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Posted by on Jan 27, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

Starrfucker

 

 

Who was that hookworm who wiggled himself into the mighty chamber of United States Senate today, arguing in defense of the dark, venal, and incurable metastasis that is the Trump criminal presidency?

Who was that anti-constitutional parasite who once spent three years and blew $70 million in tax dollars investigating a shady old Arkansas real estate deal from more than a decade earlier — and then thousands of witnesses, truckloads of documents, and tens of thousands of billable legal hours later — ended up with the high crime and misdemeanor of ONE blow job?

Who was that scandal-plagued ex-college prez who resigned in disgrace only a few years earlier who now has the audacity to claim:

“The Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently…Indeed, we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the age of impeachment.”

It’s Ken Starr!

Wow.  What a past from the blast.

Twenty years ago, Ken Starr tried to argue an inappropriate sexual affair was grounds of impeachment and a guilty verdict in the U.S. Senate.

Today, the same Ken Starr slinked his way to the defense table, telling America with a straight face there’s been too much impeachment lately. Yes, the very same Ken Starr intent to bury Bill Clinton is now utterly dismissive of dirty deeds by THIS criminal president.

If Whitewater + Blowjob = Impeachment in Ken Starr’s legal universe…..can someone please compute his similar math calculation as to how: Abuse of Power + Obstruction of Congress = No Impeachment?

Hey, Kenny — I got another equation for ‘ya:

John Bolton = Monica Lewinsky.

Now, let me enjoy watching you try to unroll enough legal duct tape to keep Bolton’s mouth shut.

 

Note 1:  I was in agreement then and still agree now that Clinton should have been impeached for committing perjury.

Note 2:  “Starfucker” is the title of a Rolling Stones song from the 1970s.

Photo Credit:  Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald, via AP, File

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Posted by on Jan 26, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

The 20 Most Baffling Grammy Award Winners of All Time

 

 

Since the awards were first doled out in 1959, the Grammys have translated into little more than a rubbernecking exercise for millions of watchers baffled by what’s happened to popular music.

Now in its 62nd year, the annual presentation is a proverbial dumpster fire of clashing musical genres and a twisted assemblage of conflicting generational tastes.

The latest chapter of chaos combined with curiosity will be written on Sunday night, at 7 pm CST with the CBS live telecast of the Grammy Awards.

The mish-mash of generational rivalries, wandering attention spans, and awkwardly pigeon-holed acts crammed into misnamed categories have produced many inexplicable (and undeserving) winners.

What follows are my picks for the most outrageous Grammy Award winners of all time, along with my correct choice as to who should have won the award instead for that year.

Dishonorable Mention (11-20):

 

(20) “Moon River,” by Henry Mancini winning “Record of the Year” in 1962, instead of The Dave Brubeck Group for “Take Five.” Mancini was a wonderful composer and “Moon River” became a huge hit as the accompanying soundtrack to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But “Take Five” stood the test of time far better and it remains one of the best jazz recordings ever.

(19) “Use Somebody,” by Kings of Leon winning “Record of the Year” in 2010, instead of Lady Gaga for “Poker Face.” It’s not that “Use Somebody” isn’t a well-executed and deserving song. It’s just that Lady Gaga’s exemplary effort was far more innovative and globally infectious — both then and now.

(18) “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by Bobby McFerrin winning “Record of the Year in 1989, instead of Michael Jackson for “Man in the Mirror.” Somehow, an annoying bubble-gum song with a terrible message (don’t worry, be happy? really? seriously?) topped the far more serious and deserving monster hit by one of the greatest artists in pop history (before his personal scandals). The only explanation for this egregious mistake was that voters must have been suffering from Michael Jackson fatigue, as he pretty much dominated the 1980s music scene and by then some rivals were bitterly tired of him.

(17) River: The Joni Letters, by Herbie Hancock winning “Album of the Year” in 2008, instead of Amy Winehouse for Back to Black. For more than three decades, Hancock has given the world a lot of great music. But this was far from is best career effort. Winehouse was the edgier, far more interesting, crossover-pick for her throwback R&B style and extraordinary vocal interpretations on what remains a flawless album (one of my favorite compositions of the last ten years).

