near.

The molecular structure of the grease changed & the cholesterol deposits in Martin’s arteries began to dissolve. 

Brenda’s doctor looked at the test results. “Gone! Completely in remission.”

Charles put the gun down.

Brian decided he could look after the kids without her.

The blood sample on the slide mutated, the helper cells began to win.

Sylvia decided not to have that last donut.

Martin glanced up & saw that it was just after one. The healing had begun! He looked around expecting to see transformation. All he saw was people eating. He bit into his hamburger, Perfection again. And so it should be, after all wasn’t this a perfect day. The first perfect day ever.

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Diggin’ Led Zeppelin

I picked up ‘Diggin’ My Potatoes’ a stand-alone compilation of Leadbelly tracks – original vintage recordings that have been sonically cleaned up. There were several such compilations of various blues artists released on the Blue Label. HMV had them on sale for $4.99 each. Excellent liner notes alone made it worth the price. The songs are classics – Rock Island Line, CC Rider – that have been recorded by so many rock, blues country groups it is good, & important, to hear these originals. Some of which are funnier & more sexual than expected.

One band that was influenced by Leadbelly is Led Zeppelin. I still remember hearing the first riffs of that first track when their first lp was released. I love it, I loved it all – though I did find the drum solo (on II) aimless & too long, but the guitar work was wicked. I have as stand-alones: I, II, III, IV, Houses of the Holy as mp3: Physical Graffiti, Live at the BBC.Each has tracks I love & some tracks I merely tolerate 🙂 I love the sonics on Houses Of The Holy – the songs are moodier it is my favourite of all the lps. The BBC sessions are amazing & shows Zeppelin’s prog rock side more clearly than any of the lps do.

On the mp3 collection that includes Physical Graffiti is: Donnie Elbert’s The Best Of: slightly obscure 60’s soul singer with a great voice. Best of The Big Bopper: a less obscure r’n’b rock singer with a string of well-know hits (Chantilly Lace). He has a great sexy voice that makes innocent into suggestive. Five Stair Steps: The First Family of Soul – best remembered for OOH Child they are the prototype for The Jacksons.

It made sense to me to add The Spiral Staircase’s More Than Yesterday here. Best remembered for that title song they produced fine blue-eyed soul. Unlike the rest is Zal Yanovsky’s Alive & Well In Argentina – a founding member of the Lovin’ Spoonful he left because of their commercial direction. He managed this one solo release which is fun but more for fans of the obscure like myself 🙂 Finally something a little more modern Van Morrison’s Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue. More about this when I get to M.

 

Snow

“Goddammit! We’re going to Hell in a handkerchief.” My gran stopped to take a breath.

“What?” I didn’t want to stop shovelling but I’d never her swear or ever heard that ‘handkerchief’ phrase.

“I said we’re all going to Hell in a handkerchief. The way folks complain, I mean, a little snow is no big thing but it’s top news story at six.”

I kept shovelling. The snow had been falling for two days when my Dad texted me to go over to shovel her out. After the two days of flurries I expected her to be snowbound. But she had already cleared a narrow path from her front door to the sidewalk. I was making the path wider.

“How are things in school?”

She was always on to me about school. I never knew what she wanted to know. If was going bad she tell me to be grateful there’s still schools to go to but if I was doing okay she’d just laugh and tell me enjoy it while it lasted.

“Fine Gran. No complaints from my students.”

The snow kept falling.

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

March
March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April
April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

May

Richard III – Stratford Festival

June

Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

July

All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival

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at Ted’s Bulletin in Washington DC

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#NikBeat Into The Mystic

The ‘farewell’ to Nik Beat at St. John of Norway Church, fell on the first day of autumn. It was warm and sunny, almost as if Nik had arranged it himself, to give us a warm goodbye.

church01 that’s a diet coke beside Nik’s guitar

When the celebration ended with the Beatles ‘In My Life’ combined with a touch of ‘Hello Goodbye’ I have to admit I teared up a bit. Both lyrics sum up a full life. The event, to me, was more of a bon voyage party – Nik was an explorer of the mystic; whether that was through angels, poetry, or music he was always seeking. The opening verse from Van Morrison’s ‘Into The Mystic’ played in my mind: ‘We were born before the wind/ Also younger than the sun/ Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic/ Hark, now hear the sailors cry/Smell the sea and feel the sky/ Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic’

church02 Nik’ll help this guy with his manuscript

The service was a deeply emotional journey held in the framework of a rather dry liturgy. The emotional chords of the music, poems and memories of Nik’s friends & family held, to me, much more spiritual resonance & relevance than the scriptural promise of an afterlife.

A sweet solo violin version of Danny Boy started things on a real emotional note. There were heartfelt poems, songs and even Nik himself, from his recently recorded cd, to remind us of what he was taking with him on his flow into the mystic.

church03 Nik’s new writing workshop group

Too many people present to name, besides this isn’t a performance or event review but a farewell note to Nik to take with him. He’s left a strong mark on the lives of many people with his generosity of spirit, time and talent. But he was always a seeker and now his seeking has taken him to the next amazing vista on his flow into the mystic.

(sorry that my church pictures are a bit out of focus. I tried to be unobtrusive and fast when taking them). My previous Nik Beat memory: http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Te

sky

This is a piece I wrote after the service for Jackie Burroughs – seemed fitting for Nik Beat as well.

