Musician: Van Morrison

Label: Blue Note Records


How times have changed. All those years ago, Van Morrison and Them were part of the first British Invasion, singing such garage anthems as “Gloria” and “Here Comes the Night.” Then came solo hits like “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Domino,” and “Wild Night.” But Morrison’s formula of fusing R&B, folk, and jazz influences became best displayed on long playing albums beginning with Astral Weeks (1968) and Moondance (1970). His subsequent work has been called “Celtic Soul” and has earned him critical acclaim, consistently good album sales, and six Grammy awards.

These days, Morrison’s experimental years are long behind him. With age and spiritual meditations, his vocals have long since lost the emotional cries of the young seeker. In the 21st Century, Van Morrison is now a comfortable elder statesman of Adult Contemporary releases who’s become predictably reliable musically and lyrically. In particular, Born to Sing: No Plan B is Morrison’s latest collection of 10 carefully crafted songs offering no surprises. That is, if you’re not surprised these very laid-back American grooves were recorded and produced by Van in his hometown of Belfast, Ireland.

On Born to Sing, there’s nothing Celtic about his soul. For example, “Open The Door (To Your Heart)” is pure Stax Memphis R&B. “Going Down To Monte Carlo,” a statement about needing release from folks who’d take everything away from the songwriter, sounds like a New York nightclub jazz jam with trombone, sax, and double-bass solos. “Born To Sing” merges very old rock n’ roll horns with New Orleans stylings. Smooth piano work is the foundation for “End Of The Rainbow” which comments on the ill effects of commercialism and materialism. He returns to this point in “If In Money We Trust” where he asks what do you have when God is dead an all you have is cash?

Speaking of jazz, the happy “Close Enough For Jazz” is more than just close. “Pagan Heart” is acoustic guitar Delta blues where Morrison’s heart and soul is at the metaphorical crossroads. The final track, “Educating Archie,” is the song that probably demands the closest listening. With a melody that’s pure Sam Cooke (“Bring It On Home”), Morrison advises a white conservative on the importance of individuality.

Altogether, Born to sing is a short, slow, thoughtful  program suitable for rainy afternoons or intimate evenings when you have a few friends over for wine and cheese. Or for intimate evenings when you have only one friend nearby. The lyrical messages are subtle but clear, delivered with smooth arrangements and restrained instrumentation. This is no comeback album but rather a new marker on a journey few other compatriots of morrison’s generation can match. He doesn’t need a “Plan B”—just more time to cook up some more of his very distinctive brew.

Follow Here To Purchase Born To Sing: No Plan B