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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fire in the belly and iron in the soul in songs of praise!
This is quite simply Van's best studio album of the nineties and sees him synthesise the blues, Jazz, celtic, gospel and soul influences that make his music a unique melting pot. After a couple of Jazz albums Van gets the dream team line up of Georgie on Hammond Organ and Brian Kennedy and Katie Kissoon on backing vocals and Pee Wee Ellis on Baritone Sax and whips them...
Published on 14 May 2001 by Mr. T. J. Armitage

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Got it for the bonus tracks.
Yes I am a Van-o-holic and I buy everything I can get. I never liked this album much. The backing vocalist Brian? spoils most songs.
Published 12 months ago by P. L. Wightman


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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fire in the belly and iron in the soul in songs of praise!, 14 May 2001
By 
Mr. T. J. Armitage (Near Hitchin, Herts United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
This is quite simply Van's best studio album of the nineties and sees him synthesise the blues, Jazz, celtic, gospel and soul influences that make his music a unique melting pot. After a couple of Jazz albums Van gets the dream team line up of Georgie on Hammond Organ and Brian Kennedy and Katie Kissoon on backing vocals and Pee Wee Ellis on Baritone Sax and whips them into a gospel like fervour. The collection is heavier than 1995's Days Like This and what we have here is real heart and soul music. Rough God Goes Riding is a blistering opener and sees Van using Irish literary allusion to apocalyptic effect and a fantastic Sax solo from Pee Wee that would make Coltrane jealous. Fire in the Belly follows with a deep soul groove and growl from Van whose interplay with Brian works brilliantly: this is one of his best endurance songs. The Weight segues neatly into The Waiting Game and the latter features a gorgeous melody full of tumbling leaves and golden autumn sum. Katie kissoon's backing vocals turn this song into a beautiful duet and spiritual high point of the album. We need of break from the soul and what Van gives us is a perfect slice of Celtic mysticism courtesy of several chieftains in Piper at the Gates of Dawn which celebrates the glories of the riverbank. The sixth selection is arguably one of Van's most intense forays into personal and spiritual allegory with the Bhuddist influenced The Burning Ground. Van tries to dump the jute and purify his troubled soul in a coruscating mantra that builds into a devastating climax. It once was my life is more jaunty and upbeat and fits into the Van sub-genre of songs that moan about the vagaries of fame and success but this is an enjoyable all the same. The Healing Game finale is a treat that builds around Fame's church-like organ and features wonderful doo wop backing vocals from the corner boys of Van's Belfast past. Van is back to where he began in sprit and in music,which is full of driving energy and full bloodied singing of a man who got healed. This album is an epiphany and essential for any fan of the man who in this collection is back on top!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Wind In The Willows...Piper At The Gates Of Dawn...", 7 Aug 2008
By 
Mark Barry "Mark Barry" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
"The Healing Game" is part of the 2nd wave of Van Morrison remastered reissues to hit the shops in 2008 (see full list below). Released Monday 30 June 2008 in the UK and 1 July 2008 in the USA, it boasts truly superlative remastered sound quality, an upgraded booklet and a single bonus track for the first time.

Here's the layout (58:26 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 make up the album "The Healing Game" released in March 1997 on Van's own Exile Label
Track 11 is a previously unreleased fully formed song from the album sessions called "At The End Of The Day"

The Band consisted of:
BRIAN KENNEDY and KATIE KISSOON on Duet and Backing Vocals
GEORGIE FAME on Hammond Organ & Backing Vocals with ROBIN ASPLAND on Piano
RONNIE JOHNSON on Lead Guitar with PETER O'HANLON on Dobro
LEO GREEN on Tenor Saxophone with PEE WEE ELLIS on Baritone and Soprano Saxophone
MATT HOLLAND on Trumpet
NICKY SCOTT on Electric Bass with ALEC DANKWORTH on Double Bass
GEOFF DUNN on Drums with RALPH SALMINS adding Additional Percussion

96K/24 Bit remastered from the original analogue master tapes; the sound quality on this re-issue is BEAUTIFUL - clear and clean - but then it should also be pointed out that the 1997 original CD sounded awesome too. The booklet is pretty much the same as the original, but with the lyrics to the bonus track tagged on at the end - there's no new photos, no history of the record - same as all the other issues in this series unfortunately.

