Thursday, 7 August 2008

"The Healing Game" by VAN MORRISON. A Review Of His 1997 Album Now Reissued And Remastered Onto A 2008 CD With A Bonus Track.



VAN MORRISON is part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:

                       http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00LQKMC6I

"The Healing Game" is part of the 2nd wave of Van Morrison remastered reissues to hit the shops in 2008 (see full list below). Released Monday 30 June 2008 in the UK and 1 July 2008 in the USA, it boasts truly superlative remastered sound quality, an upgraded booklet and a single bonus track for the first time.

Here's the layout (58:26 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 make up the album "The Healing Game" released in March 1997 on Van's own Exile Label
Track 11 is a previously unreleased fully formed song from the album sessions called "At The End Of The Day"

The Band consisted of:
BRIAN KENNEDY and KATIE KISSOON on Duet and Backing Vocals
GEORGIE FAME on Hammond Organ & Backing Vocals with ROBIN ASPLAND on Piano
RONNIE JOHNSON on Lead Guitar with PETER O'HANLON on Dobro
LEO GREEN on Tenor Saxophone with PEE WEE ELLIS on Baritone and Soprano Saxophone
MATT HOLLAND on Trumpet
NICKY SCOTT on Electric Bass with ALEC DANKWORTH on Double Bass
GEOFF DUNN on Drums with RALPH SALMINS adding Additional Percussion

96K/24 Bit remastered from the original analogue master tapes; the sound quality on this re-issue is BEAUTIFUL - clear and clean - but then it should also be pointed out that the 1997 original CD sounded awesome too. The booklet is pretty much the same as the original, but with the lyrics to the bonus track tagged on at the end - there's no new photos, no history of the record - same as all the other issues in this series unfortunately.

Musically, this is a mellow Van Morrison album - a lot of pretty songs with slow pacing - very easy on the ear. Unfortunately the album is also inflicted with a playing technique that permeates every track - as Van sings a line, it's either repeated by BRIAN KENNEDY (formerly with SWEETMOUTH) immediately afterwards or shadowed by him as Van sings - the result feels like the album's been hijacked by someone else. For me, it wrecks every single song. You either like or loath Kennedy's voice, personally it irritates me to distraction. Take the beautiful "Piper at The Gates Of Dawn" for instance - it opens with lovely acoustic guitars and a great lead in vocal by Van alone, then lovely fills on Piano by PHIL COULTER and a truly beautiful Uileann Pipe solo by PADDY MALONEY of THE CHIEFTAINS - but it's all shadowed by that ever-present backing voice!

The bonus track opens with lovely Dobro playing from PETER O'HANLON, but again every line is doubled with Kennedy's whiney voice and a very interesting outtake is ruined.

To sum up - "The Healing Game" is probably one of Van's mellowest and loveliest offering in years, but in my mind it's completely wrecked by cluttering intrusive voices ruining the potential and sweetness of every track. It was a style choice at the time for sure, a production technique - but I'm note sure everyone will take to it.

If you can tolerate the double-vocals, "The Healing Game" is recommended with reservations.

PS:
30 Van Morrison albums are re-issued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into early 2009. Each title contains an upgraded booklet; previously unreleased bonus tracks and all will be at mid-price. The releases are in 4 batches as follows:

28 January 2008 (7 titles)
Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974),
Wavelenght (1979), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985),
Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)
(see SEPARATE REVIEWS for all 7)

30 June 2008 UK/1 & 8 July 2008 USA (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)
(see also SEPARATE REVIEWS for "Veedon Fleece", "Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart", "Enlightenment", the live 2CD set "A Night In San Francisco", "Common One" and "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher")

September 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) and 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)

PPS:
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 - on either side of the pond. "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 have long deserved 2CD DELUXE EDITION treatment (some tracks in remastered form are available across the 3 volumes of "Best Of"). However, I've recently been informed by a good source that all 3 are NOW AVAILABLE since June 2008 in JAPAN in RHINO REMASTERED form. See the excellent Japanese site CDJAPAN.CO.JP for details (worded in English).

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