The Healing Game

The Healing Game is the twenty-sixth studio album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was released in 1997 by Polydor.

The Healing Game
Studio album by
Released4 March 1997
StudioWestland Studios, Dublin
Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin
GenreFolk rock
ProducerVan Morrison
Van Morrison chronology
Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison
The Healing Game
The Philosopher's Stone
Singles from The Healing Game
  1. "The Healing Game" b/w "Have I Told You Lately"/"Whenever God Shines His Light"/"Gloria"
    Released: January 1997
  2. "The Healing Game" b/w "Full Force Gale 96"/"Look at What the Good People Done"/"Celtic Spring"
    Released: January 1997
  3. "Rough God Goes Riding" b/w "At the End of the Day"/"The Healing Game"
    Released: May 1997

The 2008 remastered version of the album contains a bonus track: "At the End of the Day", which was the a B-side of "Rough God Goes Riding", the third single of the album. "Rough God Goes Riding" was listed as one of the standout tracks from Van Morrison's six album reissue series.[1]

The album was reissued again in 2019 with bonus material from the studio sessions and Van Morrison's performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival on 17 July 1997.[2]

Recording history

The album was recorded in Dublin, Ireland, in 1996. The cover shows Morrison with Haji Ahkba.


The title song "The Healing Game" is about the tradition of Belfast street singing. Van Morrison in Q magazine said, "People find it incredible when I tell them that people used to sing and play music in the street. I think there's a whole oral tradition that's disappeared." The song, "Rough God Goes Riding" is taken from a W. B. Yeats poem "The Second Coming" with its figure from the Apocalypse "rough beast". Leo Green's saxophone follows Morrison's voice like a twin brother. In "Waiting Game" he is "the brother of the snake" which Brian Hinton says refers to both his lost friend Jim Morrison (known for writing about "The Lizard King"), and the Garden of Eden. "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" follows the children's book, The Wind in the Willows closely and Paddy Moloney plays uillean pipes with Phil Coulter on piano. On "Burning Ground" the singer relives a common scene from his childhood when jute was shipped to Belfast from India.[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic link
Rolling Stone(Not Rated) link

Music critic Greil Marcus was favourably impressed with the album and wrote: "Morrison dominates each song on The Healing Game - but the word song seems much too small here. Like the rough god he sings about, Morrison is astride each incident in the music, each pause in a greater story, but often the most revealing moments—the moments that reveal the shape of a world, a point of view, an argument about life—are at the margins."[4]

Track listing

All songs by Van Morrison, except where noted.

1."Rough God Goes Riding"6:19
2."Fire in the Belly"6:34
3."This Weight"4:37
4."Waiting Game"5:56
5."Piper at the Gates of Dawn"3:53
6."Burning Ground"5:38
7."It Once Was My Life""5:10
8."Sometimes We Cry"5:14
9."If You Love Me"5:01
10."The Healing Game"5:16

2019 deluxe edition

Disc one: The Original Album... Plus
1."Rough God Goes Riding"6:19
2."Fire in the Belly"6:34
3."This Weight"4:37
4."Waiting Game"5:56
5."Piper at the Gates of Dawn"3:53
6."Burning Ground"5:38
7."It Once Was My Life""5:10
8."Sometimes We Cry"5:14
9."If You Love Me"5:01
10."The Healing Game"5:16
11."Look At What the Good People Done"5:42
12."At the End of the Day"4:30
13."The Healing Game" (single version)4:28
14."Full Force Gale '96"3:34
15."Saint Dominic's Preview"6:45
Disc two: Sessions and Collaborations
1."The Healing Game" (alternate version)7:41
2."Fire in the Belly" (alternate version)5:25
3."Didn't He Ramble" (written by Hattie Bolten)6:11
4."The Healing Game" (jazz version)5:16
5."Sometimes We Cry" (full length version)8:23
6."Mule Skinner Blues" (written by Jimmie Rodgers and George Vaughan)4:32
7."A Kiss to Build a Dream On" (written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and Oscar Hammerstein II)4:29
8."Don't Look Back" (with John Lee Hooker; written by John Lee Hooker)6:42
9."The Healing Game" (with John Lee Hooker)5:09
10."Boppin' the Blues" (with Carl Perkins; written by Carl Perkins and Howard "Curley" Griffin)3:58
11."Matchbox" (with Carl Perkins; written by Carl Perkins)4:07
12."Sittin' on Top of the World" (with Carl Perkins; written by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon)3:19
13."My Angel" (with Carl Perkins; written by Van Morrison and Carl Perkins)6:08
14."All By Myself" (with Carl Perkins)3:28
15."Mule Skinner Blues" (with Lonnie Donegan; written by Jimmie Rodgers and George Vaughan)4:34
Disc three: Live at Montreux 17 July 1997
1."Rough God Goes Riding"5:40
2."Foreign Window"3:54
3."Tore Down a la Rimbaud"3:18
4."Vanlose Stairway/Trans-Euro Train"4:56
5."A Fool for You" (written by Ray Charles)3:17
6."Sometimes We Cry"5:31
7."It Once Was My Life"5:02
8."I'm Not Feeling It Anymore"7:24
9."This Weight"4:21
10."Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" (written by Anthony Newley)4:05
11."Fire in the Belly"5:59
12."Tupelo Honey/Why Must I Always Explain?"6:50
13."The Healing Game"5:51
14."See Me Through/Soldier of Fortune/Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)/Burning Ground" ("Thank You" written by Sly Stone)13:32




  • Production: Van Morrison
  • Recording: Walter Samuel, Enda Walsh ("Piper at the Gates of Dawn", "At the End of the Day")
  • Assistant engineering: David Slevin, Ciaran Cahill, Matthew Lawrence anad Neil Douglas
  • Mixing: Walter Samuel
  • Technical support: David Conroy
  • Mastering: Tim Young
  • Art direction and design: Matt Curtis @ Abrahams Pants
  • Photography: Paul Cox


Album - UK Album Chart

Year Chart Position
1997 UK Album Chart 10

Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1997 The Billboard 200 32


  1. "Catalog Reissues by Van Morrison on Blurt Online". Archived from the original on 2 February 2010. Retrieved 2 November 2009.
  2. Shteamer, Hank (5 February 2019). "Van Morrison Details Expanded 'Healing Game' Reissue". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  3. Hinton, Celtic Crossroads, p.333-336
  4. Marcus,When That Rough God Goes Riding, p.115


  • Hinton, Brian (1997). Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison, Sanctuary, ISBN 1-86074-169-X
  • Marcus, Greil (2010). When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison, Public Affairs, ISBN 978-1-58648-821-5
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