Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- With Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last, this is an outstanding copy of Van's shockingly underrated album from 1970
- The band is swinging, the material top-notch - "Domino," "Crazy Face," "Blue Money" and other classics are right here
- The Best Sounding Van Morrison Album, a classic of 1970 Tubey Magical analog, and his only title to make our Top 100
- "As 'Domino' opens the album with a show of strength, 'Street Choir' closes it with a burst of both musical and poetic energy which is not only better than anything else on the album but may well be one of Van's two or three finest songs." Rolling Stone
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This is the album that came out between Moondance (in the same year in fact, 1970) and Tupelo Honey, but for some reason, it don't get no respect. We think that's insane -- the material on this album is stellar and the sound on the best pressings is out of this world!
Here's a copy that really makes our case for us. Both sides of this original Warner Bros. pressing sound AMAZING! We went through a massive stack of copies and let me tell you -- most of them sure don't sound like this! Take this one home for some of the best Van Morrison sound you will ever hear.
For years I thought that Moondance was the best sounding album in the Van Morrison catalog. His Band And Street Choir is even better. One reason for that would have to be that Robert Ludwig mastered it, and he can usually be counted on to do an excellent job.
Tubey Magic Is Key
This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of His Band And Street Choir Have To Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Back in the day, I was not at all familiar with the album. I knew a couple of the big songs from it: "Domino" and "Blue Money," and that was about it. But this is prime Van Morrison; 1970 was a very good year for him.
As I played through the album I was surprised to discover that every track is good; there is simply no filler here. The tracks on each side flow seamlessly from one to the next. The result is an exceptionally involving listening experience.
What We're Listening For His Band And Street Choir
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Warner Bros. Green Label Magic
We've made a habit of scooping up all the Green and Gold Label Warner Brothers records we come across, albums by the likes of James Taylor, Van Morrison, America, Little Feat, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Paul and Mary, The Association, The Faces, The Grateful Dead and more.
When you get good pressings of these albums they just can't be beat. They sound so right in so many ways that you find yourself ignoring the sound and just getting lost in the music.
This is one of those albums. Drop the needle on any track for a taste of real '60s and '70s Tubey Magical analog and some lovely blue-eyed soul.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
- Crazy Face
- Give Me a Kiss
- I've Been Working
- Call Me up in Dreamland
- I'll Be Your Lover, Too
- Blue Money
- Virgo Clowns
- Gypsy Queen
- Sweet Jannie
- If I Ever Needed Someone
- Street Choir
By Jon Landau
February 4, 1971
If Moondance had a flaw it was in its perfection. Sometimes things fell into place so perfectly I wished there was more room to breathe. Every song was a polished gem, and yet too much brilliance at the same time and in the same place can be blinding. The album would have benefited by some changes in mood and pace along the way. One or two light and playful cuts would have done the job.
On His Band and the Street Choir he seems to have realized that and has tried for a freer, more relaxed sound. Knowing he could not come up with another ten songs as perfectly honed as those on Moondance, he has chosen to show another side of what goes on around his house.
"Give Me A Kiss," "Blue Money," "Sweet Jannie" and "Call Me Up In Dreamland" are all examples of Van's new, rollicking, good-timey style.
As if to balance this assortment of light material, there is a group of down tunes all identified by the prominent use of acoustic lead guitar: "Crazy Face," "I'll Be Your Lover Too" and "Virgo Clowns." The former is about a man who pulls out a gun and announces, "I got it from Jesse James." The other two are simple love songs, the latter urging the girl to "Let your love come fill the room."
On the rocking material the arrangements involving the whole band are kept to a simple minimum, with most of the creative sounds coming from the high pitched horn section. On the ballads, the rhythm section is kept loose with the lead acoustic predominating, and the horns, again, adding a distinctive and unexpected touch. Van's singing is as smooth and powerful as it's ever been.
The creative core of the album lies in four songs. "Gypsy Queen" is a sort of tribute to the Impressions that doesn't really sound like the Impressions. It merely gives Van an excuse to use his falsetto, which he does brilliantly. "I've Been Working" is one of two songs on the album that makes direct use of Van's roots in modern soul music. The born riff could have found its way to a James Brown session without any problems. The chorus in which the horns and Van's voice come together to say "Woman, woman, woman, you make me feel alright" is breathtaking. And the rhythms especially bass, drums, and guitar are an awful lot funkier than one would have expected.
As "Domino" opens the album with a show of strength, "Street Choir" closes it with a burst of both musical and poetic energy which is not only better than anything else on the album but may well be one of Van's two or three finest songs. Here, the keyboard holds the arrangement together, while the Street Choir enhances the chorus as they do only as well on "Call Me Up In Dreamland."
His Band and the Street Choir is a free album. It was recorded with minimal over-dubbing and was obviously intended to show the other side of Moondance.
In his own mysterious way. Van Morrison continues to shake his head, strum his guitar and to sing his songs. He knows it's too late to stop now and he quit trying to a long, long time ago. Meanwhile, the song he is singing keeps getting better and better.
Van Morrison: Rock on.