Van Morrison

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  • Moondance
  • Astral Weeks

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About Van Morrison

One of the most expressive, instantly recognisable voices ever to emerge from Ireland, Van Morrison has spent over half a century internalising his deep ardour for and understanding of American soul and R&B, jazz and country, to say nothing of his Irish folk roots, forming a hybrid popularised as “Celtic soul.” He was born in Belfast in 1945; by age 12 he was playing in a skiffle band. He first tasted success fronting the short-lived Irish R&B-driven garage-rock band Them, scoring a minor hit with “Here Comes the Night” and recording the future rock anthem “Gloria”. But Morrison established his voice as a solo artist in 1967, cutting one of his most indelible songs, “Brown Eyed Girl”. Following a contract dispute with Bang Records that silenced him for a year, he launched a relationship with Warner Bros., which released the 1968 album Astral Weeks. This emotionally dark, paradigm-setting collection, made with jazz veterans such as Richard Davis and Connie Kay, introduced the sort of elastic arrangements that would allow the singer to use his full-bodied voice to alter the rhythms of his phrasing, stretching syllables like putty and rendering every performance unique. He made another six albums from 1970 to 1974, balancing punchy, horn-spiked soul with expansive post-folk ruminations, while drawing upon many stripes of American music, his lyrics becoming increasingly spiritual. After a three-year break from recording, he picked up with Period of Transition in 1977, co-produced by Dr. John. By the 1980s, Morrison was exploring the constituent ingredients of his sound, devoting albums to jazz, country, soul and Irish folk, including a collaboration with The Chieftains on 1988’s Irish Heartbeat. With more than 40 studio albums to his name, he stands as a peerless model for reinvention and stylistic fusion.

Belfast, Northern Ireland
31 August 1945

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