Van Morrison has been on somewhat of a creative role of late. He only released his last studio album ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ (a collaboration with jazz man Joey DeFrancesco in July, but it’s been confirmed he’ll release new studio material before the end of 2018.
Van Morrison is a legend. Not only that, but he’s a prolific legend.
Between launching his solo career in 1967 and May 2018, he’s recorded a staggering 39 studio albums. The last five of those have been released within a three year stretch.
While so many people are keen to view Van’s 70s work as the golden age, some of his later works are every bit as good as those famous early releases. 2012’s ‘Born To Sing: No Plan B’ and 2017’s ‘Roll With The Punches’ in particular find Morrison in particularly good voice, backed by a lot of blues based material. Both are albums that far outshine anything any of Van’s potential peers – Dylan, Neil Young, Clapton – could muster during their twilight years.
Unbelievably, the album will be the veteran vocalist’s third album of new studio material in just seven months.
In March 2017, we created a playlist of some of our favourite 70s tunes. In an effort to shake up our spare time listening, the playlist included none of the usual stapes. There were no tracks by Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy or Led Zeppelin and yet we still managed to create a golden listening experience spanning several hours.
The experience got us thinking. What if we were to create extensive playlists of music we liked – or maybe brought back fond memories – for each year of the decade? Would one year stand out above all others? With this remit and using only two or three tracks per chosen album (maybe stretching to one extra in the instance of a double platter), we set to work.
Right up to the 1980s, things were fairly simple as a music fan. Your favourite bands released singles and albums and, as a loyal fan, you bought them knowing you’d kept to your end of the bargain. Sometimes singles weren’t part of albums and in that case you got something extra. Things started to change in the 1980s when the picture disc started to make regular appearances, thus meaning an occasional extra purchase. Labels like ZTT (run by business-minded Trevor Horn and Paul Morley) were quick to capitalise on marketing strategies – with bands like Frankie Goes To Hollywood, they made sure that different formats had different mixes and different edits. In the case of the fledgling cassette single, they even went an extra step by including unreleased bits and pieces from the cutting room floor, often to fans’ bemusement and eventual delight.
Not everyone was as keen to play the game. Towards the end of the decade, Morrissey – in a spiteful lyrical snide against his then record company’s repackaging of Smiths material – gave us the lyrical legend “reissue, reissue, repackage…re-evaluate the songs, extra track and a tacky badge”. Some bands stuck rigidly to the old model of single release followed by album…and then a couple more singles (often with something extra on the b-side, sure; but once that was done, you knew that was it, at least until the next outpouring of new material in a couple of years).
By the mid-90s, albums would occasionally appear as special editions. This usually involved a bonus disc containing a handful of extra songs (or in the case of The Beautiful South’s excellent ‘Carry On Up the Charts’ anthology, a whole disc of hard to find b-sides) or live material. Another easy choice for the consumer: you chose to buy either the standard release or fork out a few extra quid for that bonus disc – job done, everybody happy. Bon Jovi’s ‘Keep The Faith’ was among the first to mark a shifting tide towards fan-testing, record company greed when the special edition appeared months after the original album’s release. This staggered release ensured almost everyone had purchased ‘Keep The Faith’ already…but would they buy it again? Of course they would – if not everyone, then at least a good proportion of the die-hards would want that extra material. Why wouldn’t they? The floodgates were open.