Currently situated at #22 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters, Van Morrison is somehow underrated. This playlist offers a look past the greatest hits to explore the deeper album cuts, studio rarities, and live songs - all from various stages of his career.
Van's magic is his ability to blend soul, blues, folk, and jazz into a unique blend. Many of his best songs evoke a mystical word of enlightenment with vivid descriptions of nature - fields wet with rain, the country in the summertime, towns called Paradise, and Philosopher's Stones. Growing up in Northern Ireland, his catalog is influenced by his musical idols - Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, Sam Cooke, and Muddy Waters just as much as his literary ones - TS Elliot, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, and William Blake.
Becoming a fan Van Morrison listener is a bit of a spiritual adventure and pairs well with introspection - so many of his songs have an ethereal feel. But don't underestimate his ability to throw down some rock and roll - like a live "Caravan". Van's an underrated performer as well. He has a way of taking a word or phrase and repeating it fascinatingly, often in call and response with another vocalist, an instrument, or himself.
Note: Van Morrison sounds especially good on rainy Sunday mornings.
Other Suggested Listening
The rocking double live album 'It's Too Late To Stop Now' with the magnificent Caledonia Soul Orchestra featuring a string section that intensifies Van's legendary live performances of that period, to maximum effect.
I fell for Van after owning a bootleg from Montreaux Jazz Festival - 7/5/90. For me, it's a top 10 desert island bootleg. It features a fantastic setlist that builds as the show goes on, incredible sound quality, and a 75-minute journey worth taking. If you are interested, it's on YouTube here.