Into the Music
Warner Bros. (Polydor 839 603-2)
Review of the 2008 remaster: (by Mark Barry)
Here's how it's laid out: Tracks 1 to 10 make up the original album with Tracks 11 and 12 being previously unreleased alternate takes of "Steppin' Out Queen" and "Troubadours". At seven minutes "Steppin' Out Queen" is extended over the 5:20 minutes of the final album cut - and it's an absolute peach. The alternate take of "Troubadours" clocks in at 5:32 minutes as opposed to the 4:41 of the album final - and again, a superb version. I'm always wary of outtakes and alternate versions as bonus material on re-issue CDs when they're not any better nor an equal to the original and act as a cheap way of suckering fans to purchase more of the same. But these two choices are inspired - and an absolute must-have for Van lovers.
The upgraded booklet contains all the lyrics in the same script style as the original vinyl album and a detailed list of who sessioned on what, but disappointingly there's no history of where the album fits in, no new liner notes, nor any photographs. However, a nice touch is the lyrics to the alternate takes - the record company could have lazily reproduced the lyrics twice at the end of the booklet, but closer examination shows they haven't - the lyrics actually reflect the free-forming of the different expanded versions - a nice touch.
But the best bit is definitely the SOUND. The original analogue master tapes have been 96K/24 Bit digitally remastered by Tim Young at Metropolis Mastering in London for this 28 January 2008 release - and the sound is BEAUTIFULLY CLEAR and WARM - making you reassess every song and the superb musicianship on each. RY COODER lends his Slide Guitar to "Full Force Gale", MARK ISHAM his trumpet playing to almost every track, while ROBIN WILLIAMSON of THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND puts a penny whistle into "Troubadours" and "Rolling Hills" (for me one of the weakest tunes on here). KATIE KISSOON adds complimentary backing vocals to "Bright Side Of The Road" and the lovely "You Make Me Feel So Real". TONY MARCUS' violin is also heavily featured on almost every track. The remaster also brings out the rhythm section of PETER VAN HOOKE on Drums and DAVID HAYES on Bass.
His lovely cover of the Tommy Edwards 1950s hit "It's All In The Game" runs seamlessly into "You Know What I'm Writing About" and ends the album. Speaking of which, at 2:18 minutes into "It's All In The Game", Mark Isham's trumpet sails in like a soothing dollop of honey - and it's a truly beautiful flourish - puts a tear in my eye - sheer genius - and I realise again why I adored this album so much all those years ago! And the issue is mid-price too - I picked up my copy for £6 in Central London. This is my 4th purchase in this batch of re-issues and they've all been revelations.
All in all, a FANTASTIC REMASTER and one I urge fans and the uninitiated to get stuck into soonest.
Review by Scott Thomas:
Those who dared to question Morrison's continued vitality as a front-rank performer, writer, and recording artist had their comeuppance with Into the Music. A few bars of the joyous opening tune, "Bright Side of the Road," and the sins of A Period of Transition and Wavelength are all but forgiven. The quality of the songwriting, much improved, tells only part of the story. The album's sound is clear and punchy. His new backing band (finally!) is a worthy successor to the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. (This time out violinist Toni Marcus is the outstanding participant.) The real heart and soul of Into the Music, however, is Morrison's singing. Van has always deeply and fervently engaged himself in his material, but here, as suggested by the album's title, his performances are even more intense. Time and time again we hear him whooping in ecstatic approval when one of his sidemen plays a great lick, savoring the phonetic richness of words and phrases that catch his fancy, and soaking himself in pleasurable emotions and images. Into the Music serves notice to anyone who had forgotten during the creative drought of 1975-1978: Van Morrison is one of the greatest singers of his generation.
The tone of up-tempo celebration begun on "Bright Side of the Road" is continued on the second track. With its basic, sing--along melody and equally simple lyric ("Like a full force gale / I was lifted up again / By the Lord"), "Full Force Gale" sounds like it was copied from a Sunday School hymnal. In fact, it was authentic enough to spark rumors about Morrison's supposed conversion to Born Again Christianity, rumors reinforced by the simultaneous appearance of his friend Bob Dylan's first Born Again album (Slow Train Coming). Of course, attentive and long-standing listeners knew that spirituality was hardly a new element in Morrison's music. Furthermore, while Morrison does share with Fundamentalist Christians a sense of liberation in faith and spiritual healing, he has never embraced the fire and brimstone moralism that made Dylan's Christian music so offensive to many long-time fans. The outstanding musicians on "Full Force Gale" are Ry Cooder, who provides the slide solo, and the ever-luminescent Toni Marcus.
Though the basic vocals/horns/violin/piano configuration remains constant throughout Into the Music, the record is, in its own way, as stylistically diverse as Veedon Fleece. Note the tablas in "Steppin' Out Queen," the rolling snare and regal trumpet in "Troubadours," the Celtic fiddling in "Rolling Hills," and the straight soul of "You Make Me Feel So Free."
The album's last four songs, "Angeliou," "When the Healing Has Begun," and "It's All in the Game/You Know What They're Writing About" are a veritable tour de force with Morrison summoning every vocal trick at his disposal from "Angeliou"'s climactic shouts to the sexually-charged, half-mumbled monologue in "When the Healing Has Begun" to the barely audible whisper that is the album's final sound.