Pay the Devil (Remastered) Van Morrison
Label: Legacy Recordings
Subgenre: Contemporary Country
Artist: Van Morrison
Album including Album cover
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- 1There Stands the Glass02:17
- 2Half as Much02:36
- 3Things Have Gone to Pieces03:11
- 4Big Blue Diamonds02:56
- 6Your Cheatin' Heart02:32
- 7My Bucket's Got a Hole In It02:22
- 8Back Street Affair02:49
- 9Pay the Devil03:03
- 10What Am I Living For?03:57
- 11This Has Got to Stop04:44
- 12Once a Day02:52
- 13More and More02:46
- 14Till I Gain Control Again05:59
Info for Pay the Devil (Remastered)
15-track album from the Belfast Cowboy in which he has drawn upon the greats of Rhythm & Blues to create his own distinctive & influential blend of soul & Celtic influences, recording a compelling mix of his favorite country compositions as well as a few equally strong originals that more than earn their place among such distinguished company.
"Pay the Devil, an album-long foray into country music, shouldn't come as a surprise to Van Morrison fans. It's a logical extension of his love affair with American music. Certainly blues, R&B, soul, and jazz have been at the forefront, but one can go all the way back to the Bang years and find "Joe Harper Saturday Morning," or songs on Tupelo Honey that touch country. More recently, You Win Again, with Linda Gail Lewis, offered two Hank Williams tunes and "Crazy Arms." The Skiffle Sessions with Lonnie Donegan offered traditional Southern tunes including Jimmie Rodgers' "Mule Skinner Blues." Morrison's lyrics have also referenced country music blatantly. Pay the Devil comes from direct sources of inspiration: his father's skiffle band and Ray Charles' historic forays into country on the two volumes of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music in 1962. The evidence lies in three cuts on this disc, all of which Charles recorded: Curley Williams' "Half as Much," Art Harris and Fred Jay's "What Am I Livin' For," and Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart." Morrison's a cagey one: his own mercurial versions of these nuggets are more traditional than those of Charles, yet are steeped in similar production styles that offer a clear nod to the late artist. While there are no horns on Pay the Devil, the layers of strings on top of "fiddles" and honky tonk pianos -- as well as earlier pedal steel styles -- are giveaways. And then there is the voice. Like Charles, Morrison is a soul singer no matter what he sings and he digs into these tomes with fire and the uncommon sweetness of tone and limited timbre that Charles did. But Morrison re-creates these tunes in his own image too.
Recorded in Belfast with his own band, Pay the Devil flows seamlessly from start to finish over 15 cuts. It opens with a killer read of "There Stands the Glass," which is brave considering it's synonymous with Webb Pierce (one of two here -- the other is "More and More"). It's drenched in pedal steel, electric guitar, and a pair of basses. The fiddle floats just above the upright piano and a swell of strings in the bridge. It drips with a swaggering loneliness and gets the full weepy treatment with Geraint Watkins' piano solo. "Things Have Gone to Pieces," written by Leon Payne, is full of wasted self-pity and honky tonk desolation. Once more it's a daring move given how closely associated the song is with George Jones. In the grain of his lionhearted voice, Morrison tears it back to its essence as a country-blues song. Morrison outdoes himself on Clarence Williams' "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," turning it into a rockabilly shuffle. Billy Wallace's "Back Street Affair" is full of barroom soul. Bill Anderson's "Once a Day" is given the full '60s countrypolitain treatment here, with strings and a full backing chorus that could almost be the Anita Kerr Singers. "What Am I Living For" is a tune closely associated with Conway Twitty in his prime. Morrison's version touches on the original but brings it home to Belfast.
