Thursday, 24 July 2008

"Common One" by VAN MORRISON. A Review Of The 1980 Album Now Reissued And Remastered In 2008 With Bonus Tracks.

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"...Let Us Go There Again…Go To Haunts Of Ancient Peace…"

"Common One" is part of the 2nd wave of Van Morrison remastered reissues to hit the shops in 2008 (see full list below).

UK and Europe released Monday, 7 July 2008 (8 July 2008 in the USA) - "Common One" by VAN MORRISON on Polydor/Exile 5308760 (Barcode 600753087602) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks and boasts truly superlative remastered sound quality and an upgraded booklet. It plays out as follows (70:44 minutes):

1. Haunts Of Ancient Peace [Side 1]
2. Summertime In England
3. Satisfied
4. Wild Honey [Side 2]
5. Spirit
6. When Heart Is Open
Tracks 1 to 6 make up the album "Common One" - released September 1980 in the UK on Mercury Records 6302 021.

BONUS TRACKS (Previously Unreleased):
7. Haunts Of Ancient Peace (Alternate Take)
8. When Heart Is Open (Alternate Take)

The Band consisted of:
MICK COX on Lead Guitar
HERBIE ARMSTRONG on Acoustic & Electric Rhythm Guitar
MARK ISHAM on Trumpet and Flugelhorn
PEE WEE ELLIS on Saxophone and Flute
TONI MARCUS on Sitar and Violin
(Strings on "Summertime In England" and "Wild Honey", the Choir on "Haunts Of Ancient Peace" and the extra horn section on "Wild Honey" were all arranged by Pee Wee Ellis)

96K/24 Bit remastered from the original analogue master tapes; the sound quality on this re-issue is BEAUTIFUL - clear and clean. The booklet is naff though, functionary at best - it reproduces the lyrics (Alternates included too) and session details, but no new photos, no history of the record - an opportunity missed.

As most of the tracks are lengthy, his sessioned musical partners in the band get to stretch out - and what superb musicianship is on display here - one second all jazzy and trippy, the next soulful and peaceful. Choirs and strings combine too - to devastating effect. Even when the songs threaten to get `too' carried away, Van brings it all down to quiet patches, where his vocal raps are inspired and now an integral part of his live set. The opener "Haunts Of Ancient Peace" is just lovely - PEE WEE ELLIS blowing away soulfully. But ELLIS really gets to let rip on the concert/fan favourite "Summertime In England" that doesn't actually wear out its 15-minute plus timing. The brass and melody on "Wild Honey" sounds like a Manhattans/Harold Melvin soul song - warm and lovely - it washes over you so sweetly - with the rhythm section’s tight playing brought out by a great remaster. If I was to point out a downside, it would be the sax solo on "Spirit", it's harsh and a little shrill - maybe it was recorded that way. Also the 15-minute floating album closer "When Heart Is Open" is a little hissy - when none of the other tracks display any. But these are minor niggles.

The bonus Alternate Take of "Haunts..." is roughly the same length as the finished album version - just over 7 minutes, but it sounds like a run through - a rehearsal - its nice, but nowhere near as good as the finished version. "When Heart Is Open" is a different kettle of fish altogether - I love it! It has a cool SITAR opening and shorter playing time of just under 8-minutes. There's also beautiful violin playing from TONI MARCUS towards the end. If anything, it ends too soon. I suspect fans will be raving about it soon!

To sum up - "Common One" isn't the dizzy heights of "Astral Weeks" for sure, but it is a great Van Morrison album - deeply steeped in mysticism and his endless quest for inner peace. And at last, it sounds JUST BEAUTIFUL. Highly, highly recommended.

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" 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)

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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