(16) “You Light Up My Life,” by Debby Boone winning “Song of the Year” in 1978, instead of “Evergreen” performed by Barbra Streisand and composed by Paul Williams, which was the only tie in Grammy history. Boone’s embarrassingly cheesy ballad now comes across little more than a wide-lapelled polka-dotted fashion statement and a throwback to a gutless period in popular music dominated by coked-up disco queens and the vanilla saccharine of Barry Manilow. It’s hard to believe nominees the Eagles, Carly Simon, and Glen Campbell all lost to this sappy feather-haired nobody. My two choices would have been either Stevie Wonder (“Sir Duke“) or the brilliantly-composed “Star Wars Theme,” by the great composer John Williams.

(15) “Games People Play” by Joe South winning “Song of the Year” in 1970, instead of anything else from the rich catalog of popular music recorded and released not just within the rock genre, but the golden era of Motown, as well. Even prolific composer Burt Bachrach, who had two nominations in this category (canceling each other out, most likely) was a far more deserving choice. Has anyone ever heard of Joe South since he walked on stage that night, beating out Diana Ross, the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Jackson 5, Neil Diamond, and B.B. King (“The Thrill is Gone” was eligible that year — how did that not win?).

(14) “Roseanna,” by Toto winning “Record of the Year” in 1983, instead of Willie Nelson for “Always on My Mind.” What an awful song and a regrettable pick. A disgrace. An embarrassment. Disreputable. Utterly baffling. Insane. Voters much have been smoking some of Willie Nelson’s weed. “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, “Sweet Dreams” by The Eurythmics, and “Beat It” by Michael Jackson all came out that year. “Roseanna” won over those songs? How?

(13) Two Against Nature by Steely Dan winning “Album of the Year” in 2000, instead of anything else released that year. Give it to Radiohead, Eminem, Paul Simon, or Beck — all who were nominated and then bypassed for the best album that year. Not Steely Dan. My picks would have been Garth Brooks’ live double album or Christina Aguilera’s self-titled debut best-seller.

(12) Hootie and the Blowfish winning “Best New Artist” in 1996, instead of either Alanis Morrissette or Shania Twain. No brainer. Enough said. No excuse for this oversight. Even at the time, anyone could see Morrissette and Twain’s natural talent and staying power as potentially volcanic forces in popular music. Not Hootie. Not the Blowfish.

(11) “Kiss from a Rose,” by Seal winning “Record of the Year” in 1996 instead of TLC’s “Waterfalls.” TLC was a wonderfully gifted R&B girl group, and this was their biggest crossover hit. But that didn’t matter. Seal’s overwrought and melodramatic torture of a song “Kiss from a Rose” won, mostly because the flop from two years earlier got remixed into the Batman movie soundtrack, and then quickly shot up the charts. That wasn’t even Seal’s best song released from that epic album. “Prayer for the Dying” was. Listen to the two songs. It’s no contest.

And now, the worst, least-deserving, most outrageous ten winners of all time:

The Top/Bottom Ten

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(10) Milli Vanilli — “Best New Artist,” 1990

It’s easy to see a much clearer picture now, rather than back then, when these two pop music Grammy winners from Germany faked and lip-synched their way to a scandalous victory. Fortunately, their careers ended up on the ash heap of music history, which gives us all hope that the same fate could ultimately befall all the Autotune frauds and phonies. Milli Vanilli was exposed and discredited, their Grammy award was stripped away, and their careers mercifully ended, delighting those of us whose ears still painfully echo with the horrors of stolen music.  Using session musicians (and taking the credit) is problematic for any Grammy winner.  But committing fraud is another.  Good riddance.

