[Review] The Best of Van Morrison (1990)

A vanderful collection of album cuts, classic tracks and the hits you love to love.

Kronomyth 22.0: Them and then some.

These are some of the choicest van morsels, an informed selection that includes the obvious hits and then wisely screens through a wide career for overlooked gold. Ordinarily, greatest hits compilations take the predictable tack of following an artist’s singles through the years, but Van Morrison’s history doesn’t shake out like that. Some of his most indelible music (e.g., “Moondance”) was never released on a single, while many of his singles contained second-rate songs (“Call Me Up In Dreamland,” “Come Running”). The Best of Van Morrison finds an interesting solution to the problem: throw out order altogether, don’t worry about balancing out an uneven career and pick the songs that stick with you when all is said and sung.

Of course it contains what you would expect: “Moondance,” “Domino,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Wild Night” and “Jackie Wilson Said.” But you could turn on a radio and hear those songs. It’s in the unexpected where The Best of Van Morrison excels, digging back to include three tracks from Them (including the seminal “Gloria”), choosing lesser-known treasures like “Wonderful Remark,” “Sweet Thing” and “Full Force Gale,” then spreading them out like a rich, multicolored banquet.

In order to find the most flattering angle of the multifaceted Morrison, The Best Of approaches him anew with each song, carefully placing very different tracks alongside one another to illuminate his catalog with contrast and color. The breezy “Bright Side of the Road,” unbearably intense “Gloria” and soulful “Moondance” quickly lay the cornerstones for the church of Van, and for the next fifty minutes old friends and new acquaintances file in.

The compact disc includes two extra tracks, “Queen of the Slipstream” and “Dweller on the Threshold,” both of them hailing from the wild sea of uncharted singles that might have shipwrecked this enterprise. Instead, The Best of Van Morrison is remarkably smooth sailing through a stormy career and a great example of what happens when you chart these journeys from the heart. (Cartographers: note that the LP release features only 16 tracks, the cassette version 18 tracks and the CD version a bounty of twenty.)

The Songs

1. Bright Side of the Road (3:46)
2. Gloria (2:36)
3. Moondance (4:31)
4. Baby Please Don’t Go (Joe Williams) (2:40)
5. Have I Told You Lately (4:19)
6. Brown Eyed Girl (3:04)
7. Sweet Thing (4:21)
8. Warm Love (3:22)
9. Wonderful Remark (3:57)*/+
10. Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) (2:57)
11. Full Force Gale (3:14)*/+
12. And It Stoned Me (4:28)
13. Here Comes The NIght (Bert Berns) (2:46)
14. Domino (3:04)
15. Did Ye Get Healed (4:05)
16. Wild Night (3:32)
17. Cleaning Windows (4:40)
18. Whenever God Shines His Light (4:54)
19. Queen of the Slipstream (4:54)*
20. Dweller On the Threshold (Van Morrison/Hugh Murphy) (4:44)*

All songs written by Van Morrison unless noted.

+ Denotes cassette bonus tracks. * Denotes CD bonus tracks.

The Plastic

Compilation released on elpee, extended cassette and extra-extended CD in March 1990 in the UK and US (Polydor, 841 970-1/4/2). Reached #4 on the UK charts and #41 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 4X platinum record).

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1998 in the UK (Polydor, 537 459-2) with slightly different cover.

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