Search - Van Morrison :: Philosopher's Stone

Philosopher's Stone
Van Morrison
Philosopher's Stone
Genres: Blues, Folk, World Music, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Rock, Classic Rock
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #2

For an artist's most devout fans, a peek at the sketches can speak volumes about the final canvas, and that's the merit behind this two-CD compilation of shelf tracks and alternate takes from Van Morrison's 1971-1988 studi...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Van Morrison
Title: Philosopher's Stone
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Polydor / Umgd
Original Release Date: 6/16/1998
Release Date: 6/16/1998
Genres: Blues, Folk, World Music, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Rock, Classic Rock
Styles: Contemporary Blues, Contemporary Folk, Celtic, Adult Contemporary, Singer-Songwriters, Soft Rock, Contemporary R&B, Funk, Soul, Blues Rock, Folk Rock, Album-Oriented Rock (AOR)
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPCs: 731453178922, 731453178946

For an artist's most devout fans, a peek at the sketches can speak volumes about the final canvas, and that's the merit behind this two-CD compilation of shelf tracks and alternate takes from Van Morrison's 1971-1988 studio output. The Philosopher's Stone favors his core instincts as a blues-based writer and arranger, its 30 songs dominated by shuffles and slow-burning blues with excursions into more gospel-lined melodies and some ripe experiments in funk. Collectors will welcome pristine versions of "Crazy Jane on God," the churning "Naked in the Jungle," an ebullient "Madame Joy," and several pieces exploring extended falsetto vocals, including "Twilight Zone" and "Try for Sleep," the latter being one of four tracks featuring Mark Isham on trumpet. New versions of "Real Real Gone" and "Wonderful Remark," however, confirm the wisdom of the artist's original release choices. --Sam Sutherland

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CD Reviews

Undergraduates, Keep Studying - This Gem Is For True Fans
Waterhead II | Washington, DC United States | 11/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In this world of over-dubbed, over-marketed and generally puff ball artists with a talent span of 1.5 albums and little ability beyond their 25-year old flavor-of-the-month publicists, it is utterly refreshing when we are provided a window into a great artist. Philosopher's Stone is just that album. It includes songs from 1971 to 1988 and as such we have bookends; we hear young Van on top post-Moondance to a Van that was 12 months from Poetic Champions Compose, two of Van's strongest albums. What a period and what music to document unreleased material! The Philosopher's Stone is not a perfect album by any measure (with 30 songs there are several B efforts). Then why should someone invest $+ on these two CD's. If you are new to Van, go through the primer first - Moondance, Astral Weeks, Tupelo Honey, Into the Music and Veedon Fleece. However, if you are a graduate student, you will appreciate and savor this fine, fine album. As you do, consider this::1. Sound Quality: Whether you are listening to this CD on a Levinson/Thiel setup or a Sony Boombox, it will be clear that the effort was A+ on the remixing of these hidden gems. The cymbals on Wonderful Remark are waist high, the flute 6ft in the upper left hand corner of the soundstage - close your eyes and Van and the Band are in your living room taking requests.2. A+ Tunes: Any Van fan has his/her gems. You will discover no less than 10, yes 10, new gems. I can't tell you which ones as Van affects everybody differently but here go a few of mine and why. Not Supposed to Break Down is a winding road here with Van taking the lead and a piano following along, the song starts slow with Van heating it up at the end (this song alone is worth the $). Wonderful Remark is also stripped of the overproduced, formulistic original with flute and Van's voice intertwining throughout - the last 60 seconds are a ride (in my opinion, far superior to the original). Madame Joy IS a joyous ride with Van ramblin' in syncopated rhythm while drums keep pace. Drumshanbo Hustle is one of those unexpected spectacular gems. Documenting his disgust with the music industry circa 1972-73, the lyrics are a novel sung with real emotion. Naked in the Jungle rocks from the beginning with Van's signature "ya na na na" throughout. Hear a raw unpolished The Street Only Knew Your Name with a classic Van backed by a sax and Judy Clay singing back up. Follow that up with a graveled voiced Van barking out John Henry, grooving and grunting with the piano and his own harmonica belting it out. Showbusiness has Van recounting the life of churn and burn, drugs and unscrupulous agents.3. B Tunes: Contemplation Rose, while a little slow, has its moments with a great piano by Jeff Labes. Try For Sleep has Van pulling off two octaves above his normal range with a great horn circling in the background. This version of Real Real Gone confirms the original choice on Enlightenment and that alone is worth a listen. While not a big fan of his straight poetry, Song of Being a Child is interesting several times through and it works. High Spirits documents his involvement with the Chieftains and shows further insight into Van's evolution from the US folk/blues movement full circle back to his roots.In summary, any Van fan will find the things that he/she loves about the man in these two CDs. There are some less than stellar songs but even those are worthy as additional understanding of this accomplished artist. The real test of an effort: after 5 listens, you will find this glued to your CD player for months. Enough said."
As 'bootleg' collections go, the music is really solid
M. McM | Los Angeles, CA | 02/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Van Morrison, one of rock's finest songwriters and arguably it's finest singer, crafted a number of strong albums, and that's where most should start. However, once you get through ASTRAL WEEKS, MOONDANCE, and the rest, if you still want more, PHILOSOPHER'S STONE is an excellent set to get. The packaging is a bit lacking (incorrect dates and lyric transcriptions, and even though Van wrote track-by-track notes, he decided not to include them), but as far as content goes, this is an excellent selection of unreleased studio material. Unfortunately, it doesn't include any content like demos or outtakes before the 1970's (hopefully there will be a Volume Two that includes them), but what's here is surprisingly consistent. Even the weaker material like "Twilight Zone" is enjoyable for Van's singing.