Who Should Have Won — Indigo Girls

(9) “Winchester Cathedral” (The New Vaudeville Band) — Best Contemporary Song, 1966

In an astonishing year in music that produced timeless classics including — Born Free, California Dreamin’, Summer in the City, Strangers in the Night, Wild Thing, Good Vibrations, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, The Sound of Silence, Homeward Bound, Wipeout, Land of 1,000 Dances, If I Were a Carpenter, Zorba the Greek, and Yesterday (this is only a partial list!) — guess what song ended up winning the “Best Contemporary Song” Grammy that year? Answer — “Winchester Cathedral” by those rock legends, The New Vaudeville Band. Urgh!

Who Should Have Won — The Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations”)….or maybe not, since all the Beach Boys recordings were really done by The Wrecking Crew.

(8) Burl Ives (“Funny Way of Laughin”) — Best Country and Western Song, 1963

Burl Ives doesn’t get his historical due.  He was a multi-talented songwriter, musician, and actor — one of the few to be nominated for both an Oscar and Grammy. He performed folk songs, played villains in movies, did voiceovers, and was even blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Yet, he is perhaps best known today for his iconic song and self-portrayal in the annual “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” television program shown every Christmas season. Ives won a Grammy in 1963 for a song that’s since been forgotten, which wasn’t even a country song, edging out the iconic voice and life of George Jones, someone who would prove to be a giant influence in country music for the next five decades. Jones, then a breakout artist with one of his very first hit recordings, deserved the Grammy.

Who Should Have Won — “She Still Thinks I Can,” By George Jones

(7) Starland Vocal Band — Best New Artist, 1977

Look up the Starland Vocal Band sometime, if you want a good laugh. The group recorded had one lame hit, the wickedly torturous “Afternoon Delight,” the epitome of a musical bologna sandwich and a fitting soundtrack for the decline of Western civilization. Even the rock group Boston, which was nominated in this category, lost to the trifling trio. This was a very bad year for popular music, arguably the worst ever as rock was phasing into disco and (later) new wave. And punk was still considered an oddity, if not outright musical anarchy.  Note:  This very well could be ranked #1 as the worst, most undeserved Grammy Award ever given, and if you doubt this, check out THIS VIDEO.

Who Should Have Won — The Clash

(6) “Most High” (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) — Best Hard Rock Performance, 1999

Every rock n’ roll and blues fan reveres the music of Led Zeppelin. That said, this was one of the two frontmen’s weakest efforts, no doubt brought about by the opportunity of a potentially lucrative reunion album and tour, however brief that lasted. Meanwhile, Marilyn Manson, Metallica, Pearl Jam, and Kiss were each overlooked by voters in this category. The Grammy voters got it wrong in Led Zeppelin’s heyday from 1968-1978 by not giving them any awards, and then committed and even more atrocious act by bestowing upon them what amounts to an apology award more than two decades later, long after their musical and cultural relevance was over.

Who Should Have Won — “The Dope Show,” by Marilyn Manson

(5) Eric Clapton (“Layla”) — Song of the Year, 1992

It’s painful to include master songwriter and performer Eric Clapton on any “undeserving list.” He’s one of the greatest guitarists in popular music in history and probably deserves far more official accolades. But his 1992 Grammy win for a re-worked acoustical version of a song initially recorded in 1970 made no sense whatsoever, especially given the force the musical force that Nirvana was at the time. The song that should have won instead defined a new sound and an entire generation and continues to receive praise as one of the most innovative rock songs ever recorded. It’s on virtually every “greatest” list of songs.

Who Should Have Won — “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana)

(4) A Taste of Honey — Best New Artist, 1978

Disco was certainly king during the late 70s, and this honor was a mirrored ball tossed to a manufactured cookie-cutter musical group that ultimately became a one-hit-wonder, with that timeless classic “Boogie Oogie Oogie.” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I don’t know it either. A Taste of Honey disbanded soon thereafter and would be a historical footnote were it not for their mystifying victory as the music industry’s “Best New Artist” in a year with far better nominees.

