fri 19/07/2024

CD: Van Morrison - Born to Sing: No Plan B | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Van Morrison - Born to Sing: No Plan B

CD: Van Morrison - Born to Sing: No Plan B

Van the Man still walks the line between jazz, blues and soul with aplomb

Back on Blue Note: Van Morrison

It’s been a fallow few years in the long recording life of Van Morrison. The last release was his highest charting release in the US, but that was four years ago. His 34th studio album finds him back on the Blue Note label, where he last recorded What’s Wrong With This Picture in 2003. Can you tell?

The albums may come, the labels go, but in the end Van is Van and this set of a dozen songs confirms mostly to the sound Morrison has been turning out since the mysticism first got plush on the likes of Beautiful Vision and Poetic Champions Compose. His own breathy sax, the ambling bass, the seductive keyboards – this is a sound that the Man and his musicians can churn out as if expressing mother’s milk.

It is of course pure bliss, and no one will be expecting Born to Sing: No Plan B to shine a torch into any new corners. “Mystic of the East” in particular sounds like an offcut from late Eighties Van, and “Pagan Heart” visits his roots as a Sixties bluesman. But there are a couple of songs which suggest Morrison still keeps an eye on events. “End of the Rainbow” is a gloomy tour of the robber barons’ world we live in, as is “If in Money We Trust”, which comes with uncharacteristic whiffs of unmelodic freeform riff. “Goin’ Down to Monte Carlo” makes scathing reference to “phoney pseudo jazz”, and the jaunty “Close Enough for Jazz” suggests his music’s still got that syncopated snap, while the woozy “Retreat and View” finds hm comfortably crooning as if in a late-night speakeasy.

Every time a new release from one of the great gerontosaurs emerges, it’s optimistically thought to be a return to some sort of form. Born to Sing is no Moondance, or even Avalon Sunset, but at 67 the old curmudgeon is still walking the line between jazz, soul and blues with aplomb.

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