Hey Dear KMA Readers, welcome to a short (two-day) series I’ll call The Weekend Of Reading (for lack of a wittier or more creative title). It’s Saturday, and, against my current brevity attempts, today’s missive is a fairly long excursion. I know for sure it’s worthwhile, though, so grab a coffee and get comfortable. Enjoy!
Like many of us, I have several items on my Grail List (see link at top of page for the Master Grail List). That’s the whole point of the list. We put the things we dearly want and have never found in the wild onto that list, and then we can all access this list and help each other out wherever we are in the world! This system has already yielded great results, with people finding things for others in their own local shoppes that have never appeared in other places. Community!
One item on my list has always been the main attraction. It has always been the only item on anybody’s Grail List in red text, to highlight its glory, priority, and importance to me.
Copies of this item exist, sure, and given unlimited funds I would already have had a M/M copy ages ago. But typically, lesser-rated copies list at $100-$200 (CAD), and some appear for more yet. Quality and ratings vary widely within that range, too. I’d have a hard time paying that for an LP set, no matter what it was. And that’s prices without shipping added on yet!
Part of the problem is that this album was only ever released on LP in the UK and Europe, so here in Canada it’s an import. The price goes up. It’s also a 2LP gatefold set. The price goes up again. It’s also from 1993, a time when LPs were being shoved aside in favour of 1537’s least favourite format, the shiny silver discs, so that means there were (comparitively) fewer copies out there. The price goes up again.
I’ve had this LP set on my Discogs Want List for a looong time. It may have even been my first-ever item added to my list. And not a week goes by that I don’t get a new notification from them saying ‘hey! we have a newly-added copy! It’s only £95!’ Well, that’s a lot more to me, with currency conversion considered, so how about no.
And then. AND THEN. Finally, after all these years, I recently clicked on one of these notification emails (as I always do) expecting it to be another wildly expensive copy, and it wasn’t. It was reasonable. And rated VG+/VG+. I didn’t even think about it and, recognizing my chance, I hit Order.
The seller was super-fast, receiving the order and processing the payment that same day. They shipped the next day. That kind of turnaround is crazy. It came from the UK, so it took a while for the boys in the canoes to get it here, but arrive it did.
Can I tell you how happy I was? I even messaged the seller to thank them, and they were happy it made me happy. Wa-hooo!
Now, you wonder why this album. What’s the big deal?
Waaaaay back in the autumn of 1998, my lovely wife and I started dating. On our second date, she visited me in my town, and we made dinner together in my little apartment. We shared a bottle of chianti my Nana had brought back from Italy. And this was the album that I threw into the player that evening. That was the CD copy I still have today! On reflection, I don’t recall any real calculation to choosing that particular album, I must’ve just reflexively figured it would go well. It did. And it became ‘our’ album. We’re sentimental fools.
So, finding this on LP has always been a goal of mine, just for the beauty of hearing it on the Rega, and for having the 2LP gatefold gloriousness in our house.
Even better, this year was our 20th Valentines Day together, now married 15 years, with two beautiful children, and loving life. We’ve come a long way and covered a lot of kilometers (in three provinces) from that date at my place, but then again, we’ve been friends for 40 years, so we just call it a lifetime of awesome, all is as it should be. And this set made an excellent gift for both of us on this 20th Valentines!
And now, if you’ve gotten this far, you must be wondering what the hell album it was, that I was so careful not to tell you about all through this big long text, eh? Well here ya go:
Yessir, it was Van Morrison’s ‘Too Long In Exile.’
BEHOLD THE MAJESTY:
If you’ve read this far, you’re a true KMA Reader, and for that I thank you. Happy weekend, everyone, and as it is also Family Day weekend here in Canada, Happy Family Day as well!
Van Morrison occupies a unique place in music. He seems to be loved by most, and even those who dislike his music (that I’ve met, anyway) can acknowledge his reach and appeal.
This disc, which covers 25 years of his career, is filled to the brim with songs you know top to bottom. When an artist has so many records, like he does, for most people I’d bet that a hits set like this would be everything they’d want. All the big songs are here – Brown Eyed Girl, Bright Side Of The Road, Have I Told You Lately, Moondance, Domino, Wild Night … and on and on. I don’t like to pick favourites here, but I always wait for And It Stoned Me to come on.
But there are also a pile of songs (which are deservedly included) that casual listeners might not know straight away, like Full Force Gale, Cleaning Windows, and Dweller On The Threshold. You need to hear them all. Also included are three songs from his time with Them, and one collaboration with Cliff Richard. Cool!
There’s one sequencing glitch, though. I’d have put Baby Please Don’t Go before Moondance. That would flow better than having it as Gloria, Moondance, Baby Please Don’t Go, and Have I Told You Lately. It’s a little jarring.
Of course, there’s an excellent Volume 2 as well, and even a 2CD Volume 3, but to get you started on Van Morrison, you’ll be able to spend a long time with this disc before wanting to branch out.
Dear KMA Readers, I have been away for most of this week, in Toronto and visiting family, so that explains the (surely regrettable?) lack of content from me. But now I am once again firmly ensconced before my most beauteous Macbook Pro (oh, how I’ve missed her). Better still, I have a pile of new treasures to hear and review, and I’m a-rarin’ to go. So then, Go!
First up is this disc that my lovely wife bought for our edification. It’s safe to say that any Van Morrison album is a good album, to our eager ears, and this one is certainly worthy of his boggling, multi-decade discography. The man makes records that sound so easy, so sublime, that listeners everywhere have just got to sit up and take notice. His is a template handed down from the g-ds of Music.
Van Morrison is like that great friend that you’ve known forever, the one who knows you better than anyone else. Through his music he just nods and smiles knowingly, and then lets you know it’s all gonna be alright.
So here we have Keep It Simple. This he does, folks, indeed. All of the old tricks are here, in a stripped-down way. The pacing is superb, the 12 bar blues run rampant, and he mixes in some shuffles and sweet, sweet slow dancers to make the ladies sigh. OK, so I sighed too. Think what you will. This is a record of great amalgamation, too. Think of it as a collection of blues, jazz, country, soul, gospel, and any other style the man has brilliantly interpreted and utilized over the years.
True, it could be argued that Van Morrison kinda sounds the same on every record. It’s his voice. It’s so distinctive (and, by now, completely familiar) that you might just say “yeah, well, it’s him again.” And you’d be right. But it’s that very uniqueness that is his calling card, his seal of quality that lets the happy listener know that they are in for yet another top-notch, beautifully rendered record.
My lovely wife pointed out that one of the greatest strengths of this record is that, quite like Leonard Cohen’s Dear Heather, here is a snapshot of a musician who’s been at it for a lifetime and now, in their older years, they’re looking back. Reminiscing, with maybe some regret but not too much, just taking stock of what has been and what can now be. It’s bittersweet, it’s honest, and it’s entirely gorgeous.
If you’re a fan, you already know what you’re getting. If not, it’s time you joined the rest of the world and welcomed this man’s beautiful music into your life.
01 How Can A Poor Boy
02 School Of Hard Knocks
03 That’s Entrainment
04 Don’t Go To Night Clubs Anymore
05 Lover Come Back
06 Keep It Simple
07 End Of The Land
08 Song Of Home
09 No Thing
11 Behind The Ritual