When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison

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9781586488215: When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison

Van Morrison,” says Greil Marcus, remains a singer who can be compared to no other in the history of modern popular music.” When Astral Weeks was released in 1968, it was largely ignored. When it was rereleased as a live album in 2009 it reached the top of the Billboard charts, a first for any Van Morrison recording. The wild swings in the music, mirroring the swings in Morrison's success and in people's appreciation (or lack of it) of his music, make Van Morrison one of the most perplexing and mysterious figures in popular modern music, and a perfect subject for the wise and insightful scrutiny of Greil Marcus, one of America's most dedicated cultural critics.

This book is Marcus's quest to understand Van Morrison's particular genius through the extraordinary and unclassifiable moments in his long career, beginning in 1965 and continuing in full force to this day. In these dislocations Marcus finds the singer on his own artistic quest precisely to reach some extreme musical threshold, the moments that are not enclosed by the will or the intention of the performer but which somehow emerge at the limits of the musician and his song.

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About the Author:

Greil Marcus is the author of The Shape of Things to Come, Like a Rolling Stone, and The Old Weird America; a 20th anniversary edition of his book Lipstick Traces was published in 2009. With Werner Sollors he is the editor of A New Literary History of America, published last year by Harvard University Press. Since 2000 he has taught at Princeton, Berkeley, Minnesota, and the New School in New York; his column Real Life Rock Top 10” appears regularly in The Believer. He lives in Berkeley.

Review:

Popmatters.com, April 23, 2010
When That Rough God Goes Riding explores moments of contradiction, sublime beauty, audacity, failure and grace in the singer-songwriter’s career with a keen ear, weaving the rich thoughtfulness we’ve come to expect from one of America’s best cultural critics and historians into an elegantly structured series of staccato essays which reveal Marcus’ fascination with Van Morrison’s music.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 25, 2010
“As erudite and opinionated as Morrison is mercurial and expressive”

Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 2, 2010
“This is the book that Van Morrison’s artistry has long deserved, and The Man’s devotees will celebrate its blend of eloquence, passionate scholarship and soulfulness. [When That Rough God Goes Riding] superbly fulfills criticism’s primary function: It sends you for the first or 100th time to the works of art on which it muses, better equipped to experience what’s always been there.”
“[Marcus’] ability to couple shrewd music criticism, historical perspective and broader genre analysis makes his work an adventurous read.... Marcus doesn't attempt to tidily summarize Morrison's life and career, but he does provide plenty of thought-provoking insights into this enigmatic performer, and his slipstream of references results in a fascinating meditation on Morrison's oeuvre. You wind up wanting to pull out and listen to your Morrison albums and hunt down the many bootleg recordings that Marcus references here, searching for that elusive yarragh.” 

LA Weekly“Marcus is a smart respite from the raging stupidity and anti-intellectualism on every front, and yet knows how to have rock’n’roll fun at the same time.”

Portland Oregonian, April 18, 2010
“[Marcus is] literate, brainy and fearless in making cross-genre comparisons.”

Portland Mercury, April 21, 2010
“One of the most interesting rock scribes of the past quarter-century.”

Washington City Paper, April 23, 2010
“Written in prose as free-associative as the music it concerns, When That Rough God Goes Riding derives energy from the fact that Marcus was present at many of the landmark moments he’s exegizing.”



popmatters.com
When That Rough God Goes Riding explores moments of contradiction, sublime beauty, audacity, failure and grace in the singer-songwriter’s career with a keen ear, weaving the rich thoughtfulness we’ve come to expect from one of America’s best cultural critics and historians into an elegantly structured series of staccato essays which reveal Marcus’ fascination with Van Morrison’s music.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune
“As erudite and opinionated as Morrison is mercurial and expressive”

Cleveland Plain Dealer“This is the book that Van Morrison’s artistry has long deserved, and The Man’s devotees will celebrate its blend of eloquence, passionate scholarship and soulfulness. [(When That Rough God Goes Riding] superbly fulfills criticism’s primary function: It sends you for the first or 100th time to the works of art on which it muses, better equipped to experience what’s always been there.” 

San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 2010
“[Marcus’] ability to couple shrewd music criticism, historical perspective and broader genre analysis makes his work an adventurous read.... Marcus doesn’t attempt to tidily summarize Morrison’s life and career, but he does provide plenty of thought-provoking insights into this enigmatic performer, and his slipstream of references results in a fascinating meditation on Morrison’s oeuvre. You wind up wanting to pull out and listen to your Morrison albums and hunt down the many bootleg recordings that Marcus references here, searching for that elusive yarragh.”

LA Weekly, May 3, 2010
“Marcus is a smart respite from the raging stupidity and anti-intellectualism on every front, and yet knows how to have rock’n’roll fun at the same time.” New York Times Book Review, August 1, 2010

Booklist
“No critical testimonial is more welcome than this assessment of Morrison’s work by one of America’s most astute cultural critics.... Marcus is informed and insightful. Particularly illuminating are his observations on the tensions between Morrison’s roles as singer and songwriter, and on Morrison’s ongoing ‘quest for the yarragh’—fleeting, elusive moments of transcendence. Morrison’s volatile idiosyncrasy and diverse oeuvre make his career difficult to appraise, but Marcus convinces us of its singular importance.”

Time Out New York“Marcus’s approach yields fresh insight into one of pop’s most complex personas.” 

San Francisco Chronicle“Beautifully written.”

Portland Oregonian
“[Marcus is] literate, brainy and fearless in making cross-genre comparisons.”

Portland Mercury
“One of the most interesting rock scribes of the past quarter-century.”

Washington City Paper
“Written in prose as free-associative as the music it concerns, When That Rough God Goes Riding derives energy from the fact that Marcus was present at many of the landmark moments he’s exegizing.”

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