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Van Morrison: Born To Sing: No Plan B

Belfast legend storms back into the limelight

Rating: 8 / 10

Colm O'Hare, 05 Oct 2012

Recent Irish shows have seen Van the Man re-engergised and rejuvenated, enthusiastically revisiting his vast back catalogue and, at times, displaying some hitherto missing-in-action onstage humour! His 35th studio album, his first in four years, is chock-full of that newfound energy, lyrically and musically – and all the better for it. With its heart in the rhythm ‘n’ blues he grew up with, along with his trademark horn-driven, soulful arrangements and honey-coated melodies, Born To Sing: Plan B, harks back to his ‘70s heyday. “Feeling good, singing the blues,” he croons with a hint of ironic self deprecation on the title-track, adding that, “It ain’t easy to keep on paying the dues.”

Though he never released a sub-par album, at times he has appeared to coast on certain songs. Not so here. First track ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’ is classic Van: all stabbing brass, shimmering organ, jangling guitars, and that voice, as transcendent, mystical and powerful as ever. ‘Down To Monte Carlo’ recalls his mantra-like ‘The Days Before Rock & Roll’, while ‘Close Enough For Jazz’ is, not surprisingly, the jazziest track here, its creeping rhythm not a million miles away from ‘Moondance’. Elsewhere ‘Mystic Of The East’ revisits a theme he has often explored in the past while ‘Pagan Heart’ is a John Lee Hooker-style blues.

He takes more than one swipe at the current state of world affairs on the oddly-titled ‘Educating Archie’, which finds him firing off at those “controlled by the media who took away your constitution.” And on the sublime ‘End Of The Rainbow’ he muses “every penny has got to be earned, everybody’s got to be at the coalface.”

With superb accompaniment from a stellar band, the performances and arrangements on Born To Sing: Plan B are close to perfection. His best album since 1995’s Days Like This.

Rating: 8 / 10
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