Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Lit Up Inside - Selected Lyrics of Van Morrison

 (I have no idea if this review was ever published anywhere. Found it today in the archives so thought I'd put it on the record. Written early 2015.)

Lit Up Inside
Selected Lyrics of Van Morrison
Edited by Eamonn Hughes

(Faber & Faber, 2014, 208 pp, RRP $27.99

Van Morrison
I wasn’t sure why someone would want to publish a book of lyrics these days. Lyric sites abound on the net and you can turn up the lyrics of any song you care to name for free in a matter of seconds. And initially I wasn’t sure either why someone would publish a book of lyrics of Van Morrison songs in particular. I don’t think of Van Morrison primarily as a lyricist. He’s a singer, and one of the finest of his generation. He changed the sound of much contemporary music forever with his unique brand of white soul. But he’s an emotional singer that relies very much on painting moods, and these moods are painted with words.

Before I opened the cover of Lit Up Inside I randomly chose a few of my favourite Van Morrison songs to see if they were included – Moondance, Tupelo Honey, Into the Mystic, Brown Eyed Girl, Wavelength - they’re all there. In fact, one third of all the songs he’s ever written are included. I started to remember beautifully sung phrases:

“Well it’s a marvellous night for a moondance
A fantabulous night to make romance” (Moondance)

‘“You can take all the tea in China
Put it in a big brown bag for me” (Tupelo Honey)

And then they just kept coming:

“I want to go to another country that operates along completely different lines”

 “What you lose on the hobby horses you gain on the swings”

“Chopping wood; carry water
What’s the sound of one hand clapping?
Enlightenment – I don’t know what it is” (Enlightenment)

So I’m changing my mind now. I’d forgotten how many fine lyrical moments of his had permanently lodged in my memory and become part of my lexicon.

A foreward from Ian Rankin tells us that there were often ‘stories in the music’ of Van Morrison with characters and commentary, and many of his songs reveal a “search for the spiritual in the commonplace.” Indeed, you don’t listen to Van Morrison for very long before hearing evidence of his preoccupation of things spiritual. But it is not a religious preoccupation in the sense of having a set of beliefs he wants to share. It is more to do with exploring the uncertain nature of existence in the everyday. And he names those places of the everyday, and they are often in his hometown of Belfast. He was one of the first pop/rock writers to name local streets and bars and towns in song the way popular American songwriters have always done. He saw the value of his own place – “even somewhere as unpromising as industrial east Belfast…..can be offered as a place of potential spiritual wonder”. It didn’t need to be Chicago, or San Francisco, or Belfast for that matter. As Morrison sings of his life in Belfast I see and remember the streets and pubs and haunts here in my city that played the same role in my life. By naming parts of Belfast in his songs, he actually legitimised the local experience of people listening to his tales wherever they lived.

So the lyrics of Van Morrison can be studied. There are clear recurring themes – the metaphysical, the imagery associated with radio, rivers, and railways - and to trace the development of these themes it is handy to have them all in one place in a printed volume that can be held in the hand.

But putting rock or pop lyrics on a printed page devoid of their musical context has always been problematic. Lyrics become words stripped of some of their power. And repeated phrases like ‘ya radio, ya radio’ (at the end of Wavelength) written 12 times just doesn’t read well. And what to make of choruses like “Sha la la la la la” etc  from Brown Eyed Girl on the printed page? It helps to read the lyrics as streams of consciousness. You then get a sense of the connection between these lyrics and the poetry of the Beat Generation, and particularly with Allen Ginsberg’s Howl from 1955.

Van Morrison buffs will clearly appreciate this compendium of his lyrics, as will those who wish to study his contribution to rock writing. And it helped me understand why it is that I have enjoyed his music so much over the years. So I’m sold. On balance the words of his songs do have sufficient substance to justify being printed as a book.

“Rave on John Donne; rave on.”

