Blues with modern expression
Known for his repetition, off-the-cuff songs and mumbled rock music, Van Morrison has leaped into the limelight once again to fulfill his repertoire with Latest Record Project, Volume 1. Even the first track, “Latest Record Project,” is an acknowledgment of this album, sort of a tête-à-tête with his past, which brings this latest creation forward.
54 years after his first album, he still makes music approachable with his added nostalgia. Brimming with those trademark repetitive vocals, Morrison adds a poetic nature to this tracklist, forgoing a new style for something a bit more twisted with notes of his past. Latest Record Project, Volume 1 is a 28-track reverie that places people in a trance. It bears a bit more weight in reference to pandemic-era internet voices, making blues-rock out of a seemingly difficult year for Morrison and many other characters within the album.
“Psychoanalysts’ Ball” is one track that voices this, creating a smooth ensemble with a jagged topic of mental health. Its classical ambiance is soothing, replacing strained emotions with a mellow rhythm and accented music, which is also found in “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” This is a recurring emotional aspect of this album, combining the austerity of a topic with a mature tune. “Deadbeat Saturday Night” moves in the same direction with more blues and brass instruments.
In his older age, Van Morrison has turned more contemporary. He exudes a more casual form of self-expression within his music that maintains his reflectiveness like in his older days. Though, his sporadic saxophone playing provides some lively sounds that seem to highlight that iconic artist glow he has been known for. “Only a Song” takes this and runs with it, far. Its pleasant and swanky melody offers what many have searched for in new-age nostalgic rock. The saxophone is downright beautiful, climbing every note to the limelight Morrison emerged from.
This album is contemporary but keeps expression inhibited. His expression in this album sticks to a laundry list of points, mostly sticking to the complaints and score-settling of his own life. “Double Blind,” “They Own the Media” and “Double Agent” all fall within these margins. Though Morrison remains in the cold-hard Blues genre, where songs like the more literal “Thank God for the Blues” take his expressions to the forefront. “Big Lie” is a more abrupt blues form, with the same one-two rhythm from his past. “It Hurts Me Too” follows a similar line but lacking the consistency to make it worth a full listen.
On the more mellow end of this massive tracklist, “A Few Bars Early” is meant for a late-night escapade, cruising with the crosswinds of middle America. The trademark organ accent makes several appearances which ring true for those classic Morrison fans. This makes for the solid blues and clever narrative that satisfy the listeners, but it feels a bit staged. Morrison is introspective but expressive and willing to explore it musically. “Duper’s Delight” is a writhing overload of venting and slow-building organ, but it proliferates listeners in Morrison’s post-70s musical style. Occasional acoustic guitar adds satisfaction to the track and takes away from the polishing of the song. But this song is definitely off-the-cuff emotional, producing reactions not only pure but genuine as well.
Morrison’s 28-track wonder is wildly self-inquiring but sparse in listenable music. His narratives take people to the past and the present, bridging the wide gap of mixing old sounds with new structured vocals. The result of this concoction is both intoxicating and frustrating, as Morrison’s Latest Record Project, Volume 1 remains a varying collection of ranting with the potential to age nicely. Give it five years, and one might find it in their vinyl collection.