Sound — 9
Like fellow icons Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, singer-songwriter Van Morrison has just released a new greatest-hits collection, which in general presents a fairly well-rounded look at the Irish native's impressive body of work. In terms of a career-long retrospective, Still On Top: The Greatest Hits does a solid job of touching upon all of Morrison's highlights since he arose on the music scene in the early 1960s. It looks like the UK has it a little bit better in terms of quantity, as there is a 3-disk compilation version of Still On Top being released overseas. For North America, there is a single-disk that takes the approach of the latest Clapton compilation, with both gathering up a fairly balanced number of hits from each decade -- even if you aren't familiar with the later recordings. You may see that a few of your favorite songs didn't make the cut onto the North American version, but all in all the compilation is still quite an enjoyable listen. In the liner notes there is a fantastic quote from Morrison saying that his career has more or less always been about soul. That emotion comes through beautifully on Still On Top, even on the lesser-known hits. Songs like Warm Love, Crazy Love, and Wavelength definitely ooze soul, while even the up-tempo, fun numbers like Moondance and Brown Eyed Girl have an honesty to them that is missing from a lot of today's music. Most every song on Still On Top is the original recording, which for Van Morrison purists, will be exactly what a greatest hits album should be. Everyone probably has there favorite B-side that isn't included on the single-disk version (this reviewer's being Into The Mystic), but the collection is pretty straightforward and doesn't stray from anything but the singles. There are 2 new recordings in the collection, which features a live version of Dweller On The Threshold and an alternate version of The Healing Game. They are not tremendously different from the original recordings, but the audio on The Healing Game definitely brings the vocals to the forefront. Dweller On The Threshold exemplifies the powerful performer that Van Morrison is, and it would have actually been a great addition to the collection to have a few more of those gems. When you get into the time period between about 1985-present, even if you're not as familiar with the songs, it's amazing to hear Morrison's delivery still as charismatic as ever. Morrison has been subject to plenty of criticism throughout his career, and there are a few tracks that you may fast-forward through. But you definitely hear a change for the better on the most recent tunes Precious Time and Stranded. Both return to the soulful sound that you hear in an oldie like Crazy Love, and that's most likely the Van Morrison that the public hopes will endure.
Lyrics — 9
The emotion is raw within most of Van Morrison's songs, and the man has a knack of relaying sentiments in a way that connects with audiences. In fact, it's very unlikely that you could find someone who doesn't know at least a few lines of Brown Eyed Girl. There is a more spiritual turn later on in Morrison's career, which may not be as easily accessible to some. Even so, you get the sense that he is returning to his roots when you listen to a more recent track like 2005's Stranded.
Overall Impression — 8
Probably the biggest complaint with Still On Top is that it's only 1-disk long, which unfortunately leaves out a large body of work that Van Morrison has delivered over 4 decades. The hits are indeed there on the compilation, from Brown Eyed Girl to Have I Told You Lately, and it does succeed as a collection of singles. Even though Morrison's early classics do define what many know about the singer, Still On Top does an excellent job of opening your eyes to the impressive singles Van Morrison created that might have gone under the radar.