Tag Archives: Van Morrison

Van Morrison – Caravan Bonus! Live versions

Earlier today I posted my last pick in Hans Postcards song draft – Caravan by Van Morrison. In researching the post, I found 2 great live versions that I thought I would put in a separate post. I love hearing live versions of songs – obviously in person is the best but if done right, a recording of a live performance can be an entirely different listening experience than hearing the studio version – its the artist and band interpreting their work in that moment, and sometimes the energy and spirit of the song comes through much better than the studio version.

The first live version of Caravan I’d like to feature is from Van Morrison’s 1974 double live album Its Too Late To Stop Now. Recorded during Morrison’s three-month tour in May-June 1973 with his eleven-piece band, the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, its a bit faster paced than the studio version and comes toward the end of the disc. I love Van’s soulful vocal performance as well as the 4 piece string section.

The author Nick Hornby, in his book, Songbook, about his 31 favorite songs, names the live version of Caravan from this album as the song he wants played at his funeral. To quote him: “in the long, vamped passage right before the climax Morrison’s band seems to isolate a moment somewhere between life and its aftermath, a big, baroque entrance hall of a place where you can stop and think about everything that has gone before.” On a personal note, I’ve told family and friends that I’d like Caravan and Drift Away by Dobie Gray played at my funeral, as they are my two favorite all time songs.

The second live version I’d like to feature is Van Morrison’s performance as part of the Band‘s farewell concert held on November 25, 1976 (Thanksgiving Day) immortalized in the documentary The Last Waltz. I love how he builds the song into a crescendo and then just walks off the stage. According the Songfacts:

Music journalist Greil Marcus credited Morrison’s “Caravan” with turning the energy of the show around and sparking a strong second half of performances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Band, and others.

From Wikipedia: When asked about his enjoyment performing in The Last Waltz, Eric Clapton commented that “For me, Muddy [Waters] and Van [Morrison] steal the show. Van doing [“Caravan”] with the leg kicks. Some of the greatest live music you’ll ever see.” I would definitely agree about the leg kicks!

Van Morrison – Caravan

I’ve been participating in a song draft run by Hans Postcard. Here’s my last pick, and the last pick of the entire draft!

Well, here we are, the last song pick of the draft!  I’d like to thank Hans and Badfinger20 at PowerPop for inviting me to be a part of it.  We’ve heard songs across genres, across decades, and across continents (thanks Aphoristical!) and I’ve really enjoyed being exposed to so many great songs and getting to know other fellow music aficionados.

For my last pick, I’m going with Van Morrison’s Caravan, off his 1970 album Moondance. Moondance has always been one of my favorite albums and I say that not being super familiar with the rest of Van Morrison’s work.  It has always just been one of those albums that I connect with in a special way – its imagery of getting caught in the rain, romantic autumn dances in the moonlight, and traveling gypsies sitting around campfires telling stories never fails to move me – its like a parallel world where all the problems and annoyances of everyday life are gone and your feel in touch with the universe in a spiritual (mystical you might say) way.

Caravan is my favorite song on the album – in fact, its one of my favorite songs ever.  Remember back in week 3 I said that Drift Away by Dobie Gray was my favorite – this is the other one!  From the opening tinkling piano notes, it just takes me to another plane.  Like then whole album, its pastoral, natural imagery just connects with me. The imagery of this group of folks sharing each other’s company, enjoying life, moving on to the next place, all with a radio playing music along the way.  I especially love the lyrics about music and the radio:

Turn up your radio and let me hear the song
Switch on your electric light
Then we can get down to what is really wrong
I long just to hold you tight, so maybe I can feel you
Sweet lady of the night, I shall reveal you

If you won’t turn it up, turn it up, little bit higher radio
Turn it up, that’s enough, so you know it’s got soul
Radio, radio turn it up, hmm

I just love how the sax line punctuates the lyrics, the la la la’s, the whole thing.

Van Morrison recorded this album while living in Woodstock, NY.  The radio reference in Caravan has an interesting genesis.  According to SongFacts:

Morrison’s house was a mile away from any other houses, but while living there he swore he could hear a radio playing as though it were in the same room. This mystery fascinated Morrison.

“I could hear the radio like it was in the same room. I don’t know how to explain it. There was some story about an underground passage under the house I was living in, rumors from kids and stuff and I was beginning to think it was true. How can you hear someone’s radio from a mile away, as if it was playing in your own house? So I had to put that into the song, It was a must” (quoted from Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison, by Brian Hinton, 2000, as referenced in Wikipedia.)

Definitely adds to the mystical element of the song, I think! Again, thanks for the wonderful musical journey on our little music blog caravan if you will, these last 10 rounds, and I can’t wait til we do it again next summer!