Home > Uncategorized > Music Review: Van Morrison “Duets – Reworking the Catalogue” – posted 4/26/2015

Music Review: Van Morrison “Duets – Reworking the Catalogue” – posted 4/26/2015

So it is with a degree of trepidation that I review Van’s newest album, “Duets – Reworking the Catalogue”. My son Josh, my music authority, has already dissed it. An album of duets sounds like it could be a subpar rehash of songs done far better elsewhere.

I have listened to “Duets” quite a bit while driving back and forth to work in Massachusetts. The album is very good. It rewards many listens. I don’t like every cut but when does that happen on any album? Van did not pick popular songs to redo. It must be his contrariness but the songs are generally more obscure ones from his collection.

Before I discuss my favorite cuts on the album, I did want to say a few things about Van. Of iconic 60’s artists, I think Van Morrison has been among the most consistently creative and durable. So many 60’s rockers flamed out long ago. Van has figured a way to keep going and evolve. Plus he has sold out to no one. He has stubborn integrity. I can think of nobody who has combined soul, jazz, blues, R&B, Celtic music, and rock like he has.

I owe some Van appreciation both to my wife Debra and to my son Josh. I think both could qualify as bona fide Van authorities and experts. I think Debra owns every Van album there is. His concert from the early 90’s “A Night in San Francisco” was like a Debra theme song. It was played so much it is amazing it could play any more.

Josh did sing Tupelo Honey beautifully at his wedding. I do remember an apropos Dylan quote: “Tupelo Honey has always existed and Van Morrison was merely the vessel and the earthly vehicle for it.” While my son can flat out sing, I do think Van has been a bit of a role model. I know Josh will tell me if I am off on that. I have long thought the kid should pursue music more than he has because he has talent. But he is superbusy and what kid listens to their parent?

Hard to believe but it has been almost 10 years since Josh, Deb and I went to see Van play at the Orpheum in Boston. That was a memorable night.

As for the album, my favorite cut is “Rough God Goes Riding”. I have never seen that song mentioned in any review of “Duets”. There is just something about it. The duet is with his daughter Shana Morrison. The lyrics are compelling and the music is a perfect fit.

“..I was flabbergasted by the headlines
People in glass houses throwing stones
Gaping wounds that will never heal
Now they’re moaning like a dog in a manger.”

Van brings a poet’s touch and even when you are not sure where he is going it remains interesting.

I also liked “Carrying a Torch” . That song had been done on Van’s album, Hymns to the Silence. Both Dylan and Tom Jones have performed it too. It captures a quality of unrequited love or love that was once there and is now only longed for.

“I’m carryin a torch for you
I’m carryin a torch
You know how much it costs
To keep carryin a torch”

The version Van and George Benson do of “Higher Than the World” is better than the version he did on the album Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. It has a lighter, 70’s sounding refinement.

I thought Van’s duet with Joss Stone on “Wild Honey” was cool. I had not known Joss and Van had ever played together. ( I am a fan of Joss’s two Souls Session albums”). The end of the song is classic Van with a long improvisation.

The last song I will mention is “Real Real Gone” which Van does with Michael Buhle. Van brings energy to the song. I liked his nods to Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and James Brown.

I hope Van keeps going and going. There is a poetic superiority to his lyrics. I would mention that there is a new book of selected Van lyrics, Lit Up Inside, put together by City Lights Publishing. Van picked the lyrics he wanted to include. While this song is not on “Duets”, I think it is pretty good in capturing Van. It is off his 1998 album “Back on Top”.

Precious Time

Precious time is slipping away
But you’re only king for a day
It doesn’t matter to which God you pray
Precious time is slipping away

It doesn’t matter what route you take
Sooner or later the hearts going to break
No rhyme or reason, no master plan
No Nirvana, no promised land

Because precious time is slipping away
You know you’re only king for a day
It doesn’t matter to which God you pray
Precious time is slipping away

Say que sera, whatever will be
But then I keep on searching for immortality
She’s so beautiful but she’s going to die some day
Everything in life just passes away

But, precious time is slipping away
You know she’s only queen for a day
It doesn’t matter to which God you pray
Precious time is slipping away

Well this world is cruel with its twists and turns
Well the fire’s still in me and the passion burns
I love a medley til the day I die
‘Til hell freezes over and the rivers run dry

Precious time is slipping away
You know she’s only queen for a day
It doesn’t matter to which God you pray because
Precious time is slipping away

Precious time is slipping away
You know you’re only king for a day
It doesn’t matter to which God you pray
Precious time is slipping away

Precious time is slipping away
You know you’re only king for a day
It doesn’t matter to which God you pray because
Precious time is slipping away

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  1. steveacherry
    April 26, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Nice work my man. I’d love to borrow the CD. BEST S

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Pat Dawson
    April 26, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    I think one of the reasons Van continues to resonate … even when apparently flying under the radar … is because he manages to consistently get his “truth to values” music published. So many of his songs are of him telling the music industry – and the fans that worship the industry and the players within the industry – that it’s all a bunch of crap and if you believe any of it is real or that any of it has meaning, then you’re an idiot. He repeats this often and reminds his listeners to actually listen to his lyrics to understand … “I’m Not Feeling It Anymore” is a good example (but every release has at least one!).
    There are others who live the same creed, and who also manage to successfully publish – Kristofferson, Eric Anderson, come immediately to mind. But Van occupies a space that’s uniquely his own.

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