. . . walk through . . .

her casket unadorned pine

pale

unvarnished for burning

heavy even with three on each side

the gentle struggle

to get it up church steps winded me

all glad to let go

let it glide on the gurney

through the narrow granite arch

into

the vaulted cathedral

massive stained glass window

images promised resurrection

 

we followed the minister

a slow steady pace

he held aloft a silver cross

each a single hand on the casket

oppressive organ music

muffling the simple choir

I longed for unadorned chant

then wanted the droning reverential

minister’s voice smothered

too much scripted polished scripture talk

and none of the real in the casket

 

suddenly

silence

 

then her voice

previously recorded

“… I walk through … ”

all breaths held

to take in

her reading “ … I fear no … ”

sobs for this real presence

I looked to the casket

expect it to shake   giggle

 

next the rites

holy water sprinkled

dense incense wafted

I choked   gasped

air thick

smothered through the rest of the ritual

 

we walk the casket out

again the gentle clumsy struggle

out the narrow granite arch

the dead weight down the steps

to the hearse

where we all took a deep breath

 

it drove off into the sun

sky

into the mystic

An Emotional Fish

An Emotional Fish is one of those Irish bands that got washed away by the tide of U2, even though they even opened for U2 and were under that corporate umbrella. They made no real North American break through. Another Irish band that got washed away was Hothouse Flowers (more about them when I get to the H’s).

shatter01 shattered & scattered

Released in 1990, I picked up this cd in May 1993 – mainly because of the band’s name so it must have been cheap enough that I was willing to take a gamble.

silver breaking the ice

The music is solid rock, sometimes pretty & always propulsive. I really liked a couple of the tracks: Grey Matter, Lace Virginia & can conjure them up in my head without having to put the cd on.

shatter02 shattered close up

Strong vocals, excellent production values and Irish without being overtly Celtic or too mystic a la Van Morrison (more about my Morrison collection when we get to the M’s). I did pick up another CD of their years later but nothing on it grabbed me enough to keep it.

samples

Goodbye

neither of us could say it  mean it

or could somehow make it stick

though we both knew it was in the air

we didn’t want to face the full implication

the only way

it could be come real

was for one of us to die

to move away

to vanish

 

the moment the word

might stray into the air between us

we knew that it would

never be uttered with conviction

with willingness

or with an intention

that it become a fact

 

it became an unspoken threat

if you don’t do x

then it’s goodbye

but when x wasn’t done

nothing much changed

some flicker of spite

then on to the next development

 

another word

is removed from the vocabulary

to be replace with the nod

the I’ll-be-seeing-you eyebrow

the till-tomorrow squeeze

the I-can’t-wait-till-you-call email

the tender animated gif

 

this the way of separation

the never dearly departed

the closeness one wishes for

that may never occur

hasn’t been enough

to make your goodbye take

 

I say that

because the same has been true for me

I’ve been ready to utter

but not prepared for the follow through

for the consequences

the door is too easy open

and comfort too simple

not to be real

to be lasting

but

it does have room to spare

time to allow change

though the change

seems to consume you more than me

 

the other side of farewell

is too dark and bleak

to consider

we both know that what lies there

isn’t the unknown

but a return to what was there

before the first glance   first hello

that tumbled us to bed

heart first

lips locked

too locked to mumble anything deeper

than

yes oh yes

 

what I might miss

is the sound of you sleeping

beside me or in a room nearby

a room I can peak in to watch

the rise  fall

the wriggle of a bare foot

out of the cover

the slip off of a too warm blanket

to reveal the the true moon

 

the impending goodbye

is kept at a distance

gives you the room to make a move

to bring you other opportunities

chances to explore

fears you never had to face with me

the fears of meeting someone with whom

goodbye would mean goodbye

here your goodbye won’t stand

it’ll merely meant

let’s try this way for now

bdoor very blue door

#Killdozer vs #ArcadeFire

spoon battery
spoon battery

Recently someone asked me what I was listening to on my iPod. I hesitated to answer because whatever it was they would jump to conclusions about me based on the music I was listening to – if I said The Beatles – I was living the past; if I said Lady Gaga – I was a real fag; if I said Coltrane – I was elitist pretentious; if I said – Chopin – I was was beyond comprehension.

pull yourself together
pull yourself together

There are some musicians or composers, who are always on my iPod. I think I have at least 10 days of listening without repeat on tap at any given time. Once a play list gets heard it gets replaced. Each play list, in general, is a mix of pop, jazz, classical.

spoon battery
spoon battery

Nearly always on one play list or the other is: The Beatles, The Stones, Van Morrison, Jacques Brel, Sinatra, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Chopin, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Mozart. Frequently: The Animals, Procol Harum, Lou Reed, McCoy Tyner, Gabor Szabo, Bach, Dvorak. There’s one play list of Latino/French,/World Music music that often includes Otto, Osibisa, Santana, Boyo Boys, Piaf, Pizzicato Five.

When I was asked what I was listening, I replied: “Guess.” Because what they thought I was listening would tell me what they thought of me. They said Arcade Fire (am I a hipster?) when the truth was Killdozer.

sad plant
sad plant