Friday, 22 March 2019

Van Morrison - The Healing Game: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (2019)



Original album

1. Rough God Goes Rising

2. Fire in The Belly
3. This Weight
4. Waiting Game
5. Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
6. Burning Ground
7. It Once Was My Life
8. Sometimes We Cry
9. If You Love Me
10. The Healing Game                                 

bonus tracks

11. Look What The Good People Done

12. At The End Of The Day
13. The Healing Game (single version)
14. Full Force Gale '96
15. St. Dominic's Preview (alternate version)
16. The Healing Game (alternate version)
17. Fire In The Belly (alternate version)
18. Didn't He Ramble
19. The Healing Game (jazz version)
20. Sometimes We Cry (full length version)
21. Mule Skinner Blues
22. A Kiss To Build A Dream On
23. Don't Look Back (with John Lee Hooker)
24. The Healing Game (with John Lee Hooker)
25. Boppin' The Blues (with Carl Perkins)
26. Matchbox (with Carl Perkins)
27. Sittin' On Top Of The World (with Carl Perkins)
28. My Angel (with Carl Perkins)
29. All By Myself (with Carl Perkins)
30. Mule Skinner Blues (with Lonnie Donegan)

Live in Montreux

31. Rough God Goes Riding

32. Foreign Window
33. Tore Down A La Rimbaud
34. Vanlose Stairway/Trans-Euro Train
35. Fool For You
36. Sometimes We Cry
37. It Once Was My Life
38. I'm Not Feeling It Anymore
39. This Weight
40. Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)
41. Fire In The Belly
42. Tupelo Honey/Why Must I Explain
43. The Healing Game
44. See Me Through/Soldier Of Fortune/Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again/Burning Ground

Assuming the original album is well-known, I will deal with the bonus material. (I am unsure as to whether the original album has been remastered again - it sounds good, but then so did the 2007 remaster).

"Look What The Good People Done" is a slow, jazzy blues in the style of the material he did with Georgie Fame. It is a Morrison original but sounds like a cover of a blues/jazz standard. "At The End Of The Day" is a slow, soulful, evocative number included as a bonus track on the previous issue of the album. The album's title track is included in its "single version". Personally, I don't have much time for single versions, seeing them as wilful butcherings of excellent tracks. Its inclusion here is pretty superfluous for me. "Full Force Gale '96" is given a catchy, slowed-down jazzy soul makeover with the vaguely irritating Brian Kennedy's backing vocals making a few appearances. It is pleasant enough and it is always interesting to hear a new interpretation, but I prefer the original. Another intriguing new coat of paint is given to "St. Dominic's Preview" which here features an "Astral Weeks"-style strummed acoustic backing together with some fetching Celtic violin. It reminds me of his extended version of "Wonderful Remark" that appeared on "The Philosopher's Stone".

The alternate version of "The Healing Game" is simply sumptuous - backed by a beautiful bass and piano. Van Morrison soul at its very best. "Fire In The Belly" has a slower, slightly sparser backing, again concentrating on an understated bass and melodic, tinkling piano. "Didn't He Ramble" reappeared a few years as "The Philosopher's Stone", with slightly changed lyrics, on the "Back On Top" album. The jazz version of "The Healing Game" is once more backed by piano and bass and then some grainy jazzy saxophone and brush drums come in. It is all extremely stately. "Sometimes We Cry" is extended to a slow-burning, soul-drenched eight minutes featuring some great saxophone.  It doesn't improve incredibly on the original, you just get a few more minutes of Van and Brian Kennedy exchanging "cry - cry" vocals. "Mule Skinner Blues" is a harmonica-driven, shuffling blues and "A Kiss To Build A Dream On" is a laid-back, late-night jazzy cover of a Louis Armstrong track from 1962. It is the sort of thing Van did on his recent "Versatile" album.

Then we get several duets with John Lee Hooker, Carl Perkins and Lonnie Donegan, that are made all the more poignant by the fact that three of them were quite near the end of their lives when they recorded these tracks. The John Lee Hooker tracks particularly so. The Carl Perkins songs are just a delight. Paul McCartney would love these, I think. They are upbeat rock 'n' roll numbers and Van seems to be really enjoying himself. "Matchbox" is a particular favourite of mine - "if you don't want my peaches, don't shake my tree...", a line that just makes me smile. "Sittin' On Top Of The World" is great too. These tracks are the real gems in this collection, if you're fan who enjoys these sort of relative obscurities, that is. Just check out the deliciously bluesy "My Angel".

The live concert material from Montreux has excellent sound quality - warm and bassy, as I like it. It includes seven tracks from "The Healing Game" album plus several others. "Foreign Window", from "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher" is excellent. It is good to hear tracks like this done live. Ditto the vibrant "Tore Down A La Rimbaud" and the Georgie Fame organ solo on "Tupelo Honey".

Overall, this is an excellent set for hard-core fans, as things like this always are. I guess that is who will buy it, and quite rightly too, they won't be disappointed.


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