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4.7 out of 5 stars
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"Common One" is part of the 2nd wave of Van Morrison remastered reissues to hit the shops in 2008 (see full list below). Released Monday 7 July 2008 in the UK (8 July, USA), it boasts truly superlative remastered sound quality, an upgraded booklet and 2 bonus tracks for the first time.

Here's the layout (70:44 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 6 make up the album "Common One" released in September 1980
Tracks 7 and 8 are previously unreleased Alternate Takes of "Haunts Of Ancient Peace" and "When Heart Is Open".

The Band consisted of:
MICK COX on Lead Guitar
HERBIE ARMSTRONG on Acoustic & Electric Rhythm Guitar
MARK ISHAM on Trumpet and Flugelhorn
PEE WEE ELLIS on Saxophone and Flute
TONI MARCUS on Sitar and Violin
JOHN ALLAIR and MARK JORDAN on Keyboards
DAVID HAYES on Bass
PETER VAN HOOKE on Drums
(Strings on "Summertime In England" and "Wild Honey", the Choir on "Haunts Of Ancient Peace" and the extra horn section on "Wild Honey" were all arranged by Pee Wee Ellis)

96K/24 Bit remastered from the original analogue master tapes; the sound quality on this re-issue is BEAUTIFUL - clear and clean. The booklet is naff though, functionary at best - it reproduces the lyrics (Alternates included too) and session details, but no new photos, no history of the record - an opportunity missed.

As most of the tracks are lengthy, his sessioned musical partners in the band get to stretch out - and what superb musicianship is on display here - one second all jazzy and trippy, the next soulful and peaceful. Choirs and strings combine too - to devastating effect. Even when the songs threaten to get `too' carried away, Van brings it all down to quiet patches, where his vocal raps are inspired and now an integral part of his live set. The opener "Haunts Of Ancient Peace" is just lovely - PEE WEE ELLIS blowing away soulfully. But ELLIS really gets to let rip on the concert/fan favourite "Summertime In England" that doesn't actually wear out its 15-minute plus timing. The brass and melody on "Wild Honey" sounds like a Manhattans/Harold Melvin soul song - warm and lovely - it washes over you so sweetly - with the rhythm section`s tight playing brought out by a great remaster. If I was to point out a downside, it would be the sax solo on "Spirit", it's harsh and a little shrill - maybe it was recorded that way. Also the 15-minute floating album closer "When Heart Is Open" is a little hissy - when none of the other tracks display any. But these are minor niggles.

The bonus Alternate Take of "Haunts..." is roughly the same length as the finished album version - just over 7 minutes, but it sounds like a run through - a rehearsal - its nice, but nowhere near as good as the finished version. "When Heart Is Open" is a different kettle of fish altogether - I love it! It has a cool SITAR opening and shorter playing time of just under 8-minutes. There's also beautiful violin playing from TONI MARCUS towards the end. If anything, it ends too soon. I suspect fans will be raving about it soon!

To sum up - "Common One" isn't the dizzy heights of "Astral Weeks" for sure, but it is a great Van Morrison album - deeply steeped in mysticism and his endless quest for inner peace. And at last, it sounds JUST BEAUTIFUL. Highly, highly recommended.

PS:
30 Van Morrison albums are re-issued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into early 2009. Each title contains an upgraded booklet; previously unreleased bonus tracks and all will be at mid-price. The releases are in 4 batches as follows:

28 January 2008 (7 titles)
Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974),
Wavelenght (1979), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985),
Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)
(see SEPARATE REVIEWS for all 7)

30 June 2008 UK/1 & 8 July 2008 USA (8 titles)
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)
(see also SEPARATE REVIEWS for "Veedon Fleece", "Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart", "Enlightenment", the live 2CD set "A Night In San Francisco" and "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher")

November 2008 (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) and Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)

January 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)

