Friday, January 29, 2021

Van Morrison 40: Born To Sing

At this point we wonder why we should bother assigning a rating to a 21st century Van Morrison album that doesn’t break any new ground or venture into a tangential genre. Born To Sing: No Plan B states the thesis in the title, and spends an hour proving it.
Just in case you’re not convinced, the CD booklet includes five pages of liner notes written by three separate writers, each praising the auteur to the heavens and marveling at his genius. Lyrics are included for each track, which is helpful given his increasingly mushmouthed approach, but suffice it to say he’s not above adding “shite” to a rhyme scheme, quoting Sartre, or railing about worldwide capitalism taking precedence over God-consciousness. Also, it’s one thing to hear him decry “phony pseudo jazz” in a verse, another to read it twice, and even more to imagine it sounding exactly like the song in progress.
But the notes for each track also detail who played what, and this is where we are impressed. Much of the piano lines come from Van’s fingers, and he often wails on his saxophone between verses. (Two other horn players are in the backup band, along with a keyboard player who doubles on trumpet.) He plays guitar on only the plodding John Lee Hooker pastiche “Pagan Heart”, which follows the equally lengthy but musically intriguing “If In Money We Trust”. “Close Enough For Jazz” adds words to a twenty-year-old instrumental, though “Retreat And View” merely inspires us to put on Astral Weeks to hear that phrase in “Beside You”. “End Of The Rainbow” does build nicely, and “Educating Archie” provides a shift in tempo for a closer. While Born To Sing: No Plan B in neither overwhelming nor underwhelming, one could do a lot worse. And yes, he can still sing.

Van Morrison Born To Sing: No Plan B (2012)—3

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