Van Morrison left the Irish (Belfast) group Them! in '66. Despite artistic compromise, the group's fortunes had hardly changed so Morrison decided it was time to strike out on his own. Almost before he knew it he had his first major hit "Brown-Eyed Girl."
Few performers have left a group and shot out of the gate faster. An album of Morrison songs "Blowin' Your Mind" was rushed out without the singer's knowledge to capitalize on the success. Morrison was obviously unhappy about the situation.
Originally, Morrison was signed to Bang Records, a label owned by Them!/Morrison producer Bert Berns. In late '67 Berns had a fatal heart attack. Feeling slighted over the "Blowin' Your Mind" album and seeing no further obligations to Bang with Berns gone, Morrison approached Warner Records who got him out of his Bang contract and signed him. Bang tried to cash in one more time with a "Best Of Van Morrison" album.
Morrison's prime began with "Astral Weeks," an album blending Folk, Rock, R&B and Jazz, released in '68. Four great albums "Moondance," "Van Morrison: His Band and the Street Choir," "Tupelo Honey," and "Saint Dominic's Preview," in '72, followed. Not bad. He slipped up a bit in the mid 70's but managed an excellent live album in '74 "It's Too Late To Stop Now." A pair of albums, "Wavelength" and "Into The Music" represented a late '70s comeback.
Morrison has kept an interesting, if not always Rock, profile since. He has gone deep into Jazz, R&B, ballads and Swing. Morrison even recorded with the traditional Irish group the Chieftains.
When a performer revisits their catalogue it's usually a self-indulgent disaster, foisting second-rate versions of greatest hits. But that's not the case with '15's "Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue."
With help from the likes of Steve Winwood (Traffic/Blind Faith) and Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Morrison mined lesser known entries ("Irish Heartbeat" with Knopfler, "Some Piece Of Mind" featuring Bobby Womack and "Fire In The Belly" with Winwood) from his songbook.
That same year, Morrison was awarded an honorary knighthood for his "services to the music industry and to tourism in Northern Ireland" by Britain's Queen Elizabeth during her annual Birthday Honours celebration.
1967 Blowin' Your Mind!
1968 Astral Weeks
1970 His Band And The Street Choir
1971 Tupelo Honey
1972 Saint Dominic's Preview
1973 Hard Nose The Highway
1974 Veedon Fleece
1977 A Period Of Transition
1979 Into The Music
1980 Common One
1982 Beautiful Vision
1983 Inarticulate Speech Of the Heart
1985 A Sense Of Wonder
1986 No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
1987 Poetic Champions Compose
1988 Irish Heartbeat
1989 Avalon Sunset
1991 Hymns To The Silence
1993 Too Long in Exile
1995 Days Like This
1996 How Long Has This Been Going On
1996 Tell Me Something: The Songs Of Mose Allison
1997 The Healing Game
1999 Back On Top
2000 You Win Again
2002 Down The Road
2003 What's Wrong With This Picture?
2005 Magic Time
2006 Pay The Devil
2008 Keep It Simple
2012 Born To Sing: No Plan B
2015 Duets: Re-working The Catalogue
Catch Van Morrison in the late '60s and early '70s and you'll hear him in his peak. There is looseness with an unmistakable groove to his music. Starting with "Astral Weeks" ('68) through to "Saint Dominic's Preview" ('72) each album has gems, classics and full on kickers. In between are "Moondance," "Van Morrison: His Band and the Street Choir" with "Domino" and "Tupelo Honey" featuring the title track and "Wild Night." All of these albums are highly recommended.
The live sets "It's Too Late To Stop Now" and "A Night In San Francisco" recorded two decades later, are both excellent and amply demonstrate Morrison's vocal talent. The mid '70s material is not very strong but in the late '70s Morrison is back on track with the "Wavelength" and "Into The Music" albums. By the '80s though Morrison mellowed focusing on his Jazz and R&B tendencies.