The casual listener who marvels at the apparent distance Van Morrison covered between "Brown Eyed Girl" and the moody mystical atmosphere of the next year's Astral Weeks (Warner Bros., 1968) will no doubt be astounded to hear The Authorized Bang Collection. As much guidance as the young 'Belfast Cowboy' was absorbing from mentorand label founder Bert Berns, he was nevertheless also plumbing the depths of his soul, not to mention the circumstances in which he found himself in this early period of transition.
The revelations begin to arrive just three tracks into the first of the three discs in this set. After a pristine stereo mix the aforementioned pop gem of 1967, Morrison takes five and seven minutes plus respectively to ponder his surroundings, ruminating in such a familiar way that the connection is unmistakable to Week's "Cypress Avenue" and, later on, "Listen to the Lion" from St. Dominic's Preview (Warner Bros., 1972) (each of which had its own concession to commerciality in the form of "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)," as did its predecessor Tupelo Honey (Warner Bros., 1971) in the form of "Wild Nights").
Soon after, "Who Drove the Red Sports Car" is almost cinematic in the mysterious unfolding of events Van describes with a delivery as wide-eyed in wonder as it is guttural. Like so many tracks here that appear in different takes, it begs close comparison to its counterparts, not just in hopes of unveiling its mysteries, but feeling the soul in the singing; Van's invokes his muse in a variety of ways here, spontaneously thinking out loud regarding arrangements and other improvisational motifs that would surface later in his career.
Van Morrison's own involvement in this package goes way beyond curating the sixty-three (!) tracks compiled by Grammy-award-winning Andrew Sandoval, who also meticulously delineates the timeline of the various previous releases on this artist-authorized collection, As with in his own extended essay for The Complete Them 1964-1967 (Legacy, 2015), the initial release in archival series, Morrison also goes to great lengths in the accompanying booklet here to clarify his personal and creative relationship with the late Berns.
And, much like his written reminiscence within the aforementioned chronicle of his seminal Irish band, the man explicates his projected aims with his Bang Records affiliation and the extent to which they correlated with the man who doubled as his record producer. Understandably, the exorcism of the conflicted partnership comes across in terms most stark on "The Big Royalty Check," but on a more subliminal level as well, particularly during many of the cuts contained on the disc subtitled (with arch cynicism) 'Contractual Obligation Sessions,'
There is no image more telling of this uneasy atmosphere than the photo of producers and engineers with Van Morrison, head in his hands, seemingly in the throes of bemoaning his woes at the situation in which he finds himself. Nevertheless, a listener might wonder why that's the case when hearing the cauterizing emotionalism on "Joe Harper Saturday Morning;" the galvanizing performance is framed with terse and savvy accompaniment by a wealth of experienced studio musicians including keyboardist Paul Griffin (who took part in Bob Dylan's early electric work two years before).
Clearly as inspired in their own way as the various members of Them or the Caledonia Soul Orchestra on both the original and expanded supplement to It's Too Late to Stop Now (Legacy, 2016) this complement of session men find the nucleus of direction for their support in the diminutive cauldron of creativity that is Van Morrison: The Authorized Bang Collection depicts him repeatedly making every attempt, on 'The Original Masters,' as well as 'Band Sessions & Rarities,' to comprehend and communicate in his own inimitable voice. The chameleonic likes of that herculean effort which fill these CD's will compel the completist in any musiclover.
CD 1 – The Original Masters: Brown Eyed Girl; He Ain’t Give You None; T.B. Sheets; Spanish Rose; Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye); Ro Ro Rosey; . Who Drove The Red Sports Car; Midnight Special; It’s All Righ; Send Your Mind; The Smile You Smile; The Back Room; Joe Harper Saturday Morning; Beside You; Madame George; Chick-A-Boom; The Smile You Smile.
CD 2 – Bang Sessions & Rarities: Brown Eyed Girl; Ro Ro Rosey; T.B. Sheets; Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye); Send Your Mind; Midnight Special; He Ain’t Give You None; Ro Ro Rosey; Who Drove The Red Sports Car; Beside You; Joe Harper Saturday Morning; Beside You; Spanish Rose; Brown Eyed Girl; Brown Eyed Girl.
CD3 – Contractual Obligation Session: Twist And Shake; Shake And Roll; Stomp And Scream; Scream And Holler; Jump And Thump; Drivin’ Wheel; Just Ball; Shake It Mable; Hold On George; The Big Royalty Check; Ring Worm; Savoy Hollywood; Freaky If You Got This Far; Up Your Mind; Thirty Two; All The Bits; You Say France And I Whistle; Blowin’ Your Nose; Nose In Your Blow; La Mambo; Go For Yourself; Want A Danish; Here Comes Dumb George; Chickee Coo; Do It; Hang On Groovy; Goodbye George; Dum Dum George; Walk And Talk; The Wobble; Wobble And Ball.
Van Morrison: vocals, guitar, harmonica; Eric Gale: guitar; Hugh McCracken: guitar; Al Gorgoni: guitar; Donald Thomas: guitar; Artie Butler: keyboards; Russ Savakus: bass; Bob Bushnell: bass; Herbie Lovelle: drums; Gary Chester: drums; George Devens: percussion, mallets; Jeff Barry: backing vocals, tambourine; Cissy Houston, Dee Dee Warwick, Myrna Smith: group backing vocals.
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