Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Van Morrison 21: The Best Of Van Morrison

One of the smartest things the PolyGram record company did was to finagle distribution of the Island label, which ensured massive profits from worldwide sales of U2 and Bob Marley. In fact, proceeds from the latter’s posthumous Legend compilation would be enough to sustain any number of third-world economies.
The other smart thing they did was to release The Best Of Van Morrison. Now it was easy for college kids, children of hippies and general music fans to bond to something other than the same three Steve Miller, James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett greatest hits CDs.
Even if you don’t fit into that category, and good for you if you don’t, The Best Of Van Morrison is still an excellent teaser for the gems to be found deep within the man’s still-growing catalog. Along with the obvious hits—“Brown Eyed Girl”, “Moondance”, “Domino”, “Wild Night” and “Gloria”, one of three songs from the Them days—this filled-to-capacity collection includes other songs that may not have been hits, but still qualify as some of his “best”. And they cover over two decades of work, too—two songs each from Into The Music, Beautiful Vision, Poetic Champions Compose and Avalon Sunset and hitting every major album before and in between. And even if you already know and love those albums, whoever was in charge made sure to include the relatively rare “Wonderful Remark”, originally written in the early ‘70s, and finally appearing in a grand Robbie Robertson production for a Scorsese soundtrack in 1983.
While it’s easy to quibble over what was left out—we’d gladly swap “Dweller On The Threshold”, “Whenever God Shines His Light” and “Did Ye Get Healed?” for “Tupelo Honey”, “Wavelength” and a player to be named later—The Best Of Van Morrison lives up to its title, and likely expanded his commercial viability for the decade to come. Which was a good thing, since he was still making albums.

Van Morrison The Best Of Van Morrison (1990)—5


  1. "...player to be named later..." I love it when the sporting lexicon intersects with music.

  2. Yeah, I was pretty proud of that one myself.

  3. Yes, it would be hard to come up with a track list that would please everybody. It also had to appeal to an international audience, so the track list is geared equally to American and UK listeners. Besides the two glaring omissions that you mention, I would have included “Mystic Eyes”, “St. Dominic’s Preview”, “Kingdom Hall” and the live version of “Dweller on the Threshold”. On the other end, it does introduce casual listeners to first level deeper cuts like “Sweet Thing”, “Bright Side of the Road”, “Full Force Gale” and the fantastic “Wonderful Remark”. And, like a million other people, this album is the reason “Have I Told You Lately?” was my first wedding dance song. So, it gets a 5, no matter what.
    P.S. I have never heard a cover of Van Morrison song that comes within a million miles of the original. It’s just too tall an order. With only one exception – Tom Petty’s version of “Mystic Eyes”.