Acoustic Sounds

Van Morrison

His Band And the Street Choir



Label: Rhino High Fidelity

Produced By: Van Morrison (Patrick Milligan: Reissue Project Supervision)

Engineered By: Elliot Scheiner

Mixed By: Elliot Scheiner

Lacquers Cut By: Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio

By: Michael Fremer

August 21st, 2023





Rhino High Fidelity Reissues The Still Essential Van Morrison's "His Band And The Street Choir"

sounds better than ever and the original RL Sterling cut was outstanding

Van Morrison grew up listening to American blues and soul music courtesy of his father, a Belfast shipyard worker with excellent musical taste. No surprise that he moved to America and probably not because The Shadows of Knight's version of "Gloria" became a bigger hit in the USA than did his own version with "Them" released by U.K. Decca in 1964 as the "B" side of "Baby Please Don't Go".

In 1965 with the American group's cover climbing the charts, Decca's American affiliate issued Them's "Gloria" on its Parrot label but by then it was too late. Van had already worked with Bert Berns while signed to Decca, recording Berns' brilliant mad jilted love jealousy "Here Comes the Night" with Van singing about seeing his ex walking down the street with another guy. If you want to hear that song in all its sonic stereo glory find a copy of The World of Them (Decca SPA 86). Even though most of it is electronically reprocessed stereo, it's worth buying just for that song and the real stereo "Gloria". Van also covers Paul Simon's "Richard Cory and Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue".

The World of ThemVan signs to Berns' Bang Records and moves to America where he records a bunch of tunes at Phil Ramone's A&R studio with Brooks Arthur engineering, and top musicians backing him (Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken and Russ Savakus) including "Brown Skin Girl" later renamed (accidentally Van claimed), which became a big hit for Van on the album Blowin' Your Mind!.

Blowin' Your Mind!It was not the album Van wanted to release. In fact, he didn't even know it had been released until a friend told him. Thus began his fight with Berns, who shortly thereafter passed away. Morrison still owed records on the Bang contract that Berns's widow insisted he fulfill so he recorded a few unreleasable albums of ridiculous nonsense songs with titles like "Blow in Your nose" and of course "Nose in Your Blow", both of which should be taken literally given those powdery times. These were eventually released on The Complete Bang Sessions for reasons known only to those responsible. The Italian Get Back label issued a 3 LP vinyl version.

The Complete New York Sessions '67What's most interesting here is an early version of "Madame George" that later appears on Van's epoch, mysterious, singular 1968 release Astral Weeks—a monumental commercial failure—which if you were alive and buying back then, was the Van album that would have appropriately been named Blowin' Your Mind. Musicians include guitarist Jay Berliner (played on Mingus's Black Saint and The Sinner Lady), MJQ's drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. Those who immediately loved it were way ahead of the game (yes patting myself on the back). Originally considered a "cult" album and probably to some degree still is! Tom Biery produced a very fine AAA version released in 2009 cut by Kevin Gray at AcousTech Mastering from the master tapes.

Astral Weeks 7-Arts PressingWarner Brothers was smart (then label general manager Joe Smith, that is, who saw Van perform at a Boston area nightclub and subsequently bought out the Bang contract), you could say prescient signing the volatile Van, who, after moving to the Woodstock area (supposedly to be close to where Dylan was living and hopefully meet and become friends, which according to his ex Janet Planet [now Janet Morrison-Minto], he never did) followed up in January of 1970 with Moondance. Morrison did meet in the Woodstock area the musicians who played on Moondance also recorded at A&R Studios and it sounds like it (that good). Two horns and a rhythm section and no charts! It was "fantabulous" r&b Irish soul music with a heavy beat and unlike Astral Weeks the public really dug it, though some rockers winced at the jazzed up feel. The album was earthy and mystical and had something for everyone. It was the hit Morrison needed and it also established him as a powerful and flexible vocalist capable of singing well beyond rock's limited bounds.

A deluxe edition released in 2013 offered a Blu-ray high resolution version and CDs filled with outtakes and alternative versions. It was a big hit with critics and the public but Van disowned it.

Finally We Get to His Band And The Street Choir

His Band And The Street ChoirReleased the same year as Moondance, and equally well received by fans and critics, the difficult to please Van Morrison was not happy with the album, in part because the label changed the name from Virgo's Fool without his consent. The horn driven "Domino" became his biggest hit, more successful than even "Brown Eyed Girl". The album's photos show a relaxed, almost hippie-ed out Morrison uncharacteristically smiling, happy and as part of a collective with families and babies in the inner sleeve photos.

The songs have a settled in quality with far less of the searching, mystical themes previously found in Van's lyrics, though some of the songs here are reworkings of material written for his previous two albums. Song's like "I've Been Workin'", in which Van sings about time in the studio and then driving back home upstate on the Thruway to be with his Janet, almost seem mundane and trite, were it not for the heat applied by the arrangement, the musicians and of course by Van's vocals.

He sings repeatedly and obviously to Janet, but not long after this album's release in 1971 the couple left upstate New York for Marin county but soon thereafter divorced. She's quoted in that story, "'By then, our life together was very traumatic and horrible,' Janet said. ``I couldn't stand any more of his rage as my daily reality. I worried about its impact on the children.'"