PPS:
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 - on either side of the pond. "Astral Weeks" and "Moondance" in particular have both been languishing around on crappy-sounding non-remastered CDs for over 20 years now and they're glaringly obvious omissions in this supposedly 'extensive' re-issue campaign. These universally recognized masterpieces have long deserved 2CD DELUXE EDITION treatment (some tracks in remastered form are available across the 3 volumes of "Best Of"). However, I've recently been informed by a good source that all 3 are NOW AVAILABLE since June 2008 in JAPAN in RHINO REMASTERED form. See the excellent Japanese site CDJAPAN.CO.JP for details (worded in English).
33 comments| 32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 December 2000
At 15 minutes, Summertime in England dominates this seminal CD, and shows Van Morrison at his superb best as songwriter, philosopher, singer, and all-round entertainer. This is a track that can be learned from and listened to again and again, the jewel in an excellent CD. The symphonic interweaving of the various instruments with Van's voice in pure magic. Once you know it well, listen to SiE with particular attention on say the drums, or solo sax, and gat many whole new viewpoints ! There are many others gems on the album, but SiE stands out, and makes this the MUST HAVE album for even a passing Van fan. Buy it now !
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on 27 September 2004
I suppose there's not much to add to the previous reviewers'comments except for the general dismissal of When Heart is Open. This is an issue which needs redressing. That the album is spiritual in its emphasis is not in question and it is this context in which the final track should be considered. On first hearing this album I was moved to tears. I'm not being precious, just trying to convey the emotional impact of this album. Somehow it's the very understatement of 'When Heart...' which, for me at least, imbues it with the most power. The mantra-like repetition and call-and-response of 'Summertime...' is distilled and refined to its logical extreme in an almost Beckettian paring-down of self, echoing the final part of the Trilogy (wherein Beckett attempts to destroy/transcend the narrative voice), in what seems to be an attempt to communicate the inter-connectedness of everything (really!). What's also interesting is to compare this track to shhh s'peaceful from Miles Davis' In a Silent Way. Try it and tell me there are no similarities. This won't have been an accident and the likeness further emphasises the emotional topography of Common One.
There is an air of peace, contentment and above all hope to this album which makes it unique in Morrison's canon/ouevre/whatever you want to call it and which, much as I love other albums, by him puts it on a par with Astral Weeks.
If you own this album, listen again to When Heart Is Open as George Michael once suggested i.e without prejudice and consider this...'can you feel the silence?'
Intellectual musings aside, this is an album full of emotion, spirit and,perhaps above all, heart. After all, it ain't why, it just is.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 November 2015
Common One sees Van Morrison vearing towards spirituality with a serene, understated work that features some very late night jazz tinged music. Different to the albums that came before it, this is laid back late night music. With just six tracks on the original version two top 15 minutes but never outstay their welcome. Opening with Haunts Of Ancient Peace the pace is relaxed, the mood mellow, almost hymnal.

Summertime In England, the first of the opus tracks running to 15:35 is based on Morrison's own poetry and indeed features a couple of spoken word passages. It namechecks famous poets in its' lyrics and shifts direction a few times. Starting with a drum shuffle this is up tempo compared to the opener, but suddenly changes to a processional pace with swelling strings and Hammond Organ backing before speeding up again. With further tempo changes, it's a masterpiece that in a live environment surely bore comparisons with the manner in which James Brown could hold an audience in the palm of his hand, taking the song 'down' before bringing it back 'up' again. Pee Wee Ellis' saxophone is used to great effect in this respect.

Satisfied is as catchy as it's possible to be with a great underpinning organ theme from John Allair, superb brass stabs and a lovely bass run from David Hayes. It's a deliberate, rock solid pace that gets into a funky groove and doesn't leave it.

Wild Honey is similarly paced to Haunts Of Ancient Peace, with both brass and strings prominent. Seeming religious pronouncements, particularly "And the light comes shining through" and "I'll be waiting for thee" pepper the lyrics.

Spirit begins low key, with Van seemingly in a dark place, repeating "When you've given up hope and you're down in despair" falling away to be replaced by the much louder chorus largely built around "Never let spirit die".

