Friday, November 6, 2015

Van Morrison 28: How Long… and Tell Me Something

As demonstrated on his most recent live album, and the two doubles before it, Van Morrison seemed happiest when in the midst of a rhythm and blues show band and revue. Every now and then he calls his music jazz, which is how the Verve label marketed his next two albums. Such was one of the perks of being signed to a major corporate entity with several specialty labels; another perk would be the ability to release two novelty projects to help fulfill said contract.
How Long Has This Been Going On was recorded live without an audience at Ronnie Scott’s club in London, and features mostly covers from the pre-rock era. Aside from Georgie Fame, who gets spine billing, Annie Ross shows up to sing along on “Centerpiece”, which she helped make famous once upon a time. Just to show his own ties to the music. A different arrangement of “I Will Be There” opens the set and there’s a repeat of “All Saints Day” from a few years past, but the big draw is “Heathrow Shuffle”, performed many times in the ‘70s but unreleased until here. A seven-minute rendition of “Moondance” reels in those whose knowledge of jazz is limited to that song.

Appearing halfway through the album is “Your Mind Is On Vacation”, written by Mose Allison, which was a clue to the album that appeared not too long afterwards. Tell Me Something is in some ways more satisfying, as it consists of 13 songs written by the man Pete Townshend called a “jazz sage”, and who sings two of them here. Van is only one of the billed performers, which means the balance of the tracks are sung by either Georgie Fame or Ben Sidran, best known to hippies as an early member of the Steve Miller Band, and to a few Gen Xers as the host of a VH-1 show. Those guys have certainly picked up their vocal styles from Mose, while Van only sounds like Van. Taken all together, it’s a good introduction to Mose Allison; hits collections on the Prestige and Atlantic labels are highly recommended.

Van Morrison with Georgie Fame & Friends How Long Has This Been Going On (1995)—3
Van Morrison, Georgie Fame, Mose Allison, Ben Sidran Tell Me Something: The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)—3

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