Musically, this is a mellow Van Morrison album - a lot of pretty songs with slow pacing - very easy on the ear. Unfortunately the album is also inflicted with a playing technique that permeates every track - as Van sings a line, it's either repeated by Brian Kennedy immediately afterwards or shadowed by him as Van sings - the result feels like the album's been hijacked by someone else. For me, it wrecks every single song. You either like or loath Kennedy's voice, personally it irritates me to distraction. Take the beautiful "Piper at The Gates Of Dawn" for instance - it opens with lovely acoustic guitars and a great lead in vocal by Van alone, then lovely fills on Piano by PHIL COULTER and a truly beautiful Uileann Pipe solo by PADDY MALONEY of THE CHIEFTAINS - but it's all shadowed by that ever-present backing voice I don't like!

The bonus track opens with lovely Dobro playing from PETER O'HANLON, but again every line is doubled with Kennedy's whiney voice and a very interesting outtake is ruined.

To sum up - "The Healing Game" is probably one of Van's mellowest and loveliest offering in years, but in my mind it's completely wrecked by the cluttered intrusive voices ruining the potential and sweetness of every track. It was a style choice at the time for sure, a production technique - but I'm not sure everyone will take to it.

If you can tolerate the double-vocals, "The Healing Game" is recommended with reservations.

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", "Common One" 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).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 18 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
Absolutely sublime album by Van the Man. Not one even slightly dodgy track on the whole album and his voice us as good as ever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of His Best, 20 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
One of his best albums, not a bad track on it.
A must have in the collection for all Van Morrison fans.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth it, 13 May 2013
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This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
I bought the original album straight after seeing VM perform it live at the Reading Hexagon in the 90s. This remastered version is to my ears superior. They have managed to smooth over the edginess to VM's voice, achieved better instrument seperation and added a general "gloss" to the overall sound, which is most notceable on acoustic guitar, piano, and snare drum. the album already sounded good through my Quad 989s and now it sounds very good .
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still got it, 5 May 2013
By 
peter bence (melbourne, victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
I have not been a great Van Morrison fan.I bought a couple of album over the years . Not sure why a purchased this one without listening to it but i"m sure glad i did. Going down to Monte Carlo and End of the rainbow are two of his best ever. Must go back and look at his earlier releases.
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4.0 out of 5 stars His best for 20 years, 26 Oct 2012
By 
Mr. A. A. Jones "Alan Jones" (Inverness, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
I didn't bother with this album when it first came out. I'd bought its predecessor, "Days Like This", which got rave reviews, but I thought there were some fairly dud songs on that. Seeing track titles like "When the Rough God Goes Riding" and "Fire in the Belly" made me think that "The Healing Game" would be Van's Robert Bly album - all about reclaiming manhood in sweat lodges and so on. And the cover put me off, too - it looked like he was at a funeral, or an Orange parade.

How wrong I was! This was his best album since 1977's "A Period of Transition" (which I think is better than the generally more highly rated "Into the Music"). The first two songs are absolute crackers ("Fire in the Belly" is just a great song about being in love, with some fine Van-style chanting) and there are two more real classics. One of these is "Burning Ground", which, as well as having a strong tune, contains some really odd images - is it about some sort of human sacrifice? Who knows? Probably least of all Van Morrison himself.

Other tracks aren't quite as powerful, but none of them are weak - even the couple of tunes which feel like they could have come from the 50's lack the cheesiness of their counterparts on "Days Like This". They are all sung from the heart and the "complaining" songs actually avoid the specifics of some of Van's other rants, so that they are more easy to identify with - they could be about ANYBODY getting badly treated. The band play really well throughout, especially the horn section - and there are some tenor sax breaks that have all the power of a screaming lead guitar.

The final, title track, is superb. It builds to an exultant climax with the horn section powering away on the riff so that it really feels like a celebration of Van being back on form again.The only fitting comparison I can think of is the climax of "You Set the Scene" in the Love "Forever Changes Concert" live album - where at one and the same time, the music is part of the song itself but also a celebration of the fact that the old master has survived all the time in the wilderness to make magnificent music again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 21 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
Excellent, arrived on time, no scratches on CD or case.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
Thank you perfect
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Got it for the bonus tracks., 7 Nov 2013
By 
P. L. Wightman (New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Healing Game (Audio CD)
Yes I am a Van-o-holic and I buy everything I can get. I never liked this album much. The backing vocalist Brian? spoils most songs.
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