In addition to the classics, there are three originals here as well. There's the rollicking hillbilly blues of "Playhouse" that growl like the young Conway Twitty and Johnny Horton did. Then comes the misleading title track. Unable to let his discontent stay out of his records, Morrison once again assails those who would pigeonhole his music, to the tune of a laid-back, shuffling country stroll. "This Has Got to Stop" is the finest of the three. It's proof that Morrison can write a solid, traditional honky tonk song worthy of a Jones, or a Don Gibson. His vocal digs into the lyrics and sets it in the blanket of the deceptively loose barroom-styled accompaniment. The set closes with a deeply emotional read of Rodney Crowell's "Till I Gain Control Again." Paul Godden's lonesome dobro is the engine that guides it emotionally. Bob Loveday's violins add painterly touches to the Watkins piano in the foreground and the guitars fill the rest. Godden's pedal steel pleads the country tradition, but Morrison's singing is so full of sadness, ache, and regret that it actually closes the gap between it and soul music as the record whispers to a shimmering, whispering close. Pay the Devil is at the crossroads of country, blues, and soul. In his voice is the authority to bring them together. No matter how restless and inconsistent he can be because of his obsession with perfection, Morrison is capable of being inspired enough to let his muse guide him toward something approaching greatness. Pay the Devil is proof." (Thom Jurek, AMG)
One of music’s true originals Van Morrison’s unique and inspirational musical legacy is rooted in postwar Belfast.
Born in 1945 Van heard his Shipyard worker father’s collection of blues, country and gospel early in life.
Feeding off musical greats such as Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson and Leadbelly he was a travelling musician at 13 and singing, playing guitar and sax, in several bands, before forming Them in 1964.
Making their name at Belfast’s Maritime Club Them soon established Van as a major force in the British R&B scene. Morrison’s matchless vocal and songwriting talents produced instant classics such as the much covered ‘Gloria’ and ‘Here Comes The Night’.
Those talents found full astonishing range in Van’s solo career.
After working with Them’s New York producer Bert Berns on beautiful Top 40 pop hit ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ (1967), Morrison moved to another realm.
Recorded over 3 days with legendary jazz musicians Astral Weeks (1968) is a still singular album combining street poetry, jazz improvisation, Celtic invocation and Afro Celtic Blues wailing.
Morrison would weave these and myriad other influences into the albums that followed in quick succession.
Reflecting on new life in America on the joyous Sinatra soul of Moondance (1970) and the country inflected Tupelo Honey (1971) he summoned old spiritual and ancestral life in the epic St Dominic’s Preview (1972) closer track Listen To The Lion.
Double live album Too Late To Stop Now (1973) highlighted Morrison’s superlative performing and bandleader skills. Mapping out a richly varied musical course throughout the 70s he shone among an all-star cast including Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters on The Band’s Last Waltz.
Indeed, borne of his Irish Showband instincts, the magic of the live performance has been a consistent feature of Morrison’s career.
Settling back into life in the UK in 1980 he released Common One an album centring on Summertime In England an extraordinary invocation of literary, sensual and spiritual pleasure the song would often become a thrilling improvised centrepiece to his live shows.
Steering his own course throughout the 80s on albums such as No Guru, No Method, No Teacher he claimed Celtic roots with The Chieftains on Irish Heartbeat. Teaming with Georgie Fame brought new impetus to his live show while Avalon Sunset saw him back in the album and single charts by the decades end.
Van Morrison continued to advance on his status as a game- changing artist through the 90s and into the 21st century.
Awards and accolades - a Brit, an OBE, an Ivor Novello, 6 Grammys, honourary doctorates from Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster, entry into The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and the French Ordres Des Artes Et Des Lettres - attested to the international reach of Van’s musical art.
Yet there was never any suggestion that Morrison, one of the most prolific recording artists and hardest working live performers of his era, would ever rest on his laurels.
Collaborations with, among others, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, Lonnie Donegan, Mose Allison and Tom Jones confirmed the breadth of his musical reach.
Morrison’s visionary songwriting and mastery of many genres continued to shine on albums celebrating and re-exploring his blues, jazz, skiffle and country roots.
The influence of the musical journey that began back in Post War Belfast stretches across the generations, and Morrison’s questing hunger insures that the journey itself continues.
Constantly reshaping his musical history in live performance, Morrison reclaimed Astral Weeks on 2009’s album Live At The Hollywood Bowl.
The subtitle of Van Morrison's latest album, Born to Sing: No Plan B, indicates the power that music still holds for this living legend. "No Plan B means this is not a rehearsal," says Morrison. "That’s the main thing—it’s not a hobby, it’s real, happening now, in real time."
With one of the most revered catalogues in music history and his unparalleled talents as composer, singer and performer Morrison’s past achievements loom large. But, as throughout his extraordinary career, how that past informs his future achievements and still stirs excitement and keen anticipation.
This album contains no booklet.