Archive for July, 2009

Van Morrison – a greater talent than Dylan?

July 23, 2009

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Need to take issue with Andrew from Adelaide on a couple of points:

1) Dylan v Van

I’m not sure you can compare Van’s “Astral Weeks”, “Moondance”, “St Dominic’s Review” and “Veedon Fleece” (released over a 6 year period) with Dylan’s “rolled gold” classics as selected by Andrew, “Freewheelin’”, “Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Blonde on Blonde” which were not only released over just 4 years, but the last three were recorded and released over a ridiculously tight time frame:

* Bringing It All Back Home (14 and 15 Jan 1965); (2 days)
* Highway 61 (15 June, 29/30 July, 2/4 August 1965 (5 days)
* Blonde on Blonde (14 -17 Feb, 8/9 March 1966 (6 days)

So, three undeniable classic LPs recorded in 13 days over a 14 month period! Can anyone else match that? And wasn’t he touring during that time too…?

2) Dylan’s second golden era

Planet Waves 1973
Blood on the Tracks 1974
Desire 1975
Hard Rain 1976
StreetLegal 1978

3) Classic songs

I would suggest that Dylan has more classic songs in his songbook than Van that are more well known to the public at large eg Blowin in the wind, lay lady lay, knockin on heaven’s door etc

4) Sustained sequence of clunkers

Can anyone top Van’s output of clunkers from 1995 to the present?

 Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (1996)
 The Healing Game (1997)
 Back on Top (1999)
 The Skiffle Sessions – Live in Belfast 1998 (2000)
 You Win Again (2000)
 Down the Road (2002)
 What’s Wrong with This Picture? (2003)
 Magic Time (2005)
 Pay the Devil (2006)
 Live at Austin City Limits Festival (Live) (2006)
 Keep It Simple (2008)
 Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl (Live) (2009)

That’s not to deny the brilliance of “Astral Weeks” which is unique in the Van canon, and possibly one of the greatest albums of all time.

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Van Morrison – a greater talent than Dylan?

Thanks to Andrew Robertson:

No surprise that Oh Mercy was rated the best Dylan album of this period (1978-89) – it was, indeed, the only album of that period that I would rate as a classic Dylan album or potentially a Desert Island Disc.

To provoke debate among other music lovers (and perhaps to annoy Dylan Diehards) I would like to repeat my previously expressed view that this confirms Van Morrison as the greater music talent, and indeed, the greatest in contemporary music.

The same period (1978-89) was Morrison’s second golden era in which he produced 6 “rolled gold” classics, as follows (in chronological order):
Into The Music
Common One
Beautiful Vision
No Guru No Method No Teacher
Poetic Champions Compose
Avalon Sunset

In addition, several other worthy additions to his canon (also in chronological order):
Wavelength
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart
Live at the Belfast Grand Opera House
A Sense of Wonder
Irish Heartbeat (with the Chieftains)

And not one weak album, not one that is not a worthy addition to my music collection.

A very significant difference to Dylan’s output from the same years, as your reader poll confirms.

Ah, but what of Dylan’s early years, do I hear you – and Bernard McGuinn – say (defiantly)?

OK, ignoring Bob Dylan, on which he only wrote 2 tracks, Dylan’s only golden era comprised 7 albums of which 4 were “rolled gold” classics:
Freewheelin’
Bringing It All Back Home
Highway 61 Revisited
Blonde on Blonde

While 3 were simply excellent:
The Times They Are A-Changing
Another Side
John Wesley Harding

In Van Morrison’s case, ignoring Them and the Bang output, his first golden era also comprised 7 albums of which, similarly, 4 were “rolled gold” classics:
Astral Weeks
Moondance
Saint Dominic’s Preview
Veedon Fleece

While 3 were simply excellent:
His Band and the Street Choir
Tupelo Honey
Hard Nose the Highway

I would argue that Morrison’s “best of the best” (namely Astral Weeks) is better than Dylan’s but putting arguably subjective judgments aside, my point is that Morrison had two golden eras compared to Dylan’s one (not that Dylan hasn’t had other great albums – Oh Mercy being a case in point – however he hasn’t, in my opinion, had another sustained period of such extraordinary excellence).

Let the debate begin…

Andrew in Adelaide

Van Morrison – a greater talent than Dylan?

July 22, 2009

Thanks to Andrew Robertson:

No surprise that Oh Mercy was rated the best Dylan album of this period (1978-89) – it was, indeed, the only album of that period that I would rate as a classic Dylan album or potentially a Desert Island Disc.

To provoke debate among other music lovers (and perhaps to annoy Dylan Diehards) I would like to repeat my previously expressed view that this confirms Van Morrison as the greater music talent, and indeed, the greatest in contemporary music.

The same period (1978-89) was Morrison’s second golden era in which he produced 6 “rolled gold” classics, as follows (in chronological order):
Into The Music
Common One
Beautiful Vision
No Guru No Method No Teacher
Poetic Champions Compose
Avalon Sunset

In addition, several other worthy additions to his canon (also in chronological order):
Wavelength
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart
Live at the Belfast Grand Opera House
A Sense of Wonder
Irish Heartbeat (with the Chieftains)

And not one weak album, not one that is not a worthy addition to my music collection.

A very significant difference to Dylan’s output from the same years, as your reader poll confirms.

Ah, but what of Dylan’s early years, do I hear you – and Bernard McGuinn – say (defiantly)?

