Friday, November 9, 2012

Van Morrison Born To Sing: No Plan B 2012

I was suspicious from the title. What does a 66 year old millionaire need with a plan B? After 40 releases, did anyone think he wasn't born to sing? Then the CD arrives, and there's three "reviews" of the record on the first four pages of the booklet. Alarms sound.

There's some redeeming material here, but this is not one of Van's better outings. In fact it may be the weakest since Days Like This, his disappointing effort from 1995 (not counting The Skiffle Sessions 2000 and Pay The Devil 2006, both disastrous forays into non-Van music forms).

The best of the record is the first half. Open The Door (To Your Heart) is upbeat and swinging. The smooth jazz-R&B of Goin' Down To Monte Carlo is loaded with great solos from all band members, and it is hot. End Of The Rainbow is a mellow ballad with great solos on sax and trombone. And the mostly instrumental Close Enough For Jazz features more great playing from the band. Kudos to Chris White on sax and Alistair White on trombone on the entire record.

The second half slows down and drags some fairly small ideas over long stretches of music. Two of the songs are eight minutes long. Retreat And View and Born To Sing are at least OK. But the rest really drags, and the entire record suffers from weak, lazy writing from The Man himself. He has a lot to complain about: he's pissed about greed and materialism; he wants to be left alone; the little guy gets screwed. He's been here before, but it's in almost every song on this one. Even the romantic-sounding Open The Door is a rant against materialism. There's one spiritual searcher song (the terrible Mystic Of The East), and one failed attempt at a John Lee Hooker-styled blues (Pagan Heart). Dave Keary does a fine job on guitar, but Van mails in the vocal.

Four good ones, and two others worth hearing. And even then you need to ignore the lyrical content, and just listen to the music and singing. Considering some of the fine work he's done in the last twenty years, this one's a let down.

I wrote a comprehensive career overview of Van's work last year. It's here.

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