Van Morrison: Latest Record Project: Volume 1 (Exile/BMG) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 21st, 2021  

Van Morrison

Latest Record Project: Volume 1

Exile/BMG

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Van Morrison’s newest studio album, Latest Record Project, has a witty titling convention similar to that of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. But the likeness ends there, as Morrison’s “project” has none of the charm of the movie and boasts a bloated two-hour running time to boot. Morrison apparently has a few things to get off his chest in spite of already releasing a string of “anti-lockdown” songs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most tone deaf of which was written by Morrison, but performed by Eric Clapton wherein the U.K. government’s efforts to stem the virus spread were equated to slavery. Latest Record Project brings Morrison’s fans 28 more chances to hear what he’s got on his mind and dares to raise the specter of subsequent editions.

Morrison has certainly been described as prickly in the past and has taken his shots at record labels, including the tossed-off contract-breaking album known by fans as Payin’ Dues (also known as the second disc of New York Sessions ’67 or the third disc of The Authorized Bang Collection). That album was certainly a goof and mercifully short. After wading through it, you would hope that Latest Record Project was a hoax as well, but given its length and incessant doubling down (Van gets “conned” three songs in a row) it’s unlikely. Morrison essentially has three gripes repeated ad nauseam over retreaded melodies. My ex-wife was a lazy money grubbing shrew; the government won’t let me perform so I can barely get by; and a series of vague complaints about “they,” “them,” and “her” and “him” that are hardly worth the effort to discern what he’s grousing about.

Though the album is abloom with misguided thoughts and scented with whiffs of misogyny and racism (at best classism), the lowest of low points comes near the end in the three song string of “Western Man,” “They Own the Media,” and “Why Are You on Facebook?,” and for the record, Morrison reserves his posts for Instagram, Twitter, and his YouTube Channel. “Western Man” bemoans the European colonists’ fate as Morrison decries that his kind may have had their last “bite at the cherry” while “others” plot against him. Arguably the most offensive song on the album, going so far as to complain that the “caretakers have taken over the main house.” “They Own the Media” is self-explanatory and as uninspired as it sounds, which presumably could be said about “Why Do You Post on Facebook?,” but the song warrants further comment. Near the end of the song the title phrase is repeated 24 times in sequence and, as happens in several spots on the album, Morrison drags a clutch of background singers through the muck with him—“doot-da-dooting” their way through à la “Walk on the Wild Side.”

If you take Morrison at face value, he would have you believe he’s been paraded around like a show pony through performances, only to satisfy the monetary needs of his no good woman. “How come when she’s fit and able, she’s still too lazy to go out and work,” he croons on “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” On “Duper’s Delight” (yes, an actual song title), he describes his own iconic “the smile you smile” lyric as just a ruse for his lady to hide her devious ways. Morrison’s divorce ended in 2018 per an “Official Statement” on his website, but unless another relationship has soured since, he’s still got all those bad times stuck in his craw three years later. It’s more than a little ironic that Morrison complains about not being able to pursue his vocation due to “lock-down,” when it sounds like he was begrudgingly doing so in the first place.

There are a few relatively brighter spots on the album. Morrison does sing unironically of the “the warmth of the sun” on “Only a Song,” but it’s a blink or you’ll miss it moment. The band he’s assembled is a cooking little combo (see “Where Have All the Rebels Gone?”), even if most of the songs are kept in his mid-tempo pocket. “Psychoanalysts’ Ball” is sung to the tune of “People Get Ready,” while “Stop Bitching, Do Somethin” (which Morrison would be wise to do) is wrapped in a Bo Diddley beat. Most useful of all though is the sing-song cadence of the title track, which can be repurposed for daily life. The halting “Have you—got my—latest—record—project?,” can be converted to more useful everyday phrases like “Did you—scoop the—cat box—Tuesday—morning?”

For the most part though, and we’re talking in the 90% range, the double-album is a full-on dumpster fire fueled by toxic thoughts, meaningless rants, and a surly attitude. Morrison’s grumpy grandpa gene has apparently come home to rest, full stop. There’s certainly enough negativity here to wipe out whatever goodwill Astral Weeks and the second side of Into the Music brought to the world. And with the threat of future volumes, unless you are duty bound to subject yourself to Morrison’s Latest Record Project you’d do well to skip it. (www.vanmorrison.com)

Author rating: 3/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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