Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

“FANTABULOUS!”

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LIVE AT MONTREUX -- 1980 / 1974
Van Morrison
released: 2006
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In a sense, VAN MORRISON has figured prominently in my life and in fact, in an indirect way, he saved me from a life of great regret...
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I was a huge fan of VAN THE MAN in 1986, and one day I returned home practically giddy from having just located what was at that time a few hard-to-find Van Morrison vinyl LPs. As fate would have it, just as I got out of my car, with my new used albums tucked under one arm, Andy, a loyal old friend of mine pulled up to the curb in his battered old pickup truck. Andy and I’d had something of a falling-out over some inconsequential issue and we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other for some time.

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But I was in such a good mood, having just acquired long sought after Morrison music, that in that very moment, I buried the past, forgave Andy for whatever slight I’d been holding against him, and I greeted him as the true friend of fifteen years he really was. We spoke briefly and then parted as the good pals we’d always been. That was the last time I saw Andy -– truly one of the greatest friends I have ever had. Not long afterwards, I learned of his suicide in California City.
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Many times in the subsequent years, I’ve revisited that day in my mind and shuddered to think, “What if I hadn’t just found those Van Morrison records, and hadn’t been in such a magnanimous mood? What if, instead, I had given Andy the cold shoulder? Treated him like a dog? How would I have ever lived with that last memory and the tremendous remorse I would have carried with me all these years?” Fortunately, I haven’t had to beat myself up over a regrettable event that might have occurred twenty-one years ago. In a way, I owe the music of Van Morrison much gratitude for changing my life in an unexpected way!
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This last Christmas, I received the DVD VAN MORRISON LIVE AT MONTREUX 1980/1974 from my friend, Kevin, “The Kansas Kid.” Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He’s currently wanted in seven states for crimes ranging from bank robbery and train robbery to shooting innocent zoo animals... with a camera. Kevin’s a good buddy and he knows how to please ol’ Stephen T. If you, too, are a fan of Van The Man's music, this selection is a real no-brainer -- you can buy with total confidence.
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I’ve seen Van perform live at least four times in my life. When he’s in the mood, he’s a compelling entertainer. At the Montreux Jazz Festival, he was definitely in the mood, and his band –- as always –- consisted of nothing less than the finest musicians. You know Van, if a musician can’t please the man, they’re out on their can!

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Both discs in this set are excellent, but whereas the June 30, 1974 performance is shorter and more Blues dominated, I prefer the July 19, 1980 show. It contains some of Van’s more extended Jazzy pieces which are rarely, if ever, played live anymore -– particularly those long, meditative works from his underrated COMMON ONE release. Van’s looking pretty trim here (you know, for Van, I mean), and we get to see him with his outrageously talented horn men, Pee Wee Ellis (tenor sax) and Mark Isham (trumpet).
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Some of the performance highlights for me include:
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TROUBADOURS – I always considered this to be one of the lesser tracks on what is easily one of Van’s greatest sets, INTO THE MUSIC. But here, Isham and Ellis are blowing as if to save their lives, and when the audience broke into applause at its conclusion, I very nearly did the same thing right in my own living room!
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During the intro to SPIRIT, John Allair locks into such a spirited, funky groove that he can’t remain seated at the organ -– the music itself demands that he stand!
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SUMMERTIME IN ENGLAND – The song moves from a meditation to unrestrained exuberance, where Pee Wee nearly blows the roof off the place, until the song downshifts back into a meditation just prior to launching into a “fantabulous” rendition of Morrison’s MOONDANCE masterpiece.
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HAUNTS OF ANCIENT PEACE – This gives us a tremendously soulful solo from Pee Wee.
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There’s a wonderful little moment early on in this ultimate version of TUPELO HONEY, where Isham and Ellis simultaneously play their respective horn parts, and then as they back away from their mics, they glance at each other and exchange self-satisfied smiles. Here are two fine musicians in their prime and immersed in the joy of their art. There’s no competition; there’s no race (even though Isham is White and Ellis is Black); there’s no time; there’s just this *NOW* and the knowledge that supreme artists are combining their talents in the act of creating something very beautiful!
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On the downside, despite the quality of musicianship, LISTEN TO THE LION never comes close to matching the studio version from the SAINT DOMINIC'S PREVIEW album, but then how could it? That is one of the most introspective and intense pieces of music ever recorded. Morrison could tap that depth only once. (His version on 1973’s IT’S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW –- unquestionably one of the greatest live albums ever released -– never came close either. Saint Dominic’s LISTEN TO THE LION was just too roaringly glorious to ever be replicated even by Van, the man himself. That was a once-in-a-lifetime performance!) But when Van sings, “I believe I’ve transcended myself, child” in the encore, ANGELOU, for a minute there, it almost seems as if indeed he has!
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WHY do I think this live concert DVD is so good? Well, sure I could talk about the various camera angles, the clear picture, the crisp sound. I could explain why Pee Wee Ellis is a saxgod. I could discuss in greater detail the top-notch, eight-piece band and the Jazz explorations of one of the world’s great songwriters and his Irish muse. Or I could simply quote from one of his own songs:

It ain’t why, why, why.
It ain’t why, why, why.
It ain’t why, why, why.
It just IS!
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Hopefully you have learned two things from this review of mine:
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1) You can purchase VAN MORRISON LIVE AT MONTREUX 1980/1974 with complete assurance that as a Morrison fan (or just a person who appreciates exceptional musicianship) your money will be well spent. And...
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2) You should always treat your loved ones very good because you just never know when you are seeing them for the... very... last... time.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy

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4 comments:

  1. What a great lesson in life - to treat others with kindness. You are so right, you never know if it will be the last time you see them.

    Great album.. I know that I'll be listening to excerpts throughout the day.

    ~Mary
    Jingle Jangle Jungle
    #AtoZChallenge 1970's Billboard Hits

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MMQE ~
      I may be a total a$$hole (minus any money) but that doesn't mean I haven't learned a thing or two in my 5+ decades of misery.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  2. Stephen,

    I know Van Morrison mostly for "Brown Eyed Girl" but thanks to BoTB and Monday's Mewsic Moves Me his mewsic has popped up on more than one occasion. I'm just sorry I hadn't enjoyed his stuff sooner.

    If don't learn a thing or two in more than five decades then something ain't right. You're so on point about treating others with kindness. I have situation going on right now with DS where he isn't being too kind to his father and me. While it breaks my heart, I know someday the regret (and rightfully so if he allows God to direct his heart) he'll feel will weigh heavily upon him. He certainly didn't treat us with kindness even though we were nothing but kind to him. We raised our kids to be thinkers to not conform to their peers views and guess what, they decided to throw away these important upbringings to be like their friends. It's sad, really sad.

    Has your life really been miserable or do are you just pulling our legs? I hope you're just yanking our chain is all. You're so likeable that it's hard to imagine your life anything less than happy (maybe not all the time).

    Thanks for sharing. Now, I'm gonna find a Van Morrison YouTube playlist to listen to in the background. Have a good day, my friend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CATHY ~
      Very sorry to hear about the situation with your son. I hope things turn around soon and I will pray for that.

      Thanks for the nice words, my friend!

      Well, relatively speaking, my life is pretty blessed. I mean, I could be one of billions of people living in a Third World country somewhere, so I have no right to complain about anything.

      My life seemed almost charmed until I left L.A. in late '92. Not much has gone right since then. But, hey, I've got all I need and much of what I want, including imported cheese to go with my whine, so...

      [;^)}

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      [Link:) Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete

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