VAN MORRISON - The Philosopher's Stone (1998)
For an artist's most devout fans, a peek at the sketches can speak volumes about the final canvas, and that's the merit behind this two-CD compilation of shelf tracks and alternate takes from Van Morrison's 1971-1988 studio output. The Philosopher's Stone favors his core instincts as a blues-based writer and arranger, its 30 songs dominated by shuffles and slow-burning blues with excursions into more gospel-lined melodies and some ripe experiments in funk. Collectors will welcome pristine versions of "Crazy Jane on God," the churning "Naked in the Jungle," an ebullient "Madame Joy," and several pieces exploring extended falsetto vocals, including "Twilight Zone" and "Try for Sleep," the latter being one of four tracks featuring Mark Isham on trumpet. New versions of "Real Real Gone" and "Wonderful Remark," however, confirm the wisdom of the artist's original release choices. It's a more-than-welcome blast from the past: 30 outtakes and first drafts (26 of them previously unheard) from 1971 to '88, when the R&B shouter-cum-Celtic seer could summon magic with a single growl. There are a few false starts and toss-offs, but not many; The Philosopher's Stone evokes Dylan, many of whose best songs have dribbled out years after they were cut. God knows why Morrison held some of this stuff back. - amazon.com
DISC 1: 01. Really Don't Know 02. Ordinary People 03. Wonderful Remark 04. Not Supposed to Break Down 05. Laughing in the Wind 06. Madame Joy 07. Contemplation Rose 08. Don't Worry About Tomorrow 09. Try For Sleep 10. Lover's Prayer 11. Drumshanbo Hustle 12. Twilight Zone 13. Foggy Mountain Top 14. Naked in the Jungle 15. There There Child
DISC 2: 01. The Street Only Knew Your Name 02. John Henry 03. Western Plain 04. Joyous Sound 05. I Have Finally Come to Realize 06. Flamingoes Fly 07. Stepping Out Queen Part 2 08. Bright Side of the Road 09. Street Theory 10. Real Real Gone 11. Showbusiness 12. For Mr. Thomas 13. Crazy Jane on God 14. Song of Being a Child 15. High Spirits
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