[Review] Van Morrison: T.B. Sheets (1973)

A compilation of early recordings including unreleased versions of “Madame George” and “Beside You.”

Kronomyth 7.5: More bucks for Bang.

The late Bert Berns’ much-maligned Bang Records had now released three albums from the material that Van Morrison recorded for them in 1967, including Blowin’ Your Mind (1967) and The Best of Van Morrison (1970). This compilation features five tracks that appeared on the first, one unique to the second (“It’s All Right”) and two early versions of songs that would appear on his breakthrough Astral Weeks, “Madame George” and “Beside You.”

Now, those last two tracks may have piqued your interest, and well they might. They’re radically different from the jazzy arrangements featured on Astral Weeks. “Madame George” appears far more playful here, lending credence to Morrison’s assertion that the song was originally intended to be called Madame Joy, while “Beside You” is nailed to a concrete arrangement. In a sense, T.B. Sheets offers an alternate view of what Blowin’ Your Mind might have been. Fortunately for us, Berns left “Madame George” and “Beside You” in the bank vaults, and the gossamer versions we know from Astral Weeks exist today.

Although it’s product, T.B. Sheets isn’t a bad listen by any measure. Morrison may be a bit in the bard’s shadow here, often sounding like Highway 61 Re-Revisited—not surprising given that some of the same musicians (Paul Griffin, Russell Savakas) appear on both sessions—but delivered in a stream of spiritual consciousness that approaches a soulful sermon at times. Given that many missed Morrison’s debut the first time around, the encore performances of “Brown Eyed Girl,” “He Ain’t Give You None” and “T.B. Sheets” were welcome at the time, and the compilation’s absorption into the Columbia catalog has added an air of legitimacy to the release since. If you’re intent on blowin’ some cash on Morrison’s pre-Astral days, I might even recommend this over Blowin’ Your Mind, since every Van fan owes it to themselves to hear these versions of “Madame George” and “Beside You.”

Original elpee version

A1. He Ain’t Give You None (5:11)
A2. Beside You (6:07)
A3. It’s All Right (5:04)
A4. Madame George (5:13)
B1. T.B. Sheets (9:44)
B2. Who Drove the Red Sports Car? (5:26)
B3. Ro Ro Rosey (3:07)
B4. Brown Eyed Girl (3:06)

All songs written by Van Morrison.

The Players

Van Morrison (vocals, guitar) with Jeff Berry (background vocals, tambourine), Bob Bushnell (bass), Artie Butler (keyboards), Gary Chester (drums), George Devins (percussion, vibraphone), Eric Gale (guitar), Al Gorgoni (guitar), Paul Griffin (keyboards), Artie Kaplan (flute, saxophone), Herbie Lovelle (drums), Hugh McCracken (guitar), Seldon Powell (flute, saxophone), Russell Savakas (bass), The Sweet Inspirations (Cissy Houston, Myrna Smith, Dee Dee Warwick) (background vocals), Donald Thomas (guitar). Directed and produced by Bert Berns; engineered by Brooks Arthur.

The Pictures

Cover painting by Tomas Burzinski. Cover design by John Van Hamersveld and Mark Finkelstein. Art direction by Eddie Biscoe, who was also running Bang Records at this point.

The Plastic

Compilation of released/unreleased material recorded in 1967 and released on elpee in December 1973 in the US (Bang, BLP-400) and in May 1974 in the UK (London, HSM-5008). Reached #181 on the US charts. Regional versions feature gatefold cover.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in September 1988 in Germany (Bellaphon, 220.07.014).
  2. Re-issued on cassette in the UK and Germany (City, 5010).
  3. Re-released on compact disc and cassette in the US (CK/CT 46093), Canada (VCT 46093) and the UK (Columbia, 467827-2).

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