Monday, November 14, 2011


[From the STMcC archive; January 1, 2007]

DVD Released In 2006

In a sense, VAN MORRISON has figured prominently in my life and in an indirect way he saved me from a life of great regret . . .

I was a huge fan of VAN THE MAN in 1986, and one day I returned home practically giddy from having just located what was, at that time, a few hard-to-find Van Morrison vinyl LPs. As fate would have it, just as I got out of my car, with my new used albums tucked under one arm, Kelly “Andy” Anderson - a loyal old “superfriend” of mine - pulled up to the curb in his battered old pickup truck.

Andy and I’d had something of a falling-out over some inconsequential issue and we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other for some time. But I was in such a good mood - having just acquired long-sought-after Morrison music - that in that very moment, I buried the past, forgave Andy for whatever slight I’d been holding against him, and I greeted him as the true friend of fifteen years he really was. We spoke briefly and then parted as the good pals we’d always been.

That was the last time I saw Andy – truly one of the greatest friends I have ever had. Not long afterwards, I learned of his suicide in California City.

Many times in the subsequent years I’ve revisited that day in my mind and shuddered to think, “What if I hadn’t just found those Van Morrison records and hadn’t been in such a magnanimous mood? What if, instead, I had given Andy the cold shoulder? Treated him like a dog? How would I have ever lived with that last memory and the tremendous remorse I would have carried with me all these years?”

Fortunately, I haven’t had to beat myself up over a regrettable event that might have occurred twenty-one years ago. In a way, I owe the music of Van Morrison much gratitude for changing my life in an unexpected way!

This last Christmas, I received the DVD, ‘VAN MORRISON LIVE AT MONTREUX 1980/1974’ from my friend, Kevin, “The Kansas Kid.” Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He’s currently wanted in seven states for crimes ranging from bank robbery and train robbery to shooting innocent zoo animals . . . with a camera. Kevin’s a good buddy and he knows how to please ol’ Stephen T. Even though on the scale of Life’s important “stuffs”, a Van Morrison DVD isn’t going to rate real high, I treasure this 2-disc set because Van’s music is understandably meaningful to me.

I’ve seen Van perform live about four times in my life. When he’s in the mood, he’s a compelling entertainer. At the Montreux Jazz Festival, he was definitely in the mood and his band – as always – consisted of nothing less than the finest musicians. You know Van: if a musician can’t please the man, they’re out on their can!

Both discs in this set are excellent. The June 30, 1974 performance is shorter and more Blues-dominated. I prefer the July 19, 1980 show. It contains some of Van’s more extended Jazzy pieces which are rarely if ever played live anymore – particularly those long, meditative works from his underrated ‘COMMON ONE’ release. Van’s looking pretty trim here (you know, for Van, I mean), and we get to see him with his outrageously talented horn men, Pee Wee Ellis (tenor sax) and Mark Isham (trumpet).

Some of the performance highlights for me include:

‘TROUBADOURS’ – I always considered this to be one of the lesser tracks on what is easily one of Van’s greatest sets, ‘INTO THE MUSIC’, but here, Isham and Ellis are blowing as if to save their lives, and when the audience broke into applause at its conclusion, I very nearly did the same thing right in my own living room!

During the intro to ‘SPIRIT’, John Allair locks into such a spirited, funky groove that he can’t remain seated at the organ – the music itself demands that he stand!

‘SUMMERTIME IN ENGLAND’ – The song moves from a meditation to unrestrained exuberance, where Pee Wee Ellis nearly blows the roof off the place, until the song downshifts back into a meditation just prior to launching into a “fantabulous” rendition of Morrison’s ‘MOONDANCE’ masterpiece.

‘HAUNTS OF ANCIENT PEACE’ – This gives us a tremendously soulful solo from Pee Wee.

There’s a wonderful little moment early on in this ultimate version of ‘TUPELO HONEY’ where Isham and Ellis simultaneously play their respective horn parts and then as they back away from their mics, they glance at each other and exchange self-satisfied smiles. Here is two fine musicians in their prime and immersed in the joy of their art. There’s no competition; there’s no race issue (even though Isham is White and Ellis is Black); there’s no time; there’s just this NOW, and the knowledge that supreme artists are combining their talents in the act of creating something very beautiful!

On the downside, despite the quality of musicianship, ‘LISTEN TO THE LION’ never comes close to matching the studio version from the ‘Saint Dominic’s Preview’ album, but then how could it? That is one of the most introspective and intense pieces of music ever recorded. Morrison could tap that depth only once. (His version on 1973’s ‘IT’S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW’ – unquestionably one of the greatest live albums ever released – never came close either. ‘Saint Dominic’s’ ‘LISTEN TO THE LION’ was just too roaringly glorious to ever be replicated even by Van, the man himself. That was a once-in-a-lifetime performance!) But when Van sings “I believe I’ve transcended myself, child” in the encore, ‘ANGELOU’, for a minute there it almost seems as if indeed he has!

WHY do I think this live concert DVD is so good? Well, sure I could talk about the various camera angles, the clear picture, the crisp sound. I could explain why Pee Wee Ellis is a saxgod. I could discuss in greater detail the topnotch, eight-piece band and the Jazz explorations of one of the world’s great songwriters and his Irish muse. Or I could simply quote from one of his own songs:

“It ain’t why, why, why.
It ain’t why, why, why.
It ain’t why, why, why.
It just IS!”

