|Van Morrison — Born to Sing: No Plan B (2012)|
Van Morrison — Born to Sing: No Plan B
Birth name: George Ivan Morrison
Also known as: Van the Man; The Belfast Cowboy
Born: 31 August 1945 at 125 Hynford Street, Bloomfield, East Belfast, Northern Ireland
Origin: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Genres: Rock, blues, rhythm and blues, folk, blue-eyed soul, celtic, rock and roll, jazz fusion, country, soft rock
Occupations: Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, harmonica, saxophones, keyboards, drums, tambourine, ukulele
Location: Belfast ~ New York ~ London's Notting Hill Gate area ~ Bath ~ Dalkey near Dublin
Album release: October 2, 2012
Record Label: Blue Note Records / EMI
01. Open The Door (To Your Heart) 5:21
02. Goin' Down To Monte Carlo 8:12
03. Born To Sing 4:39
04. End Of The Rainbow 4:36
05. Close Enough for Jazz 3:46
06. Mystic Of The East 4:56
07. Retreat & View 6:51
08. If in Money We Trust 8:03
09. Pagan Heart 7:52
10. Educating Archie 5:44 / Personnel:
• Van Morrison
• Paul Moran
• Alistair White
• Dave Keary
• Paul Moore
• Jeff Lardner Van Morrison (v, p, el g, as), Paul Moran (Hammond Org, kys p, t), Alistair White (tb), Christopher White (ts, ct), Dave Keary (g), Paul Moore (b) and Jeff Lardner (d). /// Review by Andy Gill; Saturday 29 September 2012
• Van Morrison's best album in some while is a set of songs that, despite the relaxed tone of their jazz-blues settings, foam with indignation about the venality of capitalist adventurism.
• Critiquing the capitalist "global elite" in "Educating Archie", pondering the death of God in "If in Money We Trust", and affirming the value of art over money in "End of the Rainbow", he's found deserving targets for his grumbling – even "Goin' Down to Monte Carlo", he's offended by the "phoney pseudo-jazz" playing in a restaurant, an emblem for the emptiness of wealth. His own music has an easy-going swing, which in places recalls Moondance, except for "Pagan Heart", a graceful eight-minute excursion into John Lee Hooker bluesland.
∫ The subtitle of Van Morrison s new album, Born To Sing: No Plan B, indicates the power that music still holds for this living legend. No Plan B means this is not a rehearsal, says Morrison. That s the main thing it s not a hobby, it s real, happening now, in real time. This sense of absolute conviction, which has defined Morrison s revolutionary work for almost fifty years, runs throughout the new record, his thirtyfifth studio album as a solo artist. The ten original songs on Born To Sing, his first new album in four years (the longest he has ever gone between recordings), reveal an artist continuing to test his creative parameters.
∫ As Morrison notes, perhaps the most striking thing on the new album is hearing him weigh in on the global financial and economic meltdown on several songs. His sense of outrage at the materialism and greed that have poisoned society first appears in the opening track, the breezy soul strut Open the Door (To Your Heart), when he sings Money doesn t make you fulfilled/Money s just to pay the bills.
Born To Sing, recorded live in the studio with a core six-piece band (plus Morrison on piano, guitar, and alto saxophone), extends these musical roots into a signature
blend that s impossible to imitate or to categorize. Despite the album s title, Morrison says that he didn t immediately know that he was born to sing. I didn t know it was going to be a job until I was maybe fifteen or sixteen and started working in bands, he says. I was just a kid trying to make my way in life. There was no revelation it doesn t work that way.
∫ Ever since then, though, Van Morrison has offered non-stop revelation to fans around the world. With Born To Sing, he responds to a time of crisis with solace and insight, vision and wonder, and incomparable soul that shows what happens when you really do create from the heart, with no Plan B.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vanmorrisonofficial // Review by Mike Fletcher; Rating: 4/5
Review by: Michael Gallucci
∫ There was a time when a seven-minute Van Morrison song didn’t sound like an eternity. ‘Madame George,’ ‘Tupelo Honey,’ ‘Listen to the Lion,’ the live version of ‘Caravan’ – all classics that push beyond the typical radio song length.
∫ But three tracks on his 34th album, ‘Born to Sing: No Plan B,’ crawl over the seven-minute mark — and two of them actually make it past eight minutes. You’ll be checking the clock about halfway through all of them.
