Van Morrison – a greater talent than Dylan?

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

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