Stranded In Berlin (The Swingin’ Pig TSP-CD-5529/5530)
Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany – May 19th, 2006
Disc 1: Keep Mediocrity At Bay, Stranded, Laughing In The Wind, Magic Time, Your Cheatin’ Heart, Naked In The Jungle, Talk Is Cheap, Cleaning Windows, Days Like
This, Irish Heartbeat, What Am I Living For?, Playhouse, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Bright Side Of The Road, Precious Time, It’s All In The Game, Help Me / Shake Your Money Maker
Disc 2: Celtic New Year / The Healing Game, Gloria. Bonus tracks, Ireland – 1979: Moondance, Checking It Out, Moonshine Whiskey, Tupelo Honey, Wavelength, St. Dominic’s Preview, Don’t Look Back, I’ve Been Working, Gloria, Cyprus Avenue
Stranded In Berlin contains the live FM Radio 1 broadcast of Van Morrison’s Berlin show on May 19th, 2006. The sound quality is crystal clear and as close to perfect as can be expected. There is terrific balance between the instruments and there is no evidence of it being recorded off the air check.
Another source for this broadcast circulates which some collectors claim has noticeable background noise. The Swingin’ Pig use a different, far superior source that has none of the imperfections mentioned in connection with the other.
The broadcast omits Morrison’s band’s instrumental introduction “Boogie Woogie Country Girl” and begins at the beginning of “Keep Mediocrity At Bay” and Van’s introduction. This show occurs two months after the release of his album of country and blues covers Pay The Devil and songs from this, and the latest album of originals Magic Time, are emphasized. Better known songs like “Moondance” and “Cyprus Avenue” are not played with “Gloria” as an encore the only nod to the charts. Morrison’s voice sounds good although smoky and aggressive with age.
Three of the first four songs come from the 2005 release before he plays “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in a rendition faithful to the Hank Williams original. Afterwards Morrison introduces the Dutch alto-saxophonist Candy Dulfer for a scorching version of “Naked In The Jungle” including sax solo. The show really begins to cook with this, “Talk Is Cheap” and “Cleaning Windows”. The latter contains Morrsion getting into “Be-Bop-A-Lu-Lu” by the end.
“Irish Heartbeat” is followed by two more tunes from the latest album. “What Am I Living For?” is played close to the well-known Conway Twitty arrangement. “Playhouse” is one of three originals from the latest album and is an effective Morrison foray into the honky tonk.
Morrison has covered “I Can’t Stop Loving You” sporadically for twenty years and recorded the song for 1991’s Hymns To The Silence, but last year became a regular part of the set. This version contains a great violin solo and a section sung by the Crawford Bell Singers.
“It’s All In The Game” is extended to seven minutes and contains a reference to “Keep A Knocking” and much laughter before Morrison introduces “Shake Your Money Maker” as a Sonny Boy Williamson tune.
The bonus tracks contain material from gigs on February 20th, 1979 at Whitla Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland and February 22nd, 1979 at National Stadium, Dublin, Ireland. This source comes from the video soundtrack to the rare and out of print video Van Morrison In Ireland on Hendring and booted previously on In All Your Revelation.
The fifty-five minute recording is very clear but much thinner than the Berlin tape. The Midnight Dreamer label out of Japan recently issued this recording on the two cdr set Play The Devil (MD-109A/B).
Stranded In Berlin has the advantage over the Japanese release since it is pressed on real silver discs instead of cdr. Further the bonus means both discs are filled closer to capacity. It is packaged in a gorgeous four-fold cardboard gatefold digipack with the double portrait of the singer on the cover.