The Best Of Vol. 3
Van Morrison stopped having hits long before the release of the second volume of The Best of Van Morrison in 1993, so it's not practical to assume that its double-disc successor -- delivered a whopping 14 years later, compared to the three separating the first two volumes -- has songs that are familiar to a general audience. Nor should it be assumed that this is a collection of great songs that he's written in that decade-and-a-half, since this is chock-full of covers, including revivals of songs he recorded throughout his career. Furthermore, a full 14 songs -- the length of the first disc of this comp -- are credited as collaborations, and include some previously unreleased cuts that can be counted among a handful of rarities here. It's idiosyncratic, which perhaps could be expected from any comp assembled by the artist himself, but it's also accurate, and it helps makes sense of a rather odd stretch of album-making in a way that's necessary. Taken one at a time, Van's excursions into jazz, country, even skiffle seemed odd, but condensed into this 31-track set, it not only makes sense, it makes an argument that Van has been more true -- if not necessarily vital -- than many of his peers in his latter days. Instead of churning out songs that he's not inspired to write, he's relying on standards to find himself, and finding more inspiration in singing with others than flying solo. As individual records, some of these albums were bewildering, some were quite wonderful, but excerpted and sculpted into something resembling a testimonial, if not a narrative, it's easier to understand what Morrison was up to during a span where he never delivered one album as acclaimed or vital as Dylan or Young (or even McCartney or the Stones), but this goes a long way to proving that hardly means he stopped making good music. If anything, listening to his music in this fashion makes a strong argument for the value of this decade-and-a-half of recording better than any individual Van album from this time, so it's as worthy a listen for those fans who have followed him loyally over these 15 years as it is for those who bowed out around the time of the last The Best of Van Morrison.