on September 5, 2001
The first time someone tried to play this album for me, I was really reluctant to listen. It was the early seventies, a few years after the album came out, and the Van Morrison song that was getting the most radio play at the time was TB Sheets. Brilliant song, but harrowing Ð certainly not something you want to listen to every day. So when my friend said he was going to put on a Van Morrison album, I said, "This is going to be painful, isnÕt it?"
Before the first song (Domino) was over, I knew I was wrong. This has got to be the most joyous album ever made. That great old Biblical phrase "a joyful noise" is the only way to describe it. ItÕs not a sappy, moon-June kind of happiness. I keep thinking of a line from Blue Money. He sings, "YouÕre so glad to be alive, honey." ThatÕs the spirit that courses through this album. It sounds like a man who has been deep down in the blues (the man who sang about TB sheets, I guess) and came up laughing and smiling and singing his heart out.
If youÕve listened to any later Morrison albums, you know that joy didnÕt remain in much of his music. But at least weÕve got this album. Even the most pensive song on the CD Ð IÕll Be Your Lover Too Ð is warm and contented, full of quiet joy. Most of the songs on here really do make you glad to be alive.
IÕve heard His Band and The Street Choir described as a "minor" Moondance Ð the same rich and soulful horns, the same jazz feel, but without the lyrical depth. Maybe. ItÕs true thereÕs not a song here with the poetry of Into the Mystic or And It Stoned Me (both from Moondance), but pure, unadulterated happiness is nothing to turn up your nose at. Owning this album really is like owning a little chunk of joy.
Van Morrison has made so many albums, many vastly different from the one preceding, that it would be hard for a new fan to know where to start. I have a recommendation: get Moondance then get His Band and Street Choir. Together these albums provide the listener with the essential expression of Van Morrison's love of American rhythm and blues.
Most of us have heard Domino and Blue Money. Good as they are for top 40 tunes they are hardly the best songs on the CD. The insouciant swing of Give Me A Kiss and Call Me Up In Dreamland are in stark contrast to the morose introspection that imbues some of his later masterpieces. The hard-driving sax on I've Been Working makes it impossible not to want to dance. If I Ever Needed Someone gives voice to Morrison's deep spirituality and Street Choir seems a scolding antidote to the anti-Americanism that was rife at the time of recording.
Put this CD on, and it will lift you right up no matter how down you are feeling. Out of all his albums, I rate this in the top 5. It is upbeat, it is rock, it is jazz, it is blues, and it is hippie soul at its best.
on September 6, 2001
This albums contains many great classics from Van Morrison's early days that you really don't hear much anymore. Not to mention, this album also contains that great hit from "Proof of Life" that no one can find called "I'll be your lover, too". Definitely a great album for those who like that early seventies folksy song of Van Morrison
When Van Morrison’s entire Back Catalogue was promised to us on shiny new Expanded CD Remasters in 2008 and 2009 - lovers of Van The Man’s music will know two things – the last two batches were cancelled – and even then there were exceptions not available as Remasters no matter what – "Astral Weeks", "Moondance" and this – "His Band And The Street Choir".
Fans have had to wait nearly a decade for the legal wrangles to be sorted out – and at last in late October 2015 – we get the first two physical fruitions – 1968's magisterial "Astral Weeks" and 1970's more approachable "His Band And The Street Choir" - both reissued by Warner Brothers in Gatefold Card Sleeves on 'Expanded Edition' CD Remasters and both pitched at mid-price. Here are the Gypsy Queens...
UK and USA released Friday, 30 October 2015 – "His Band And The Street Choir" by VAN MORRISON on Warner Brothers 081227952303 (Barcode 081227952303) plays out as follows (61:42 minutes):
2. Crazy Face
3. Give Me A Kiss
4. I've Been Working
5. Call Me Up In Dreamland
6. I'll Be Your Lover, Too
7. Blue Money [Side 2]
8. Virgo Clowns
9. Gypsy Queen
10. Sweet Janine
11. If I Ever Needed Someone
12. Street Choir
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "His Band And The Street Choir” – released November 1970 in the USA on Warner Brothers WS 1884 and December 1970 in the UK on Warner Brothers WS 1844 (re-issued in the UK in August 1971 on Warner Brothers K 46066). All songs are written and produced by VAN MORRISON.