Few artists merit collections like these, because in order for them to work, one has to be prolific and, more importantly, shelve 'rejects' that hold up to their best work; this set fulfills both requirements. A strong, early version of "Wonderful Remark" arguably trumps the released version. "Madame Joy" and "Contemplation Rose" are beautiful tracks that could've salvaged HARD NOSE THE HIGHWAY (one of his weakest albums); so could've "Drumshanbo Hustle," an angry, vitriolic song against the music industry that miraculously transcends its bitterness. Then there's "Naked Jungle," possibly his greatest stab at funk, and excellent compositions like "The Street Only Knew Your Name" and "I Have Finally Come To Realize" that disprove the notion that he had trouble coming up with new material in the mid-70's (trouble releasing it, but not writing and recording it). Even better is "Crazy Jane On God," which was meant for release but had to be temporarily shelved for legal reasons (based on a Yeats poem, he didn't get permission to use it); in less capable hands, it could've been a pretentious disaster, but it's surprisingly accessible and works very well here.

It's an expensive set at $30, and for that reason, I'd recommend this only if you've already explored his best work: the early classics with Them, ASTRAL WEEKS, MOONDANCE, ST. DOMINIC'S PREVIEW, VEEDON FLEECE, IT'S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW, and INTO THE MUSIC, for starters. If your appetite is still strong by that point, than PHILOSOPHER'S STONE will definitely come in handy."
The Street That Knew My Name
Terry Goldman | Kents Store, VA USA | 07/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Somehow I had either forgotten and/or misplaced my Phil Stone CD
and played it this past week. The years have gone by so quickly and Van's catalog has always been the headphones came out and I was again transformed... to another place and time and then back again to today.

I have read all 35+ reviews and agree with most all in some way or another but I do feel that PS is a masterpiece in so very many ways. Van shouts, growls...has the eternal "Fire in his belly" and brings us a sense of the blues and funk and gospel. As has come to be expected, VM had the presence of mind to use musicians of such stellar quality....especially the brilliant piano work of Jef Labes to forge this expensive gem.

As was noted by another reviewer, it is worth it alone for the superb, as yet unmatched, soulful version of "The Street...."

Damn!!!, what a sound, what charts, what a sax, a "Joyous Sound"
that no one save for Ray Charles has ever exhibited on vinyl.

I just love this mans' music."