Saturday, March 22, 2014

Van Morrison - Contractual Obligations


Van Morrison - Contractual Obligations
(soniclovenoize reimagination)



Side A:
1. Savoy Hollywood
2. Hang On Groovy
3. Twist, Shake and Roll
4. Stomp, Scream and Holler
5. Jump, Thump and Jive
6. Walk, Wobble and Roll
7. Freaky If You Got This Far

Side B:
8. The Big Royalty Check
9. Blowin Your Nose
10. Want A Danish?
11. Shake It Mable
12. Ring Worm
13. The Story of Dumb George




This admittedly is one of my more bizarre album assemblages, originally began as a joke by a friend of mine that morphed into a dare.  He jested that it couldn’t be done; challenge accepted!  Thus, this is my ”reimagination” of what could have been Van Morrison’s second album, recorded solo for the sole purpose of fulfilling his contract with Bang Records in 1968.  Aptly titled Contractual Obligations, I have taken the 31 “revenge songs” that Van Morrison recorded, organized them by musical key and lyrical theme, and edited the fragments together to create thirteen more-or-less complete songs and sequenced them into a semblance of a an album. 



Let Van Morrison be an example of the plight of young artists by the hands of corporate greed and exploitation.  Hastily signing to himself to Bang Records in 1967 in order to avoid literal starvation, Morrison recorded an album’s worth of material he didn’t feel amounted to an actual album.  He left the March 1967 recording sessions thinking that those eight songs—one of them his immensely popular hit “Brown Eyed Girl”—would be released as four separate singles.  Instead, Bang Records collected the songs and released them as Van Morrison’s debut album, Blowin Your Mind.  Not only was this done completely without his consent, but Bang promoted the album in full psychedelic fashion, an image Morrison himself detested.  To make matters worse, label head Burt Berns’ passing in December allowed for his widow Ilene to impose ridiculous performance restrictions on Morrison, all which were allowed by the contract that he himself signed.


Van Morrison’s salvation lied within a simple loophole in his contract: deliver 36 original songs to Bang Records.  And so sometime in early 1968, Van Morrison entered a recording studio and performed 31 intentionally half-assed bullshit songs in order to escape the clutches of Ilene Berns.  The songs were all musically simple--often I-IV-V progressions in E or G—and the lyrics presumably improvised, meaningless, random, inane.  Some were even gibberish.  Morrison had farted out over thirty nonsense songs that were all completely unusable in an act of musical revenge, which fulfilled his contract.  Bang Records refused to release them at the time but the collection eventually appeared as rare bonus material on legally-questionable international anthology releases throughout the years.



For my reimagination, we will postulate how Bang could have assembled these throwaway fragments into some sort of cohesive album.  A listen through the material will tell you that Morrison did not put much thought into the “compositions” musically and they follow similar chord sequences, all standard open chords within the same harmonic family.  We are thus able to easily group most of the songs together by key.  Even luckier, many of those musically-similar compositions share similar lyrical qualities, further identifying possible associations.  Although this was undoubtedly unintentional by Van, we can exploit this tendency and edit these similar fragments together, creating full songs from the fragments.  Using the 31 fragments I was able to create eleven complete songs, leaving two fragments to remain their own stand-alone songs. 



Side A begins with “Savoy Hollywood” which is a combination of the songs “Do It”,"Go For Yourself” and “Savoy Hollywood”.  The beginning tape wow opens the album up mid-song and prepares us for Van’s bumpy ride with strumming and vocal stutters.  Follows is “Hang On Groovy” which is a combination of “La Mambo”, “Just Ball” and “Hang On Groovy”, less a mockery of the classic songs “La Bamba” and “Hang On Sloopy” but more a mockery of Bang for expecting something more than pop-song contrivance for this album.  The next four songs gather together Morrison’s inane send-ups of movement-centric 1950s rock n’roll classics: “Twist, Shake and Roll” (a combination of “Twist and Shake” and ”Shake and Roll”), “Stomp, Scream and Holler” (a combination of “Stomp and Scream” and “Scream and Holler”), “Jump, Thump and Jive” (a combination of “Jump and Thump” and “Drivin Wheel”) and “Walk, Wobble and Roll” (a combination of “Walk and Talk”, ”The Wobble” and “Wobble and Roll”).  The fact that these song are all in a row should drive home how ridiculous this album is, and without the proper mindset is a very painful listen.  Van Morrison himself agrees, as the closing song on side A is the stand-alone “Freaky If You Got This Far”, which it truly is.