BONUS TRACKS (Previously Unreleased):
13. Call Me Up In Dreamland (Take 10) – 4:14 minutes
14. Give Me A Kiss (Take 3) – 2:33 minutes
15. Gypsy Queen (Take 3) – 4:13 minutes
16. I've Been Working (Alternate Version) – 4:26 minutes
17. I'll Be Your Lover, Too (Alternate Version) - 4:14 minutes
VAN MORRISON – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica and Tenor Saxophone on "Crazy Face" and "Call Me Up In Dreamland"
JOHN PLATANIA – Lead and Rhythm Guitars and Mandolin
JACK SCHROER – Alto, Baritone, Soprano saxophone and Piano
KEITH JOHNSON – Trumpet and Organ
ALAN HAND – Piano and Organ
JOHN KLINGBERG - Bass
DAHAUD ELIAS SHAAR – Drums, Percussion, Bass Clarinet and Backing Vocals
THE STREET CHOIR – Ellen Schroer, Martha Velez, Janet Planet, David Shaw, Andy Robinson and Larry Goldsmith
EMILY HOUSTON, JUDY CLAY and JACKIE VERDELL – backing Vocals on "If I Ever Needed Someone"
This 2015 CD Reissue comes in a gatefold card sleeve (gold sticker on the outer shrinkwrap) - textured like the matt original American vinyl album cover with the word 'Stereo' centred at the top and the 'Seven Arts' Warner Brothers logo design on the rear cover. The rear artwork is as per the US original but has cleverly been altered to allow for the 'Bonus Tracks' to be placed in the same typeface alongside the text without looking odd (the new CD label also reflects the original issue in colour). The inner gatefold reproduces Janet Planet’s liner notes to the left and the collage of musicians involved in making the album to the right.
The 12-page booklet continues the theme of Master Tape Boxes that "Astral Weeks" has and shows the 'E.Q. Copy' of Side 1 as its cover. The texture of the pages is similar to the superb "Moondance: Deluxe Edition" of 2013 - recycled and woody - and contains new liner notes called "Street Choir, Sing Me The Song For The New Day" by CORY FRYE - an American Newspaper Editor and noted Musicologist. STEVE WOOLARD has produced the Reissue and CHRIS BELLMAN has carried out the Remaster at BERNIE GRUNDMAN MASTERING (the outer gold sticker declares it to be 'First Time Remastered' – has worked with Neil Young, Carole King and Alanis Morissette and been Grammy nominated). Including five bonus tracks (all outtakes) – the total playing time of 61:42 minutes is reasonably generous too. But all of that tasty aesthetics is as nothing to the glorious Audio...
Having had the occasional track remastered across the last 30 years or so (Japanese SHM-CDs and "Best Of" compilations) – it comes as something of a sonic shock to finally hear the 'whole album' sparkle. Like "Astral Weeks" - this thing sounds fabulous – really wonderful. All the instruments resonate and feel alive – the analogue warmth is very much intact and the happiness of Van’s headspace flows out of the playing and the short jaunty songs. This is a properly sweet sounding CD Remaster (well done to all involved).
Coming after the one-two sucker punch of "Astral Weeks" in 1968 and the crowd-pleasing chart-placing "Moondance" in early 1970 – November 1970's "His Band And The Street Choir" was bound to disappoint a tad and has therefore always had a 6 out of 10 rating amongst music historians. But for me this stunning new Audio Remaster and the genuinely useful/complimentary extras warrants a more appropriate 9 in the hindsight of 2015. Similar to the 2015 Expanded Remaster of "Astral Weeks" - there are hiss traces on "Crazy Face" and "I'll be Your Lover, Too" for sure - and I’m glad of that. None of the tracks sound compressed or dulled or tampered with for the sake of modern cleanliness - it's a careful transfer – yet alive - with the air circulating around the music.
