VAN MORRISON: The Healing Game (Label: Polydor, Exile)

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VAN MORRISON: The Healing Game

Originally released in 1997, ‘The Healing Game’ is one of eight Van Morrison albums which have just been reissued as part of Polydor-Exile’s major 2008 project to get all of Morrison’s classic albums back on the racks in re-mastered format and each offering bonus material. Here the bonus is ‘At The End Of The Day’ which is offered, typically, without too much information save for the lyrics and the personnel. From the personnel list and the wistful country feel (courtesy of Peter O’Hanlon’s dobro), my guess is that song was cut at around the same times as ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ which again features that distinctive dobro along with Paddy Maloney’s pipe and whistle. Those of you familiar with the song will know it’s a Walt Whitman-eqsue bucolic piece that some might argue is so typical of Van Morrison. But what exactly is typical of Morrison? There is so much variety in his work and so many shades to his palette that’s its impossible to truly suggest what is typical‚Ķ and here on ‘The Healing Game’ we have that diverse atypicality. The album boasts all the man’s key musical ingredients – blues, jazz, Celtic, gospel, soul, country – along with his truly metaphysical lyrical range and his encyclopaedic knowledge of music and musicians that matter (note the references to Johnny Ray on ‘Sometimes We Cry’). So we could argue that ‘The Healing Game’ (all the songs are originals remember) offers an excellent portrait of where the artist was at the end of the century. What, however, makes the collection even more outstanding is the fact that the core personnel are some of the most sympathetic musicians Morrison has worked with – amongst them Georgie Fame, Pee Wee Ellis, Matt Holland, Leo Green, Brian Kennedy and Katie Kissoon. Instinctively they seem to know how to bring the best out of each other, while in Fame and Ellis we have musicians who are as steeped in the honest musical traditions of soul, blues and jazz as Morrison himself. Together on ‘The Healing Game’ they produced a music that still lives – music for the heart and the soul.
(BB) 4/5