Thursday, April 09, 2015

Van Fans Grand National Sweepstake 2015.

Here is the draw for the 14th Annual Van Fan's Grand National Sweepstake. The race is this Saturday at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, England. I will bring you the result within minutes of the end of the race. The first 4 get a Van related prize. I am really sorry if you missed the cut this year. There is only room for 40. The organisers decisions are final. No correspondence entered into. Good luck Van racing fans.!. PS, If you have never seen the unbelievable excitement of the Grand National before you can watch the 1986  race below if you scroll down.

2) ROCKY CREEK......Rose ( Ireland/USA)
3) BALTHAZAR KING......Jez (England)
4) THE DRUIDS NEPHEW......Dharma Bum ( Canada)
5) ALVARADO.......Irene Rush ( USA) 4th Place, Well done !
6) CAUSE OF CAUSES......Maurice ( Northern Ireland)
7)GODSMEJUDGE......Hugh Alexander (England)
8) NIGHT IN MILAN......Colleen ( USA)
9) PINEAU DE RE......Miquel Rovira (Spain)
10) SOLL......Marion Van Roessel ( Netherlands)
11) SPRING HEELED......Petra ( Germany)
12) UNIONISTE......Blair ( Northern Ireland)
13) ACROSS THE BAY......Birgit ( Germany)
14) AL CO......Al Bodkin (Northern Ireland)
15) BALLYCASEY......Hilary ( Ireland)
16) FIRST LIEUTENANT......John Melrose ( Scotland)
17) MANY CLOUDS......Misty ( Canada) Winner, Well Done Misty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
18) OSCAR TIME......Christine McGillan ( Northern Ireland)
19) REBEL REBELLION......Othmar ( Switzerland)
20) ROYALE KNIGHT......Bob McKnight (Scotland)
21)SAINT ARE......Michel Balin (Denmark) 2nd, Well done Michel !
22) DOLATULO......Sue Osben (England)
23) LORD WINDERMERE......Kenny Tinkle (USA)
24) MONBEG DUDE......Ron Sexton (USA) 3rd Place, Well done Dude !!!!!
25) CHANCE DU ROY......Alan Lloyd ( England/Australia)
26) COURT BY SURPRISE......Rhonda ( Canada)
27) MON PARRAIN......Brian Heffler (England/USA)
28) WYCK HILL......Jane Haslam ( England)
29) THE RAINBOW HUNTER......Brenda ( Netherlands)
30) PORTRAIT KING......Howard Holdsworth ( England)
31) RUBI LIGHT......Janice ( Belgium/New Zealand)
32) ELY BROWN......Irish Echo (Canada)
33) RIVER CHOICE......David Kerr McCullough ( Northern Ireland)
34) TRANQUIL SEA......Julia ( France)
35) CARLITO BRIGANTE......Alan McGinnity ( England)
36) BOB FORD......Big Bern (England)
37) SUPER DUTY......John C ( England)
38) GAS LINE BOY......Phil Usher ( England)
39)CORRIN WOOD......Mark Watt (USA)
40) OWEGA STAR...... Max (New Zealand)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Wild Children ( Born in 1945).

