The Philosopher's Stone cover

The Philosopher's Stone
(originally announced track lists etc)
(bootleg CD)

Originally due for official release on July 16, 1996. Eventually released in North America on June 16, 1998. See the notes below for a brief chronology of the rumors etc which surfaced during those two years.

The track list shown below is what was reportedly planned for the initial (1996) version of the release. As noted below, there were a few changes on the actual release.

Disc 1:

  1. Really Don't Know (Recorded in 1971. "A really stunning piece of music, very powerful Van" says one source.)
  2. Ordinary People (also from 1971. "A great blues song")
  3. Wonderful Remark (Recorded in San Anselmo , CA in 1973. The original version of the song that Morrison later contributed to the King of Comedy soundtrack. "Very pretty and ethereal, with Ronnie Montrose on guitar and background vocals. My favorite track on the set." 8 minutes long.)
  4. Not Supposed to Break Down (first of 8 consecutive songs recorded at Caledonia Studios in Fairfax, California in 1973)
  5. Laughing in the Wind (featuring Jackie DeShannon on background vocals. A very catchy, strong song, with lots of horns, vintage early 70s Morrison)
  6. Madame Joy (Which our source calls "really spectacular.")
  7. Contemplation Rose ("A beautiful song with allusions to Harlem.")
  8. Don't Worry About Tomorrow
  9. Try For Sleep (cowritten with John Platonia. A very slow tempo song, sung by VM in falsetto. The mood is set by the song's first words. "It's four o'clock in the morning...")
  10. Lover's Prayer ("Very beautiful, in the tradition of Van's love songs.")
  11. Drumshanbo Hustle (a fascinating, entertaining VM songs about the music business and record companies - which he generally disdains)
  12. Twilight Zone (recorded in Holland in 1974 and mixed at the Record Plant in Sausalito, CA, the same year. A very slow, bluesy, late-night song that would fit right in on Veedon Fleece; in fact, he performed it on that tour in 1975. A legendary song among Morrison collectors. 8 minutes long.)
  13. Foggy Mountain Top (Same recording info as "Twilight Zone". A slow, piano-driven blues number, with a soulful harmonica break)
  14. Naked in the Jungle (Recorded at the Record Plant in 1975. A very energetic, keyboard driven tune with some effective scat singing by VM. "Naked in the jungle / Naked to the world / Gotta keep it humble / Else I'll come unfurled")
  15. There There Child (co-written with John Platania; recorded at Caledonia Studios in 1976)

Disc 2:

  1. When I Deliver (6:13) (first of four recorded at the Record Plant in 1975)
  2. John Henry (the traditional folk song; recorded 1977)
  3. John Brown's Body (traditional; recorded 1979)
  4. I Have Finally Come to Realize (4:55) (from 1975)
  5. Flamingoes Fly (new spelling. A different version than what appeared on Period of Transition. Recorded in Holland in 1974, with Pete Wingfield on piano; mixed at the Record Plant the same year.)
  6. Stepping Out Queen Part II (a sequel of some kind to the track which appeared on Into the Music in 1979. Recorded at the Record Plant that year)
  7. Bright Side of the Road (different version, 1979)
  8. I'm Ready (1979)
  9. Street Theory (4:42) (Recorded in France in 1980. A rapidly paced, piano driven song that's sort of a cross between "Turn On Your Lovelight" and "Come Running". First of four straight with Mark Isham guesting)
  10. Real Real Gone (The original version recorded and mixed in 1980; VM re-recorded it 10 years later for Enlightenment. This version was once aired by a San Francisco radio station. Pee Wee Ellis, also involved with VM's current jazz efforts, guests on sax.)
  11. Showbusiness (Recorded in London in 1982. Much like "Drumshanbo Hustle" this features VM giving his unique spin on show biz for 9 minutes.)
  12. For Mr. Thomas (Recorded 1983. Written by Robin Williamson, formerly of the Incredible String Band and a VM sidekick who played drums on albums such as St. Dominic's Preview)
  13. Crazy Jane on God (Written by William Matthieu, recorded in 1984 in England and California. Another sought after collector's item, described by our source as "a very pretty song". Additional vocals by the defunct Irish band Moving Hearts)
  14. Song of Being a Child (3:57) (Written by VM (music) and Peter Hudke (lyrics). Recorded in 1987 in Bath, England)
  15. High Spirits (4:09) (Cowritten with Paddy Moloney, recorded in 1988 in Northern Ireland. Performed with the Chieftains)


Notes:
This on-the-verge-of-being-released product has had a troubled history. What follows are some of the highlights of the story, in reverse chronological order.

See the Glossary entry for philosopher's stone.

