on 5 October 2000
This collection of previously unreleased material confirms my long-held suspicion that Van Morrison has the obsessive traits so commonly found in geniuses. How could he have withheld these magnificent tracks for twenty-odd years? The collection has an Old Testament feel which contrasts with much of his newer offerings: the beautiful Gospel harmonies of The Street Only Knew Your Name segue into the grim, Clint Eastwood-style loner images conjured up by John Henry and Western Plain, and that's just the second CD. The jazz-funk of Naked In The Jungle is so catchy, it has to be heard to be believed, and the original versions of Morrison classics such as Wonderful Remark, Stepping Out Queen and Real Real Gone knock socks off the eventual album versions. Highlight of the set is the joyous Bright Side Of The Road - if you thought the version on Into The Music was cheerful, get a load of this: four-and-a-half minutes of unbroken harmonica (strangely uncredited) leave you begging for more. Absolutely essential, even more so than either of the official greatest hits collections.
on 18 July 2014
I put CD 2 on first by mistake and from the opening track The Streets Only Knew your name I was spellbound. That track alone is far better than the version on Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, and has the listener yearning for the street where they grew up. That is a theme that Van Morrison often returns to, like Got to go Back from the No Guru, No Method album. He poses the question, what is more precious in life than your memories when you were growing up? There is more soul in that track alone than most artists entire back catalog, and that was just track 1 CD2. The whole album certainly doesn't feel like you are listening to an album of tracks that didn't make the albums they were intended for, even the more familiar tracks like Bright Side of The Road sound better for being slightly less produced and more harmonica on it.
on 27 December 2013
Van,again, showingthat,perhaps,he needs to rethink his quality control methods.Some of the songs on this are superior to a lot of the songs that made it on to thhe original albums.Fantastic!
on 26 February 2000
Van Morrison is commonly seen these days as a bloated, black-hat wearing mumbler. But he is a man of remarkable musical talent. From the late sixties to the mid seventies, there was no-one to touch him. The Philosopher's Stone is a collection of songs he deemed unsuitable for release throughout his career. That he chose this path for many of them shows the strength in depth of his music at the time. The first CD in particular is stunning. The second CD is excellent in parts though there are a fair number of less-than-perfect contributions throught the whole album, there is plenty for both dedicated Morrison fans, and newcomers to his music to enjoy. Had it been edited down to one CD this would be a classic.
30 tracks spanning from 1969-1988 (not 1971 as stated on the packaging) showcasing Van Morrison's cast offs - predominantly of a quality many artists would love to aspire to. 25 of these tracks are completely new, 5 are different versions of tracks that got released in other forms. Minimal information is given in the package, with track dates either carelessly or deliberately stated to come from years the artists performing belie the year claimed with just a little research. Disc 1 is simply astonishingly good. Disc 2 is almost as good with a little fall off in the late 1980's material at the end. Van is on record as saying Warner Brothers didn't want to groove cram their records in the vinyl age so if there was enough material for a 40 minute album some tracks didn't make the cut, and that's probably what happened, a track didn't quite fit stylistically because there is no shortage of quality here. After hearing Van's first dozen albums the off cuts stand up against anything from that glorious run of form. Being a compilation you get a range of styles but R&B and Van's own Celtic Soul feature prominently. This can be quite an expensive purchase, I was lucky and won mine on eBay for £7.50, but it's well worth more than that. Both discs are generously filled to 77/78 minutes playing time. An essential purchase for any Morrison fan.
on 13 February 2014
I fully concur with other reviewers that it is very hard to believe why the beautiful unreleased songs were not released on an original album(s). Great renditions of some familiar tracks, most better than the ones that came out in the original albums.
I have followed The Man for over four decades and when you are in the mood for this style of Morrison's music, this album is right up with the very best of his releases. A MUST for any serious fan. I assure you that you will not be disappointed!