 We were the wild children born 1945
When all the soldiers came marching home
Love looks in their eye
Tennessee, Tennessee Williams
Let your inspiration flow
Let it be around when we hear the sound
When the spring time rivers flow, when the rivers flow
Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando
Standing with their heads bowed on the side
Crying like a baby thinking about the time
James Dean took that fatal ride, took that ride.
I'm going to two concerts in the next few months of artists who are celebrating their 70th birthday this year which means they were born in 1945. In May I am seeing the great Christy Moore in Bristol just three days after his birthday.and in August seeing Van Morrison play on Cyprus Avenue, Belfast on his actual birthday. Both these events will be memorable.
 I just looked on Wikipedia to see what other musicians were born in 1945 when the soldiers came marching home from war. The list is quite astounding. Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, Bob Marley (R.I.P), Elkie Brooks,Arthur Lee of the group Love (R.I.P), Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones (R.I.P) of The Monkees, Eric Clapton (Birthday today), Lowell George of Little Feat (R.I.P), Richie Blackmore and Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford and John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bjorn & Anni-Frid of ABBA, Hugh Hopper of Soft Machine (R.I.P), Tammi Terrell (R.I.P), Rita Coolidge, Bob Seger, Keith Jarrett, Pete Townshend, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Gladys Horton of The Marvellettes (R.I.P), Gordon Waller of Peter & Gordon, Benny Gallagher of Gallagher & Lyle, Carly Simon, Debbie Harry,Kim Carnes, John Lodge of The Moody Blues,Al Stewart, Pigpen of The Grateful Dead (R.I.P), Doug Ingle of Iron Butterfly,Jose Feliciano, Dee Dee Warwick, Bryan Ferry,Don McLean, Donny Hathaway (R.I.P),Brian Connolly of The Sweet (R.I.P), Melba Moore, Neil Young, John McVie, Bette Midler, Peter Criss of Kiss and Lemmy of Motorhead. If you know of any more let me know. I make that 45 well known musicians including a lot of legendary figures. I just looked at 1955 by way of comparison and I could only find about 12 musicians that I have heard of so I think 1945 must have been a vintage year for great musicians to be born.

                                                                        I don't know about any of those other musicians on that list but the only one that I can think of to celebrate in song the fact he was born in 1945 is Van Morrison in his song Wild Children on his seventh album, the very underrated  Hard Nose The Highway released in 1973. It also features on the greatest live album ever made called It's Too Late To Stop Now.I don't know if Van's dad was in the army during the war because he worked in the Harland And Wolff shipyard and was probably kept busy building ships but that is beside the point. Wild Children is probably my second favourite song on the Hard Nose album after Warm Love , (You can listen to the song below if you want) and is about the influences on the kids of 45 growing up in the 50's and the people who inspired them such as Marlon Brando and James Dean, films like On The Waterfront and the plays of Tennessee Williams. Anyway at the concert in Cyprus Avenue on Van's birthday I think as well as the song Cyprus Avenue he should include Wild Children in his set-list. I have never seen him perform it live so that would be great. Roll on August 31st!. 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Van Morrison, Teenage Cancer Trust Concert, Royal Albert Hall, London 25/3/ 2015.

Last nights concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have had in ages. Here is what happened. I arrived in London at about 12.30 and as it was a nice sunny day I decided to walk to Kensington through Hyde Park. I had lots of spare time so looked at an exhibition in the Serpentine Gallery. It was really interesting, the work of an American artist called Leon Golub who I had never heard of but the work was quite brilliant. I finally emerged from the park just by the Albert Memorial so I thought I'd have a walk around to the stage door of the Albert Hall because you never know who might be hanging around but I didn't spot anyone. Then I had a spot of lunch in the Queens Arms and found my hotel. A really nice hotel which had an Indian Restaurant on the ground floor. "That will come in handy tonight", I thought to myself. I had an hours nap then walked down the avenue again back to the Queens Arms where I met up with Mike (Nosey), Hugh and Ivan from Northern Ireland (Not that Ivan!). It was really nice to meet Howard for the first time and his son Matt. We had a couple of drinks and a chat and then made our way to the Albert Hall. Just before showtime I was pleased to bump into Amanda who I have met at a lot of Van shows. I was in row 18 but had a really good view.
A man whose name I didn't catch came on to introduce the show and talked briefly about the Teenage Cancer Trust. Roger Daltrey has organised these annual shows for 15 years and they have raised £20,000,000 in that time. Then there was a short but very moving film about the charities work. After that Roger Daltrey came on stage and introduced a group of young people who have benefited from the Teenage Cancer Trust and one of them spoke briefly to the audience. Roger Daltrey has gone up in my estimation since last night. He deserves a lot of praise for all his hard work. Finally Roger introduced Van  and the show got under way.
                                                                              The band of Paul Moran, Dave Keary, Paul Moore, Bobby Ruggeiro and Dana Masters began playing and then Van walked on stage to huge applause and proceeded to play Celtic Swing. This was followed by Higher Than The World. Dana looked really nice but I was slightly bugged that her contribution on backing vocals was so quiet. What is the point of backing singers if you can't hear them?. Then Van introduced his first guest of the evening which was Clare Teal. They sang one of my favourite songs from the new album Carrying A Torch which was fabulous and then a song from Astral Weeks The Way Young Lovers Do which I don't think I have heard Van perform live before because I didn't go to the Astral Weeks shows of 2008.
 Paul Moran excelled himself on this song which was great. Clare left the stage to warm applause and Van launched into a medley of  Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/ Don't Start Crying Now. This was really good and Van introduced some dark humour into the Parchman Farm segment with some pretend gun-play. Roger Daltrey was the next guest to be introduced and seemed a bit nervous about singing with Van. " This should be interesting", said Roger hesitantly . I think he had probably only heard about the song that very afternoon and had to read the words off a music stand but he was really good on Talk Is Cheap and I never knew Roger was such a good harmonica player. Roger was rewarded for his brave effort with a big hug from Van which was nice to see, there was a lot of love about this concert.and he left the stage.

