Friday, August 16, 2013

Day 234. Cool Night Drive with Van Morrison

I have a handful, maybe two, of all-time favorite singers.  Van Morrison is right up there at the top.  I'm sure I first was aware of him with "Gloria" and "Brown-Eyed Girl" listening to them on WLS out of Chicago.  I can remember seeing him on Wolfman Jack's "Midnight Special" tv show and singing "Domino" when I was a little kid.  I think I fell in love with him, though, in Martin Scorsese's 1978 rockumentary of The Band's final concert, "The Last Waltz" where he sang, "Caravan." I once read that he at times suffered from debilitating stage fright.  He seemed so romantic--this other-worldly voice filled with so much soul--he seemed to pull out his deepest emotions, lost almost in a trance, and grab you with him as you fell into an whirling hole of mysticism and smoldering magic. 

My uncle had grown up in the '60's, and he had given me all his albums when he moved to the west coast.  I had all the classics--original Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Doors, Small Faces, a.k.a The Faces, and Van Morrison.  I had 1968's "Astral Weeks,"  one of the most incredible, classic albums of all time.  I remember that Rolling Stone Magazine--back in its heyday--had published an Encyclopedia of Rock and had given "Astral Weeks" its highest rating--5 stars.  I used to listen to it over and over again in college--you have to understand, I was in love with that era musically--I always felt that I should have grown up in that time.


O.K., so fast forward to 2008 (released in 2009), Van the Man re-recorded that album as "Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl."  It's more uptempo with additional musicians.  Both versions are spectacular so please listen to both.  Where the h-e-double-toothpick am I going with this rock 'n' roll lesson?  Well, I'm going here:

I'm driving home tonight in the cool, night air.  I went out to dinner with a friend and then drove home.  It was dark out, with swirling puffs of night-time clouds.  And I was playing "AWLATHB."  And I was playing track 3, "Slim-Slow Slider/Stop Breaking Down."  Listen as he opens, "Slim-Slow Rider" and someone in the audience yells, "Yeaaaaaaaaaaah" at 00:18.  You know you're in for something great.  And really listen to what makes Van Morrison so special.  Listen to that phrasing at 1:01-1:05 and again at 1:16-1:19 when he sings, "the fruit grove this morning."  The timing, the melody.  God, I love it so much.  And I love it even more while sticking my hand out into the air through my sun roof and feeling the coolness swirling through my fingers--and more still while glancing my eyes quickly upward at the inky sky above me, so close that it's a part of me and I'm a part of it.  And the thing is, at that moment, I feel such joy--such a complete feeling of utter, utter happiness.  The music, Van Morrison, the air, the sky...a moment of immense joy for being alive and feeling all of it.

Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl - Slim Slow Slider/Stop Breaking Down

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