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Van Morrison
Under REview 1964-1974
Sexy Intellectual
www.vanmorrison.co.uk


The Under Review series is really a great place to get to know an artist, whether you are just learning about them or you have been a long time fan. The interviews with journalists and tastemakers are often very insightful and enlightening, as are the glimpses of stories from the artists themselves. Van Morrison Under Review is no different. I've been a long time fan of Van, and this great little rock documentary has re-arranged the way that I view George's early days and the paths that he took as an artist.

The interviewees begin by giving a nice background on the youthful days of Van; what kind of music his parents played in the house, what he grew up around, the influences on the streets around him. A bit of the history of Them is very interesting, as I haven't ever learned that much about Van's first signed band, and the inner workings of the record industry even in those earlier times. Probably the greatest thing about the Under Review series is the collection of live performance footage and film from the television shows of the early TV age. Footage of Them from those early days performing "Gloria" and the amazing "Here Comes The Night" is simply incredible, and really shows the change in the band from their first single when they were well-dressed rockers to their second set of recordings when they were looking a bit more beat, long-hair and all that.

The film goes on to track his growth and influence through his early years… the ridiculousness of Blowin' Your Mind and the artistic rebirth of Astral Weeks. The deep poetry of "TB Sheets", the jazzy meanderings and vocal experimentation that forever shapes the career path of the man are discussed, as well as the obvious literary influences that shaped Van's work. The more mainstream accessibility of Moondance has long been obvious, but at the time it was a tremendous leap for a rock'n'soul musician who would go on to be once more very thoughtful on His Band And Street Choir. The documentary continues with analysis of the amazing Tupelo Honey record, the highly introspective personalization and musical realization of Saint Dominic's Preview, the under-rated and disillusioned Hard Nose The Highway, the tremendous live record It's Too Late To Stop Now with the amazing Caledonia Soul Orchestra, and the incredibly Irish and folky Veedon Fleece. There are some harsh criticisms of some of these great records, but also nuggets of information that reveal more of what could have possibly been inspiring Van Morrison to create these timeless and classic albums.

Whether you are an initiate to the music of Van Morrison or a seasoned veteran of the great music, there are plenty of things to be gleaned from this great documentary. Hearing the chronological progression of Van's music from his early days of rock'n'soul, through jazz, big band, folk, and spiritual rock musings lends a wonderful frame of reference for the music and how Van matured in his career and his life. Also, it's just plain fun to hear tapes of a young Van Morrison talking and the cool way he pronounces the word "record".

-Embo Blake

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