 Then it was time for the enigma that is P.J.Proby to take the stage. He clearly relished every moment of his appearance. I bet P.J. thought his days of appearing on a stage like this were well and truly over so he loved to be back in the spotlight. They sang Van's song What Ever Happened To P.J.Proby and then a song that P.J. had written in reply which I think was called P.J.Proby Calling Van Morrison, It was ok and fun and Van played some nifty saxophone on it. I really enjoyed their next duet, Sam Cooke's Bring It On Home To Me. P.J then left the stage after milking the applause. I had actually quite enjoyed his contribution. Precious Time followed with Paul Moran again showing how great he is on the trumpet.

                                                                                Van's old friend Georgie Fame looking resplendent in a white suit then came on-stage and  seated himself at the keyboards for Get On With The Show but as on the Duets album I think Georgie's huge talents are not really utilised  on this song. The cha cha cha ending is quite humorous though. Georgie was much more to the fore on The New Symphony Sid and Centrepiece which evolved into Corrina,Corrina. I should mention Dave Keary on guitar who was outstanding all night. George departed and then it was time for a really soulful Days Like This and finally Dana made herself noticed with her vocal contribution. Van's sax playing was great as well. One of the absolute highlights of the evening for me was when Mick Hucknell arrived on stage and performed a stunning Streets Of Arklow with Van. I must say that after about 3 decades of not liking Mick Hucknell due to stupid gingerist prejudice  I am now a fan. He is a great soul singer.Van played some great electric guitar on this song. I filmed it and you can see the result below.

 After Mick left the stage it was Moondance a song I am usually bored with hearing too often but I enjoyed it tonight and Dana's contribution was really nice.This was followed by Magic Time which was ok because Van & Dave were tip top on sax and guitar. Following that Paul started the familiar intro to Whenever God Shines his Light but on the spur of the moment Van cancelled it and they did Brown Eyed Girl instead. This shows the genius of Van. He makes it up as he goes along.The audience loved this and sang along with it.
                                                                             The pinnacle of the evening for me was was next with Into The Mystic. It was magical . The only distraction was silly people in the audience who whooped and whistled at certain points. Van ad-libbed on the lyrics and started scatting words like "Don't worry child, I'll carry you, till we get the healing done". I found that very poignant indeed especially in the context of it being a charity event for teenage cancer. Well done Van. He disappeared into the wings to tumultuous applause.The house lights came on and I thought that was the end. I left my seat and walked to the front to try and get a photo of the band but suddenly Van reappeared and I sat down on the floor to listen to a wonderful rendition of  In The Garden. I was spellbound. There is no finer musician on the planet than Van Morrison.
                    That was finally the end of a wonderful concert. I met up with my friends for a quick pint in the pub then back to the Indian Restaurant at my hotel for a nice feed and then to bed and fell asleep into restful slumbers. Thank you very much the Teenage Cancer Trust, Roger Daltrey, Van Morrison, my friends and the Montana Hotel, Kensington for a most enjoyable visit to London. A big hand for the band !

