Top positive review
90 of 95 people found this helpful
Sampling from a long and varied career
on November 24, 2007
The aggregation of record labels into media conglomerates like Universal is turning out to be both a blessing and a curse. For an artist of Morrison's longevity, it means that a career-spanning retrospective can be assembled without the difficulties of cross-licensing. But doing so in only 21-tracks invariably short-changes important aspects of an artist's career, leaving off some hits (e.g., "Blue Money" and "Come Running") and benchmark album tracks in favor of covering beginning-to-end. On yet another hand, this anthology's producer has done a nice job of selecting tracks that demonstrate the evolution of Morrison's career, and sequencing them in a very palatable flow.
The collection spans Morrison's mid-60s rock with Them, an iconic string of turn-of-the-70s pop-soul hits, '80s ballads, and through to 2005's soulful "Stranded." But in the end, the limited space of a single disc, stretched across 40 years of recording, ends up serving neither Morrison the hit singles artist, nor Morrison the album artiste. In addition to the missing hits named above, key radio tracks ("Mystic Eyes," "Tupelo Honey," and "Into the Mystic") were also omitted, and the holistic sense of landmark albums "Astral Weeks," "Moondance," "Tupelo Honey" and "Wavelength" is left as additional purchase.
That said, what's here is magnificent, starting with the garage staple "Gloria" (a U.S. hit for Chicago's Shadows of Knight, but not for Them) and the impossibly blissful "Brown Eyed Girl." Morrison's voice transforms to a jazz instrument for "Moondance," and the trio of "Domino," "Wild Night," and "Jackie Wilson Said" are among the greatest blue-eyed soul ever committed to record. Morrison dialed it back for 1973's "Warm Love," but re-discovered his faith and backbeat for the joyous gospel-soul of 1978's "Wavelength." He continued to explore soul and jazz in the '80s, adding rootsy sounds on songs like "Tore Down ala Ribaud."
The mid-80s selections show Morrison mellowed but still soulful, his husky voice providing counterpoint to smoother backings on "In the Garden" and "Someone Like You." The latter is probably best known for its appearance in 2001's "Bridget Jones's Diary, Part 2," though it was originally recorded fourteen years earlier. The string-lined 1989 love song "Have I Told You Lately" became a new Morrison signature, turning up on the soundtrack of "One Fine Day" and spawning dozens of cover versions. More blue-eyed soul followed, including the sumptuous "Days Like This," the autobiographical "The Healing Game," and the '50s R&B of "Precious Time."
It's a terrific and surprisingly organic journey from Morrison's garage rock roots through his authoritative, pop, soul, jazz and R&B sides. This is a well selected anthology that could easily turn Morrison's more recent fans onto his classics, or clue early fans into his terrific body of later work. But in both cases, listeners will need to supplement the overview with deeper helpings from the original albums. Alternatively you could pick up a greatest hits collection for Them, and purpose-built anthologies of his early Bang-era material, seminal '70s work for Warner Brothers and Mercury, and the Morrison-curated anthologies of his later work "Best of Van Morrison" Vols. 2 and 3. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a truly satisfying one-stop shop - and with a catalog this sprawling and deep, there may never be. [©2007 hyperbolium dot com]