Who Should Have Won — Elvis Costello

(3) Bobby Russell (“Little Green Apples”) — Song of the Year, 1969

How could voters ignore the Beatles masterpiece “Hey Jude,” which was easily the most deserving song of the year? A landmark achievement, the self-composed track was the first single ever released on Apple Records and was recorded in the summer of ’68 following the group’s return from three-months in India. That turned out to be a gargantuan year for the Fab Four, with several hits coming off the Magical Mystery Tour sessions, followed by the stellar double-disc release only months later, known as The White Album. Oh, and then there were two other popular hit singles, “Revolution” and “Lady Madonna.” Breaking with tradition, “Hey Jude” wasn’t even included on any album collection (until after the group’s final breakup in 1970). The song spent a staggering nine weeks at number one, then a record — this in the midst of an explosive era when society was rapidly changing, racial and cultural barriers were coming down, and so much extraordinary music was being recorded — from rock n’ roll to Motown. “Hey Jude” shattered conventional formulaic radio-friendly thinking at the time, clocking in at more than 7 minutes. What begins as a slow piano-laden ballad with a single voice becomes an orchestral tour-d-force, finishing off with the memorable sing-a-long, “na, na, na — na, na, na, na.” Never has anything so simple sounded so amazing, as this live appearance in the U.K. on The David Frost Show reveals:


So, what won that year, instead? Chew on this. Bobby Russell’s mostly forgettable sleepy lullaby “Little Green Apples,” performed by O.C. Smith. Remember that one? I didn’t either. So, I had to look it up. Here’s the “Song of the Year” winner for what was arguably the greatest year of popular music in history.  And besides, the song was recorded by not less than three singers, also released as a single by Patti Page and O. C. Smith on separate occasions that same year.  What makes the Bobby Russell version special?  Answer — nothing.  Russell didn’t even write the song!  Outrageous.

 What Should Have Won — “Hey Jude” (The Beatles)

(2) Jethro Tull — Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, 1988

Jethro Tull….heavy metal?  Indeed.  British rock group Jethro Tull floored the audience and shocked the music world in 1988, winning a Grammy in a category they had no business even being nominated in. The flute-infused rock act dusted off cobwebs from the early 1970s by winning the “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” honor, kicking far more deserving Metallica off to the curb. This incomprehensible oversight caused a major shakeup in the way musical genres were classified from that point forward. Two years later, Metallica, which was at the height of their creative peak, did indeed win a Grammy. The metal group took to the stage and famously quipped, “First thing we’re going to do is tank Jethro Tull for not putting out an album this year!”

 Who Should Have Won — Metallica

(1) Vaughn Meader (The First Family) — Album of the Year, 1963

Chances are, you’ve never heard of this artist or this mostly-forgotten album, which inexplicably won “Album of the Year” in 1963. In fact, this became one of the fastest-selling albums of all time and racked up with more than 7 million total records sold. Vaughn Meader’s entire act consisted of doing his impression of President John F. Kennedy, lampooning the famous Kennedy mystique, and mocking political events of the day. The first family reportedly hated it, which probably drove up sales even higher due mostly to curiosity. Strangely, way back then “Album of the Year” wasn’t just reserved for music. Comedy was also eligible for consideration (recall Bob Newhart’s landmark win in this category in 1961, which was probably well deserved). However, Vaughn’s off-the-wall album wasn’t even the best comedy performance of the year. That title most certainly should have gone to Lenny Bruce, then at the height of his popularity and in the news constantly at the subject of major controversy. Meanwhile, Vaughn Meader’s one-trick-pony career went into the tank after the terrible events of November 1963, since no one wanted to laugh anymore about dead President. All that’s remembered now is that this album should go down as the worst Grammy Award winner of all time.  Here’s the far better choice (here’s what a real singer sounds like without Autotune):

Who Should Have Won — I Left My Heart in San Francisco by Tony Bennett

 

Most Bizzare Five-Time Grammy Winner of All Time — Christopher Cross

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Guess who has more Grammy Awards than the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Diana Ross, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, or Tupac Shakur — combined?

Answer — Christopher Cross.