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review : Van Morrison: Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue

It has been a long wait for Van Morrison's 35th studio album to be released since Born To Sing,No Plan B came out in October 2012. I must say it has been worth the wait because this album is a triumph. At 76 minutes long you certainly get your money's worth. That is only 14 minutes less than the average Van concert. One thing that annoys me when you hear a Van song on the radio is that it is either Brown Eyed Girl, Moondance, Bright Side Of The Road or Have I told You Lately?. The radio stations seem to think that is all he ever recorded. Van has published well over 300 songs and there are many little gems hidden away in his back catalogue waiting to be re-discovered so hopefully this collection of duets will introduce some of his lesser known songs to a wider audience than just the hard-core of Vanatical fans. Let's look at the tracks one by one.

1) Some Peace Of Mind  with Bobby Womack. 
Bobby Womack sadly died recently so Van was lucky to get to record this great song with him. It was originally on the Hymns To The Silence album. The lush sound of Fiachra Trench's string arrangements introduce the song. Van has worked with Fiachra occasionally over four decades and he provides strings for four songs on this album.Van's normal band is augmented by Mike Osborn on percussion. I must say that Van's brass section of Chris White and Alistair White excel themselves on this track as does Paul Moran on the Hammond organ.This opening track is meritorious and I hope Bobby got to hear the finished product. Marks out of ten: 9

2)  If I Ever Needed Someone, with Mavis Staples.
Van has worked with Mavis before.I have seen footage of when they both guested with the Candy Dulfer band. I first became aware of Mavis when the Staples Singers appeared in the film The Last Waltz in which Van effortlessly stole the show. One thing that this album shows is that Van's voice is as good as ever. The same can't be said of Mavis, her voice sounds a bit frayed around the edges but in a strange way this seems to make the song even more soulful. This song was originally on the Street Choir album and is one of Van's most underrated songs so it is great that it has been re-visited. Abass Dodo helps out on percussion on this track. Marks out of ten: 9

3) Higher Than The World, with George Benson
Like Mavis Van has also performed with George Benson before. If you look on youtube you can see a wonderful video of Van, George,Carlos Santana, Dr John and Etta James performing Moondance in 1977 and also Van & George performing Misty. On this track several of Georges own band play with just Paul Moran, and Alistair and Chris from Van's band. It is another peerless song with George playing some great jazzy guitar and the brass section are wonderful. Marks out of ten:9

4) Wild Honey,  with Joss Stone
The brilliance continues with this song originally on Van's Common One album. Van is joined by Joss Stone who is not only beautiful but also one of Britains greatest young singers.I think this version is better than the original. The perfect music for late night chilling with a bottle of wine.Marks out of ten: 9

5)Whatever Happened To PJ Proby?, with PJ Proby.
After the incandescent tip-top opening four tracks things were bound to dip which they do a bit on this song which is the novelty song on the album. PJ Proby emerges from obscurity to join Van. I am seeing Van next week at the Royal Albert Hall and I am reliably informed that PJ is one of Van's guests so that should be quite amusing. Vans daughter Shana provides some backing vocals on this one. The intro makes me think the Pink Panther is arriving. Marks out of ten: 7

6) Carrying A Torch, with Clare Teal
On my first listen to this album I thought this track was the best one. Van has previously recorded this as a duet with Tom Jones which was really good  but I much prefer this version. Of all the great singers guesting on this album Clare is probably the least known especially to a non British audience but she proves that she is the equal of any female singer. She was thrilled to get the opportunity to sing with Van and she rose to the occasion.I don't suppose Van has hit singles any more but this duet would certainly make a great record of the week for BBC radio2. It is scintillating. Clare lives in the beautiful city of Bath which is only a few miles from here so we should be proud of our local singer. Marks out of ten: 10

 7)The Eternal Kansas City, with Gregory Porter 
I never particularly liked the original version of this song on the Period Of Transition album and I don't think this version improves it at all. I quite like the frenetic trombone and piano parts of the arrangement though. Van is on a double bill with Gregory at Blenheim Palace in the summer if you want to see both of them. Marks out of ten:7