The impact of this Remaster is absolutely immediate. The opening 15 seconds of "Domino" is just sensational – the band and the song cooking like never before. In December 1970 Warner Brothers USA and UK tried it as a 45 on WB 7434 with "Sweet Jannie" on the flipside and were rewarded with a No. 9 chart placing in the American charts (the album hit No. 32). "Crazy Face" has hiss at the outset but settles down and that warbling Van Morrison Saxophone solo sounds amazing. The jaunty pop of "Give Me A Kiss" is so pretty (the title for this review comes from the studio patter at the song's end) - but if I was to single out one song that shows just how good the transfer is - it would be the Soulful Acoustic Funk of "It's Been Working". Seems like I’ve been waiting 40 years (grinding so long) to hear this wicked little groover sound 'this good' - the clarity when he goes into that "...woman, woman, woman..." chant with the saxophones following is awesome. "Call Me Up In Dreamland" sounds just as good too and feels like a Moondance companion piece. But again the Audio on the Side 1 finisher "I'll Be Your Lover, Too" will knock fans sideways. As already mentioned it has hiss as the drummer soft-shoe-shuffles on the highhats – but those Acoustic flourishes and the sheer devotion of his Soulful vocal is why his singing sends chills up the spine. It's exquisite music as Frye quite rightly states in his excellent liner notes.
Side 2 opens with the fairly throwaway "Blue Money" – a poppy ditty that never really ignites for some reason. Far better is the beautifully produced "Virgo Clowns" – one of the album's true hidden nuggets where John Plantania's Mandolin playing compliments a simple and gorgeous acoustic guitar melody as Van sings "...let your laughter fill the room..." Just as pretty is "Gypsy Queen" while the B-side "Sweet Jannie" was another 'make everything alright' hit in the making. His spirituality and personal needs come pouring out of "If I Ever Needed Someone" where he implores (not for the first time) for 'someone to see me through'. He returns to Gospel for the album's lovely finisher "Street Choir" – the organ and ladies voices giving it a churchy feel (beautiful audio too).
The Bonus Material features five outtakes/alternate versions and for me makes this reissue a solid sender. A funky Bass run provides the lead in for Take 10 of "Call Me Up In Dreamland" offset against a faint girly chant in the background. Take 3 of "Give Me A Kiss" is beautifully recorded and has the joy quotient down pat – but Take 1, 2 and 3 of "Gypsy Queen" will thrill fans. It has witty 'spaceman' dialogue (in a Belfast accent) before Van finally gets all falsetto on the vocals and the band play a blinder –and although you can hear why the vocals got away from him - this is great stuff. The 'Alterante Take' of everyone's fave "I'll Be Your Lover, Too" is shockingly good and somehow even feels more Soulful that the album cut if that's possible. But my crave is one of the final bonuses – "I've Been Working" – a track that turned up in long variants on the "Moondance" Deluxe and Super Deluxe Editions and goes back to the "Astral Weeks" period. This 'Alternate Version' is just as Funky as the shorter 3:26 minute album cut but with more prominence given to the Organ and Saxophone solo. I love this and I suspect Mod Dancers will be spreading the Talcum Powder on this 4:26 minute extended winner...
Like "Astral Weeks" - it has taken nearly fifty bleeding years to show this forgotten Van Morrison album some proper respect – and when fans clap ears on this remaster – they’ll let out a sigh of relief that WB finally got it right.
"...Rescue you from the pain...see you smile again..." – Van The Man sings on "Virgo Clowns". Amen to that...
on October 10, 2005
This is it. Sssshhhhhhhh.
