Friday, 3 July 2015

“Enlightenment” by VAN MORRISON (2008 Polydor/Exile Expanded CD Remaster) - A Review By Mark Barry...



"…See Me Through…" 

“Enlightenment” is part of the 2nd wave of Van Morrison remastered reissues to hit the shops in 2008 (see full list below and cancellations). UK released Monday 30 June 2008 in the UK (1 July 2008 in the USA) on Polydor/Exile 5308763 (Barcode 600753087633) - it boasts an upgraded booklet and 2 pretty good bonus tracks for the first time. Here’s the enlightening details (58:52 minutes):

1. Real Real Gone
2. Enlightenment
3. So Quiet In Here
4. Avalon Of The Heart 
5. See Me Through 
6. Youth Of 1000 Summers [Side 2]
7. In The Days Before Rock ’n’ Roll 
8. Start All Over Again
9. She’s My Baby 
10. Memories 
Tracks 1 to 10 make up the original album “Enlightenment” – it was released October 1990 in the UK and USA on Polydor 847 100-1/4/2  (LP, MC and CD) 

BONUS TRACKS (Previously Unreleased): 
11. Enlightenment (Alternate Take)
12. So Quiet In Here (Alternate Take)  

The upgraded booklet has the lyrics to the two Alternate Takes after the rest of the album, session notes and beneath the see-through inlay is a photo that matches the original artwork. Disappointingly, there’s no new liner notes, no interview, no photos – but the really greats news is the Remaster - the original analogue tapes have been 96K/24Bit Remastered for this release and the sound quality is superlative - much better than the very quiet sound that came off the original 1990 CD. I’ve waited 18 years to hear “See Me Through” in this sound quality – and it was worth the wait. 

The bonus tracks are a mixed bag; the alternate version of “Enlightenment” is heavy on the vocals and the keyboards – while Georgie Fame’s tinkering is lovely, Van’s vocals are very forced and it sounds like what it is – a run-through – a take trying to find the true soul of the song. Its good but nowhere near as good as the finished take. “So Quite In Here” fares better – delicate, genuinely lovely in places – it deserves the moniker of ‘bonus track’.

As an album “Enlightenment” is “Avalon Sunset” Part 2 and a firm fan favourite for that reason. The jaunty “Real Real Gone” was an ill-advised opening single where it would have been better to release the album’s true masterpiece “See Me Through” - a gorgeous almost spiritual song that is impossibly moving and not just clever and hooky. Another peaceful tune (true to its name ) is “So Quiet In Here”. Searching for the mystical groove “Avalon Of The Heart” benefits from lovely piano work and brass fills. Side 2 of the record opens with the zippy religious tribute song “Youth Of 1000 Summers” where Van sings “in my soul” with real conviction - Georgie Fame adding so much to the backing. In a co-write with Paul Durcan “In The Days Before Rock ’n’ Roll” has his strange vocal and dodgy rhymes open the song before it goes into a typical Van shuffle but any chance of the song taking are ruined by his dreadful lyrics. But we’re saved by one of the album’s prettier ditties “She’s My Baby” which hankers back to the simplicity of the “Moondance” songs. Sweet and to the point, it feels like a lost album gem. Lovely stuff…

So a good Van the Man album given a boost by an excellent remaster.  Recommended like a walk on a warm day in the forest…

PS: Van Morrison Remasters - Released and CANCELLED
Like "A Sense Of Wonder" - 28 other Van Morrison albums were to be reissued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into early 2009. Each contained upgraded booklets, previously unreleased material and all were pitched at mid-price. The first two batches were released (are now deleted, I've reviewed most) but the second two batches never appeared (and without explanation). The following lists are by way of info:

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)

June 2008 (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)

September 2008 (7 titles) - CANCELLED
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), Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)

January 2009 (8 titles) - CANCELLED
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:
I've review most of Batches 1 and 2, the 2CD DELUXE EDITION of "Moondance" and the superb 60ts set "The Bang Masters"...

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