I have had a late evening tradition for the past month. I have gone to the kitchen, set up my lap top, typed in Hot Press Van Morrison 75 and listened to Van Morrison songs covered by Irish artists that have been going up every evening. It has been an absolute joy and oftentimes revelation.
I have fallen in love with songs all over again, discovered ones that I haven’t given enough time to before and also been introduced to artists that I had never heard of. Ireland is crammed with excellent musical acts just now that it easy to miss a large dollop.
Bronagh Gallagher’s The Healing Has Begun is for me the best of the entire batch, the way she grabs the soul of the song, throws in that Belfast accent and chats about listening to Van albums in the Holy Lands.
Gary Lightbody, teaming up with my friends Iain Archer and Miriam Kauffman is a personal thrill and they takes Into The Mystic way out into the mystic.
Joshua Burnside, currently the star in the northern sky shines bright in a transfixing version of You Don’t Pull No Punches But You Don’t Push The River.
Duke Special does Orangefield, actually in Orangefield, with feeling.
Dea Matrona’s Gloria is youthful energy with a whiff of teen female attitude and amazing playing that blows the Therapy version out of the water.
Another northern teenager Conor Marcus takes his 15 year old confidence and talent to conquer Rough God Goes Riding.
Tim Wheeler and Imelda May bring the best out of Jackie Wilson Says and Wild Night respectively.
Wookilily throw all their instrumentation and imagination at a Wavelength.
Moncrieff takes the pop hit accessibility of 1978’s Hungry For Your Love, also from Wavelnegth and gives it a sound for radio in 2020.
Damien Rice gets all the love that is in it out of Crazy Love.
Mary Coughlan’s smoky jazz seduction gives a sensuality to Warm Love.
Hozier can’t fail with that big voice on Caravan.
On spoken word President Michael D Higgins is for me more believable than either Terri Hooley or Paul Muldoon but Liam Neeson’s Ballymena accent (used for Aslan and therefore God) on David Lyttle’s Hyndford Street soundscape is a wonderful evening meditation of “Dreaming In God” any night for the rest of my life!
John Spillane gives that everyday ordinariness to Cleaning Windows
Jealous Of The Birds brings Saint Dominics Preview home from San Fransisco via Buffalo to Belfast city.
Kaz Hawkins brings soul as needed to Full Force Gale.
Jordan O’Keefe gives a gritty vocal to Real Real Gone.
Then there is a busker feel to Brand New Friend’s Wonderful Remark and Key West’s Come Running. Loose and full of Morrison-esque feel.
Altan’s Whenever God Shines His Light adds a spirituality that personally I believe Cliff Richard lost in the original release.
Celtic trad sounds gives fascinating angles to Martin Hayes Moondance, Moya Brennan’s Beauty Of The Days, Amberlight’s Celtic New Year and The Henry Girls These Are The Days.
A quick panorama of the entire catalogue and it becomes obvious how much artists love Astral Weeks and Veedon Fleece.
Glen Hansard was a no brainer for the title track of Astral Weeks but Soak’s Beside You and Reevah’s Ballerina steal the show with their beautifully reflective transcendence. Jack L does a fine job with The Way Young Lovers Do and David Keenan’s quirky voice eeks the detail of Slow Slim Slider. I wasn’t sure about The Scratch’s Sweet Thing, The Hudson Taylor’s bite off more than they could quite chew on Cyprus Avenue and I thought Joy Crookes did a better Madame George than a favourite of mine, Luka Bloom.
Most popular of all, Veedom Fleece is the ultimate revelation. The current star in the sky Josh Burnside’s evocative voice brings a Van-ness to You Don’t Pull No Punches But You Don’t Push The River. Sinead O’Connor brings Sinead-ness to Who Was The Masked Man. Papenfus’s soulful Fair Play is perfect reinvention. Mick Flannery’s Linden Arden Stole The Highlights is earthed. Cairan Lavery gives an Aghalee feel to Country Fair. Little Hours emotional Streets Of Arklow, Gemma Hayes throws a female hue across Comfort Me, Cathal Coughlan does Come Here My Love and Ultan Conlan does Bulbs.
Night after night I have been impressed not only with the performances but about how strong and deep Morrison’s catalogue is.
Ultimately Liam O Maonlai put it perfectly as he introduces his deeply spiritual version of The Masters Eyes and thanks Van for “the access you have given us to a form of the divine… prayerful intimacy”.
Well done Hot Press. An amazingly creative way to celebrate Van Morrison’s 75th Birthday in Coronavirus Days. Now make them all available on mp3 or vinyl for a homeless charity - NOW!