It’s no secret that one of the most poetic songwriters of our time has had a fair amount of strife with conglomerates. Van Morrison has spent the last 50-years sowing mind perplexing studies on social commentary and spirituality. Yet, after a year that’s been ridden with lockdowns and paranoia, Morrison takes his skills to mock the anxieties of quarantine. Even with a herald career that’s seen a release of records that are deemed paramount to music, Morrison outdoes himself in his latest project.
Eloquently titled, Latest Record Project, Volume 1, you almost think the collection of songs are just one big prank on the music industry. But it’s no joke with Morrison showing no regard on being prudent to express his views. When you’re a living legend that’s influenced generations of songwriters, of course you’ve earned the right to give full disclosure.
These views and mixture humor begin in the opener, “Latest Record Project, Volume 1”. Yes, you read that right. The titled track tells the irony in what seems like a one-on-one gag with the listener as the intro lyrics are “You got my latest record project?’’ Morrison has always been viewed as an eclectic genius with deep meditative words. But here, the singer takes a blunter direction with the same crooning spoken word voice that’s epitomized a veteran career. The jazzy overtones and personal message listeners make the ambience warm and the mood comical. As the singer takes the opener as casual as it can be, the track gives small roots on how the music will build on the themes of isolation and being the last of your kind.
The latter theme is built on the track “Where Have All The Rebels Gone” complete with stylized organs and easygoing guitars. Morrison has shown disdain for artists who’ve become sell-outs during their career. Even those who’ve admired the singer greatly and listed him as a major influence to pursue their dreams. But Morrison asks, “Where have all the rebels gone? I can’t find anyone.” Which builds on a more melancholic understanding that commercial views and “pr stunts” have usurped his contemporaries. As Morrison takes this introspective vista, the track “Psychoanalysts’ Ball” brings a bluesy examination of the human mind. The singer’s spiritual side encapsulated the music and lyrics that have been remedied time and time again. Here, self-help and reassurance question whether the judgment of a person’s mood from others have been appropriate.
But if it’s the human mind or political environment, Morrison shows you don’t have to be a careered analyst to see past the ideology of both. In all 28 tracks, the singer lists his anxieties and the scope to which these ideologies have brought. “They Own The Media” and “Long Con” make the paranoia and angst ridden world seem grim but with a sly wit to simplistic lyrics. Its straightforward attitude with a mad genius at the helm creates an album that seems like a Truman Show experiment. All glued together by a heavenly choral group that’s added the smooth supplements of a rocksteady rhythm section.
For all the madness and magic Morrison has brought over the years, his latest trek into society is peered through a scope on reality. In an episodic tale of candid responses to fear, including a track that pokes fun at the perils of social media, Morrison doesn’t hold back. Whether his frankness is refreshing or weary, it’s without a doubt engaging with simplicity. If he continues the same pattern into the next project, people can expect it to be another plain-spoken motif. Until then, Morrison can sail us into the mystic of volume 1.
Written by Trenton Luber