Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Van Morrison - Born to Sing: No Plan B (Blue Note, 2012)

For a performer so steeped in jazz and blues it makes sense that the great singer-songwriter Van Morrison would land on Blue Note Records, recording with a lean six piece ensemble and occasionally adding his own piano, guitar or saxophone as the music frames his vocals on ten original songs. As Morrison has aged, he has begun to construct a worldview that is somewhat bitter, seeing wannabes and backbiters everywhere he looks. "Going Down to Monte Carlo" exemplifies this viewpoint as he talks about about (Jean-Claude) Sartre saying that "hell is other people" but also gets in a good zinger about having to listen to "phony pseudo-jazz." "End of the Rainbow" delves deeper into the depression with panhandlers and carpetbaggers abounding. But there's a glimmer of hope with "Close Enough For Jazz" with its two minute instrumental opening, simple upbeat lyric and jazz saxophone solo. "Mystic Of the East" shows he's come a long way since Astral Weeks, as Morrison sounds older, wiser and much more skeptical about the metaphysical. He may be bitter and cynical, but he's far from finished and still has a few surprises up his sleeve. "If In Money We Trust" is a withering, scathing attack on the recent financial meltdown with Morrison riffing off of the dollar bill's motto with the lyrics "if God is dead, then in money we trust." The album ending "Educating Archie" goes even further, blasting the capitalist system and the corporate media and coming off like an Occupy Wall Street protester as organ and saxophone testify behind him. So there's still fire in the belly (as he once sang) of this aging legend. When he harnesses his melancholy and breaks out of his torpor, he shows the lion that still lives within. Born To Sing: No Plan B - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.