This is the 3rd or even 4th re-issue on CD of "Into The Music" (released originally in August 1979) and I'll happily admit it - I'm blown away! I played this album to death at the time, and rehearing today in this extraordinary sound quality is a rediscovery well worth making. It's by far the best version of the album to date.
Here's how it's laid out: Tracks 1 to 10 make up the original album with Tracks 11 and 12 being previously unreleased alternate takes of "Steppin' Out Queen" and "Troubadours". At seven minutes "Steppin' Out Queen" is extended over the 5:20 minutes of the final album cut - and it's an absolute peach. The alternate take of "Troubadours" clocks in at 5:32 minutes as opposed to the 4:41 of the album final - and again, a superb version. I'm always wary of outtakes and alternate versions as bonus material on re-issue CDs when they're not any better nor an equal to the original and act as a cheap way of suckering fans to purchase more of the same. But these two choices are inspired - and an absolute must-have for Van lovers.
The upgraded booklet contains all the lyrics in the same script style as the original vinyl album and a detailed list of who sessioned on what, but disappointingly there's no history of where the album fits in, no new liner notes, nor any photographs. However, a nice touch is the lyrics to the alternate takes - the record company could have lazily reproduced the lyrics twice at the end of the booklet, but closer examination shows they haven't - the lyrics actually reflect the free-forming of the different expanded versions - a nice touch.
But the best bit is definitely the SOUND. The original analogue master tapes have been 96K/24 Bit digitally remastered by Tim Young at Metropolis Mastering in London for this 28 January 2008 release - and the sound is BEAUTIFULLY CLEAR and WARM - making you reassess every song and the superb musicianship on each. RY COODER lends his Slide Guitar to "Full Force Gale", MARK ISHAM his trumpet playing to almost every track, while ROBIN WILLIAMSON of THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND puts a penny whistle into "Troubadours" and "Rolling Hills" (for me one of the weakest tunes on here). KATIE KISSOON adds complimentary backing vocals to "Bright Side Of The Road" and the lovely "You Make Me Feel So Real". TONY MARCUS' violin is also heavily featured on almost every track. The remaster also brings out the rhythm section of PETER VAN HOOKE on Drums and DAVID HAYES on Bass.
His lovely cover of the Tommy Edwards 1950s hit "It's All In The Game" runs seamlessly into "You Know What I'm Writing About" and ends the album. Speaking of which, at 2:18 minutes into "It's All In The Game", Mark Isham's trumpet sails in like a soothing dollop of honey - and it's a truly beautiful flourish - puts a tear in my eye - sheer genius - and I realise again why I adored this album so much all those years ago! And the issue is mid-price too - I picked up my copy for £6 in Central London.
All in all, a FANTASTIC REMASTER and one I urge fans and the uninitiated to get stuck into soonest.
Like "Into The Music", 30 Van Morrison albums are to be re-issued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into 2009. Each will contain upgraded booklets, previously unreleased material and all will be at mid-price. They'll be released in 4 batches as follows:
January 2008 (7 titles, see reviews)
Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974),
Wavelenght (1978), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985),
Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)
June 2008 (8 titles, see reviews)
Veedon Fleece (1974), Common One (1980), Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983), Live At The Grand Opera House, Belfast (1984), No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), Enlightenment (1990), A Night In San Francisco (2CD Live Set) (1994) and The Healing Game (1997)
September 2008 - now delayed until February 2009 (7 titles)
Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), A Period Of Transition (1977), Beautiful Vision (1982), Poetic Champions Compose (1987), Hymns To The Silence (2CD Studio Set) (1991), How Long Has This Been Going On (Live At Ronnie Scott's) (1995), Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)
January 2009 - delayed, probably May/June 2009 (8 titles)
Hard Nose The Highway (1973), Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains) (1988),
Too Long In Exile (1993), Days Like This (1995), The Story Of Them (2CD Set) (1999), The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast (with Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber) (2000), Down The Road (2002) and What's Wrong With This Picture? (2003)
Those hoping to see desperately needed sonic upgrades of his 1st and 2nd album masterpieces on Warner Bothers "Astral Weeks" (1968) and "Moondance" (1970) or even "His Band & The Street Choir" (late 1970) will be disappointed to hear that they're NOT in this re-issue campaign. Apparently there is still some dispute between the record label and Van that remains unresolved. A damn shame! "Astral Weeks" and "Moondance" have both been languishing on crappy-sounding non-remasters for over 20 years now and they're glaringly obvious omissions here. These universally recognized masterpieces deserve 2CD DELUXE EDITION treatment and soon. (Some tracks in remastered form are available across the 3 volumes of "Best Of"). Let's hope they sort their differences and soon!