This milquetoast music maven won a whopping five Grammys in the year 1980 for his breakthrough debut album, which produced a quick flurry of hit singles. But his syrupy one-dimensional ballads ended up as pop music’s equivalent of pet rocks and beanie babies. In fairness to Cross, he didn’t fit the ideal profile of an MTV-friendly artist, an 80s-era detour, which was entirely based on appearances and superficiality. Within a few years of a smashing debut and five fuddled acceptance speeches at that year’s Grammys, Cross had all but disappeared from the charts. His last Billboard appearance was way back in 1985.

Meanwhile, the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Diana Ross, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, and Tupac Shakur have never won a Grammy Award.

 

NOTE:  READ MY COLUMN ON THE 2020 GRAMMY AWARDS HERE.

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Posted by on Jan 24, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

A Pet Story

 

nolan dalla

 

A PET STORY

Yes, this is a commercial but I’m writing the post and this is my story. I feel the need to share because good deeds deserve our praise.

A few years ago, we got a coupon for Chewy.com. It gave us a discount on cat food and pet supplies. Normally, we buy at PetSmart or off the sale rack, but this was too good an offer to pass up. Long story short — we ended up with a monthly delivery from Chewy for about $50 per month (two cats).

In May, our beloved “Alex” died. He was 18. Ginger cat. I loved him so much.

We still had “Faro,” our grey cat (both were adopted from shelters as strays). Faro was 15. However, when Alex died, Faro stopped eating. We tried everything. Six weeks later, Faro was dead. We couldn’t diagnose what went wrong, but we think Faro died of a broken heart. He missed Alex.

I can’t tell you how painful this is to remember, even now, 6-7 months later. This also reminds me to write about taking Faro into the vet one last time, which is a painful memory for me, but one I think could help others who lose their pets. Let me file that away for now. Tearing up, here.

So, we lost Alex and Faro barely two months apart. We went from two cats to none. The house seemed so empty. Those of you who have lost pets will understand “the silence.” It’s deafening.

Distracted by death, Marieta and I forgot about our monthly Chewy delivery. Then, another shipment came. We were billed for $50 for dozens of cans of cat food. It was a delivery we didn’t need.

I didn’t know what to do, so I contacted Chewy’s online support. I asked for a refund and told them the circumstances. Then, I totally lost it after what they did next.

The Chewy rep told me they would refund the $50. She also said not to return the unused cat food. I was advised to take the large box and make a donation to the local animal shelter. All from Chewy.

I was blown away by this act of kindness and a genuine display of compassion. The company wasn’t seeking publicity. They had no idea I am a writer. They didn’t know I would write this, which is entirely deserved.

So, I took the box and later ended up doing some work for a local shelter. It’s so gratifying that all the cats enjoyed what amounted to a full day’s supply of food, made possible by Chewy.com.

We have a new cat now. Another stray. “Cosmo” is nearly 10 months old. We expect him to have a healthy and happy life. He will be a loyal Chewy customer forever.

The kicker to the story is my aunt, Deborah Massoletti posted something similar recently about Chewy.com, which leads me to believe this is their company policy. No one would have take offense if they had a no-return policy. Given the low-profit margins and weight of the shipment, I really didn’t expect them to even respond to the inquiry.

This is how a good company does business. I want to publically thank and endorse Chewy.com as a great supplier of pet products and a group of people filled with love in their hearts.

Thank you.

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Posted by on Jan 23, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 2 comments

I Just Sent a “Contribution” to the Republican National Committee

 

Republican National Committee

 

I dropped this envelope in today’s mail. Yeah, Trump — I got your “contribution” right here.

Whatever flunky Trump toad opens the envelope is in for one helluva’ surprise.

Here’s the Backstory: I presume it’s social media pranksters who sign me up for pro-Trump fundraising and other Republican schemes. I get this kinda’ shit all the time. Usually, this junk mail goes straight to the trash can. But since I was personally invited to become a member of the “President’s Advisory Board” — for a FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION, of course — well, I had to read the offer.