∫ When Morrison keeps the songs below four minutes (which is only four times on the album’s 10 tracks), ‘Born to Sing: No Plan B’ comes close to being his tightest album in a decade. But the loose, feel-free-to-roam structure never quite settles into the songs– grown-up versions of the jazzy-bluesy R&B Morrison has played since the ‘60s but has focused almost exclusively on for the past 20 or so years.
∫ Still, the opening ‘Open the Door (To Your Heart)’ is his most engaging song in years, a soulful and near-spiritual love song underlined by humming horns and rolling keyboards. But like so much of ‘Born to Sing: No Plan B,’ it doesn’t know when to cut itself loose. There’s at least one verse too many, an overlong instrumental interlude and a jazz-vamp ending that may work in concert but just drags here.
∫ Perhaps Morrison’s last album, a live recreation of his 1968 masterpiece ‘Astral Weeks,’ influenced his decision to wander a bit this time. On 2008’s ‘Keep It Simple,’ he basically did just that, with a set of compact songs that didn’t overstay their welcome. But even the best cuts on ‘Born to Sing: No Plan B’ — ‘Goin’ Down to Monte Carlo,’ ‘Mystic of the East,’ ‘Retreat and View’ — could use some editing.
∫ But that’s always been Morrison’s bag, so maybe we shouldn’t come down too hard on the album. Yet with some trimming here and there, ‘Born to Sing: No Plan B’ would rank among Morrison’s best-sung, best-played and best-written works of the past two decades. But the political messages in a few of the songs and even the occasional subtle musical notes become blurred as they go on and on and on …
∫ The subtitle of Van Morrison's new album, Born to Sing: No Plan B, indicates the power that music still holds for this living legend. "No Plan B means this is not a rehearsal," says Morrison. "That’s the main thing—it’s not a hobby, it’s real, happening now, in real time."
∫ This sense of absolute conviction, which has defined Morrison's revolutionary work for almost fifty years, runs throughout th...e new record, his thirty-fifth studio album as a solo artist. Morrison's career—which has seen him honored with a Brit Award, an OBE, an Ivor Novello, six Grammys, honorary doctorates from Belfast Queens and Ulster, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the French Ordres Des Artes Et Des Lettres—has done nothing less than redefine the possibilities of pop music. The ten original songs on Born to Sing, his first new album in four years (the longest he has ever gone between recordings), reveal an artist continuing to test his creative parameters.
∫ "They’re not all one thing," he says. "Some are about the world crisis, others are more mystical. Whatever ideas come in, there's no set ABC of it. Really, it wouldn’t be interesting if everything was set—there would be no surprises."
∫ As Morrison notes, perhaps the most striking thing on the new album is hearing him weigh in on the global financial and economic meltdown on several songs. His sense of outrage at the materialism and greed that have poisoned society first appears in the opening track, the breezy soul strut "Open the Door (To Your Heart)," when he sings "Money doesn't make you fulfilled/Money's just to pay the bills."
∫ The theme recurs throughout Born to Sing, climaxing in the closer, "Educating Archie." The title refers to both a ventriloquist's dummy on a popular BBC radio show of Morrison's youth and television's working-class anti-hero Archie Bunker, both representing the kind of average guy whom the singer warns, "You're a slave to the capitalist system/Which is ruled by the global elite."
∫ Morrison, never known as a protest singer, insists he's not taking a political stand. "I'm not protesting, I'm just observing what's happening—like Lenny Bruce said, 'Observation, baby!,'" he says. "Starting about two years ago, everybody was talking about money, money, money, and that's the way songs come about. Whatever people are talking about, the ideas around you, that’s what you pick up."
∫ Most fascinating might be "If In Money We Trust," a song-length meditation on the ways in which cash has replaced God at the center of the modern belief system. "That came from looking at a dollar bill and turning the concept on its head," he says. "I thought, 'What is this stuff on here, what does it mean?' Some people’s god is money, we’ve discovered that about a lot of people recently, so then what happens after that—what happens if you don’t have it, or if you don’t have enough?"
∫ The song also serves as a link to the kind of spirituality and mysticism that has been central to Morrison's work from such early masterpieces as Astral Weeks and St. Dominic's Preview through to more recent triumphs like The Healing Game and The Philosopher's Stone. After lamenting "Where's God?" as a refrain on "If In Money We Trust," he immediately follows with the swirling blues of "Pagan Heart," which finds him searching and casting spells "Down by the crossroads/Down by the Arcadian groves." Other songs, like "Retreat and View" and "Mystic of the East," illustrate Morrison's ongoing exploration of divine mystery.