(Photo courtesy of Tom Collins)



Sunday, March 01, 2020

Acoustic Tull's First Review

After going live 9 months ago Acoustic Tull finally have our first independent review – 4 stars from The Upside Review. Quite pleasing actually. I’d been thinking that if I was reviewing our show I’d give us 4 stars!
It’s been a wonderful musical ride thus far. There are many wonderful moments but I think for me it’s when I hear that flute fluttering at the beginning of The Witches Promise or that signature melodic motif in Thick as a Brick I just feel a smile inside in recognition of how good it sounds and feels. These wonderful flute sounds are courtesy of Kerryn Schofield – how lucky we were to find her!
You can read more about the group and how it came about over at our website. There are some videos there as well. There’s also an interview I did that talks more about who we are. There are a few photos on our Facebook site but if you search HERE you should find several photos of us performing.
We have about 30 songs in our repertoire now. Our next gig with our full repertoire will be at current ‘home’ – the Duke of Brunswick hotel on May 23rd.
We have just concluded two sell out shows at the AdelaideFringe – quite an achievement as many shows/venues are reporting lower attendance figures this year. Our Fringe show was much shorter (75 mins) and included some cabaret style elements to make it more Fringe suitable.
Jethro Tull have often included mythical characters in their songs and live performances and we decided to feature one of our own for our Fringe show. We had a friend dressed as an old homeless guy wander through the crowd as we played Aqualung and sit himself down on a bench in front of the stage and read the Thick as a Brick album cover (newspaper) as we played our version of this classic..
The idea was for this old Aqualung character to be totally anonymous and unacknowledged, as homeless people often are, and so we completely ignored him and played on as if he wasn’t there. It seemed this little theatrical cameo was a successful complement to our show but it did raise interesting questions about why we did it.
The questions that were asked with brief answers:

here did this idea come from?

Tull has a history of using mythical characters in song, on stage and in videos. Reference to the vulnerable and disenfranchised is a recurring theme in Ian Anderson's writing. So the old man character was to reflect what Tull have done for years.

·         Is it merely for visual accompaniment to the song? NO
·         Is it meant to confront the audience with their own prejudices and stereotype notions of the homeless and destitute? YES
·         Is is designed to elicit emotions of sympathy - YES
·         Do you want the audience to be chuckling and sniggering, or squirming in their seats with discomfort?- NEITHER; JUST WONDERING WHY
·         How many of the audience I wonder would have gone away with a different (sympathetic) attitude to the homeless? MOST HOPEFULLY
·         Would the song be better served by a shocking slide show that portrays the injustice of the poor and abandoned? NO. THAT WAS NOT TULL’S WAY. TOO DIDACTIC
·         Was this just playing a practical joke at the expense of the disenfranchised? DEFINITELY NO

Greg Champion Review

Perhaps Greg Champion’s biggest claim to fame is being part of an ABC radio show that has been running for 40 years - the Coodabeen Champions. Author of one of many contenders for what couldabeen the national anthem – I Made A 100 In The Backyard At Mum’s – he’s a very funny man. Raised on the Hectorville tablelands (que?), he left Adelaide sometime in the distant past to seek fame and fortune with Adelaide band The Fabulaires, but somehow stumbled into the growing new field of musical sport comedy and has been there ever since. Or actually, he might have invented it!
40 years of live performance on radio and stage has yielded a performer very much in command of his quirky genre. His forte is writing satirical lyrics to well-known tunes – whether it be poking fun at Port Adelaide fans (something he does quite a lot of!), or the clichés coaches use in talks to their players. Another odd but considerable talent is the ability to play with the sounds of language in song – tongue-twisting Australian place names for example, or stringing together French words and phrases stolen by English.
Though he’s been living in Victoria for decades he says he still calls South Australia home and of course he has a song about it! Lots of wonderful local content that wouldabeen useless performing in any other state. He draws material from some of the more whacky listeners to Coodabeen Champions over the years that sometimes have better memories of songs he has done in the past than he does, and have also provided snippets of wisdom that occasionally made sense, or even if they didn’t were funny anyway.
This was a delightful show. Despite what he said, there were several people in the audience under 85 and we all laughed a lot. I don’t know why there weren’t more people there – there shouldabeen. Maybe they’re too old to get out? Or dead? Perhaps the audience for someone who makes jokes about football is too small? No matter – their loss.
And besides, it’s not just about football. The finale featuring several alternative versions of the National Anthem didn’t mention football once and was still hilarious. No couldabeen about it, he’s a comic champion.

