FUV Essentials: Dennis Elsas on Van Morrison
Letter from Van Morrison and Saint Dominic's Preview album cover (courtesy of Dennis Elsas)
I never knew just how much I loved Van Morrison’s music until the night I saw him in concert—March 1974 at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum theater (now The Theater at MSG) in New York. The concert was part of the tour that would eventually wind up as one of my favorite live albums, It’s Too Late to Stop Now. Originally released as a two-record set and recently reissued with additional tracks and a DVD added, it’s a wonderful audio and video snapshot of this artist in his prime.
Starting in 1968 with the release of Astral Weeks, and over the course of just five years, Morrison also recorded and released Moondance (1970), His Band and the Street Choir (1970), Tupelo Honey (1971), Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), and Hard Nose the Highway (1973). Of course these had already been preceded by his biggest commercial hit, the 1967 single "Brown Eyed Girl," and his success with his band Them in the mid-'60s with the eternal "Gloria" and "Here Comes the Night."
As I experienced that show that March night in New York, 42 years ago, I was witness to so many of these now-classic songs, like the seamless "Bring It On Home To Me," and the power and excitement of his amazing band, the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. In the years to follow, he'd have close to an additional thirty releases and many concerts. Although I can’t say I embraced them all, I was always curious to hear them.
A few years ago, I saw Morrison again at Jones Beach on a beautiful summer night in that wonderful outdoor setting. Like one of his great songs, "Into The Mystic," it was a soulful experience traveling with him. There are too many favorite Morrison songs to list here, but it always feels great “to turn up the radio” with “Caravan” or tune into his “Wavelength." And I do my part as “Hey Mr. DJ” to share his music with my radio audience.
You can see the actual letter (posted above) that I received from him as WNEW-FM’s music director, upon the release of St. Dominic’s Preview. For obvious reasons, I'm really glad that I held on to it!