Regardless, there's plenty of sweetness here, on songs like "Gypsy Queen", "Sweet Jannie" and others and it's ok to not have an album delving "into the mystic" to be satisfying. The playing and singing and the sound are sufficieintly entertaining and even if Van was feeling things were not all that great, he was doing a great job covering it up!

While Elliot Scheiner gets engineering credit and credit as "production coordinator", in an interview with Cory Frye for this release, he says he was surprised to not get co-producer credit. "What happened is we did all the tracks," he recalls. "Everything was fine". "As far as the control room and Van, it was all great, I thought....we never got into an argument, ever."

Drummer David Shaw (known by various names) received an assistant producer credit on the album. Scheiner says in the interview "I never knew what that was about." However, in his 2002 Morrison biography "Can You Feel the Silence?: Van Morrison—a New Biography", author Clinton Heylin claims that Scheiner and Morrison had a disagreement and that Scheiner was not the engineer on six of the album's tracks. Shaw is quoted in the book as saying "I didn't consider myself co-producer." Very strange. Interesting but not critical. Van gives special thanks to assistant engineer Ed Anderson, who I used to know back in Los Angeles. If I could find him I'd love to get his take on all of this.

That original Radio Station Service copy mastered by Bob Ludwig at Sterling Sound has been my "go to" copy since it was released. It sounds great! Why shouldn't it? A&R studios, Elliot Scheiner (however many tracks he recorded or didn't record). For more details read the MoFi MasterPhono review because I used this record as a sound definer for that excellent product. The AcousTech cut Kevin Gray did for the Tom Biery produced Warner Brothers reissue was good, but sounds soft and somewhat dark, as much of what came out of that facility sounded.

This latest mastering at Cohearent sounds better in most ways than the original, particularly on bottom where the original was also somewhat anemic. Kevin's current mastering system has transparency, bass authority, three-dimensionality and every desired quality a mastering system can possibly have and that translates into an equally great record when properly plated and pressed especially in limited quantities as this one is (5000 in total). It's the definitive version of the album, with deluxe laminated gatefold packaging, the liner notes and OBI and all the extra Rhino has chosen to provide for your $39.98. It's for sale here (they sure don't make it easy to find on the Rhino website!).

One more thing: I've gotten more than few emails complaining about Rhino's weak packaging that's caused bent corners and other issues, which is a real shame considering how much work went into these reissues. Worse, I've gotten complaints about less than responsive customer service. Look, if you're going into the record selling business you need to have the appropriate infrastructure to keep the customers satisfied. Otherwise, what's the point of all of the hard work that went into producing these consistently outstanding reissues? End of sermon. A highly recommended reissue.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: RHF 1884/081227827063


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: original master tapes

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-08-21 05:11:55 PM

    bwb wrote:

    it is surprising that after the recent debacle with shipping the Cars and Coltrane they haven't improved. My Van and Jaco arrived fine but they were in a flimsy, slightly oversized box with no edge protection and just some wadded up brown paper to partially fill the empty space. Like a rookie eBay seller cleaning out his grandpa's attic ..sad.

    • 2023-08-21 08:05:38 PM

      Ronan O’Gorman wrote:

      I have had a very poor on-line experience with Rhino re these Hi Fi releases. Unanswered emails, and formatted responses without addressing the issues. it is a shame as the products (John Coltrane/Cars) have been excellent. Additionally the packaging is very below acceptable standards. Thanks for the insightful review.

    • 2023-08-21 11:21:39 PM

      WesHeadley wrote:

      Exact same experience, except my copy of The Cars was not so lucky. Emails to Rhino went unanswered. As it stands, there are better than even odds this has not changed on Rhino's end. So stupid. What a waste.

    • 2023-08-22 01:31:30 PM

      MikeT wrote:

      My copies of Van and Jaco came in a much better box than the Cars and Coltrane. The new releases were well packed in a box that did protect the edges. I was satisfied.

  • 2023-08-22 08:13:40 AM

    PeterG wrote:

    Thanks for the great review, just ordered it! While it would be fun for me to pile wrt shipping, I feel compelled to focus on a larger issue. Between Van, Stop Making Sense (rumored to sound good, also on order), and The Cars (amazing!), Rhino is on quite the rock audiophile roll, all at reasonable prices. And the winner, for "Best Label of the Year" is...

  • 2023-08-22 02:06:23 PM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    Listening to prime-era Morrison in comparison to his recent work brings the old Shelley poem Ozymandias to mind: Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

    • 2023-08-22 04:41:54 PM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      Lol.. I still love Van's later works, but yeah.. Some of it is wooooo hard to take.

  • 2023-08-26 01:01:34 AM

    Kevin Jones wrote:

    Rhino store packaging… oh boy.

  • 2023-08-30 05:10:23 PM

    John Roberts wrote:

    My copy arrived today and after reading what Mike T wrote I was hoping for better packaging than my Cars album arrived in. No such luck-plain cardboard box, no padding or inner support. Just a substantial dent in the lower left corner. I can't understand why Rhino goes to the trouble and expense on the pressing and jacket reproduction and then settles on shoddy packaging. BTW they did do an amazing job the cover photo. I'll give them credit for that.

  • 2023-10-06 03:20:58 PM

    Kevin Jones wrote:

    Rhino flimsy shipping box confirmed. Not even a cardboard inner sheet. Not that it would matter. Dented corners . They just don’t care which is a shame.