This is the 3rd or even 4th re-issue on CD of "Into The Music" (released originally in August 1979) and I'll happily admit it - I'm blown away! I played this album to death at the time, and rehearing today in this extraordinary sound quality is a rediscovery well worth making. It's by far the best version of the album to date.
Here's how it's laid out: Tracks 1 to 10 make up the original album with Tracks 11 and 12 being previously unreleased alternate takes of "Steppin' Out Queen" and "Troubadours". At seven minutes "Steppin' Out Queen" is extended over the 5:20 minutes of the final album cut - and it's an absolute peach. The alternate take of "Troubadours" clocks in at 5:32 minutes as opposed to the 4:41 of the album final - and again, a superb version. I'm always wary of outtakes and alternate versions as bonus material on re-issue CDs when they're not any better nor an equal to the original and act as a cheap way of suckering fans to purchase more of the same. But these two choices are inspired - and an absolute must-have for Van lovers.
The upgraded booklet contains all the lyrics in the same script style as the original vinyl album and a detailed list of who sessioned on what, but disappointingly there's no history of where the album fits in, no new liner notes, nor any photographs. However, a nice touch is the lyrics to the alternate takes - the record company could have lazily reproduced the lyrics twice at the end of the booklet, but closer examination shows they haven't - the lyrics actually reflect the free-forming of the different expanded versions - a nice touch.
But the best bit is definitely the SOUND. The original analogue master tapes have been 96K/24 Bit digitally remastered by Tim Young at Metropolis Mastering in London for this 28 January 2008 release - and the sound is BEAUTIFULLY CLEAR and WARM - making you reassess every song and the superb musicianship on each. RY COODER lends his Slide Guitar to "Full Force Gale", MARK ISHAM his trumpet playing to almost every track, while ROBIN WILLIAMSON of THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND puts a penny whistle into "Troubadours" and "Rolling Hills" (for me one of the weakest tunes on here). KATIE KISSOON adds complimentary backing vocals to "Bright Side Of The Road" and the lovely "You Make Me Feel So Real". TONY MARCUS' violin is also heavily featured on almost every track. The remaster also brings out the rhythm section of PETER VAN HOOKE on Drums and DAVID HAYES on Bass.
His lovely cover of the Tommy Edwards 1950s hit "It's All In The Game" runs seamlessly into "You Know What I'm Writing About" and ends the album. Speaking of which, at 2:18 minutes into "It's All In The Game", Mark Isham's trumpet sails in like a soothing dollop of honey - and it's a truly beautiful flourish - puts a tear in my eye - sheer genius - and I realise again why I adored this album so much all those years ago! And the issue is mid-price too - I picked up my copy for £6 in Central London.
All in all, a FANTASTIC REMASTER and one I urge fans and the uninitiated to get stuck into soonest.
Like "Into The Music", 30 Van Morrison albums are to be re-issued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into early 2009. Each will contain upgraded booklets, previously unreleased material and all will be at mid-price. They'll be released in 4 batches as follows (29 in total):
January 2008 (7 titles)
Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974),
Wavelenght (1978), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985),
Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)
June 2008 (8 titles)
Veedon Fleece (1974), Common One (1980), Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983), Live At The Grand Opera House, Belfast (1984), No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), Enlightenment (1990), A Night In San Francisco (2CD Live Set) (1994) and The Healing Game (1997)
November 2008 (7 titles)
Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), A Period Of Transition (1977), Beautiful Vision (1982), Poetic Champions Compose (1987), Hymns To The Silence (2CD Studio Set) (1991), How Long Has This Been Going On (Live At Ronnie Scott's) (1995), Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)
January 2009 (8 titles)
Hard Nose The Highway (1973), Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains) (1988),
Too Long In Exile (1993), Days Like This (1995), The Story Of Them (2CD Set) (1999), The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast (with Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber) (2000), Down The Road (2002) and What's Wrong With This Picture? (2003)
Those hoping to see desperately needed sonic upgrades of his 1st and 2nd album masterpieces on Warner Bothers "Astral Weeks" (1968) and "Moondance" (1970) or even "His Band & The Street Choir" (late 1970) will be disappointed to hear that they're NOT in this re-issue campaign. Apparently there is still some dispute between the record label and Van that remains unresolved. A damn shame! "Astral Weeks" and "Moondance" in particular have both been languishing around on crappy-sounding non-remastered CDs for over 20 years now and they're glaringly obvious omissions in this supposedly 'extensive' re-issue campaign. These universally recognized masterpieces deserve 2CD DELUXE EDITION treatment and soon. (Some tracks in remastered form are available across the 3 volumes of "Best Of"). Let's hope they sort their differences and soon!
