Music by Turner: Irish holiday is good time to celebrate Morrison tunes

Van Morrison gave us such hits as Domino, Into the Mystic and Brown Eyed Girl. Evan Agostini/Invision

It seems that St.Patrick’s Day always brings to mind the musical genius that is Van Morrison.

It’s difficult to find most anyone who does not like “Van the Man.” I dare you to find a single Morrison album that does not have a handful of extremely strong songs and performances.

The entire world seems to be in agreement with his genius, as last year he was knighted in his native North Ireland. Yes, one is supposed to address him as “Sir” these days, but I bet he’s not very serious about that.

Currently on tour in Los Angeles, the 71-year-old musician is as relevant as ever. Sure, his live performances can be a mixed bag but that’s what usually differentiates an artist from an entertainer.

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Them? Dept. Morrison’s first recording band was a group called Them. They enjoyed several hits including Here Comes the Night (featuring a very young guitarist named Jimmy Page) as well as a song that Morrison reportedly wrote in only 15 minutes – Gloria.

Gloria was a hit in the U.S. by Chicago-based band the Shadows of Knight that still receives classic rock airplay today. The Doors later cut a terrific version of the song as well.

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Brown Eyed Girl Dept. Ask any singer what song they are requested to play the most and more than likely it’s Brown Eyed Girl. It’s hard to believe that the record company edited the line “making love in the green grass” to “laughin’ and a runnin, hey hey” as they felt it would hurt airplay on U.S. radio stations. Gee, times sure have changed!

Let’s take a quick overview on a few of his early albums that got it all started. Morrison, a longtime member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has recorded a whopping 36 albums to date … and another one is in the planning stages.

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Astral Weeks (1968): Considered by many to be Morrison’s Pet Sounds, the album sold poorly upon its release but, as with Brian Wilson’s aforementioned masterpiece, later became a cult classic. No hit singles, but Astral Weeks is so strong that Morrison performed the album in its entirety during his 2008 and 2009 tours.

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Moondance (1970): A stone-cold classic in every sense of the words..and music. Caravan, Into the Mystic, and the title track (which wasn’t a hit until 1977) makes this the perfect introduction to his work. Ironically, the hit version of Crazy Love was recorded by … get ready for this ... Helen Reddy!

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His Band and Street Choir (1971): Originally intended to be an a cappella disc before the Warner Bros folks got involved, this album contained his highest-charting hit to date Domino. The silly, loose, and irresistible Blue Money also was a hit, and was the first single by Van that I ever bought!

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Tupelo Honey (1972): Wild Night and the title track were the major tracks off of this easy-going collection. Can you fathom that John Mellencamp had more success with Wild Night than Van did? The ideal Sunday-morning album.

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Saint Dominic’s Preview (1973): Yes, it was one album a year back in those days, but Morrison was so prolific it posed no problem. A delicious hodge-podge of blues, jazz and Celtic all in one package. Besides, any song that pays homage to one of the true R&B greats with the opening track “Jackie Wilson said I’m in Heaven when you Smile,” (the disc’s first single too) is fine in my book!

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It’s Too Late to Stop Now (1974): One of the finest in-concert albums ever committed to tape. A perfect overview of his entire career, and one of those rare “party albums” that will keep things jumping. Along with Moondance, this is the must-have album for everyone into all things Van.

DAN AND JAN HILLMAN 13 days ago
Another great column Ed !  I love the history of music, and how lucky are we to have lived during the greatest period of growth for music... Rock was created... Jazz was enhanced... and the blues, well the blues still apply.... Thank you Ed !
Gene AP WEALTH MANAGEMENT 9 days ago
Well done Ed! Van M is a master with many genres. A classic blues album that I found by chance was Too Long in Exile. Give it a listen.

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