Wow ! Train wreck TV at its best here. Young Van Morrison has had his hair done, got a new jacket and been rolled out to promote “Ro Ro Rosey” the follow up to the smash hit “Brown Eyed Girl”. On “Greendale” Neil Young wrote “it ain’t an honour to be on TV and it ain’t a duty either”. Van looks as if he agrees with this. It’s a surprise that he makes it through the song because there are times when he absolutely quits on the lip-synch and you expect him just to walk out of shot. He has, of course, a reputation for being an awkward man. I have never bought this, it seems an easy and lazy tag to hang on an artist who obviously creates music of such emotional honesty. If this travesty was a tipping point and he decided that this was the last time he got screwed around by a media that could not care less then all power to him.
I like “Ro Ro Rosey”, it turns up on the collections of his recordings for Bang, it’s a cool little R&B stomper with some good fuzzy garage guitar. So where did those backing vocals come from ? They are not on the version I’ve got in my collection and just fill space that really has no need of filling.
Now, this is better. Just over 2 years later, 1970, and Van is at the Fillmore East with a cool band, a fringed waistcoat and a great LP “Moondance” to play. I’m not sure if he was headlining shows, I have seen posters for the Fillmore West at this time when he supported Joe Cocker. He has not yet got the Caledonia Soul Orchestra but it sounds pretty good to me. “These Dreams Of You” is one of my personal favourites from “Moondance” over the better known “Into The Mystic” and “Caravan”. It’s a cracking soul song but here it only lasts around one minute and twenty seconds, not long enough, not enough “Hush-a-byes”. So, I have let the clip run because if there is one thing I know about life it is that you can never have enough versions of “Cyprus Avenue”. This is an outstanding version too. The “It’s Too Late To Stop Now” take is a show-stopper while this builds subtly before hitting a similar intensity, great stuff.
Fast forward to 1997 and a fantastic version of the classic “Saint Dominic’s Preview”. I have a theory about Van Morrison which arose from prolonged listening to and enjoyment of the live record “One Night In San Francisco”. A Van Morrison performance brings elements of over 50 years of popular music together in a unique way. It is adult entertainment played by adults for adults. It is not an attempt to recreate the sound of the records but to play the songs well with the same energy and honesty. I would call it “cabaret” but that word is so discredited. I do know that I would rather see Van Morrison playing his songs with whatever band he decides to play with than almost any other artist of such longevity. Here “Saint Dominic’s Preview” is re-visited and a great song is given a mature treatment by a classy band which includes the Irish singer Mary Black on vocals. It may lack the exuberance even the vituperation (just to be hip and get wet with the jet set) of the original, no-one wants to see 60 year olds pretend to be 25, that’s no good for anybody.