Van Morrison, The Complete Bang Sessions

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Complete Bang Sessions

Van Morrison

Hearing a great musician at the peak of his powers trying very hard not to display a hint of those powers is an opportunity that doesn't come along very often, but the second disc of The Complete Bang Sessions deserves some kind of award for deliberate awfulness. Van Morrison had recorded the songs on the first disc, including the hit "Brown-Eyed Girl," for Bert Berns' label Bang in 1967; business relations between them quickly grew strained for the usual money- and creative control-related reasons. Morrison dispensed with his contractual obligations to Bang with these 31 songs — all written, if you can call it that, and recorded in the space of about an hour.

The initial screw-you throwaways quickly give way to specific attacks on Berns and Bang ("Blow in Your Nose" is a reference to Morrison's album Blowin' Your Mind, which Bang released without his approval; as for "Nose in Your Blow," well…), as well as total weirdness (someday, Dr. Demento will discover "Ring Worm" and "You Say France and I Whistle"). Morrison can't disguise his talent altogether — "Shake It Mable" is almost a good song — but the sheer spitefulness of the whole project is pretty remarkable. For extra fun, listen to his guitar go out of tune over the course of the album!