Hopefully, you have learned two things from this review of mine:

1) You can purchase ‘VAN MORRISON LIVE AT MONTREUX 1980/1974’ with complete assurance that as a Morrison fan (or just a person who appreciates exceptional musicianship) your money will be well spent. And . . .

2) You should always treat your loved ones very good because you just never know when you are seeing them for the
... very ... last ... time.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Relevant Music Links:





OL' ‘55


YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.


Kelly Robinson said...

Food for thought. This is why forgiveness is so important. Carrying a grudge ends up hurting yourself more than anyone else. I'm glad you got to make peace with your friend before it was too late.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Yep. And thanks!

I came to view that situation as Divine intervention for the good of my own conscience: Had I not returned home exactly when I did - had I made one more stop first, for gas or a soda pop or a humburger (you name it), or had I stayed three minutes longer at the store I was last in, I would have missed Kelly's visit and would have had to live with unbearable guilt for the remainder of my life.

I could point to many instances in my life where, as far as I'm concerned, only the benevolent intervention of God or Christ can explain how I was saved from some very unfortunate circumstances.

The Hand of God has been clearly visible in my life for almost as long as I can remember, and my final, fortuitous meeting with Kelly, when I was "lucky" enough to have been in such a great mood about something else that it was easy for me to forgive and treat him like the great, true friend he really was, is just one of several "miraculous moments" in my past.

I thank God He arranged my last goodbye with Kelly. The guilt otherwise would have been way too much for me to live with.

Thanks again for your insightful comment!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Laila Knight said...

Oh my goodness, I'm sorry about Andy. Poor guy, but you can't blame yourself for a suicide. Try as we may we never know what's going on inside a person's head.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Dang, Sister, where the heck have you been? I’ve wondered what ever became of you! It seems as if you haven’t commented on this blog since… since… uh… well, come to think of it, it seems as if this is the FIRST time you have EVER commented on this blog! (No wonder I wondered where you were.)

Hey, thanks for your lovely comment and for your empathy (which I sincerely appreciate despite my insanity and flippant response to follow…)

Well, the one good thing about the suicide of a great friend is that it gives one a built-in excuse to go through the rest of life as intoxicated as possible. So, in that sense, I will always be grateful to Andy Anderson… who, truly, I loved so much. …Uh . . . I mean, you know, like in a strictly “John Wayne” way! I mean, we were from the L.A. area, NOT that “other” city up North, where they all love each other in more of a Marlene Dietrich/Rock Hudson kind of way.

I guess you won’t be revisiting this blog, huh? Well, I don’t blame you at all, my friend. I wouldn’t visit this blog either if I weren’t required to do so in order to post and comment on it.

Yeah, I’m “on the edge” of the Blogosphere and close to falling off. (They told me not to sail this far out, but would I listen? NoOOOOOooo!) However, I’m essentially a good guy… it’s just this short in the wiring of my brain that makes me seem otherwise. And if you think I’m “out there”, you should have known Kelly!

Seriously, Laila, thanks so much for reading and commenting! Please don’t wait so long to come around again. You worry me, Sister, when I don’t hear from you for such a long time.

~ D-FensDogg
‘Loyal American Underground’

Pooh Lynth said...

Drive fast and take chances .... but get gas first. We have known and know some interesting people my friend, and we are luck to have out-lived a few. Perhaps not so lucky as blessed!

mousiemarc said...

Brother Stephen,
Well said my brother and friend. Well said. God bless you and yours. Love you in the I'm married to a lady kinda way. :)

Br'er marc

Stephen T. McCarthy said...


Thanks, dudes! I care about ya both in a very 'John Wayne' in "The Quiet Man" kinda way!


May we be in heaven half an hour before Jack Daniels knows he's dead.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Arlee Bird said...

I think you already know that I'm a big Van fan. We've discussed before if you remember. I'm not much for watching concert DVDs anymore but I do appreciate music well-performed.

But of the two final points you make, I think the last one is the most important. Being mad and holding a grudge is such a fruitless state of mind.

Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Yep, I soitenly do recall that yer a 'Van-The-Man' fan.

I'm a shade surprised, however, that you don't care for concert DVDs. At my age, I really appreciate them. I don't own many, but enough.

If someone offered to give me a free ticket to a concert or a free concert DVD, in most cases, I think I'd take the DVD. The recording will last forever, and I can get the "live" experience whenever I want without having to step out of my house and deal with the crowds of maroons and all that mary jane smoke.

When I was young, the loud crowd, the smokey atmosphere, and the drunken dude accidentally spilling whiskey down my shirt was all a part of the exciting "concert experience". But now? Aww, jus' gimme a relatively inexpensive DVD, which I can pause anytime I need to visit the li'l boy's room.

That's not to say I'm no longer at all interested in attending any concerts, but the price, the location, the band, and the company all need to be right.

>> . . . "Being mad and holding a grudge is such a fruitless state of mind."

Uh, yeah, well, I think it's certainly a viable option... if you've run out of ammo and still haven't managed to hit your target.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Arlee Bird said...

I totally concur with you about going to concerts. It means I have to get dressed and leave the house. Then there's all that expense. Given a choice I'll definitely go with the DVD experience.

Ann Carbine Best visits Wrote By Rote on Saturday 11/12/11