OK, ignoring Bob Dylan, on which he only wrote 2 tracks, Dylan’s only golden era comprised 7 albums of which 4 were “rolled gold” classics:
Freewheelin’
Bringing It All Back Home
Highway 61 Revisited
Blonde on Blonde

While 3 were simply excellent:
The Times They Are A-Changing
Another Side
John Wesley Harding

In Van Morrison’s case, ignoring Them and the Bang output, his first golden era also comprised 7 albums of which, similarly, 4 were “rolled gold” classics:
Astral Weeks
Moondance
Saint Dominic’s Preview
Veedon Fleece

While 3 were simply excellent:
His Band and the Street Choir
Tupelo Honey
Hard Nose the Highway

I would argue that Morrison’s “best of the best” (namely Astral Weeks) is better than Dylan’s but putting arguably subjective judgments aside, my point is that Morrison had two golden eras compared to Dylan’s one (not that Dylan hasn’t had other great albums – Oh Mercy being a case in point – however he hasn’t, in my opinion, had another sustained period of such extraordinary excellence).

Let the debate begin…

Andrew in Adelaide

London signing for new book tomorrow (Wednesday)

July 14, 2009

If you’re in central London tomorrow evening (Wednesday 15 July, 6-9pm), you’re warmly invited to attend the signing event for my new book, Music For Grown-Ups.

I’ll be signing copies from the numbered limited edition; Music For Grown-Ups is not available from High St bookshops.

The evening is hosted by AMUTi, the specialist collectable and book dealer, at its delightful gallery/shop near King’s Cross/St Pancras/Euston railway stations.

I’ll be giving a short talk about music for grown-ups, before enjoying a drink with the audience.

You’ll be able to marvel at AMUTi’s unique selection of music-related rare books and collectables.

If you manage to make it, please ensure that you ID yourself to me as a reader of this website – I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday!

Details:

www.amutionline.com

Gerry Smith

London signing for new book this Wednesday

July 13, 2009

If you’re in central London this Wednesday evening (15 July, 6-9pm), you’re warmly invited to attend the signing event for my new book, Music For Grown-Ups.

I’ll be signing copies from the special numbered limited edition; Music For Grown-Ups is not available from High St bookshops.

The evening is hosted by Amuti, the specialist collectable and book dealer, at its delightful gallery/shop near King’s Cross/St Pancras/Euston railway stations.

I’ll be giving a short talk about music for grown-ups, before enjoying a drink with the audience.

You’ll be able to marvel at Amuti’s unique selection of music-related rare books and collectables.

If you manage to make it, please ensure that you ID yourself to me as a reader of this website – I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday!

Details:

www.amutionline.com

Gerry Smith

London signing for new book next Wednesday

July 9, 2009

If you’re in central London next Wednesday evening (15 July, 6-9pm), you’re warmly invited to attend the signing event for my new book, Music For Grown-Ups.

I’ll be signing copies from the special numbered limited edition; Music For Grown-Ups is not available from High St bookshops.

The evening is hosted by Amuti, the specialist collectable and book dealer, at its delightful gallery/shop near King’s Cross/St Pancras/Euston railway stations.

I’ll be giving a short talk about music for grown-ups, before enjoying a drink with the audience.

You’ll be able to marvel at Amuti’s unique selection of music-related rare books and collectables.

If you manage to make it, please ensure that you ID yourself to me as a reader of this website – I look forward to seeing you next Wednesday!

Details:

www.amutionline.com

Gerry Smith

Roger McGuinn, ex-Byrd, tells his Dylan stories

July 8, 2009

Completing a short English solo tour in St Albans last week, Roger McGuinn spared us his born-again folkie stuff and focused mainly on the luminous Byrds legacy.

His likeable 90-minute performance thrilled the crowd of 500 ageing pop-pickers, well up for a night of comforting nostalgia. In delivering it, McGuinn, using only his 12-string Rickenbacker and his 7(!)-string Martin HD-7 acoustic, demonstrated that he’s a fine multifaceted musician and singer, and an engaging, generous-minded raconteur.

His debt to Dylan was all over the evening. As well as My Back Pages, the opener, McGuinn explored the Zim locker with Mr Tambourine Man, All I Really Want To Do and You Ain’t Going Nowhere, plus the Dylan-influenced Ballad Of Easy Rider.

He recounted his story of the writing of The Ballad Of Easy Rider – how Dylan, too busy to supply a song for the movie soundtrack, scribbles a few lines of lyrics on a paper tissue, gives it to lead actor Peter Fonda, tells him to fly coast-to-coast and hand it personally to Roger – “Give it to McGuinn, he’ll finish it…”.

McGuinn also recounted how, when The Byrds first played Dylan their version of All I Really Want To Do in the studio, he expressed a liking for the song – before being reminded that he’d written it!

 

Gerry Smith

Renee Fleming: world-class

July 7, 2009

Last night’s London performance of La Traviata was a spellbinder.

The Royal Opera House tends to specialise in world-class productions; this gig was right up there – one of the top shows I’m ever likely to witness.

Verdi’s La Traviata is over two hours of seamlessly melodic, memorable arias, duets, trios and choruses, following each other in dizzying succession.

Its plot and social context might be iffy to modern sensibilities, the action a trifle melodramatic, but the finesse of the music – and the libretto – makes this Verdi’s (and opera’s) most popular work. But it’s a difficult opera to get right: I’ve seen two other productions which were underwhelming.

With leads like last night’s – Renee Fleming, Thomas Hampson and Joseph Calleja were all outstanding – faultless direction and a house band at the top of its game, this was the kind of gig that most opera buffs dream about.

American diva Renee Fleming confirmed her status as Music for Grown-Ups’ favourite soprano, with an immense, nuanced performance. Her voice surpassed all the demands made on it, her creamy mid-range tone complemented by angry lower range notes and some sublime highs. Her subtle changes – slightly tipsy after swigging from a bottle or two, increasingly frail near death – were the hallmarks of a great musician. Fleming’s acting, as the doomed tart with a heart (and, alone in this company, a moral code) – was exquisite throughout.

Renee Fleming: a world-class soprano.

Gerry Smith