8) Streets Of Arklow, with Mick Hucknell
I have never been a fan of Mick Hucknell's music but you can't fault his performance on this song. Unlike most of the other guests on the album whose songs were suggested by Van, Mick asked Van if he could perform this classic track from the Veedon Fleece album and what a great choice it is.Van plays acoustic guitar and Dave Keary excels himself on guitar and Chris White plays tin whistle. Paul Moran deserves a mention as well for his contribution on piano and Hammond organ.Marks out of ten:9

9) These Are The Days, with Natalie Cole
Some of the songs on this album improve on the original versions but this one doesn't in my opinion. These Are The Days is one of my favourite songs on Avalon Sunset but I don't like this jazzy arrangement. There is nothing wrong with Natalie's voice though. Marks out of ten: 7

10) Get On With The Show,with Georgie Fame
I can't see the point of this choice of song. It is one of the better songs on What's Wrong With This Picture but this version adds nothing to it. Georgie has done some great work with Van in the past and I always liked the lush sound of his organ playing but I don't think he plays anything on this track and his vocals are completely overshadowed by Van's. Marks out of ten: 6

11) Rough God Goes Riding with Shana Morrison
I have seen daughter Shana perform this duet with Van several times live and always enjoyed it.Mark Nightingale joins the band on trombone, Alistair must have been away that day.Van the Belfast Cowboy shows his humour at the end by reciting the names of his favourite western heroes. Marks out of ten: 8

12) Fire In The Belly with Steve Winwood
Steve Winwood is the only guest on the album not to record in the studio with Van. He recorded his contribution in his home studio and sent it in. That shows how clever he is because you wouldn't notice listening to this great track.I love Stevie's distinctive playing on the organ which reminds you of the great music he made with Traffic. Marks out of ten: 8.

13) Born To Sing with Chris Farlowe
Like the Shana song I have also seen Van perform this song live with Chris Farlowe and not particularly enjoyed it. When a Van concert only lasts 90 minutes it always annoys me when Chris Farlowe is introduced because to me it is using up valuable Van time and I bet this song will be inflicted on us at the Royal Albert Hall next week. ( Wrong !) Having said all that I really like the tenor sax and trombone and Van's alto sax. Shana & Bobby Ruggiero help out on backing vocals. Marks out of ten:7

14) Irish Heartbeat with Mark Knopfler
This is magnificent. Mark has worked with Van before. I love that song The Last Laugh on his Sailing To Philadelphia album. Unlike a lot of the songs on the album this is a very well known Van song and a brilliant choice. Marks out of ten ;9

15) Real Real Gone with Michael Buble
Most of this album was recorded at British Grove Studio or Air Studios in London but this song was recorded at an Arena in Manchester. Maybe to fit in with Buble's tour schedule. Michael Buble's own band are used on this recording with just Paul Moran from Van's own band. I have never really liked Buble's music but you can't fault this song which is guaranteed to get lots of air-play and I think Van has been very astute to record with Michael Buble because he sells millions of albums and packs out stadiums around the world so this song will introduce Van to lots of Buble fans and will be a good education for them. Marks out of ten: 9

16) How Can A Poor Boy? with Taj Mahal.
This is a brilliant song to close the album with. The perfect choice of song for Taj Mahal to get to work on. Recorded at the Slieve Donard hotel in Northern Ireland where Taj was Van's guest.The harmonica and Hammond organ are haunting and like John Lee Hooker and Doctor John Taj Mahal has a shamen-like quality. He is a healer and you can feel the enjoyment they had in working together. This song is anointed and appointed ! Marks out of ten: 10.

Total marks out of 160 : 133
Average mark per song :8.312

I have been trying to think of adjectives to describe this album because I can't keep saying brilliant and excellent all the time so I have thought of incandescent, scintillating,tip-top, meritorious, peerless, transcendent, sterling, divine, hallowed, rapturous, superlative,celestial,rightious and sanctified. Buy this album!.