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There are no links here to tracks from what I suppose is now deemed, Van Morrison: Live In Boston 1968. The title is intentionally bland, purely informational. As outlined by Ryan H. Walsh, writer of one of this year’s best books, Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, the whole thing is likely a copyright maneuver – some legal wrangling to keep possession with its maker, fifty-years after its creation. There’s some hope and/or speculation that maybe this precipitates a release, but probably not. It doesn’t seem Morrison wants it to see daylight.

The recording is just that – a recording: an hour plus of the artist working out some material, in a pretty low-stakes environment. Morrison was mere months from creating his masterpiece, but in his own mind, these were not serendipitous days. This was a “tour”, one mucking around New England to land some cash — something to help get by while he laid-low around Boston. That this release, or lack there of, is not a transformational recording should be no be a surprise. For one, if it were, the lawyered-up Mr. Morrison would have likely monetized it much earlier. But further, it’s just one recording from what was ostensibly a very unremarkable time. The show is merely special because it was caught on tape, as there is no immense library of recordings from this era to choose from.

This is not to say there isn’t incredible work here, and enough for any historian or fan of the album that came shortly after to chew on. Opener “Cyprus Avenue” feels fully formed, perhaps the highlight of the evening. Indeed, all three tracks that ended up on Astral Weeks (“Beside You” and “Madame George”) feel close to their final form – stripping away any last vestige of the romantic notion, passed down by older siblings and in dorm rooms for five decades, that the album was created in some kind of trance-like stream-of-consciousness. If Morrison was merely going through the paces, he entered this show with a strong notion of direction for his new material.

As a historical document, and an important piece in a puzzle so many are eager to see fleshed out, Van Morrison: Live In Boston 1968 is a useful addition to a re-ignited area of study. In this way, listening takes on an air of the academic, for the sonic element is far from earth-shattering. It is indeed, in the context of fandom, incredible to hear these songs. But as a general piece of recording, this is not the Holy Grail, nor even a gold coin.

Certain artists transcend fandom, transform from musician into subject of study. The smoke is still clearing around Astral Weeks, a record so staggeringly powerful that, fifty years on, we clamor for a glimpses of its inception, its Eden-like origin. However, when an artist transcends the plane of fandom, where their canon is so rich and filled with opportunity for study, it is nearly impossible to stop the clamor of listeners.

Morrison’s hand was forced, in part, by the law, and in part by Walsh’s and others research. In Morrison, we have an artist who uses every tool at his disposal in the pursuit of his rights as an artist. At a time when artists are increasingly losing a grip on ownership – if they have one at all – Morrison wishes to reestablish his claim on a piece of his creation, including the ability to have it not see the light of day. But a small ray was let out the other morning, and so we confront our thirst for history and legend with Morrison’s rightful privilege. Who crafts the stories of idols? The fans? Those who study them? Or the idols themselves? words / b kramer

6 Responses to “Van Morrison: Live In Boston, 1968”

  1. Thanks for this! Fascinating stuff about one of the moments that seriously made me consider ‘magic’, synchronicity and an era of mass inspiration 68/69 extraordinary outpouring of creativity that might by many (ie me!) considered to have Astral Weeks at it’s pinnacle

  2. Morrison is probably my favorite artist of all time, tied with the Beatles. He has every right to be stingy and possessive about his artwork. The man is a legend, and I would love to hear this!

  3. The 68 recording was up You Tube for a day -it is down now. Here is an interview with the author of the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtG8F3hArBU

  4. Here is some more information from a Facebook Van fan site: Van Morrison – Live in Boston 1968 (The Catacombs, Boston, MA, 8-1968)

    Here’s something very new, very great, and very unexpected. In November 1968, Van Morrison released the album “Astral Weeks,” which is so acclaimed that on an average of greatest albums of all time lists, it ranks number 15. He spent most of 1968 living in Boston and developing the unique sound that would result in that album. There never have been any publicly available audio recording of his time in Boston that year… until now!

    A few days ago (early November 2018), Morrison’s record company released the album “Live in Boston 1968” that has long been the unattainable holy grail for Morrison fans. Unfortunately, they only released it on iTunes in Britain for about 24 hours, and it’s already gone! This apparently was done to maintain legal rights to the recording, given that there is a European copyright law that says the rights are lost after 50 years unless the recording is made available for sale to the public somewhere in Europe, if only briefly. Since this recording dates from 1968, the deadline would be the end of 2018. This appears to have been an attempt to make the recording public but in the most low key, unnoticed method possible. Here’s an article about it:

    https://www.spin.com/…/van-morrison-catacombs-1968-legenda…/

    Here’s another very interesting article from March 2018 on what Morrison was doing in Boston in 1968, and how this concert was recorded:

    http://www.wbur.org/…/…/ryan-walsh-van-morrison-astral-weeks

    It turns out that the show was recorded by none other than Peter Wolf, who was a Boston D.J. at the time, but would become the long time lead singer of the J. Geils Band. He used a reel-to-reel machine set up on the stage, at a small Boston club called The Catacombs in August 1968. So while it is an audience recording, to my ears it sounds as good as many soundboard recordings, especially considering the concert recording standards of 1968. If you’re a fan of Morrison’s music, you need to hear this!

    It contains three songs that would appear on “Astral Weeks” later that year: “Beside You, “Madame George,” and “Cyprus Avenue.” Also, there’s a version of a legendary still unreleased “Astral Weeks” outtake previously known as “Train,” but which appears here under the title “Train, Train.” He also does a Them song (“One Two Brown Eyes”), another unreleased song (“He Ain’t Give You None”), a song that would appear on a 1970 album (“Virgo Clowns”), and his great 1967 songs “T. B. Sheets” and “Brown Eyed Girl.” The band consists of just Morrison on acoustic guitar plus a double bass and a flute, so the whole recording has an “Astral Weeks” vibe, even including “Brown Eyed Girl.”

    Unfortunately, the recording ends at the end of the last song, “Madame George,” as one can hear the sound of the tape running out. So it’s too bad we don’t have the rest of the show. But still, it’s a miracle that at least this much of Morrison live in 1968 was recorded at all, and with such quality sound.

    This album needs to be heard by lots of people. If and when it’s ever for legal sale in the U.S, I’ll take this down. But it’s quite likely that it’s going to stay in the vaults after this one brief appearance in Britain, done for legal purposes only.

    01. Virgo Clowns (Van Morrison)
    02. Cyprus Avenue (Van Morrison)
    03. Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
    04. He Ain’t Give You None (Van Morrison)
    05. One Two Brown Eyes (Van Morrison)
    06. Beside You (Van Morrison)
    07. T. B. Sheets, Part 1 (Van Morrison)
    08. Train, Train, Part 1 (Van Morrison)
    09. T. B. Sheets, Part 2 (Van Morrison)
    10. Train, Train, Part 2 (Van Morrison)
    11. Madame George (Van Morrison)

    https://uploadfiles.io/3kmj1

    (you’ll need 7zip/Winzip/Winrar to extract the folder/files)

    For the cover, I used a handbill of the Morrison shows at The Catacombs where this was recorded. (For a very short time in 1968, his band was going by the name the “Van Morrison Controversy.”) I resized the top left drawing of a female head so the best of the rectangular handbill could fit on a square album cover. I also replaced some text relating to other shows at the club on the upper right with the title of the album.

    https://www.youtube.com/c/themysticmuse

  5. I am working on a book on Van from 1968 through 1972 any other material you have or thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks Howard A. DeWitt

  6. Just a quick note: “He Ain’t Give You None” is not previously unreleased. It was on “Blowin Your Mind”.

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