As another reviewer has remarked, closer When Heart Is Open does indeed share a mood with Miles Davis' In A Silent Way. It could almost be called ambient music (or as Davis' gamechanger was described, 'space music'). It's defiantly pastoral in construction, echoing Veedon Fleece's closer Country Fair. It's an astonishing work and supremely relaxing. For me this is the highlight of the album. It doesn't really have form, it floats by, washing over you.

A fine album that took a few plays to appreciate, it's not as 'instant' as it's predecessors but repays repeated plays. Each time you hear another layer is revealed.
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on 7 July 2008
I love this album - it's saturated with serenity. It was the beginning of Van's dive into mysticism and his attempts to depict higher spiritual states in his music. The album's key track is When Heart is Open - a beautiful, sublimely ambient piece of music. Haunts of Ancient Peace and Summertime in England are also beautiful. You will love this album forever, as long as you suspend your concept of what 'rock' music should be.
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on 7 July 2008
This is not an album I have always loved but like a lot of art, for want of a better word, that demands something of you, I come back to it from time to time. You have to be in the mood to listen to this album - don't take it to your daughter's 18th, grab the decks and say 'Let's get this party started!' There is a longing and desire in Morrison's singing that is consistent throughout the album, a sense of grasping and urgency that bursts through, certainly, in Summertime in England (a song that could collapse under the weight of its expectations but miraculously doesn't) but there is the controlled passion of the best Gospel singing in Spirit and Haunts of Ancient Peace. If you buy this,I think you're stuck with it for life - you'll have your ups and downs and sometimes you'll wonder what you ever saw in it but there will be moments when you know you can't honestly live without it.
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on 26 July 2008
I JUST WANT TO THANK MARK BARRY FOR HIS HIGHLY INTELLIGENT WORDS REGARDING VAN MORRISON.HIS REVIEW OF 'COMMON ONE' IS EXTREMELY ACCURATE AND HEARTFELT.IF HIS REVIEW ENCOURAGES MORE PEOPLE TO BUY THIS SUPERB PIECE OF WORK THEN WHAT A GOOD THING.'SUMMERTIME IN ENGLAND' AT CERTAIN TIMES IS THE BEST THING EVER WRITTEN.SURELY ?
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This deeply spiritual music will one day be compared to the hymns of the medieval visionary Hildegard of Bingen. Summertime In England, whence the album title is drawn, is a magnificent devotional piece with complex but oh so beautiful instrumentation and soulful vocals. Van's brand of funky soul emerges in Satisfied with its jazzy saxophones over a brooding rhythm track, whilst Wild Honey is an evocative pastoral ballad. The uplifting song Spirit is very positive and inspirational and reminds me of an exquisite song with the same title by The Waterboys. I suspect that the awesome but gentle tour de force When Heart Is Open refers esoterically to the opening of the heart chakra. It certainly has that effect on me! There's less of Van's trademark R&B on this album and in general, these pieces are not as overtly religious as say, Be Thou My Vision on Hymns To The Silence, but they're equally moving. Common One offers exquisite music for the soul - listening to it is pure gnosis.
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on 13 September 2008
The thing about this album is you cant really review it. It is spiritual and mystical. This was the first Van Morrison album I ever bought and at first it passed me by. But over the next few years I found myself returning to this particular album above all others. Van Morrison is the closest thing to Blake, Yeats or Wordsworth we have to day though not necessarily poetically.This album emphasises a spiritual dimension to rock music and I dont mean this in a strictly religious sense either.
The new remastered edition is excellent and the 2 extra tracks dont diminish a brilliant album. For under five pounds it is well worth a chance.
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on 24 May 2005
Enough has already been written in praise of what is probably the highlight of the album, Summertime in England, but I would like to say a few words about one of my own personal favourites. This is the last song on the album, When Heart is Open. For me, this goes to the heart of what I would call a contemplative spirituality. It comes from a place of stillness and meditative silence. It speaks quietly and eloquently of the beauty of self-acceptance. When you let go of all the struggling and self-doubt and truly listen to your own heart, you enter into a place of peace and joy.
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