My beloved brother gave me the gift of music for Christmas. A horrible accident had befallen my rather extensive collection of vinyl, cassettes and cd's last summer and I haven't had the resources to replace them, so I have been suffering the lack of accessible tunes for a few months now. Nothing has been so painful, though, as the absence of my Number One in my life. Thanks to my thoughtful, understanding and incredibly resourceful sibling, I now have the complete collection, and I must say, it's more wonderful than I could ever express in words. So, as a tribute to my Number One, Van Morrison, and to my brother who brought back the music, here are my thirteen favorite songs by this great and enduring artistic genius, in no particular order. (believe me, choosing only thirteen was a trial)
1. Beside You (Astral Weeks) - his vocals take my heart in hand and just squeeze every drop of emotion from it. The stark sadness in Number One's voice makes my palms ache.
2. Moondance (Moondance) - my song of joy. Not sure why it is, but my heart sings with it.
3. Come Here My Love (Veedon Fleece) - this is like breathing. The phrasing ... just go listen to it. I can't explain it.
4. Haunts of Ancient Peace (Common One) - if I could compare it visually, I'd say Monet ... truly emotionally gripping in a gentle and introspective way.
5. Have I told You Lately That I Love You? (Avalon Sunset) - the lyric is simple yet poignant. This is my son's lullaby: when nothing else could calm him, this has always done it.
6. You Gotta Make It Through The World (A Period Of Transition) - Number One blows some fine sax on this one. Jazzy, uplifting, and a lot spiritual.
7. Into the Mystic (Moondance) - Number One could've written this one about me. This might be my favorite ... for sure it's the most real. I feel the lyrics of this song like no others.
8. Keep Mediocrity At Bay (Magic Time) - this starts out with a great harmonica solo, then spins out into an incredibly fun 12-bar blues. Feel-good music with meaningful, yet tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
9. Good Morning Blues (Skiffle Sessions: Live In Belfast 1998) - Geez, you've got Van Morrison and Lonnie Donegan performing a Leadbelly tune in skiffle style. What else can I say? The whole album is a treasure.
10. Caravan (Moondance) - it's the imagery in this one that I love, but it's the ending that really grabs me. The short phrases build the intensity until you are fairly rocked with it.
11. Ta Mo Chleamhnas Deanta (Irish Heartbeat) - this traditional gaelic lovesong is simply breathtaking with the raw emotional expression of Number One's voice, especially with it being in the original language (title means "My Match, It Was Made). I didn't have this album before - mourning all the missed time with it now.
12. I'll Tell Me Ma (Irish Heartbeat) - you experience the roots of Van's music on this album. There isn't a bad song on it, if you like Celtic music, that is. This particular one has every element you could imagine: it's a jig with fiddle, pipes, spoons and step dancing ... awesome!
13. You Don't Know Me (Days Like This) - most musicians do covers, but Van has a real talent for recreating a song so that it sounds like an original version. Some other truly remarkable covers are "Georgia", "What'd I Say?" and "Moody's Mood for Love".