We here at List of the Day have decided to take a stand and ram our opinions down your throat. That's right. Drunk with power--and this newly legal absinthe--we have stared long and hard into the abyss and decided to profile artists that no under 60 cares about. Because it's good for you. Because it will make you a better person. Because if we don't do this, who will? Because Shakira would want it this way. Because 17.2 million viewers watched High School Musical 2 and if we can get five of those viewers to change their life we will have made a small and insignificant difference. Because short, fat, moody Irish guys turning 62 today deserve your respect and attention. Because it's Van Morrison's birthday.
And don't worry, we'll equally celebrate the birthdays of other prominent rockers from David Blue to Judee Sill, Ronnie James Dio (such a short, short man) to Pat Travers, Billy Squier to Robert Smith, Sandy Posey to Ronnie Spector, Bill Wyman to that guy in Uriah Heep. We'll bring you ALL the hot stars you desire! Even the ones you don't know you want to know about yet! We're that good!
So, without killing you further, here are the five Van Morrison albums you should be listening to on his 62nd birthday.
Hymns to the Silence: I've always been fond of double albums for obvious reasons. They're bigger. They have more stuff on them. They fetch more money when you sell them for beer. A lot of people complain that Van makes the same album over and over. Which by the mid-'80s was kinda true. But if you happen to like the album, it just means you keep getting more of it. This album from 1991 includes more delightfully paranoid ranting and complaining. "Why Must I Always Explain?" could be a training manual for future Alanis Morissettes. But Van's chief accomplishment is always his ability to waste eight to fifteen minutes on a single song, often gargling mouthwash somewhere in the middle and snoring somewhere near the end. Neat.
Common One: This album contains only six songs. But two of them are fifteen minutes long. One of them--"Summertime in England"--features Van running down his summer reading list (Wordsworth, Coleridge, William Blake, T.S. Eliot) and snapping his fingers, while the other--"When Heart is Open"--sounds like he's on the can and having difficulty. You won't want to be without it. It's the first album where Van discovers this placid ambience that Miles Davis pulled out on his groovy classic In A Silent Way and, in turn, learns how to divide his audience into two distinct camps: the bored and the barely awake. Goes great with a heavy pasta dinner and Quaaludes.
St. Dominic's Preview: Again, the highlights are the long tunes. "Almost Independence Day" and "Listen to the Lion" exceed ten minutes, while the title track heads over six. No one has any idea what he's singing about. Who the hell listens to a lion? What makes this a superjoy is that Van frequently sings like a man whose underwear is too tight and if he could just get the elastic to loosen up, he could relax and have that extra piece of chicken.
Veedon Fleece: How many albums feature a song about a man who steals children's magazines from dentist offices, yet what else could "Linden Arden Stole the Highlights" be about? Listen, nothing Van Morrison has ever written makes any sense. He's admitted he doesn't know what a "Veedon Fleece" is. And I've yet to see it in a Land's End catalog and I'm big on fleece. He never owned the dogs that appear on the album's cover either. He borrowed them because he knew--DOGS SELL ALBUMS.
Astral Weeks: For the ten Van Morrison fans still living and not dependent on respirators, you knew this would be the final pick. First of all, who can argue with a song that discusses the "viaduct of your dreams, where mobile steel rims crack and the ditch in the backroads stop"? I mean, we've all been there. Secondly, most of the songs are over five minutes, indicating great seriousness. Thirdly, it's in the bylaws of all music criticism that this album will make it on to every "essential" list published well into the next century. So just get used to it.