Van Morrison Live at Montreux 1980/1974—Eagle Vision

Video: 2
Audio: 4
Extras: 0

Over his long career, Van Morrison has recorded close to 40 albums, but his video appearances are rare. That’s why I so fondly remember the Van Morrison: The Concert VHS tape, a stellar show recorded in 1989. But it never came out on DVD. Long-deprived fans will relish Live at Montreux 1980/1974, a two-disc set with both complete shows (selected by the man himself).

Morrison’s no prancing rock star; he just stands there, eyes closed, pouring every ounce of his soul into the mike. The best songs are punctuated with little explosions of pure R&B genius. Yes, there’s a smattering of old favorites—“Wild Night,” “Moondance,” “It Stoned Me,” “Street Choir,” and a simply gorgeous “Tupelo Honey.” But it’s on “Ballerina” and “Summertime in England” that Morrison slips into his transcendent zone where he whispers and wails like a street-corner evangelist. Morrison blows a mean blues harp on “Harmonica Boogie” and jams on sax over “Heathrow Shuffle.”

Montreux is a big venue, but the cameras provide the close-up intimacy of a small club. You feel like you’re in the very first row. The 1.33:1 nonanamorphic image is soft, but the color saturation is rich—the DVDs sound better than they look. Dynamics are lively, and the DTS 5.1 mix is understated. Extras? A big fat zero. This time, it’s all about the music. After all these years of just listening, it’s great to see Van the Man cast his spell.