van morrison Born to Sing: No Plan B (Blue Note)
BORN to sing? Yes, of course.
But the tragedy at the heart of the Van Morrison enigma is that the Man was also born to complain, whinge and generally vent an aimless spleen.
Rage is good. Or it was back in the day when James Dean's angst lit up cinema screens. Surliness became the epitome of cool in 1953 when Marlon Brando's character in The Wild One was asked: "Hey Johnny, what are you rebellin' against? And Brando replied: "Whadya got?"
When Van quit the showband scene and took his discomfort to the beat group scene, he had plenty of competition. Eric Burden fronted The Animals with a two-fisted vocal punch. Scott Walker
brooded. Bob Dylan wired himself to some cosmic mother-lode.
At 67, Van still has ants in his pants. And on his 35th solo studio album, he reminds us. The chocolate smooth groove of Goin' Down To Monte Carlo isn't about a middle-aged punter's holiday by the seaside.
No. Van is uptight. "Playing in the background, some kind of phoney pseudo jazz. I don't care. I'm just tryin' to get away from people..." he growls. "The pettiness amazes me, even after I'm gone this far."
You'd imagine Ryanair could have flown him to somewhere more remote. Kazakhstan, perhaps.
The playing is delightful though. Gurgling Hammond organ and taut bongoes are employed like Burt Bacharach playing Mose Allison.
It must be hard for Van. People expect so much. They want Van the Mystic when he wants to be Van the Satchmo, giving it large on the scooby-dooby scat vocals and, on the title track, Fats Domino cadences. "Too much capitalism," he moans on End of the Rainbow, as smokey brass conjure up late night images of Georgie Fame's Blue Flames in Wardour Street back in the day.
Van's arrangements are ace. But they're overburdened by him bleating about "rugs and furniture" having to be "nailed to the floor."
As an instrumental collection, this would be killer.