07 Oct 2016

90.7 WFUV: Five Essential Van Morrison Songs

7th October, 2016

Back in October 2014, the Irish singer and songwriter Hozier covered Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” for a London production company. It was a perfect, poetic choice for the fast-rising musician, real name Andrew Hozier-Byrne. He had released his self-titled debut album that same month, on this heels of a hit single and EP, 2013’s Take Me To Church, and another EP, From Eden (released after FUV recorded a mini-session with Hozier at 2014’s SXSW). And here, with Hozier’s heartfelt Morrison cover, was a gentle acknowledgment of that undeniable bridge between the Belfast-born legend and the County Wicklow-raised newcomer.

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But when FUV decided to celebrate Van Morrison as one of our FUV Essentials, we reached out to Hozier, wondering if he might write about Morrison, an artist he deeply admires. Charmingly, the first of Hozier’s “Five Essential Van Morrison Songs” is the very track he once covered so poignantly:

“Sweet Thing,” Astral Weeks (1968)
Found on that gem, Astral Weeks. There are few songs I can point to that exhibit that singular, natural, wild kind of joy that eludes us for most of our lives. The one that’s found in a flash of simple doing or looking or walking — or that marvels itself into existence through a loving thought and is gone in an instant. Far more than mere happiness. Much of this album reminds me of the finer aspects of living and breathing on planet Earth and this song exemplifies much of those reminders: “Hey, it’s me I’m dynamite and I don’t know why.”

“Baby Please Don’t Go,” single (a Joe Williams cover, 1964)
A track from early in Van Morrison’s career when he was singing with Them. I love this rendition for the tension that the bass hangs onto throughout; also that razor sharp lead guitar and how it showcases the tightly-wound energy of his voice at a younger age. It’s a sound very much of its era: young bands in the UK and Ireland being blown away by songs and sounds coming out of Black America and trying to explore it on tape and onstage. As a kid discovering R&B and soul, examples of this showed me time and time again how everything comes back to the blues.

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