I wonder if I was the victim of click-bait. Maybe the guys accusing Van Morrison were actually WORKING FOR Van Morrison.
I look at and occasionally post on a Bob Dylan fan-site on Facebook. (I belong to Patti Smith, Phil Ochs, Nico, Johnny Thunders and a few other fan-pages, too.) I saw a post that included a link to a news-source that claimed Van Morrison was engaging in ultra right wing “dog-whistles” and using blatantly anti-Semitic tropes.
(I had to look up “trope,” one of those words like “meme” that I think I understand but don’t want to misuse and make myself look uneducated.)
In any case, I clicked the link to the news-source, and the source did not post the actual song-lyrics or links to the songs on YouTube. Instead, it stated unequivocally that Van Morrison had gone off the deep end and was espousing racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
I’M NOT KIDDING!!!!
So I looked up the songs in question at Genius dot com. Nope. Nothing objectionable in the actual lyrics. Then I looked up and listened to one of the songs on You Tube and actually liked it.
Guess what I did next? I downloaded the entire album.
The album is titled, “LATEST RECORD PROJECT, Volume 1,” and consists of twenty-eight cuts. 28. Yes, TWENTY-EIGHT. Kinda like Chuck Berry’s Great Twenty-Eight. The first song, the title-song, asks, “Have you heard my latest record project?” You might think that’s kind of cheap joke, but you have to hear it. It’s perfect. It’s so perfect that it isn’t even ironic.
Each song has its roots in doo-wop, early rock’n’roll and soul. Short and economical. Tasty guitar. Tasty Hammond B-3. Groovy bass and drums. Sax. Harmonies and call-and-response vocals. Hooks galore.
These songs do not sound like anybody agonized over them for five sleepless days at the Chelsea Hotel. They sound like Van and his band started hitting grooves they dug, whipped quick little arrangements together, and didn’t second-guess themselves. Play it like you feel it. Did that feel good? Yes, it did. Let’s try another one.
There are people for whom Van Morrison is a defining influence. I’m not one of them. In The Little Wretches, Dave Losi would bust into a song at a rehearsal, and I’d struggle to find my way, thinking, “Damn, Dave wrote this? This is a really good song!” Of course, not having grown up on Van Morrison, I was unable to recognize songs like INTO THE MYSTIC, MADAME GEORGE, and CARAVAN. I studied up on Van Morrison, read a Lester Bangs review of ASTRAL WEEKS, bought it and SAINT DOMINIC’S PREVIEW, and I was converted.
One of my all-time favorite moments at live concert was when Van Morrison had released THE HEALING GAME, Bob Dylan had released TIME OUT OF MIND, and the two were doing a double-bill at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City. (The Rolling Stones were at Madison Square Garden. Imagine having to choose between the Stones and the Dylan/Morrison show!)
Near the end of Van’s sent, after having performed THE HEALING GAME album in its entirety, Van did a few old hits, including TUPELO HONEY. At the end of Tupelo Honey, he started ripping through vocal lines with riveting lyrics that I presumed were being improvised on the spot. Later, I learned that he’d segued from Tupelo Honey into WHY MUST I ALWAYS EXPLAIN. His delivery on Why Must I Always Explain was as powerful and impassioned as anything I’ve ever heard.
I’m ashamed to say that THE HEALING GAME, and album I love, was the last Van Morrison album I bought till now. That’s over twenty years. What kind of fan blows off a seminal artist for over twenty years? Well, I wonder what else I missed?
Van Morrison’s LATEST RECORD PROJECT, Volume 1 is really good, really fun. I don’t know. Those knuckleheads accused him of being a right wing nut. Are you kidding? But that’s what it took to get me to pay attention.
My attention has been rewarded. Thank you, Van Morrison. I have heard your latest record project. Great music. Hope everyone gets to hear it.