It’s Sir Van Morrison Now Earlier this year, Prince Charles knighted the 71-year-old Van Morrison for services to the music industry and tourism in Northern Ireland. This is just one more example, like Dylan winning the Noble Prize for Literature, of how the most important literary soul rebels of a generation are becoming calcified into the new canon. As George Melly famously noted, what begins as revolt turns into style.
Van Morrison does exactly what he wants, when he wants, and continually mines the past no matter the cost. It's been four years since the Celtic soulman issued a collection of new, original studio material (Born to Sing: No Plan B), but given the music, it could have been yesterday. Morrison has no interest in innovation, he's already done that. The pace here is (mostly) laid-back, the music drenched in jazz, R&B, blues, and classy pop.
There have been very few constants over the last 50 years. Life, after all, is really just a long series of changes and fluctuations. One thing that we have been able to count on however — outside of death and taxes — is the arrival of new music from Van Morrison. Every couple of years, the Irish singer-songwriter steps into a recording studio to lay down some new tracks to offer up to the masses.
This year, Van Morrison was knighted, turned 71 and reissued a fantastic set of 1973 live recordings (It's Too Late to Stop Now). You won't find that intensity of soul fire on his 36th studio record. Yet through arrangements elegant to a fault, his mercurial tenor, more supple and restrained, remains a marvel. See the set's one cover, a reading of "Share Your Love With Me," that splits the difference between the Bobby "Blue" Bland and Aretha versions, full of chortles, snarls and gospel-tinged hollers.