Also, Van's new studio album "Keep It Simple" is due on 17 March 2008 in the UK and 1 April 2008 in the USA
For those interested in this re-issue series, see also separate reviews for almost all of Batch 1 and 2 above
God figures heavilly on "Into the Music," but even us great unwashed can enjoy the truly heavenly results. Were all church music this good, scalpers would sell tickets to the pews. Particularly good are the songs "Stepping Out Queen," "And the Healing Has Begun," and "You Know What They're Writing About." When not singing in his gravelly voice, Morrison yelps and growls in a way that has to be heard to be believed. Far and away, this is Mosrrison's best post-"Moondance" recording.
on August 2, 2000
This is probably not the best album ever, maybe not the best Van album either. But one thing is for sure - it's the most complete. After repeated listenings you'll become convinced the artist opens not merely his own soul, but also the soul of universe, the soul of some spiritual and incredibly evolved being...people, it goes beyond words..All the songs are in their right "place" - you get a feeling they couldn't have been constructed or placed in another way. Not ONE song on the record is bad, not ONE is even mediocre. It combines irish folk music with pure soul and mellow love songs. Van's voice is remarkable...Otherworldly.. packed with ten powerful songs - ten poetic statements.. Just feel the power of "Steppin' out queen", "Full force gale" and the other eight tracks.
I bought Into the Music on vinyl when it was first issued and it is this recording that sealed the deal for me as far as Van Morrison's music is concerned. Oh, I like Moondance, Street Choir, Tupelo Honey and Veedon Fleece very much, but Morrison had also managed to put out a few substandard records in the interim so I was a little leery when I first put this on. But then from the first note of Into the Music, I could see how everything had changed for the better.
There is not a single unlistenable song on this CD. Van's life somehow had gotten an infusion of joy, and it comes through both lyrically and in the spirited play of his band. The horns and the strings are tremendous and the vocals are as good as anything he did before or has done since. My favorites are: the jaunty and joyous Bright Side of the Road; the spiritually inspirational Full Force Gale; Troubadours, so evocative of another age; the uplifting powerhouse You Make Me Feel So Free; the forward-looking And the Healing Has Begun; and finally a soulful, romantic cover of It's All In the Game.
I own a recording of nearly everything Van Morrison has done and in my opinion, Into the Music is one of his five best albums. If you somehow missed this, it behooves you to add it to your collection soon. Once you hear it, it will be hard not to keep it in permanent rotation. Get it and hear what I mean!
on July 3, 2000
...is pretty rare these days in a professionally-recorded album. Oh, I've heard lost of bands say that "they're trying to capture the atmosphere of a live concert" in their record, but I haven't heard any live up to that promise. However, "Into the Music" has the ferocity, passion, and energy of a Van concert coupled with the polish and sound quality of an official release. I certainly agree that this is Van's best release since Moondance (although Veedon Fleece puts up a strong fight). Most interestingly, I have heard many live recordings of the songs on this album, and still feel that the recorded versions are better, which surprises even myself, because I love live recordings. Regardless, the rich melodies and lively atmosphere of the first half of this album are splendid, especially "Troubadors," a shimmering beauty of a well-written and creative song. The second half of the album is an incredible barrage of emotional, romantic, and evocative songs, including the heart-wrenching crescendos of "Angeliou" and the soft conclusion of the album. Impossible to listen to casually, "Into the Music" demands -- and deserves -- attention, respect, and awe.
on December 27, 2001
This is the best Van Morrison album out there, no doubt. For instance, while I love "Astral Weeks," I understand that some would find it's sound unapproachable. Same goes for "Veedon Fleece," another Van classic, but maybe a bit deep for some. And that's okay, so why not turn to "Moondance"? Well for starters, I don't like it that much. Sure, it has it's winners, like "And It Stoned Me," "Into The Mystic," and one or two others, but it lacks in depth. So turn to "Into the Music," a deep and approachable. It has quite the lush sound to accompany it's memorable lyrics and beat. I will discuss songs individually below:
"Bright Side Of The Road"-Great, upbeat number with outstanding vocals. Makes you feel so good.
"Full Force Gale"-See above.
"Stepping Out Queen"-I hate to leave the same remarks for three straight songs, but this is another irrisistible track that makes you want to sway to the happiness.
"Troubadors"-One of my all-time favorites, VERY lush instrumentally, and amazing vocals. Just listen to the lyrics, very interesting. Not upbeat at all, but more mid-tempo, and reflectional.
"Rolling Hills"-Rough, jagged, Irish; great song. Short, but if it went much longer it would get obnoxious. Just the right length, just under 3 minutes, and it leaves you craving more.
"You Make Me Feel So Free"-Upbeat, with entertaining lyrics. Is fit for a sunny afternoon while looking over the still river before you.
"Angeliou"-Emotional, very emotional. Very deep too, but again, quite approachable. Van also does the "yeah" effect a lot here, and everytime I hear it I want to say "yeah" myself.
"And The Healing Has Begun"-Down in tempo, high in spirits. Van sways his voice through the poetic lines in this song like a night hawk, and it's an effect that I replay and replay time and time again. Again, one of my very favorite songs.