(This review also published on The Clothesline)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Holden Street Theatres – The Studio, Fri 5 Apr.

Bordertown is a convenient half way marker on road trips between Adelaide and Melbourne. Apparently Bob Hawke was also born there. He spent most of his childhood in Perth but a trip back to the town as an adult and a chance visit to a local hairdresser was enough to generate the urban myth that Bob’s silver bodgie hairstyle was born in Bordertown.
This is important to Patricia Barnes, the local hairdresser. In fact hair in general is important. It has to be or she has nothing. She complements her empty life with the inane trivia of celebrities because they matter. They’re successful. And she decides that her daughter must escape to Hollywood where people find success.
Chris Asimos as Emilio Sanchez bursts on to the stage and regales us with his charisma and de rigeur larger than life star behaviour. He’s funny, and genuine, and he falls completely for that girl from somewhere near the border. The scene where he and Felicity (Kim Fox) flirt with each other on first meeting is beautifully choreographed and exudes romantic chemistry.
Dennis the taxi driver doesn’t really go for this celebrity stuff. Although he has a tendency to fall under the thumb of the women in his life, in his own yokel way he’s become his own man. His quirky manner provides a glimpse of the Australian psyche that provides a telling contrast to the Hollywood way. It’s a lovely and endearing performance from Brendan Cooney.
Bordertown is an entertaining and funny show, with strong and convincing performances all round. Katie O’Reilly’s portrayal of Patricia is wonderful. But beneath the humour is the sad fact that many of us seem to need this link with the lives of celebrities to make our own lives more palatable. People’s lives become more important if they’ve had a chance meeting with a celebrity, or they know someone who is a cousin of a famous actor, etc etc. It’s really quite pathetic.
But that is Patricia’s reality. You have to find that connection with fame, and it matters not if it’s true or otherwise. What matters is that people believe it happened, that you’ll be remembered and talked about for years after, because you knew someone famous. And you cared about your hair!

(This review also published on The Clothesline.)

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

What then, are our responsibilities, as elders, in this world which carries the scent and spoor of our youthful enthusiasms?

A colleague on the TALO email list (yes there are some still) posed this question in regard to our collective role in promoting use of the internet before it all went wrong. I felt compelled to answer: 

I don’t know if this was a serious question but I’m going to assume it was. Because this has been on my mind. Where the Internet and social media has led us has me worried. And when Tim Berners-Lee says much the same I feel my concerns are well founded.
I’m trying to reconcile my own part in all of this. Like many on this list I was an enthusiastic advocate for teaching and learning online. I don’t know if I was an advocate of the Internet in particular. I was certainly fascinated by its potential, and what it might do to our lives. But I don’t think I was an advocate per se in the way that people like Mark Pesce may have been. I remember Pesce boasting unashamedly that ‘the Internet is coming and I am a pusher!”
I still stand by the Internet’s potential to improve education, in the hands of experienced and wise facilitators. But there are still so few of them. But after 22 years of watching its impact I am worried about what the internet and mobile technologies have done to our lives.
I am feeling a sense of professional embarrassment. How can I/we not have seen this coming? For me it’s connected with the election of Trump. That stunned me. I was one of those who thought it would never happen. Don’t laugh, but I thought humanity was evolving to a point where trogladytes like Trump would be left behind.  It was as if his election snapped me out of a naïve dream.
Similarly I knew the potential of social media to spread evil, but like all good fairytales I thought good would prevail. And it still might. But with all the good it has done, it has connected all those with a message of hate and division. It fosters unrest based on lies and misinformation in Ukraine, genocide in Myanmar, subverts democratic processes, and provides a platform for murderers, racists and child pornographers to peddle their wares.
And I do think it’s time to call a spade a spade and declare as T Bone Burnett has done that it is stealing our culture on the basis of some flimsy pretext like ‘all knowledge wants to be free’.
So I do feel like making a public apology quite honestly, where I can admit that I was naive about a lot of things. That may absolve my conscience but do I/we who were at the vanguard of the changes have a responsibility to try now and fix up the mess and redress some of the mistakes?


  I recently created a book of this blog. I must confess part of my desire to do this was based on the assumption that it might be of intere...