The RNC sent me a survey, with laughably loaded questions. Survey questions like “Do you believe the Democrats’ impeachment proceedings against President Trump, who was duly elected by the people and has made America great again, is a politically-driven witch hunt?” You get the idea.

I had the option of joining the “President’s Advisory Board” at various levels of commitment. $25 makes me an “Associate Member.” $50 makes me something higher. $75 is the next step. $100 gets me “Inner Circle” status. For $500 or more, my name gets personally seen by the president who will write me a personal “thank you” (done with autopen, no doubt). It all sounds like a giant casino rewards program. All that’s missing is $15 in free slot play and the 2 for 1 buffet coupon.

Well, I had my own idea of a contribution. I’ll just leave it at that. Nothing dangerous or illegal, mind you. But, I want to make sure the Trump Republican fundraisers know that I took their solicitation very seriously. The “$100” handwritten on the outside of the envelope should ensure it’s opened and read by an actual Trumpster.

Please, RNC — send me more surveys and offers. I’ve got plenty more “contributions” to make.

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Posted by on Jan 23, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 2 comments

The Van Morrison MasterClass: Week 7

 

van morrison 1974

 

“I write songs.  Then, I record them.  And, later, maybe I perform them on stage.  That’s what I do.  That’s my job.  Simple.”

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS:  WEEK 7

 

DAY 43 — “Beside You” (1967-68)

You are about to hear two astonishing pieces of music. They are both identical songs, with two completely different arrangments.

The first track is taken from the 1967 Bang Records recording outtakes in New York City in 1967. Later dubbed The Bang Masters, about 40 songs flooded the underground bootleg market and still remain popular with Van Morrison aficionados.

The second recording is the far more polished version — but still only the first take of the revised song that appeared on Van’s much-celebrated mystical musical masterpiece, Astral Weeks. The words and melody are the same, but everything else about the track is very different from Van’s earlier raw demo.  What makes this track fascinating is listening to the studio engineers talking and giving instruction at the start of the first take.  Then, wham — out of nowhere Van comes in with a gorgeous guitar melody.

Van was very new to New York at the time. He’d barely been in America for a week before it was time for his studio sessions for the new record label created by Bert Burns, who died less than a year later. Also, along with Berns, Bang Records was co-founded by the legendary Ahmet Ertegun, who would sign and record many of the most popular acts in the history of rock music.

The pulsating guitar accompanying Van’s shrilling vocals is masterful. But the track is totally transformed into something far more cerebral on the finished album recording.

This is a really fun comparison to enjoy. Each arrangement in its own way is a standout. In particular, pay close attention to the organ on the unreleased Bang Records bootleg. My only complaint is, I wish they’d crank it up! Yes, this does sound like Dylan.

Revised version, more polished, with studio instructions (First Take):

 

DAY 44 — “Little Village” (2003)

Here’s another mostly undiscovered masterpiece. What a gorgeous song.

“Little Village” begins with Van Morrison strumming his acoustic guitar. The melody is gradually engulfed by a saxophone. Then finally, we’re uplifted by the strings and flutes of an orchestra. It’s one of Van’s best original songs of the last 20 years.

The track appeared towards the end of the 2003 album release, What’s Wrong With This Picture? That album was nominated for a Grammy. However, none of the 13 original recordings became hits. Most music fans, even the most loyal “Vanatics” would be hard-pressed to name the most popular song from the album.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? was intended to reflect the jazz vibe of New Orleans. However, Westland Studios in Dublin was selected for the recording sessions. Van hired a backup band made entirely of Irish and English musicians.

The accompaniment of rollicking pianos, racy horns, lush strings, woodwinds, and the effervescent heartbeat of the Hammon organ are consistent throughout the collection. What stands out on “Little Village” is the plucking of strings later in the track mixed with flutes which amplifies a staccato-like melody carried by Van’s soulful vocals and lyrics.

The original studio recording is a pristine arrangement. Van obviously likes the song because he’s performed it dozens of times since in live performances, even to the present day. One reason perhaps Van favors the arrangement is that he finds the basic structure liberating.

