Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Van Morrison 3: His Band And The Street Choir

Van’s further flirtation with mainstream appeal continued with His Band And The Street Choir, an acoustic R&B album that’s even happier than Moondance. There’s only one song in a minor key, and even that’s a romantic one.
The best songs still endure—“Domino” is a wonderful opener, with interesting interplay between the guitar and the horn section. We still have no idea what “Crazy Face” is about, even if it’s just a setup for his squawking two-note sax solo. “Give Me A Kiss” is about as light as things get, though he summons his inner James Brown for “I’ve Been Working”. “Call Me Up In Dreamland” is another ode to the magic of radio, and the equally devotional “I’ll Be Your Lover, Too” recalls the quieter sound of Astral Weeks. (At the end he asks, “How was that?” We don’t hear the answer.)
“Blue Money” was a mild hit, but the nonsense chorus and falsetto chirping of somebody in the choir gets a little grating. The simple strum of “Virgo Clowns” epitomizes the nicely relaxed feel of the album, even if the laughter filling the room at the end is a little gratuitous. A celeste introduces “Gypsy Queen”, something of a falsetto lullabye. “Sweet Jannie” is fairly basic, but “If I Ever Needed Someone” is a wonderful gospel original. The closing “Street Choir” is a little confusing; as a virtual title track (supposedly against Van’s wishes) it doesn’t really sum up the album, and we wonder who’s left America.
His Band And The Street Choir is wonderfully lighthearted throughout, and another satisfier overall. It’s not too deep, and it’s just plain catchy. (As are the five alternate takes included on the album’s eventual reissue, particularly an even punchier “I’ve Been Working”.) The cover art depicts the artist as hippie troubadour, surrounded by happy families of musicians undoubtedly enjoying life without a care in the world. And again, there are some lovely pleading liner notes from the wife. It fits nicely with other homespun albums of the period, from such contemporaries as The Band and James Taylor, and even stretching to Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan. It was almost as if the Sixties were still in bloom.

Van Morrison His Band And The Street Choir (1970)—
2015 Expanded & Remastered CD: same as 1970, plus 5 extra tracks

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