Van Morrison: Tupelo Honey (1971)

Kronomyth 5.0: O, HOW SHALL SUMMER’S HONEY BREATH HOLD OUT? The classic Van Morrison albums, of which this is one, are special. You don’t simply listen to them, you reunite with them. They begin with a joyful embrace (in this case, the freewheeling “Wild Night”) and what follows is a deep and familiar conversation about love, childhood, nature, the mystic and the majestic. Tupelo Honey has a more countrified feel than most Van Morrison albums, a point that has occasioned me to compare it to Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, although that comparison sells both artists short. You’ll find a quiet strength to songs like “Tupelo Honey” and “Lay Lady Lay” that is at once chivalrous and luminously warm, tart touches of steel guitar and arrangements that wrap around the music like a pair of old blue jeans. I’ve always seen this album as an open love letter to Janet Planet, who is featured prominently on the album (both visually and musically through frequent backing vocals). “I Wanna Roo You” and “When The Evening Sun Goes Down” are pretty gestures, but it’s the powerful “You’re My Woman” that stands as the album’s grand romantic play. Maybe it’s all a gilded fairytale, but who am I to turn a well-played prince and princess out of doors? The album also includes as succinct an explanation of Morrison’s muse as you’ll find anywhere, “(Straight To Your Heart) Like A Cannonball,” the affecting “Old Old Woodstock” (one of my favorite tracks on here) and “Moonshine Whiskey,” one of those songs (like “Madame George”) that Morrison seems to personally inhabit with his whole being. I admit that Tupelo Honey didn’t immediately floor me, but it’s stood the test of time, and what is art if not a kick in the crotch to cruel time?

Original LP Version
A1. Wild Night (3:29)
A2. (Straight To Your Heart) Like A Cannonball (3:37)
A3. Old Old Woodstock (4:14)
A4. Starting A New Life (2:06)
A5. You’re My Woman (6:40)
B1. Tupelo Honey (6:53)
B2. I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative) (3:22)
B3. When That Evening Sun Goes Down (3:02)
B4. Moonshine Whiskey (6:45)

All selections written by Van Morrison.

CD reissue bonus tracks
10. Wild Night (alternative take) (5:37)
11. Down By The Riverside (3:54)

The Players
Van Morrison (vocals, guitar, harmonica, background vocals, horn arrangements), Bill Church (bass), Mark Jordan (piano, electric piano), Ronnie Montrose (guitar, mandolin, background vocals), Rick Schlosser (drums), Jack Schroer (saxophones, horn arrangements) with Luis Gasca (trumpet), Boots Stuart Houston (flute, background vocals, flute arrangement), Connie Kay (drums), Gary Mallaber (vibes, percussion), John McFee (steel guitar), Janet Planet (background vocals), Bruce Royston (flute, flute arrangement), Ellen Schroer (background vocals), Ted Templeman (organ). Produced by Van Morrison & Ted Templeman; engineered by Doc Storch, Steve Barncard, David Brown; mixed by Donn Landee, Lee Herschberg.

The Pictures
Photography by Mike Maggid. Art direction by Ed Thrasher.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in October 1971 in the UK (Warner Bros., K-46114), the US and Canada (Warner Bros., WS/CWM 1950 / M 81950) with gatefold cover and poster; reached #27 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record). Also released on elpee in 1972 in Brazil (Warner, 5005).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in the US and Canada (Warner Bros., WS 1950 on burbank label) and Japan (Warner Bros., P-8179W).
  2. Re-packaged with His Band And The Street Choir on 2LP in the UK (Warner Bros., K-86009).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1979 in the US (Warner Bros., WS 1950 on tan label).
  4. Re-issued on cassette in the US (Warner Bros., M5 1950).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Warner Bros., K 46 114) with gatefold cover.
  6. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the UK (Polydor, 839 161).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Warner Bros., 1950-2).
  8. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1997 in the UK and Canada (Polydor, 537 450).
  9. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Polydor, POCP-2126).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Polydor, POCP-2605).
  11. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2008 in the US (Exile, B0010642-02) with 2 bonus tracks.
  12. Re-released on expanded, super high material compact disc in 2008 in Japan (Polydor, UICY-93433) with 2 bonus tracks.

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