If you wither around YouTube and listen to various live recordings of “Little Village,” no two sound the same. This is the source of both praise and criticism. For example, listen to a live recording made in Barcelona in 2005. Van changes up the tempo and brings in a clarinet. Some Van fans might also recognize the very strong musical resemblance of certain parts of this live recording with the so-called “Caledonia Soul Music” sessions recorded circa 1970. The mandoline riffs undoubtedly played here by Van, sound identical to the outtakes of that very obscure unreleased bootleg. I find it astonishing that Van recreates the precise guitar riffs from 35 years earlier onstage in this song. The section I’m writing about occurs about 2:45 into the (unauthorized) Barcelona recording. This entire 7 minute-arrangement is well worth a listen, including some brassy sax work towards the end (the live recording is posted second, after the studio track).

While the original track remains a standout, the alternative versions can be equally as fun to explore and discuss, as these two examples will demonstrate.

See if you agree with the beauty and power of “Little Village.”

Live (unauthorized) recording — Barcelona, 2005:

 

DAY 45 — “Never Get Out of These Blues Alive” (1972) — with John Lee Hooker

Van Morrison collaborated with legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker on countless recordings over three decades. Most of these blues standards, mixed in with some original compositions, went unreleased. Many are only available on bootlegs. However, some sessions are available on YouTube.

Their long friendship began when Van launched his solo career and recorded one of Hooker’s classics. They played on each other’s records many times. Virtually all the recordings were performed spontaneously. Two masters at their craft meeting in the studio and creating magic. It’s difficult to say how much influence Hooker had on Van and his recording style. Hooker, a genius at improvisation, always recorded and performed *in the moment.* Van quickly came to adopt this freewheeling philosophy, that if the session didn’t get the song down in the first take or two, then it “wasn’t working.” The vaults of Van’s rejects overflow with raw, half-written, would-be gold. All the tunes that “didn’t work” could fill several albums. (*see footnote)

Hooker recorded a new album in late 1971 that didn’t chart at the time but has since become regarded as a classic. Van joined Hooker at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco and they laid down what would become the album’s title track. It’s clear this jam session is entirely unrehearsed. JLH and VM can be heard prompting each other throughout the 10-minute back and forth duo.

Some things don’t need to be explained. Just listen.

* Someday perhaps, these dormant recordings will be polished and eventually released. It would be great if Van had a Let it Be musical epiphany — where old tracks that were left vaulted in the studio were given to a Phil Spector-like producer, who cleaned up the Beatles January 1969 studio tapes and pressed the collection into what became the group’s final album.

 

DAY 46 — “Someone Like You” (1987)

The word *masterpiece* is overused in art and music. But “Someone Like You” is an almost perfect song. It’s a masterpiece.

From the very first lyric….

I’ve been searchin’ a long time
For someone exactly like you.

…..we become immersed in song.

“Someone Like You” remains one of Van Morrison’s most endearing compositions and most popular songs, even today, more than three decades after its release. “Someone Like You” is one of the most played and requested songs at weddings and anniversary celebrations. It’s easy to understand why from both the gloriously uplifting melody and the lyrics which promise, “the best is yet to come.”

The track appeared on Van’s 1987 album Poetic Champions Compose. The album received mixed reviews from critics and sold poorly. It peaked at #90 on the album charts in the U.S. “Someone Like You” was also released as a single and did manage to reach #28 on the charts. However, at the height of MTV’s influence and the popularity of music videos with younger and hipper performers, Van’s simple love ballad wasn’t contemporary enough for the times. It was more of a throwback. Nonetheless, as most of the dreadful music from the mid-1980s has since disappeared and been forgotten, Van’s ode to love has become a timeless classic that’s likely to endure for many more years, and even decades to come.

“Someone Like You” includes a simple instrumental arrangement. There are no flashy guitar solos or sax interludes. The stars are Van’s vocals backed with a piano and string section. Critics’ reviews wrote Van’s gruff voice and off-key lyrics don’t quite fit the conventional notion of a romantic ballad. They’re certainly right. That said, the odd imperfection of this mismatched mature baritone gives added authenticity and even surprise to the joy of finding love in the song.

