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August 10, 1994

Live Van Morrison

Van MorrisonVan Morrison, A Night in San Francisco (Polygram 1994) -- The incomparable Van Morrison returns with another massive disc in A Night in San Francisco. Recorded live in December, 1993 in San Francisco and Petaluma (where else?), this double-set (which clocks in at over 145 minutes) finds Van in surprising form -- interweaving standards and show tunes with his own songs to prove his mastery of all idioms.

Van, as has long been noted, is a sometimes moody and inconsistent live performer. When he's on top of his game, he's as good as anyone you've ever seen. However, when he's not feeling mellow, the results on stage can be less than satisfying. Fortunately, Van's in a good mood on A Night in San Francisco, and it shows.

Need some background? Van the Man's been cutting smokin' slabs of vinyl since the early 60s, and has penned such mighty tunes as "Gloria" and "Wavelength." After first finding fame in his native Ireland, Van went on to form Them, which received international acclaim, but which was badly mismanaged by its now-defunct record label.

Emerging from this melee, Van soon settled stateside and recorded the enormously influential Astral Weeks (1968) in New York City. Thereupon followed a string of hits (including "Moondance") and resulting media scrutiny that culminated in a time of semi-retirement in the mid 70s that Van calls his "period of transition."

Upon re-emerging (and moving to the Bay area, where he still lives), Van began a spiritual/mystic quest that ultimately led to his musical partnership with British jazz rocker Georgie Fame (who is also featured on A Night in San Francisco) and some of the best albums of his career, including Hymns to the Silence (1991), last year's fine Too Long In Exile, and the masterful Enlightenment (1990).

On the heels of his second (or third or fourth) coming is A Night in San Francisco. Recorded live and released promptly (as all live discs should be), this set (which includes a full horn section) shows Van dipping into a new grab bag of tricks. Thus, Van mixes and segues his way through a wide diversity of tunes -- "My Funny Valentine" fades into "Moondance," and "Have You Ever Loved a Woman?" blends into "Stormy Monday."

One of the highlights of the set is "Tupelo Honey" (a love song written for Van's first wife, Janet Planet), which takes on new poignancy as it's delivered by a female vocalist. Moreover, the back end of Disc 2 (which concludes with a revved-up version of "Shakin' All Over" and "Gloria"), proves that Van has lost none of his chops.

However, the gem of this album is "In the Garden" (mixed with Sam Cooke's "You Send Me"), which is the first live version of this cut available on domestic CD. Van has taken this song (which was somewhat flat in the studio), and turned it into an amazing celebration: his words, "No guru/No method/No teacher/Just you and I and nature/In the garden" have never been truer.

If there were any openness or fairness in radio, "In the Garden" would be the smash hit of the 90s (the age of the non-hero). But don't let the FM wasteland deter you. Buy the album. Play this song. Believe in Van and yourself. There's still hope for tomorrow.

ArbitronArbitron Radio Ratings -- According to newly-released information from Arbitron, the top ten radio stations in Fresno County for the Spring 1994 quarter (March 31 through June 22, 1994) are as follows:

1. KMJ (AM 580) 12.1%
2. KBOS (FM 94.9) 9.8%
3. KSKS (FM 93.7) 6.2%
4. KNAX (FM 97.9) 6.1%
5. KRZR (FM 103.7) 5.1%
5. KOQO (FM 101.9) 5.1%
7. KJFX (FM 95.7) 4.4%
8. KFSO (FM 92.9) 4.2%
9. KJOI (FM 98.9) 3.4%
10. KSXY (FM 101.1) 3.2%

Although KMJ (talk & news) and KBOS (CHR -- "contemporary hit radio") still hold the number one and number two spots, their shares dropped again (KMJ started the year at 15.2, but is now down to 12.1; KBOS dropped from a high of 10.6 to 9.8).

Making its first appearance in this year's top ten is KSXY ("adult contemporary," a euphemism for Michael Bolton and Mariah Carey). The biggest surprise is KOQO (Spanish), which comes from nowhere to take 5th (in a tie with KRZR).

KRZR (AOR -- "album oriented rock"), the sole survivor in the rock category (following the sad, senseless mutation of KKDJ into a 70s rock format), slips back into a tie for 5th place (they were 3rd in the spring quarter).

Losers include KTHT (more adult contemporary), which continues its precipitous slide out of the top ten (their winter quarter share was 5.1; they're now down to 3.1), and KSLK (easy listening), which ends its brief run in the top ten (they were number 10 for the spring quarter).

-- Randy Krbechek

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