In search of grace...
Released on the 25th of October 2019
Running time 67.07
Every year (sometimes every few months) a new Van Morrison album comes out and I realise that I haven’t properly listened to the previous one yet. So here we go again, The Prophet Speaks has only had a handful of listens and here comes a new one. To the annoyance of many of the “Astral Weeks will never be bettered” aficionados these Morrison albums do not change much, if at all. They follow a pattern begun in the eighties and they simply do not deviate. As I have said in my reviews of the last few Morrison albums (probably the last twenty or so!), if you like this sort of material then you will like the album. If it frustrates you then it will continue to do so. Three listens in for me and I have enjoyed all three, but then I would. Be thankful he hasn't released an album of Christmas standards! Even Eric Clapton and Dylan have done that.
1. March Winds In February
2. Fame Will Eat The Soul
3. Dark Night Of The Soul
4. In Search Of Grace
5. Nobody In Charge
6. You Don't Understand
7. Read Between The Lines
8. Does Love Conquer All
9. Early Days
10. If We Wait For Mountains
11. Up On Broadway
12. Three Chords And The Truth
13. Bags Under My Eyes
14. Days Gone By
March Winds In February explores a theme Morrison often visits - the changing of the seasons. No-one expresses this sort of thing quite like him, or even bothers to. He has always had a strong sense of the bucolic, of nature and the way things simply are, as he might say. The lyrics are delivered over a typical, slowly appealing instrumentation that could have been lifted from any of his albums over the last thirty odd years, from the eighties onwards. Van doesn’t change too much, either musically, lyrically or thematically and personally I don’t want him to. I can understand, however, those for whom it is all a bit samey.
Another of Van’s favourite topics is the “fame game” and its attendant pitfalls. Here he lets out his frustrations on Fame Will Eat The Soul. Van has been ranting on about this for many, many years. He does it so well here, though - supremely soulfully over a sumptuous organ-driven backing. It has echoes of the material on The Healing Game, particularly in Van’s call and response interaction with his male backing vocalist (Righteous Brother Bill Medley) No matter whether it is the same old moan, Van lifts it all up effortlessly. Dark Night Of The Soul is a beautiful, laid-back slice of archetypal Morrison soul. I can’t say too much more than it is a lovely track and if you like what Morrison has been putting out in this style for thirty years then you will lap it up. In fact, there are hints of some of his 1974 Veedon Fleece material about it.
In Search Of Grace ploughs the same furrow, sumptuously, with a nice bass line and organ. Van gets sad, reflective and nostalgic with a sad tale from “somewhere between 67 or 8”. I am not sure who Grace is he is referring to, maybe I should. It is time for one of those slightly upbeat jazzy, bluesy numbers and we get it on the easy strains of Nobody In Charge. There is some nice guitar ad saxophone on here too. Lyrically, it is a contemporaneously popular moan about politicians being lazy - we've heard this too many times and for me this is a lazy lyric, if anything.
You Don’t Understand has Morrison moaning about all that “skullduggery” that he has been done to him. It’s all the fault of fame of course. Once again, it is delivered so well, over a late night jazz backing that one forgets about the perennial griping. We don’t understand how bad it’s been for you, Van - “how mad, bad and dangerous some people can be..”. Just keep putting out the albums.
Read Between The Lines is one of the album’s more poppy, commercial numbers in that Precious Time/Once In A Blue Moon sort of way, with its jaunty organ and Van getting all enthusiastic. Does Love Conquer All is a gently attractive soulful number while Early Days harks back to the You Win Again album with an upbeat bit of boogie boogie piano-driven nostalgia. It beaks the mould quite a bit and the album is the better for it. If We Wait For Mountains is a short but sweet reflection of nature and love. Another fine organ break enhances the track.
Up On Broadway is a lengthy, soulful vocal and gentle organ backed slowie with Van wanting to up on Broadway, wistfully. If he is talking about New York, I can’t see why, it’s just a busy city street. (Actually, I read somewhere that he is talking about San Francisco). Three Chords And The Truth is a good one - full of more infectious rhythms than Morrison usually employs. There is some excellent piano on it too. Bags Under My Eyes is a slow, acoustic number with a bluesy lyric. Van reflects on his ageing in disarming fashion. On every Van Morrison album there is one track that just takes you high up to Morrison nirvana and here it comes with the album’s closer Days Gone By. Great stuff. Take me home Van.
Listen to this last track if you need any justification as to why Morrison keeps doing it. It’s too late for him to stop now.