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Pay The Devil

4.1 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 7, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Pay The Devil is comprised of 15 tracks; three of these are originals and 12 are covers of some of Van Morrison's favorite classic country songs, including 'Your Cheatin Heart', 'Things Have Gone To Pieces' and 'Big Blue Diamonds'. Lost Highway. 2006.

With stunning album-length explorations of jazz and 1950s acoustic skiffle and a country-rockabilly collaboration with Linda Gail Lewis behind him, Van Morrison continues exploring classic country with compelling reinterpretations of standards from the 1950s to the 1970s. He reaches back over half a century for Hank Williams Sr.'s "Half As Much," "Your Cheatin' Heart," and "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" and Webb Pierce's landmark honky-tonk hits "Back Street Affair," "There Stands the Glass," and "More and More." Moving to the mid-'60s, he capably explores George Jones's "Things Have Gone to Pieces" and Connie Smith's "Once a Day." The 1970s are his limit, however, as he probes Rodney Crowell's "'Til I Gain Control Again." Three Morrison originals blend nicely into this mix, as do two non-country favorites: Chuck Willis's "What Am I Living For" and a gleeful spin on Blue Lu Barker's 1938 jazzy, single-entendre favorite "Don't You Make Me High." Recorded in Ireland with uncluttered hard-country backing, Pay the Devil reiterates Morrison's own musical diversity and flair for making any song his own. --Rich Kienzle

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. There Stands The Glass
  2. Half As Much
  3. Things Have Gone To Pieces
  4. Big Blue Diamonds
  5. Playhouse
  6. Your Cheatin' Heart
  7. Don't You Make Me High
  8. My Buckets Got A Hole In It
  9. Back Street Affair
  10. Pay The Devil
  11. What Am I Living For
  12. This Has Got To Stop
  13. Once A Day
  14. More and More
  15. Till I Gain Control Again

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 7, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Lost Highway
  • ASIN: B000E6EIT4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,194 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Full spectrum "country", from the humorous ("Don't You Feel My Leg") to the heart-rending ("Till I Gain Control Again") to parody of country music heartache lists ("Things Have Gone to Pieces") to anger with a backbeat ("This Has Got To Stop") to Hank Williams ("Half as Much") to rockabilly ("My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"). Like a lot of Van's albums, this music gets in your head and grows with time. The voice-as-instrument sounds like blasts from a well-payed horn. And speaking of playing, one of the benefits of being a Van Morrison fan is the perfection he demands of his backing musicians. This excellent band has more of a Bob Wills "roots" country feel, with some killer fiddle. I usually play my CD's on random play in a 200 disk changer, but this one I play front to back frequently since I bought it. Probably too subtle in its musical merits for the average country fan.
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Format: Audio CD
It is Friday night April 21st, 2006 in my part of the world. Just after midnight on a star-filled night. I know it was star-filled because I was fortunate enough to witness Van Morrison live in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Van was in peak form. His band consisted of the most astonishing musicians in music today. I wish every young musician within a ten billion mile radius could have been there. Van played guitar, harmonica, saxophone and sang with more soul than any performer this side of Aretha or Ray. He smoked. And he performed half the songs on this CD. And he smoked. Don't pay attention to the carping blah, blah, blah in many of the reviews below. Van is and always will be the Man. Along with Aretha and Dylan, he only gets better with time. I raise my glass to you, Mr. Morrison.
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Format: Audio CD
Van Morrison has been one of my favorites for nearly forty years as I have followed the highs and lows of his storied career. I can find something to like in almost anything he's done even when he departs far from his usual range of styles.

Several years ago, he took a detour into country and rockabilly with Linda Gail Lewis. In my opinion, that effort came up short. This time is different, it seems as though the second time's the charm. Though Van Morrison will likely never be the toast of Nashville, Pay the Devil rates much higher in listenability than his last country outing. The superb musicianship here more than makes up for any lack of country twang in Morrison's voice.

If you don't like country music, you probably won't like this CD even if you are a confirmed Van fan. On this CD, Van harks back to the country sounds of a half-century ago. No smarmy pop infusions here, the music is as authentic and sometimes as corny as he can possibly make it.

My favorites are Half As Much, My Bucket's Got A Hole In It, Back Street Affair, the title cut, What Am I Living For?, Once A Day, and More and More.

There are also a couple of songs I don't really care for. Things Have Gone To Pieces is beyond corny with its litany of complaints, large and small. Then, although it is amusing, Don't You Make Me High doesn't really fit the country mood. I heard it years ago by Maria Muldaur and I hear it more as a lounge song than a country one.

Is there any song that is quintessentially Van Morrison? Well, yes. Even though it is steeped in country instumentation, This Has Got To Stop has Morrison's stamp all over it.

So, if you are a Van Morrison fan who also happens to like a touch of country, then you will likely enjoy this CD. I like it, and although its not my favorite, there is enough here to give it a solid four star rating. Listen and hear what I mean!
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Format: Audio CD
Van has always considered himself a working-class musician, so to speak. Though his current wealth means he never needs to take the stage again, he nevertheless plays over 100 live dates a year, encompassing an astonishing variety of supporting musicians and musical styles. In that sense, his records are only half the story (if that). The real truth is that he plays music that's compelling to him, whatever the genre, and doesn't care what anyone else thinks.

People who "hate country music" often don't realize that they just hate "pop" country, the over-twanged, rock-ified, glammed-up junk of CMT. Van reminds us there's a very real, vital connection between C&W's roots and modern blues, jazz and rock; and moreover, that ANY genre's music is good if it communicates with the listener.

It's true there's not much "new" here, but there's no denying that the musical execution is superb. Van's recent U.S. shows revealed him in better spirits than any time in recent memory; he played over half the tracks on this disc during his sets, and enjoyed every minute. So will you.
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Format: Audio CD
"Modern Sounds in County Music" was the breakthrough album for Ray Charles in 1962 that broke the wall between genres of soul and country music. Recording three songs that Charles also recorded ("Half as Much," "What Am I Livin' For," & "Your Cheatin' Heart), Van Morrison puts his stamp on this similar territory 44 years later. Webb Pierce's "There Stands the Glass" opens the set with the quintessential tear-in-your-beer last-call crowd pleaser. Van's plaintive vocals sear like a slow burning wound on George Jones' hit "Things Have Gone to Pieces." My favorite track on the CD is Van's original "Playhouse" with its shuffling melody and Ian Jennings' double bass giving heartbeat to the arrangement as Van croons, "All that money, don't it make you frown." Maria Muldaur did a version of "Don't You Make Me High" that was charming. Van's version strokes the humor charmingly, "If you feel my thigh, you're gonna get a surprise," and ends with a giggle. Clarence Williams' "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" shines under Van's touch, sounding like Van & band are having a whole lot of fun. Morrison closes ironically with "More & More," "More & more I'm forgetting the past," as his music on "Pay the Devil" sticks very closely to classic country. Rodney Crowell's song "Till I Gain Control Again" that was an early success for Emmylou Harris is simply an excellent song that Van also nails. On "Pay the Devil" Van approaches country with boundless soul, creating an exciting amalgam of the two. The focus on classic songs makes us regard the material with a backward glance. More than anything, Van finds the heart and soul of the music and embodies it. His band is sterling in support. This is an excellent effort. Enjoy!
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