Van Morrison - The Best Of Van Morrison
Some people hate compilations. I find that, without compilations, there are some artists I would never listen to at all. This is usually because I came to their music late and because they have had a longevity which makes going out and buying their entire back catalogue an expensive and rather unwelcome prospect. Dylan, Springsteen are classic examples of this. The same is true for Van Morrison. Until I purchased this compilation I had nothing of his work in my collection and, truth be told, I could barely identify more than a handful of his songs. And yet I always knew that I was lacking something without it.
Now, given that "Astral Weeks" is rated so highly by so many, there are no doubt many who will regard this purchase as akin to heresy. But the truth is, there was little else I was prepared to do. Like a lot of artists of whom, I only have compilations, there are some tracks I like, and the rest is pretty much take-it-or-leave-it. Yes, I want all of the former, with as few of the latter as possible. Thankfully this compilation was able to satisfy that desire in its entirety.
This album provides a good summary of Morrison's 30 year plus career to date. The R&B of "Gloria", as put out by Morrison's band, Them, is worthy of a mention because if Van Morrison was not deliberately attempting to sound like Mick Jagger then he was making a mess of it - this sounds exactly like old rubber lips himself, and event the tune is reminiscent of something the Stones might have done at the same period (1964). Throw in some of the most delightful pop songs of their era with "Brown-Eyed Girl" (with Morrison still sounding vaguely like Jagger), "Have I Told You Lately?", and the bouncy "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven when You Smile)" and the album covers my must-haves from Morrsion's long and varied career. The rest of it has its moments but is not of the same calibre. I was never a great fan of laid back lounge jazz and so tracks like "Moondance" doesn't do much for me. Of the rest, well "Queen of the Slipstream" and "And It Stoned Me" are okay in their own way. Other than that, I find little to hold my attention.
The biggest problem with this particular compilation is the bizarre and frankly unfathomable track order. Because the songs on the CD do not feature in discernable order, it is difficult to gain an overall flow. Neither chronology nor style accounts for the order so it can sometimes be quite irritating to find that you are jumping from the smooth and mellow voice of his later years, to a Christian song, then back to his early R&B roots. It almost sounds like different artists, but if anything that just goes to show the staying power and versatility of the man. However, it doesn't help you gain an insight into the development of his music. And let's be honest, anyone who has the audacity to get Cliff Richard to sing on one of his faith songs and yet still have the song make a good listen deserves an awful lot of credit.
As a consequence, this is as good a summary of Van Morrison's career to date as you will find. All the well-known songs are here, and with 20 tracks there are a variety of styles to suit every taste. OK, he can be a little self-indulgent at times and there may be a bit of inconsistency depending on which period the song is drawn from, but this compilation is a must have unless you are prepared to go out and buy his entire back catalogue. If it were not for this I would have no Van the Man in my collection and that would be a crime. The album shows what a huge talent the man is. Not always is he to my taste, but I cannot deny there are times when this fits the bill perfectly.
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