We don't want word to get around about how fabulous this cd is because this one is for discriminating listeners; not the people who buy "best of" compilations.
If you can find a song that beats "I'll be your lover" I'd like to hear it.
on June 22, 1999
A must have for anyone contemplating diving head first into the soulful sounds of Mr. Van. Everyone loves Domino, the first track, and it only gets better as it moves on into Crazy Face, an emotional ballad, I've Been Working, a song about trying to prove his love, Call Me Up In Dreamland, and my personal favorite, the ending track, Street Choir. I have played this one for some of my reluctant Van fan friends and have noticed, a few weeks later, the album among their collection. Get the album, listen to it a few times, it will grow on you, and you'll want to buy more. It started me on my obsession and it may for you as well. After you get to know this album I suggest picking Tupelo Honey, it follows a natural progresion.
on July 25, 2003
Still in his prime form, this album offers the full spectrum of what Van Morrison can be. From his moody, somewhat meloncholy "I'll Be Your Lover," to his well known "Domino," and in between the down-to-earth, sexy, "I've Been Working," this album encompasses a spectrum most of his others do not, in that it is a transition including musical mysticism, blues, and pop (not a criticism but a complement). As a lover of his live bootlegs I find this to be one of the most satisfying studeo albums Van Morrison ever produced - period.
on March 17, 2006
These reviews are always messy because the people that write them tend to be either extremely for or against whatever it is they are reviewing. I will do nothing to combat this.
This album's five star rating is justified. Great opening track with "Domino," but it's not the best. "Virgo Clowns" is hauntingly beautiful (pardon the cliche), especially when Dahaud Elias Shaar comes in on his bass clarinet. The next track, "Gypsy Queen," is another R&B winner all the way.
I read the _Rolling Stone's_ review of this album, and it was accused of being _too_ perfect--too much goodness on one album, like _Moondance_. That's a good point.
Anything else I say would just be repeating everyone else, so just read some reviews, listen to the samples, and make your own decision. Chances are you're predisposed to like Van Morrison if you're already here anyway, which further suggests that you're likely to buy the album, or at least have a struggle of whether or not to pay 13 bucks for it. I'd advise you to take the plunge, but it's up to you.
on September 24, 2014
This review is for the 2008 Japanese remastered version of "His Band & Street Choir". First of all, this album is phenomenally excellent. I won't go into more detail, since everybody else has already done that. What I want to say is that if you love this album, or Van Morrison, then spend the extra money and purchase the 2008 Japanese remaster. It's like a thick coat of varnish has been removed from this recording. All the instruments, and Van's voice, are exceptionally crisp and clear. I can also hear instruments that I simply did not even hear before (on the old CD version)! It sounds just like Van & Band are playing live in my living room!
Updated: 10/2015 for remastered/expanded edition.
One of Van Morrison's seminal albums "His Band & Street Choir" doesn't get the praiseof "Astral Weeks" or "Moondance" but it is every bit as great as those two albums focusing much more on Morrison's R&B roots than those two other albums even if it isn't as groundbreaking in the way the other two albums were when released.
This remastered edition (very nicely done by Chris Bell) sounds exceptionally good on CD. It's a pity we won't get a physical high def version (high def downloads will, no doubt, be coming shortly for this version).
Housed in a mini-cardboard gate fold sleeve with a booklet featuring notes on the making of the album, there aren't any new songs that haven't seen the light of day here. We do, however, get five bonus alternate takes/mixes. "Call Me Up (I'm In Dreamland" (take 10), "Give Me A Kiss" (take 2), "Gypsy Queen" (take 3), "I've Been Working" (alternate version), "I'll Be Your Lover, Too" (alternate version) all give us a glimpse into the final versions.
Did we need an expanded version? Not really but it's nice to have it and the fact that this has been remastered takes advantage of the improved analog to digital transfers that started becoming the norm in the 90's (although they were badly abused with obscenely bad mastering that occasionally occurred).