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Music Review: What's Wrong With This Picture?
Van Morrison

This is a site devoted to Irish culture, so when this CD came across the transom for review, it put us in a bit of a quandary. Yes, Van Morrison is Irish - but the music on his latest recording isn't. Normally, we'd draw the line and let this one go by, but we did find an angle that convinced us we should bring it to your attention.

Have you ever heard of David 'Foggy' Little? Sadly, the world lost this great guitarist on Christmas Day, 2003. The 59-year-old, originally from the Cregagh Road area of east Belfast, worked as a session musician - playing with a star-studded "who's who" of the rock and pop world, including Michael Jackson. There aren't many who can lay claim to accompanying Michael when he sang "Ben."

Foggy returned home to his native Ulster and continued to gig regularly - both with his own Foggy Lyttle Trio and jazz band, Giant Steps. Earlier in 2003, the father of two played with Giant Steps, at the Sunday Life-sponsored Killyleagh Festival and the Cork Jazz Festival. And, in spite of recurring heart problems, he played a key role in the recording of rock superstar, Van Morrison's new album, What's Wrong With This Picture?
It was to be his last major recording session.

So, in tribute to Foggy, we put on the CD, sat back, and listened to every cut without a break. For Van Morrison fans, this is definitely a must have. Of nearly 40 reviews on amazon, the majority of them give it four or five stars. And, we have to admit, while we're not Morrison mavens, there's a lot to like about this recording.

The title track opens with a string arrangement and dreamy, soft vocals accompanied by Foggy's brilliant guitar. The next number - "The Whinin Boy Moan" - is classic foot-tapping boogie woogie which had us tempted to get up and do a bit of jive; we didn't succumb!

Cut after cut, we found more and more to like. One special highlight was discovering Acker Bilk's sweet clarinet accompanying Morrison on "Somerset." "Stranger on The Shore" is still one of this reviewer's all-time favorite instrumentals and it was a lovely surprise to see that he's still playing - and still as good as ever!

With a nicely balanced mixture of slow-paced songs and hard-driving classics such as Stop Drinking, Morrison and his always excellent side-men have created what will most likely become one of his most popular recordings to date. And while we were pleasantly surprised at how good it is, his fans won't be. As one of them wrote in his review: There's certainly nothing wrong with the pictures Van paints in this great collection of songs

To listen to samples: What's Wrong with this Picture

 

Thu, Dec 7, 2017

Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*

Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.



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