∫ "These are all just ideas," he says of the multiple perspectives offered throughout Born to Sing. "They're not my beliefs, I'm not proselytizing, it's not some kind of manifesto. Songs are just ideas, concepts, and you just put the mic there and go. There are no rules that say you can’t have different ideas—in fact, why not? Why not have different ideas?"
∫ From his earliest days, Van Morrison has channeled the influences of such giants as Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, and Leadbelly. His music has defied boundaries, offering everything from the swinging soul-jazz of Moondance to the traditional Celtic styles of Irish Heartbeat. In the last few decades, he has collaborated with a range of artists including John Lee Hooker, Mose Allison, and Tom Jones, and dedicated projects to celebrating and re-exploring his blues, jazz, skiffle, and country roots.
∫ Born to Sing, recorded live in the studio with a core six-piece band (plus Morrison on piano, guitar, and alto saxophone), extends these musical roots into a signature blend that's impossible to imitate or to categorize. One song, the light-hearted "Close Enough for Jazz," started life as an instrumental, before Morrison later decided to add lyrics. "I don’t think in terms of labels," he says. "It's a mix of all of it, a smorgasbord of all music and all my influences, and you hope that it comes out as something new. Ray Charles has always been my role model—he did everything, including reinventing country music."
∫ The album also marks Morrison's return to the storied Blue Note label, home to many of his jazz idols, for which he last recorded 2003's What's Wrong With This Picture? The singer says that the affiliation is significant to him. "My father had quite a few of the old Blue Note records," he says, "and one of first records I had was Sidney Bechet's 'Summertime,' which was on Blue Note, too."
∫ Despite the album's title, Morrison says that he didn't immediately know that he was Born to Sing. "I didn’t know it was going to be a job until I was maybe fifteen or sixteen and started working in bands," he says. "I was just a kid trying to make my way in life. There was no revelation—it doesn’t work that way."
∫ Ever since then, though, Van Morrison has offered non-stop revelation to fans around the world. With Born to Sing, he responds to a time of crisis with solace and insight, vision and wonder, and incomparable soul that shows what happens when you really do create from the heart, with no Plan B.
∫ Critic Greil Marcus argues that given the truly distinctive breadth and complexity of Morrison's work, it is almost impossible to cast his work among that of others: "Morrison remains a singer who can be compared to no other in the history of rock & roll, a singer who cannot be pinned down, dismissed, or fitted into anyone's expectations." Or in the words of Jay Cocks: "He extends himself only to express himself. Alone among rock's great figures — and even in that company he is one of the greatest — Morrison is adamantly inward. And unique. Although he freely crosses musical boundaries— R&B, Celtic melodies, jazz, rave-up rock, hymns, down-and-dirty blues — he can unfailingly be found in the same strange place: on his own wavelength."
∫ Blowin' Your Mind! (1967)
∫ Astral Weeks (1968)
∫ Moondance (1970)
∫ His Band and the Street Choir (1970)
∫ Tupelo Honey (1971)
∫ Saint Dominic's Preview (1972)
∫ Hard Nose the Highway (1973)
∫ Veedon Fleece (1974)
∫ A Period of Transition (1977)
∫ Wavelength (1978)
∫ Into the Music (1979)
∫ Common One (1980)
∫ Beautiful Vision (1982)
∫ Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)
∫ A Sense of Wonder (1985)
∫ No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986)
∫ Poetic Champions Compose (1987)
∫ Irish Heartbeat (1988)
∫ Avalon Sunset (1989)
∫ Enlightenment (1990)
∫ Hymns to the Silence (1991)
∫ Too Long in Exile (1993)
∫ Days Like This (1995)
∫ How Long Has This Been Going On (1996)
∫ Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (1996)
∫ The Healing Game (1997)
∫ Back on Top (1999)
∫ You Win Again (2000)
∫ Down the Road (2002)
∫ What's Wrong with This Picture? (2003)
∫ Magic Time (2005)
∫ Pay the Devil (2006)
∫ Keep It Simple (2008)
∫ Born to Sing: No Plan B (2012) Review by Stephen Graham - Rating: ★★★★
|Van Morrison — Born to Sing: No Plan B (2012)|