Navigating Van Morrison's extensive catalog since 1993 is a formidable task even diehard fans might not want to attempt. The Irish icon has flirted with blues, jazz, country, pop, Celtic, and his own style of indescribable into-the-mystic spiritually-oriented poetic folk on his numerous releases, making for quite a thorny culling assignment. So the EMI brass were probably ecstatic when the singer took the job himself. He weeds through a dozen or so albums released since Volume 2
's mile-marker, and adds a clutch of previously unavailable mixes, rarities, and live tracks. The result: a nearly two-and-a-half-hour, 31-track double-disc set as sprawling, eclectic, and tenacious as Morrison's vision and discography. From occasionally rambling but spirited duets with veterans Bobby "Blue" Bland, Junior Wells, Georgie Fame, Lonnie Donegan, B.B. King, the Chieftains, Ray Charles, and even Tom Jones to concert versions of hits such as "Moondance" and an impressive take on Sinatras classic "That's Life," along with hidden gems like "Steal My Heart Away," this is a beautifully assembled and sequenced collection. It presents most of this multitalented auteur's facets and softens his often crusty exterior by showing his appreciation for the journeymen that helped develop the trail that Morrison then blazed in his own distinctive style. --Hal Horowitz
The new 2-CD collection, compiled by Morrison himself, offers a comprehensive overview of his later material. The set's 31 tracks include previously unreleased collaborations with Tom Jones and Bobby Bland, as well as duets with John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Ray Charles.