This composition was included in the soundtrack in several hit movies. This list includes Only the Lonely (1991); Prelude to a Kiss (1992); French Kiss (1995); One Fine Day (1996); Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001); and American Sniper (2014). There was even a movie made using the title song, “Someone Like You” (2001).

Van has written, composed, sung, and performed a vast array of musical styles over 55 years as an artist. He’s rarely written short tracks suitable for radio airplay or gone along with the record company marketing and promotion gigs (refusing to make music videos, for instance). This song stands as a notable exception. Van almost seems determined to prove here that he can write a crowd pleaser when he really wants to. Thing is, he’s not much interested in satisfying others so much as pursuing what he wants to do — a life’s mantra which from a fan’s point of view can be both frustrating and exhilarating.

DAY 47 — “I’ll Take Care of You” (1993)

Van Morrison is at his soulful best on Too Long in Exile, a 15-track collection of jazz-and blues-inspired recordings released in 1993. It was an odd album title given that Van wasn’t exactly “in exile,” certainly not from songwriting and performing. Indeed, this was the follow-up project to a successful double album, Hymns to the Silence, which pre-dated a two-year hiatus until this album release. For fans, the wait was well worth it.

Every track on Too Long in Exile sounds timeless. It was the first of a staggering six-albums/in a four-year string with his new Polydor label, arguably his most creative output since the early 1970s. The album rocketed to #4 in the UK and reached #26 in the US, despite producing no hit singles. That reveals the overall quality of the material.

“I’ll Take Care of You” is dominated by Van’s vocals and harmonica. However, this is not an original song. It was written by Brook Benton and recorded by Bobby Bland in 1959, and covered by Van, who has often dipped into the retro catalog of R&B classics. Later, Elvis Costello, Joe Bonamassa, and even Miley Cyrus recorded this song. Van’s version is a standout.

 

DAY 48 — “You Gotta’ Make It Through the World” (1978)

Van Morrison’s longest layoff from the recording studio lasted nearly three years, from 1975 through 1978. He did record enough material for at least two albums within that time frame, but he wasn’t pleased with the outcome. Songs from those sessions were not released and are only available as outtakes from bootlegs. So, Van’s long-awaited “comeback” album was greatly anticipated but ended up as a critical and commercial disappointment. While much of Van’s music has enjoyed a well-deserved renaissance, this album is often overlooked and forgotten.

A Period of Transition was intended as a definitive statement. “Gloria,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” and “Moondance” were in the past. 1978 was a new era.

The mid- to late-70s was the height of the disco period. Singer-songwriters disappeared from the charts. Synthesizers and bellbottoms were in. Van’s blues and jazz roots, not to mention his polyester pants and pudgy look, marked him as a relic.

A Period of Transition illustrates this period of confusion and uncertain musical footing. Van’s talent as a songwriter was proven and obvious. But, could he change with the times and be relevant heading into a new decade among a new generation of fans who looked at Van as nostalgia?

This album didn’t answer that question, though it was a noble attempt. In fact, it raised even more questions about Van still being worthy as a voice in music. Wavelength, the best-selling album which came soon after, helped Van get back on track with his fans. Nonetheless, the recordings don’t express a statement, but rather a search. Even iconic songwriters go through ups and downs.

“You Gotta’ Make It Through the World” is from the panned album, which was entirely produced by Dr. John. The track has a catchy 70s Superfly sound, a mix of R&B and funk. It’s a glorious failure, but an interesting revelation into an artist always willing to push boundaries and test new sounds. Dr. John later said there was a real spiritual quality to the song, which is about one thing — survival.

Note: This is a condensed version about half the length of the original album recording.

DAY 49 — “Van Morrison Under Review — Part 2” (Documentary)

Here’s a short documentary clip that covers Van’s career between 1966-68.  Later chapters of this film will be attached as this series continues.

Miss a previous week?  No problem!  Here’s all the prior installments:
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