Side B starts with an explanation of the album itself: “The Big Royalty Check”, which is a combination of “Big Royalty Check”, “Thirty Two” and “All The Bits”.  Following is “Blowin Your Nose”, a combination of “Blow In Your Nose” and “Nose In You Blow”, a mockery of the first album that Morrison never approved of.  “Want A Danish?” (a combination of “Want A Danish” and “Chickie Coo”) is followed by more silliness in “Shake It Mable” (a combination of “Shake It Mable”, ”You Say France and I Whistle” and “Up In Your Mind”).  The most noteworthy of the “revenge songs” follows, the stand-alone ”Ring Worm”.  To end Contractual Obligations, I united all four songs about the character Dumb George and sequenced them in a logical and presumably chronological order, called “The Story of Dumb George” (a combination of “Here Comes Dumb George”, “Dum Dum George”, “Hold On George” and “Goodbye George”).  The icing on this distasteful cake is the original artwork by EAB, in which Bang Records’ contrived psychdelicism is literally consuming Van Morrison.



Is this a good album?  Oh, God no, this album is fucking awful!  But intentionally awful, for good reason, and thus worth a listen.  It is an absurd album, especially knowing who this is—this is Van Morrison, a genius who combined folk, jazz, soul and pop on his legendary Astral Weeks album, recorded under a year later from Contractual Obligations’ horrific nonsense.  With this in mind, itin t is a fascinating look at the effects of big business on artists, relevant even today.  Sometimes, cause is more relevant than effect and the context of the music is more interesting than the music itself.  Contractual Obligations shows us this as it lies somewhere between pain and pleasure but as an album that never was.  




Sources used
Van Morrison - New York Sessions 67 (1997 Recall Records)


flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included

30 comments:

  1. Another excellent idea, Yours & Van's

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  2. Thanks for this — I'd never heard the fragments, and this is probably the only way I'd want to. Do the Wobble, baby!

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    1. Meant to add that in its own way, this is right up there with the Stones delivery of their one missing track to Decca: Cocksucker Blues.

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  3. I'd like to ask you to recostruct Who's 1968 unreleased album Who's For Tennis?,my perfect tracklist:
    Side A
    1.Glow Girl
    2.Faith In Something Bigger
    3.Dogs
    4.Early Morning Cold Taxi
    5.Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
    6.Melancholia
    Side B
    1.Magic Bus
    2.Little Billy
    3.Call Me Lightning
    4.Gittering Girl
    5.Someone’s Coming
    6.That Motherland Feeling

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    1. Wow, I'm unfamiliar with that one, but I'll look into it. Looks do-able and a cool listen.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. I've been working on this one myself for a while, but still not happy with it. There is potential to do two versions, an 'original mix' version and a 'remixed / remastered' version. My current tracklist (for the the 'original mix' version at least) is:

      Side One:
      Glow Girl
      Glittering Girl
      Someone's Coming
      Girls Eyes
      Early Morning, Cold Taxi
      Melancholia

      Side Two:
      Magic Bus (extended take)
      Little Billy
      Jaguar
      Faith in Something Bigger
      Fortune Teller
      Hall of the Mountain King

      Bonus tracks (non-album singles):
      Call Me Lightning
      Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
      Dogs

      Would love to see your take on it, soniclovenoise!

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  4. Pink Floyd album if Roger Waters didn't quit?

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    1. Do you mean "Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking" with cool Gilmour solos?

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    2. Like what would pros and con of hitch hiking sound like? what would radio kaos sound like and what would amused to death sound like?

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    3. I'd like a cleaned-up version of Pink Floyd's soundtrack for The Committee, please. It would have to be an e.p., but that would be very nice to have.

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  5. Well, you definitely put in more effort in this than Van did. When you had earlier mentioned you intended to put together a Van Morrison album, I assumed it would be "Mechanical Bliss" so this was a surprise

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  6. Wow. I wasn't aware of this "warm up" for Astral Weeks, or the history behind it. I haven't heard the 31 individual tracks, but I'd say you did an excellent job stitching them together, because this is fucking great! Why the hell wouldn't Ilene Berns release this? Definitely one of those late night, clear-out-the-room (but I'll stay here and listen) type albums. One of the best, I'd say. Thanks!

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  7. Excellent mix! What a charmingly insane album. :)

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  8. This is very cool. Thanks for the assemblage work on these fragments. Whether I'm a big fan of the original material or not, I always grab your reconstructions to hear what's behind the always interesting liner notes and history. Truly appreciated.

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  9. Now you just need to overdub 3 or 4 guitars and Herb Lavelle on drums. ;)

    I just discovered this blog recently and became an instant convert - the Pink Floyd albums that never were are especially mind-blowing - amazing what some prudent recontextualizing and crossfades can do. Not that you haven't already received about a billion suggestions for future projects, but I recall hearing somewhere that Lou Reed's Berlin was originally slated as a double album. Was the change of plan made before recordings were made of the omitted material, or are the missing pieces floating around out there? Does anybody even know what they are?

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  10. Yr Blowin My Mind right now cause Astral Weeks is my favorite album and I've never heard of this shit.

