Van Morrison – Born to Sing: No Plan B ★★★★

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Blue Note

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). Rec. date not stated

Van Morrison has jazz in his blood, only a fool would think otherwise, and Born to Sing is the latest proof although none is needed. His second for Blue Note, the first What’s Wrong With This Picture? was notable for the poignant ‘Little Village’, a song his fans immediately took to their hearts. Chances are the title track ‘Born to Sing’ will be joining the pantheon of his best songs of the last 25 years, up there with the wondrous ‘Fast Train’, ‘Only a Dream’, and ‘Celtic New Year’. On this, his first studio album since Keep it Simple, this time recorded unusually in his home town of Belfast, Morrison has come up with the goods once again after the commercial and critical success of Keep It Simple and the huge interest shown when he followed it by releasing a live album based on his great 1960s masterpiece, Astral Weeks.

Why he delivers here is mainly because of the anthemic title track, with its showband feel and rousing lyrics, although other tunes such as the bluesy ‘Pagan Heart’ are among a string of strong songs. ‘Close Enough For Jazz’, which adds words to an older instrumental version of the song, is a grower, with some deep-down low singing from Morrison, who turned 67 at the end of August, and a melody that recalls some of his playful work with Georgie Fame on albums such as How Long Has This Been Going On? ‘Educating Archie’ is the joker in the pack, recalling in its title, but not in its lyrics, an old radio show, later on TV, featuring a self willed ventriloquist’s dummy eventually ruling the roost. The album, which also tackles issues facing society including the relentless pursuit of money whatever the cost on the song ‘If In Money We Trust’, has a stripped down small band backing with fine trombone, good horn unisons and a stand-out electric guitar intro cutting the air like a razor on ‘Pagan Heart’.

 – Stephen Graham