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DVD Review



Van Morrison - Live at Montreux 1974 and 1980
Eagle DVD
       One of the best soul singers of all time (sure, maybe most don't consider the kind of music Morrison makes to be soul music but, in my opinion, all you have to do is listen to THAT voice and you'll know what to call the music Morrison makes and it sure ain't rock) Morrison has long earned the title of legend. So, it is fitting that this legendary performer be feted by the combining of two of his noteworthy perfromances at the Montreux Jazz Festival, one from 1974 and the other from 1980. Being his first home video release, the fine folks in charge of the Live At Montreux series couldn't have picked a more well-loved, yet performance-video challenged musician than Morrison.
       While some may bemoan Morrison's performances of late as being perfunctory, I don't see it that way. Sure, the ticket prices are high, but not as high as some of his peers such as Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones, neither of which can quite hit the same highs vocally or energetically as their greatest hits would warrant. Morrison, on the other hand, has never claimed to be either a vocal gymnast or a dancing ponce concerned about how his live show "looked", preferring instead to simply sing his ass off while interpreting and writing arguably some of the best songs ever. So he shows up on time and sings his songs and leaves the stage at roughly an hour-and-a-half without encores. What of it? Would I like a three-hour-plus marathon like Springsteen? Sure. But Springsteen's act has always been choreographed right down to the last bead of sweat - Morrison would never think of doing that. He sings his songs excellently and when he's done, he leaves. To complain about that shows how idiotic the concert business has become.
       But, should you still be illogically upset by Morrison's recent concert appearances, use this DVD set to return back to an earlier time in Morrison's career when he was still regularly on the charts and putting out some of his best music. The ten-song set from 1974 is sublime, with stellar performances of classics such as Foggy Mountain Hop and Harmonica Boogie. The 1980 set, a full six years and five subsequent albums later, is equally as good, boasting definitive versions of his songs
Tupelo Honey, Summertime in England and thirteen other songs. Morrison's bands on each of these performances just smoke! Truly some inspired playing and always inspired work from the Irish bluesman himself. I tell you, Morrison could just about recite the phone book and I would pick it up and listen to it for months but these performances are sublime! That he has, without a doubt, only gotten better and more soulful with age makes me wonder why he isn't a superstar heard on the radio with the same frequency as the Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I suppose there is really no justice in the music business but thankfully his albums and live documents such as this DVD (with hopefully more to come) prove he is at the very top echelon of his craft.
       Of course, Morrison fans are going to love this, but I would have no doubt that soul music fans and jazz fans would love this as well. Morrison has crafted his music as few artists can: he has dispensed with all of the trappings of labels and genres and simply makes the music Van Morrison would make. There is no other way to classify it except as Van Morrison's music and that truly should be the goal of any artist: to make your music undoubtedly your own. That Morrison has managed to do it from about the point he first started is a testament to his genius. This is a great DVD. Pick it up.  - Scott Homewood



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