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
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
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".
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