STMcC’s Vote On '2016, March 15th: Battle Of The Bands'(Or, 'Bobby "Blue" Bland Vs. Van Morrison')
And The Final Tally:
First of all, I want to thank each and every single one of you (and, yes, YOU too!) for taking the time to listen and vote here. All y'all made this a really super Battle Of The Bands (BOTB) contest.
I'll tell you the truth: In creating this Battle (which was almost just an excuse for me to yak about my love of Mexican food), even though BOBBY "BLUE" BLAND is justifiably a legend in the annals of R&B / Soul music, I figured the greater name recognition was going to give VAN "THE MAN" MORRISON a huge advantage. But it seems everyone voted with their ears rather than by "reputation" and y'all turned this into one helluva BOTB installment. So, I thank you for that.
How close was this thang? After 10 votes were in, the Battle was tied 5 to 5. After 20 votes were in, the Battle was tied 10 to 10. At the dawn of the final day for voting, 23 votes were in and Van Morrison was holding on to a tenuous 1-vote lead. I was genuinely concerned about having another tie.
But then 3 more votes came in, Gem Julie's, Doc Cherdo's, and my own...
How did I vote? The same way Gem Julie and Doc Cherdo did. I think both recordings are top-notch. (As a side note, I'm not really absolutely crazy about the song. I like it but would grade it a "B" which for me equates to "Basically Good". There are songs I like better that I could have used for this Battle but I saw the potential here for a classic contest, an exciting dogfight between two legends.)
Truthfully, on this song I prefer Van's band and Bland's
Bobby "Blue" Bland = 11 votes
Van "The Man" Morrison = 15 votes
Van Morrison's voice deepened and got a great deal richer over the decades, and although I've always loved the material, I prefer the more mature voice. 'AIN'T NOTHIN' YOU CAN DO' (recorded in 1974) found his voice in that "period of transition".
You can compare the change in his vocal tone by listening to 'ASTRAL WEEKS' and 'IN THE GARDEN' back-to-back. 'Astral Weeks' is the title track of Van's incredible 1968 solo debut (one of the greatest "Solitarily-Drinking-Myself-Into-A-Mystical-Mess" albums of all time), and 'In The Garden' was released in 1986.
Link: 'ASTRAL WEEKS'
Link: 'IN THE GARDEN'
'AIN'T NOTHIN' YOU CAN DO' was the first track on Van Morrison's 1974 live album 'IT'S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW'.
The following comes from 'The Complete Guide To The Music Of Van Morrison' by Patrick Humphries:
As far as Van live on disc is concerned, his first live set, 'It's Too Late To Stop Now', is unquestionably one of the best-ever live rock 'n' roll recordings. Van was cooking when he came to record these 18 songs.
'It's Too Late To Stop Now' had Van fronting The Caledonia Soul Orchestra, arguably his finest ever ensemble. ... the orchestra also boasted a five person string section and a two man horn duo ... On it's original release, 'It's Too Late To Stop Now' was soon cemented as one of the great rock 'n' roll double albums ... every note you hear was recorded live - there was not one overdub.
Looking back on the album, guitarist John Platania told 'Mojo': "I would say that tour represented the height of his confidence as a performer", while bassist David Hayes recalled: "When I speak to Van about that album he still talks about it as having marked the peak of his career. He really feels he was on to something very special."
Recorded in Los Angeles at the intimate Troubadour club and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, as well as at North London's Rainbow. [Side note: I saw my first Rock concert at the Santa Monica Civic, and I spent many nights of my youth watching bands play on the Troubadour's stage.]
In my opinion, every single song on the live album is better'n its studio counterpart, with the sole exception of 'Listen To The Lion'. My favorite track is 'I'VE BEEN WORKING'. Pretty dang funky for a White bloke from Ireland. Listen to the amazing interplay between the musicians on this, the way they come in and then drop out for another musician to take the spotlight. It's like a trade-off of white-hot funky licks... [Play it LOUD!]
'I've Been Working' - Van Morrison
Yeah, that's some ass-kicking Funk! But the whole album is loaded with great Rock, Blues, Jazzy R&B and lovely ballads. In my opinion, one of the truly essential Van "The Man" albums.
Thanks again, All, for making this such a good Battle, and I hope to see you here again on April 1st. I've got something a wee bit o' surprising lined up for ya.
~ Stephen T. McCarthy