Friday, October 05, 2012

Van Morrison: The other Real Real Gone

Van thought this earlier, jaunty, Jamaican-flavored, & radically different version of his later hit song wasn't right for the album he was planning around 1980. All Van's albums are "concepts" inspired as much by thematic collections of poems as by the record album idea. So he gave the instrumental track to his guitarist, Herbie Armstrong, pushed the organ back a bit, added Herbie's vocals & background chorus, & released it as a single. It's quite entertaining. I didn't know either of earlier versions  existed until two days ago.

A decade later, Van completely rethought "Real Real Gone," rearranged the lyrics, made a simple but basic change to the chords, wrote a short vocal bridge section, speeded  up the tempo & put the beat on the one. It was a  hit for him, a frantic number with an air of desperation despite its celebration of friendship.

He came back to the original version for a large collection of outtakes. alternate versions & unreleased songs, Philosopher's Stone. Beautifully mixed, the organ very prominent, wonderful horn chart intact, Herbie's guitar still there. Same four chords over & over, round & round. After the perfect John Alair organ solo that poked a bit of envy in me, the song seems to gather intensity, although I can't exactly discern why it makes that impression, perhaps the drummer. A great song in both of Van's versions.

I'm not very familiar with Van's discography. I had to look all this up. I was huge fan of his first two albums for Warner Bros,  Astral Weeks & Moondance, & his singing, caught his act the first time he brought the soul band through America. It was clear then that Van strove for something transcendent in his performances, & if he couldn't reach it all the tension & expectation went out of the performance & they just goofed around on the final numbers, what happened at the show I saw.  Others have told me of similar experience, & of nights when he was otherworldly. I wasn't so certain I liked that approach. But some of the very best jazz players, including Coltrane, were known to do uninspired sets in clubs, especially at the earlier shows. & several of Monk's bands went on stage so poorly prepared  the entire performance broke down. Anyway, I didn't follow Van's career closely. Admired him,  scanned his later LPs for melodic, dreamlike songs I could play on my late night radio shows. Always found something.

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