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  11. And a request - Van Morrison - Mechanical Bliss

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  12. PLEASE CONSIDER ANY OF THESE:

    • Beach Boys: Add Some Music
    • Beach Boys: California (1974)
    • Beach Boys: Holland Revisited
    • Beach Boys: Lei’d in Hawaii
    • Beach Boys: Oldies (Love You, 15 Big Ones & other oldies covers)
    • Beach Boys: Reverberation
    • Beach Boys: Wild Honey/Smiley Smile (combined & reimagined)
    • Beach Boys: Winds of Change
    • Beach Boys: Worst Of
    • Beatles: Bizarro World
    • Beatles: Great Lost Psychedelic Album
    • Beatles: Helter Skelter
    • Beatles: More post-Beatles reimaginings (continuous series)
    • Beatles: Revisions of classic work (other potential Beatles-era albums)
    • Beatles: The Real Last Album
    • Beatles: White Album (alternative or single version)
    • Beatles: Worst Of
    • Bee Gees: A Kick in the Head…(1972-73)
    • Bee Gees: Halloween
    • Big Star: Third (Revised)
    • Buffalo Springfield: Stampede
    • Derek & the Dominoes: Second Album
    • Dylan: & the Dead (Mix)
    • Dylan: Oh Mercy (revision & improved)
    • Dylan: Etc (80s & 90s albums reimagined & improved)
    • Dylan: Self Portrait #2 (revised as single or recreated as 4-CD set)
    • Hendrix: Band of Gypsys (studio recordings)
    • Hendrix: Black Gold
    • Kinks: Four More Respected Gentlemen
    • Kinks: Great Lost Kinks Album #2
    • Morrison (Van): Before Astral Weeks (lost album) [Bang material + studio demos]
    • Morrison (Van): Mechanical Bliss
    • Nilsson: Sings the Beatles
    • Rolling Stones: Could You Walk on the Water?
    • Rolling Stones: Necrophilia
    • Rolling Stones: Lost, unrealized albums from ‘70s & ‘80s
    • Small Faces: 4th -- 1862
    • Springsteen: Nebraska (electric)
    • Springsteen: Reconstruction of his classic albums w/ extra tracks
    • Stooges: 4th (post-Raw Power)
    • Brian Wilson: Brian Loves You
    • Brian Wilson: Sweet Insanity
    • The Who: Jigsaw Puzzle
    • The Who: Naked Eye
    • The Who: Rock Is Dead
    • The Who: Other potential lost ‘60s albums
    • Yardbirds: Last Album (1968)

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  13. Come on, "Ring Worm" is a track of transcendent, wistful beauty.

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  14. Wow, what a load of crap ! Having represented VM's songs and worked very closely with his attorneys and managers over a dozen years, I know that most of this is a "load" ! However, the mis-representation and injustice done to everyone involved by statements like "in order to avoid literal starvation" - Makes Van, Bert and all those involved sound like assholes and cheats. If you understood the business side of things - you would know the truth ! And of these songs listed - you are missing 6 others that represented the "final installment" of Van's contractual commitment. I think when people misrepresent "facts" that are common and accepted ways of doing business - you do the music industry as a whole a huge injustice....

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  15. Wow, what a load of crap ! Having represented VM's songs and worked very closely with his attorneys and managers over a dozen years, I know that most of this is a "load" ! However, the mis-representation and injustice done to everyone involved by statements like "in order to avoid literal starvation" - Makes Van, Bert and all those involved sound like assholes and cheats. If you understood the business side of things - you would know the truth ! And of these songs listed - you are missing 6 others that represented the "final installment" of Van's contractual commitment. I think when people misrepresent "facts" that are common and accepted ways of doing business - you do the music industry as a whole a huge injustice....

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  16. at least he knows how to post only once

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  17. at least he knows how to post only once

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  18. Love this mix soniclovenoize. Reposted here: http://pettyvendetta.com/van-morrison-contractual-obligations/

    Peace,

    PeaVey

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  19. Ingenious, but I like the original. It may be a piece of crap, but it's fookin brilliant crap. Obviously not to the taste of some admirers, but he has many sides to him. This one seems like punk unplugged: short, fast, self-parodic, obnoxious 3-chord attacks on the Biz corporate plague. "I tell you you're very lucky to have . . . . . . ringworm. 'Cause you may have had something else." Did Lester Bangs have a chance to review this?

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  20. PS: I do admire your bricollage, but I think collating the songs really weakens the album's attack on the practice of throwing out one piece of derivative vacuity after another. The whole POINT is, "Splish Splash took Bobby Darin 15 minutes? I can compose 15 songs in the same time, and play them too." My God, I remember the Twist Again era, only 5 years before. Twist and Scream and tear your hair. This album is based on the 1-minute wonder, a genre he perfected, if he didn't invent it. "Do the sha . . . get 16 guitars . . . " But I do admire your work.

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