What does it sound like?:
This 3 Disc Collection Includes the Original Album + Rare and Unreleased Sessions, All-Star Collaborations and Live Performances from The Healing Game Era – so says the blurb.
The original album came out in 1997 and, for me, remains one of Van’s strongest ‘late era’ collections.
The first disc here has the original ten tracks plus 5 extras that were previously on B-sides or compilations. The original tracks still sound sharp and fresh, especially This Weight, Burning Ground, The Healing Game and the beautiful Piper At The Gates of Dawn. The extra tracks include Look What The Good People Done, At the End of Day, the single version of the title track, a 1996 version of Full Force Gale (slower and brassier than the original), and a lovely acoustic version of St Dominic’s Preview.
The second disc has some alternate versions of album tracks (An extended Sometimes We Cry is terrific,) 2 tracks from John Lee Hooker’s album Don’t Look Back, produced by Van, and previously unreleased collaborations with Carl Perkins and Lonnie Donegan. First is slow, late-night version of the title track, an alternate version of Fire in the Belly, Didn’t He Ramble and the title track re-imagined as a jazz standard, which works really well. Then comes the previously mentioned highlight, Sometimes We Cry. Nicky Scott’s upright bass introduces an 8 minute version of one of my favourite Van songs. The JLH tracks are familiar from his album Don’t Look Back and still sound great here. The 5 collaborations with Carl Perkins are fantastic. You can almost hear Van and the band grinning from ear to ear. Matchbox, Boppin’ The Blues, Sittin’ On Top of the World, My Angel and All By Myself make for a great sequence of jumping jive that you just don’t want to end. The disc closes with a version of Mule Skinner Blues with Lonnie Donegan, which keeps the feelgood mood going.
Disc three is a Live at Montreux gig from July 1997, some of which has previously been available as the bootleg Spring in my Heart. It features one of my favourite bands that Van has ever assembled with Pee Wee Ellis, Georgie Fame, Nicky Scott, Ronnie Johnson, Brian Kennedy, Leo Green, Ronnie Aspland, Matt Holland and peerless drummer, Geoff Dunn. Apart from most of the Healing Game album tracks it includes Foreign Window, Tore Down A La Rimbaud, Vanlose Stairway/Trans-Euro Train, Fool For You, a fantastic I’m Not Feeling It Anymore, Who Can I Turn To, Tupelo Honey/Why Must I Always Explain and closes with the mega-medley, See Me Through/Soldier of Fortune/Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)/Burning Ground. I could listen to this band all night, they are so good. And Van is having a blast.
What does it all *mean*?
44 tracks across the 3 discs makes this fantastic value at less than £20. 5 versions of the title track might grate a bit but they are all fresh and different.
If you weren’t a fan of ‘Brian Kennedy-era’ Van (personally, I was) then this won’t change your mind. But there is plenty of Van here, singing at the peak of his powers.
Goes well with…
A sunny day, a great bottle of wine, a few friends, a few laughs and the best music you could want.
Might suit people who like…