ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES
Late-career artists in search of inspiration can do worse than revisit what made them fall in love with music in the first place. It has certainly worked for Van Morrison, whose 37th studio album sees him drenching himself in the blues all over again and, to thicken the mix, consorting with old friends of known form. He shares the lead vocals variously with Georgie Fame, Paul Jones and Chris Farlowe, while the featured guitarist is a certain Jeff Beck. Van’s been cunning with the repertoire, too, peppering standards like Stormy Monday, Goin’ to Chicago and Bring It on Home to Me (containing a searing Beck solo) through a programme of new originals.
Some of these new ones – the gospel-tinged Transformation and the jazzy Too Much Trouble – are worthy of joining the pantheon of great Morrison tunes, despite carrying echoes of past classics. His voice can still rear up with all the primal power of old: part snarling challenge and part pleading supplication. And if the band (including brilliant guest pianist Jason Rebello) is more soulful than raw, Van’s more than capable of fulfilling the rawness quotient. JOHN SHAND