Van Morrison’s new album, Keep It Simple, is as wonderful as you could hope for. He hasn’t lost his chops, and though his voice may have deepened a tad or perhaps just mellowed, it is to no ill effect. The sound of the disc is gentle and soulful, rather than intense–perfect for rainy spring days.
You can stream four tracks on his exemplary MySpace. Buy the thing, which came out just yesterday.
Peruse his back catalog at his website to soak in the iconographic heft of Van the Man. Glen Hansard humbly and sincerely acknowledges “the greatest Irish songwriter that ever lived” in the preamble to The Swell Season’s cover of Into the Mystic (download or stream at my Bonnaroo Muxtape).
Mmmmmm … now for the YouTubes! Oh, wait, there are none. Well, good for him and bad for you. Go rent The Last Waltz and let him dazzle you with a rendition of Caravan backed by The Band (looking dapper and showing some chest in a tight rhinestone jumpsuit, if memory serves).
So I’m chalking my pool cue at the pub this loverly St. Patrick’s Day, and I says to my friend, I says, “List of the best jukebox tunes? …”
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) – Looking Glass
Roxanne – The Police
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Fishing in the Dark – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Cecilia – Simon and Garfunkel
Fire and Rain – James Taylor
Gloria – Van Morrison
Black Betty – Ram Jam
Amie – Pure Prairie League
Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
Melissa – The Allman Brothers Band
The Weight – The Band
Can’t You See – The Marshall Tucker Band
Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival (sorry Tina)
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin
Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who
Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
War – Edwin Starr
After Midnight – Eric Clapton
Come Together – The Beatles
Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones
All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
Somebody to Love – Jefferson Airplane
Black Water – The Doobie Brothers
American Pie – Don McLean
Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ – The Velvet Underground
No Rain – Blind Melon
Self Esteem – The Offspring
Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
Say It Isn’t So – Weezer
Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
Heaven Beside You – Alice in Chains
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Bound for the Floor – Local H
In the Meantime – Spacehog
Hunger Strike – Temple of the Dog
Santa Monica – Everclear
Creep – Radiohead
Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Lightning Crashes – Live
Super Bon Bon – Soul Coughing
Possum Kingdom – The Toadies
Killing Me Softly – The Fugees
Time Bomb – Rancid
What I Got – Sublime
If You Could Only See – Tonic
Closing Time – Semisonic
Hey Man, Nice Shot – Filter
Mr. Jones – Counting Crows
1979 – Smashing Pumpkins
Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam
Pepper – Butthole Surfers
Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart – Stone Temple Pilots
Machinehead – Bush
Devil’s Haircut – Beck
When I Come Around – Greenday
Hurt – Johnny Cash
Such lists are necessarily, perpetually, horrendously incomplete. Make things right in the comments section!
I’ve been enjoying Levon Helm’s grammy-nominated disc Dirt Farmer and eyeing his book This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm & the Story of the Band on my nightstand. I’m not going to write a Levon bio, so if you need, catch up here.
Listen to a bit of Dirt Farmer here, and find yourself at home no matter your musical tastes. It’s folk music, but the reason that music resonates with us is we’re all just folks. So when you tire of indie rock navel gazing, let Levon’s harmonies with his daughter Amy satisfy a craving you didn’t even know you had.
You can listen to Levon perform four songs on NPR’s World Cafe. He is touring the album, but mostly in the form of Midnight Rambles, which are jam sessions open to the public at his Woodstock, NY, home/studio/barn. He’s been holding these shows for a long time, and often all-star guests pop in unannounced. Very cool. Plus, isn’t it sweet to think of him always and forever playing at Woodstock?
Dirt Farmer makes judicious use of the drums, including 86ing them entirely if the song can stand alone. I think of Levon as a drummer first (take a lesson from him here) and a singer second, but I don’t know why that would be since he sings lead on The Weight, one of the best songs of all time, and lots of other The Band songs. Regardless, I should take my new-found focus on his vocals and re-watch The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s documentary of The Band’s final rock-out.
Oh yeah, and if you weren’t convinced of Levon’s multi-faceted coolness yet, check out his memorable acting performance in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (pic of him in character). A friend swears that when Levon’s character is dishing some soup out of a pot he’s situated toward pot, lid, and spoons as if about to play on his drum set with drumsticks. Wink, wink, from director Tommy Lee Jones if it’s true.
UPDATE 1.24.07: Aquarium Drunkard posted on Levon today, offering two downloads; one of them is a Steve Earle cover.