Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Van Morrison - His Band and the Street Choir Expanded and Remastered (Rhino/Warner Brothers, 2015)

Following the epochal folk-jazz masterpieces Astral Weeks and Moondance, Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison returned to his roots with this album of rhythm and blues music which was released in 1970. Building off of songs that he had sketched for the previous two albums, the music on this album has a more relaxed, earthier feel beginning with the galloping “Domino” that is taken at a furious pace and leads an excited Morrison to exclaim “dig it!” and “one more time!” as he drives home a thrilling song that would be a top ten hit in the US. The deep bluesy funk of “I’ve Been Working” may be strongly indebted to Ray Charles and James Brown, but Morrison is his own master, delivering a churning performance, repeating words and phrases to build unstoppable momentum along with the accompaniment of a rich horn section. The fun and jaunty “Blue Money” was also a minor hit in the US, showing Morrison at his most accessible, joyfully singing and then scatting along with the melody and the horns. That joy bubbles over into “Call Me Up in Dreamland” as well, with the sing along chorus enveloping the band into a sense of ramshackle fun. Van Morrison is very patient in the development of his slower or ballad songs and that is on display here with songs like the sparse and moody “I’ll Be Your Lover, Too” and the deep gospel of "If I Ever Needed Someone." The wild imagery of "Crazy Face" weds both of these sides, with a slow opening and a shouted refrain. The extra music on this expanded reissue consists mainly of extra takes, alternates of the funky “Call Me Up in Dreamland” and “I’ve Been Working” as well as the haunting “I’ll Be Your Lover, Too.” Overall this was a very well done re-issue; the sound quality of the new disc is excellent and while the extra tracks don’t offer up any revelations, they do offer a little glimpse into how the album came together. His Band And The Street Choir (Expanded & Remastered) - amazon.com

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