This is the 3rd or even 4th re-issue on CD of "Wavelenght" (released originally on Warner Brothers Records in October 1978) and it's the best version to date.
(Can it really be 30 years since I played this record to death in a Dublin bedsit! Yikes!!)
Tracks 1 to 9 make up the original album with Tracks 10 and 11 being previously unreleased live versions of "Kingdom Hall" (the opener on Side 1 of the LP) and "Wavelenght" (the opener on Side 2 of the LP) recorded on the 26 November 1978 at the Roxy Theatre in L.A. Both tracks feature the same band as the album sessions with KATIE KISSOON adding backing vocals to a speeded up "Kingdom Hall". My heart always sinks when I see live tracks as bonus material on CDs - they're usually poorly recorded, not any better than the original and act as a cheap way of suckering fans into purchasing more of the same. But these live choices are not just apt; they're actually quite good - especially when the band let's rip on "Wavelenght". The recordings aren't exactly audiophile quality for sure, but they are as spirited as the audience's response.
The upgraded booklet contains all the lyrics, and the inner sleeve of the original album with all of its detailed session lists, but disappointingly there's no history of where the album fits in, no new liner notes, nor any photographs. Really could have done better here boys.
But the best bit is the SOUND. The original analogue master tapes have been 96K/24 Bit digitally remastered by Tim Young at Metropolis Mastering in London for this 28 January 2008 release - and the sound is warm, full and very, very LOUD! Every instrument seems to be leaping out of the speakers and the effect is to make you almost double take on every single track. Stuff appears on each track that you haven't heard before. Great! And this is not a misery-guts Van album either. From the jaunty opener "Kingdom Hall", the whole album is "up". Speaking of "Kingdom Hall", it features a wonderful Synth Solo from Garth Hudson of The Band and every one of the nine tracks features the keyboard work of PETER BARDENS from CAMEL. The punch out of the tender and lovely "Hungry For Your Love" is fantastic, the remaster bringing out the rhythm section of PETER VAN HOOKE on Drums and MICKEY FEAT on Bass - it's Steely Dan tight, but without ever swamping the loveliness of the song. And the issue is mid-price too - I picked up my copy for £6 in Central London.
All in all, a great sounding re-issue and one I urge fans and the uninitiated to get stuck into pronto.
Like "Wavelenght", 28 other Van Morrison albums are to be re-issued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into early 2009. Each will contain upgraded booklets, previously unreleased material and all will be at mid-price. They'll be released in 4 batches as follows (29 in total):
January 2008 (7 titles)
Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974),
Wavelenght (1978), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985),
Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)
June 2008 (8 titles)
Veedon Fleece (1974), Common One (1980), Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983), Live At The Grand Opera House, Belfast (1984), No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), Enlightenment (1990), A Night In San Francisco (2CD Live Set) (1994) and The Healing Game (1997)
September 2008 - delayed until February 2009 (7 titles)
Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), A Period Of Transition (1977), Beautiful Vision (1982), Poetic Champions Compose (1987), Hymns To The Silence (2CD Studio Set) (1991), How Long Has This Been Going On (Live At Ronnie Scott's) (1995), Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)
January 2009 - delayed until May/June 2009 (8 titles)
Hard Nose The Highway (1973), Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains) (1988),
Too Long In Exile (1993), Days Like This (1995), The Story Of Them (2CD Set) (1999), The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast (with Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber) (2000), Down The Road (2002) and What's Wrong With This Picture? (2003)
Those hoping to see desperately needed sonic upgrades of his 1st and 2nd album masterpieces on Warner Bothers "Astral Weeks" (1968) and "Moondance" (1970) or even "His Band & The Street Choir" (late 1970) will be disappointed to hear that they're NOT in this re-issue campaign. Apparently there is still some dispute between the record label and Van that remains unresolved. A damn shame! "Astral Weeks" and "Moondance" in particular have both been languishing around on crappy-sounding non-remastered CDs for over 20 years now and they're glaringly obvious omissions in this supposedly 'extensive' re-issue campaign. These universally recognized masterpieces deserve 2CD DELUXE EDITION treatment and soon. (Some tracks in remastered form are available across the 3 volumes of "Best Of"). Let's hope they sort their differences and soon!
(For those interested in this re-issue series, I've done separate reviews for almost all of Batch 1 and 2)