George Ivan goes solo
running_man | Chesterfield Twp., MI | 10/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This collection of Bang Records digitally remixed and remastered (a relatively unusual ADD disc... and no, that doesn't mean "attention deficit disordered") studio recordings from 1967 represents George Ivan Morrison's fledgling foray into a solo career. Morrison had his initial success with Ireland's Them in 1965 and 1966, scoring hits with 'Mystic Eyes' (number 33 on the national charts in December, 1965), and 'Baby Please Don't Go', which featured Jimmy Page playing a lead solo, and an even more famous 'b' side, 'Gloria', which the Shadows of Knight parlayed into a Top Ten hit. For Morrison and Bang Records, the more critical Them accomplishment was the Bert Berns penned hit 'Here Comes the Night' (#24 in June of 1965). Berns became a producer for Bang Records in the United States, and when Morrison broke with Them, Berns was able to pair him with a group of studio session men for a collection of hopeful singles.
The results of the sessions was an eclectic mix of standard 1960's pop (songs such as 'Spanish Rose' and 'Chick-A-Boom'), favored by Berns, and cutting edge rhythm and blues favored by an evolving Morrison (songs such as 'T.B. Sheets' and two songs that would grace his first major album, 'Astral Weeks', early versions of 'Beside You' and 'Madame George'). The most notable song emerging from the sessions was Morrison's all-time best selling single, 'Brown Eyed Girl'. This disc offers the uncensored (incorporating the lyric "making love in the green grass", which was too risque for 1967's airwaves) version of 'Brown Eyed Girl', and an altogether wonderful alternate take of the track, which runs a half-minute longer than the standard version, and has a noticably altered melody. It is the presence of this alternate take that propels 'Bang Masters' from a three star curiosity to a four star keeper.
While Morrison was still clearly searching for the style that would elevate him to legendary status in the late 1960's and early 1970's, the germination of that style is aurally present in the Bang recordings. While none of the songs on this collection approach the quality of 'Brown-Eyed Girl', there are plenty of tantalizing performances. My personal favorites include 'Ro Ro Rosey', 'The Smile You Smile' (a mono Morrison demo of this track is tacked on the end of the sessions), and the familiar 'Midnight Special', complete with Motown influenced back-up vocals. While the session musicians backing Morrison consistently demonstrate their skill, some of the between-track banter reveals philosophical discord between the singer and his supporting cast. The subject matter of songs such as 'T.B. Sheets', describing a strained sickbed visitation, apparently strained the sensibilities of some of the session pros. While Berns was fishing for singles, Morrison was casting for substance.
The Bang Masters have been repackaged and remarketed several times dating back to the 1967 Morrison LP 'Blowin' Your Mind', so there isn't much that is new here, and the songs are, for the most part, of mediocre quality. The appeal to the disc, therefore, lies in the appreciation of Morrison's unique vocal talent, and the historic transition of the artist's focus from Them to his solo career. While Morrison probably never envisioned these takes constituting an album, the collection gives a rare peak of an artist on the brink of stardom.
'Bang Masters' is well recorded, and the liner booklet contains copious notes on Morrison's early years, and the 1967 Bang sessions, by 'Musician' magazine writer Bill Flanagan. A brand spanking new copy of the CD can be had for just four dollars, so there's really no excuse for Van fans to be sans a copy."
Bang Masters Rocks with the Blues
Susan S.~ | The Mile High City | 01/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having followed Van Morrison for years, I have to say that "Bang Masters" is my favorite of his albums. There are just so many smoky blues songs on this album that bend your mind. I give this album the highest rating of all Van's records!"
This is the one to buy --
JNagarya | Boston, MA | 12/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ignore all other releases of his "Bang" material: this is all of it one needs, and excellently mastered.