  • The June 11th 1998 issue (#788) of Rolling Stone has a review of The Philosopher's Stone (it gets three and a half stars). It can be read here, on the Rolling Stone web site (along with audio samples from "Wonderful Remark", "Lover's Prayer", "The Street Only Knew Your Name" and "Real Real Gone")

  • May 11/98:A review in the San Francisco Chronicle adds to rumors that The Philosopher's Stone will be released May 12 in the States. The image at right shows an ad from Pulse (sent on by Art Siegel) - note that the cover art shown is what was originally intended for The Philosopher's Stone. It has since been superceded by an image showing some kind of Stonehenge-like giant ruins.

  • April 17/98:Simon Gee confirms that The Philosopher's Stone has been put back by one month in the UK & US to mid-June due to changes to the sleeve design.

  • March 26/98: Simon Gee's Wavelength news page notes that The Philosophers' Stone is now slated for release on May 11th in the UK & Europe, and May 12th in North America. This time around the report is that three tracks (of those listed above) have been removed, and three new ones added. "When I Deliver", "John Brown's Body" and "I'm Ready" have been replaced on Disc 2 by "And The Street Only Knew Your Name", "Out On The Western Plains" and "Joyous Sound".

  • March 12/98: Art Seigel notes that the Polydor website reports that Philosopher's Stone will finally be released this summer. This time around it is still listed as 30 songs, but apparently some of them may be different than those previously slated (above) for release. Dates of May 12th, May 19th, and June 8, 1998 have been rumored...

  • Somewhat after the previous report, another variant - a CD-R production named The Philosophers Stone - was sighted.

  • Update from Carlo in Berkeley, quoting from the 20 December 1997 issue of ICE:
    You had to see this one coming: The now indefinitely delayed collection of previously unreleased Van Morrison material, The Philosopher's Stone is set to bow on bootleg. The Stoned Philosopher presents the 1971-1988 studio outtakes that were slated for the official issue. Word has it the boot was mastered from official PolyGram advance cassettes that some higher-ups received when the set was first scheduled for release.

  • Earlier information here sent in by WYLY@COFO.EDU & markmc@CISCO.COM:
    The details are from the June 1996 issue of the ICE newsletter (Web site at http://www.icemagazine.com/ice), which had a full two-page spread on article on the contents of The Philosopher's Stone, due out sometime in 1997. The text of the article follows:

    Double Disc Van Morrison Rarities Package Slated for July

    The bad news is, we're not getting a Van Morrison box set yet. The good news is, Morrison has chosen to first give the public two full CDs' worth of unreleased material from the prime of his career, covering the years 1971 to 1988. Presently scheduled for release on Polydor on July 16, The Philosopher's Stone contains 26 songs never before released by Morrison - most of them original compositions - plus four alternate versions of other songs, for a total of 30 previously unreleased performances. Many of them are collector's favorites that will finally see official release, such as "Twilight Zone," "Crazy Jane On God," "Naked In the Jungle" and "Madame Joy".

    "I wouldn't call them outtakes, because that suggests that these tracks are somehow...secondary," one involved source tells ICE. "They're not, these are just really good songs that weren't released at the time." Unlike the Beatles ongoing Anthology series, which ties most of its unreleased tracks to certain albums, the Morrison set contains material that was often recorded between his popular albums, such as Moondance, Wavelength, and A Sense of Wonder. Not unlike Neil Young, Morrison was very prolific in the 70s, sometimes abandoning album projects midway through when he wanted a change of direction.

    Further good news for Van Morrison fans is found on the back of The Philosopher's Stone, where a subtitle states: The Unreleased Tapes Volume One. This would indicate that Morrison is following the lead of Bob Dylan, who began releasing vault material to his fans via his Bootleg Series box set, with signs of more to come. VM collectors are certainly aware that more good material exists, in the form of bootlegged tunes such as "I Shall Sing" "Feedback on Hwy 101" "And the Streets only Knew her name" "Don't Change On Me" and "Grits Ain't Groceries".

    Marketing unreleased material this way contrasts with conventional wisdom, which usually has artists mixing up rarities and big hits in one box. But Van Morrison has been at odds with record execs for years over what form his box set should take, and this package would seem to be the start of a solution. "Basically, they went in to do the box and found out he had so much unreleased material, that instead of trying to figure out how to work all of the unreleased material into the box, they're going to lead with this package," a well-informed source tells ICE. "Then, perhaps later, there'll be a box set."

    The double CD The Philosopher's Stone will have a 24-28 page booklet with track by track annotation, but probably no essay among the liner notes.

    The ever prolific Van Morrison, having just completed a series of small club dates promoting his jazz album How Long Has This Been Going On, is said to be working on a straight ahead pop/rock album as his next conventional release, possibly later this year. Label sources tell ICE that VM then intends to return to the jazz arena in 97 with a tribute album to one of his favourite composers, Mose Allison.

    Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website

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