"It's All In The Game"-Down in tempo, down in spirits. Every album has to have one I believe, and this is a successful one. Some bash songs like these because they depress people, or make them EVEN more depressed. I believe that this song speaks to the depressed, "hey, you're not alone." Great song.
"You Know What They're Writing About"-Perhaps not the greatest album-closer ever for Van, I would reserve that award for "Memories" on the "Enlightenment" album. Very moody, but still good, song.
That's it. Top-notch album, easily in my top 5 albums list. BIG ***** rating. BUY THIS NOW!
on October 7, 2012
"Into the Music" is just that -- a headlong dive into gospel, blues, soul, jazz, rock and more. It effortlessly fuses many of the styles Van Morrison loves, and never seems awkward or hokey or forced.
I still find it useful to think of albums released back in the vinyl age in two parts -- because that's how the artists back then conceived them, and how the audience expected to hear them. Albums released in the CD age did change; rarely has an artist felt the need, in the format that debuted in the 1980s, to think of the music in terms of two moods. But "Into the Music" was released in 1979, a few years before the advent of the CD, so I'm going to treat it as such.
In its vinyl configuration, "Into the Music" displayed two distinct musical flows. Side one consisted of six shorter songs, while side two offered four longer ones -- and the final two cuts on the second side really played as one (more on that soon).
The first side was also lighter in mood. "Bright Side of the Road," "Full Force Gale" and "Steppin' Out Queen," especially -- the first three numbers -- were uptempo in beat and absolutely rapturous in terms of delivery. Van sang his heart out on all three, then slowed things down a little with "Troubadours." "Rolling Hills," which featured Van in what I call his "rough/gruff/tender" voice, was next, and the side closed with a joyous reading of "You Make Me Feel So Free."
That side of this classic album was terrific. But side two was STUNNING. Here were four of the best pieces of music Morrison ever had recorded, delivered with such passion and conviction that it was truly awesome.
With its lilting opening, you expected "Angeliou" to be of a piece with the six cuts from side one, but it became apparent very quickly that Morrison was swimming in deeper waters. This is a powerful love song, nearly seven minutes long, driven by Morrison's searching, soaring, swooping voice. "In the month of May / In the city of Paris" he repeats over and over as the song unfolds, turning two simple phrases into incantations of desire. Behind his voice, his band just keeps winding the song tighter and tighter. It's a brilliant performance.
Great as it is, what follows is even more jaw-dropping: "And the Healing Has Begun" has Morrison wooing a woman even as he seems to find a healing power within himself. Along the way, he calls upon the healing spirits of blues gods such as Muddy Waters, and even finds humor in the whole musical, erotic, spiritual enterprise, singing, at one point, "I can't stand myself!" It's a song, and a performance, for the ages.
The final two numbers are really one, because "It's All in the Game" segues directly into "You Know What They're Writing About," as Morrison fuses a cover of the old Dawes/Sigman composition with one of his own, resulting in a 10-minute, 49-second manifesto that seems to express every theme the album has touched upon -- love both erotic and spiritual, friendship, the power of music, the power of memory, the sheer, unexplainable power of being alive and human and in touch with the good (but not perfect) soul that God in his grace has given you.
I have recommended many books, movies and albums on Amazon. I've seen fit to bestow five stars on many of those picks. But hear me now: "Into the Music" isn't just about recommendations or star ratings. This is one of the few works of art I've ever experienced that have touched me so deeply, there have been times I could think of little else. Get this record. Let it change your life. Then cherish it across the decades, knowing that the healing has only begun.
on May 26, 2000
The music world had pretty much written Van off by the time he released this masterpiece. People thought he was "behind the times".
Good thing Van didn't listen to them! This CD practically busts at the seems with joy. It feels like warm sunshine hitting your face. Songs like Bright Side of the Road, Full Force Gale, You Make Me Feel So Free, and well the whole album is amazing. If your feeling down nothing beats this album for therapy!
on November 21, 1999
If you're looking to put a smile on the face of the uninitiated for Christmas, give 'em this. Van could be described as an aquired taste. And some of his later albums, well ... mired in cliche after cliche after cliche, crank-'em-out tunes to satisfy the label, made Van Fans weep. One could say the same of Dylan and others. But when Van was inspired, as on this album, rock 'n roll truly reaches into the sublime. "Bright Side of the Road", "Angeliou", "And the Healing has Begun" are all hypnotic, chock full of that Celtic mysticism that is trademark Van. Get "Into the Music", and get happy.
on September 9, 1998
On this album Van Morrison in part returns to a free structured type of music he first presented on his masterpiece Astral Weeks. Rather than drawing on jazz-like music he uses violins and saxophones to give this album a more 'Irish' sound. The result is 10 astonishing good songs in which the romantic Van Morrison roams through Ireland, religion, mysticism, love and ressurection. Together with Astral Weeks, Veedon Fleece, and No Guru this is the best Van Morrisson has to offer.