Imagine you were so talented you could come up with an album concept, have it fall apart completely, and then have your record company release some of the tapes against your will and you still end up with this great album. The more I get into Van Morrison the more I am just in awe of his talent.
So this record apparently started out as an attempt to create an A Capella album or nearly A Capella album – one instrument was considered at some point – but the results were not good and so some of the material was recorded with a full band and some was abandoned and replaced with other material, or whatever. And then the record company supposedly released the record the way they wanted, with their title, their sequencing, what have you. I suspect at least some of the latter is embellishing by Morrison but, still, this was not supposed to be this record. And Morrison hates it or at least hated it because of the experience.
And yet it’s a pretty great set of songs, containing one of his biggest, as well as a few pretty good deep cuts, as well.
But the star, as usual, is Morrison’s utterly seamless blending of multiple genres in the same song and on the same record, as if it was just one genre of music. Yes, the jazz influence is mostly gone compared to earlier records, but the rest of the fusion is still very much present. Morrison is in fine form as usual, and the band is excellent, despite whatever issues. There’s very little remaining of the original concept and I only hear it clearly on a few songs; it’s pretty rough and it’s easy to see why he gave up on the A Capella idea.
Then there’s the saxophone solo on “Crazy Face”, one of the great saxophone solos in the history of rock music. If I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the rest of the album like I do, I’d absolutely still recommend it for that song. Imagine being a great singer and then being able to just toss off a sax solo like that.
It’s too bad Morrison is doing his very best to make me hate him in his old age. Because, once upon a time, he was one of the greats.