The Best of Van Morrison Vol. 3
The Bard of Belfast has released various double discs in his career: at least one classic live album (Too Late To Stop Now), a sterling studio set (Hymns to the Silence) and a great obscurious collection (Philosopher’s Stone). This double disc set is a nice placeholder, pulling together Van Morrison’s handpicked selections from the last couple decades. It is doubtful Van Morrison is capturing many new listeners these days (more a reflection on the state of the industry than his talent); this set will reveal some new sides to his devoted fan base.
The 31 tracks are kick-started with an improbably effective duet with Tom Jones. “Cry For Home” was recorded 15 years after its original debut on the sterling Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. Morrison’s penchant for American blues is manifested in various duets with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, Jimmy Witherspoon, BB King, Ray Charles and Bobby Bland (the last of whom is opening for Morrison on the current and typically short-lived tour). Morrison channels Charles on “Georgia On My Mind” and their duet on “Crazy Love” is wonderful.
Several title tracks will serve to send the listener back to the original albums: “Too Long in Exile,” “Days Like This” and remixes of “The Healing Game” and “Back on Top.” The latter two tracks sound fresh, but shed no real light on the originals.
“Moondance” is given a loose jazzy feeling as a live track recorded at the venerable Ronnie Scott’s in London in the mid 1990s, eons after its original release. From The Skiffle Sessions Morrison pairs with the late legend Lonnie Donegan on “Lost John.” The original album is hard to find, and fetching almost as much online as Morrison concert tickets (no US dates announced, by the way).
“Benediction” is a duet with Georgie Fame and Ben Sidran, and is thankfully quite short.
“When the Leaves Come Falling Down” and “Ancient Highway” are most reminiscent of his 1980s mystic Irish cowboy persona, when his output seemed uniformly glorious.
Morrison is the curmudgeon who makes the most beautiful music. He is looking more backward than forward in his old age, and all those years give him a viable perspective.