Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Van Morrison 34: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

And on Van goes, putting out a new album every year or so, daring us to care. The labels haven’t given up on him either, and somehow What’s Wrong With This Picture? was released on the Blue Note label, legendary for its jazz catalog, which likely appealed to him.
The title track begins full and lush, giving us the mistaken impression that this will be a make-out album. But then he ends the first verse by actually saying “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” and cracking himself up in the process. Then it’s off to the upbeat swing of “Whinin Boy Moan”, the adult contemporary shuffle of “Evening In June”, and the bluesy “Too Many Myths”, featuring his own sloppy acoustic guitar. If you didn’t get enough Acker Bilk on the last album, he’s back to collaborate on “Somerset”. While the backing isn’t very adventurous, “Meaning Of Loneliness” does enter some thought-provoking lyrical territory, and while someone is singing along, he’s low in the mix and not Brian Kennedy.
The mood is broken again by “Stop Drinking”, an adaptation of a Lightnin’ Hopkins tune with a mix of R&B, skiffle and rockabilly. It’s back to the blues, and complaining about being famous, in “Goldfish Bowl”. “Once In A Blue Moon” touches on calypso, before the cover of “Saint James Infirmary”, most of which is devoted to soloing, slows things down again. “Little Village” is in a 12-bar structure, but somehow manages to evoke his late-‘80s sound. No prizes for guessing what he’s complaining about in “Fame”, but we do wonder if the call-and-response chant of the title at the end is a nod to David Bowie. “Get On With The Show” takes another cliché and builds a song around it without any real cohesion.
To answer the album’s title question, there’s nothing wrong with this particular picture, expect that we still half expect the guy to wow us like he used to. He’s obviously capable of blending several styles, but hearing so many at one time gives the impression of listening to several albums instead of just one. And at over an hour long, What’s Wrong With This Picture? isn’t likely to wow anyone.

Van Morrison What’s Wrong With This Picture? (2003)—3

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