VAN MORRISON has just released his 45th studio album, ‘Accentuate The Positive’. It’s the follow up to last year’s ‘Moving On Skiffle’ album and musically, it’s a logical, chronologically stylistic follow up. You see that last album was (obviously) a skiffle set and this newie is a rock and roll collection – R&R being the musical genre that in some ways grew out of and succeeded skiffle as the popular music of choice. Thus it seems that the Northern Irish icon is offering a potted history of pop – albeit in his own unique way
Like ‘Moving On Skiffle’, ‘Accentuate The Positive’ is essentially a collection of Van’s covers of rock and roll classics like ‘Lucille’, ‘Flip Flop and Fly’ and ‘Shakin’ All Over’. We’re told that the 20 songs are personal favourites of the man – songs that inspired him in his youth. Many of the selections are well-known, like the aforementioned trio but there are several, shall we say, more “esoteric” selections like Bill Haley’s ‘Two Hound Dogs’, Louis Jordan’s swinging ‘I Want A Roof Over My Head’ and Pee Wee King’s ‘Bonaparte’s Retreat’. Then there’s a heartfelt version of Arthur Alexander’s ‘Shot Of Rhythm and Blues’. We don’t hear songs like those too often, so it’s refreshing to have Mr M dust ‘em down again!
Musically, the same core band is used throughout (Richard Dunn’s Hammond is particularly strong) and there are guest cameos from Taj Mahal who adds his vocals to ‘Lucille and ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ while the late Jeff Beck and (still with us!) Chris Farlowe join Van on ‘Lonesome Train’. On those cuts, indeed throughout, Van and the musicians sound like they’re having a ball! And why not? They’re playing the music they love and (for many of ‘em) the music they grew up with.
Some of the heavyweight media have criticised this album. They claim that by delivering another covers collection it’s obvious that Morrison’s creative instincts are drying up. They say the man is going through the motions. Surely, they’re missing the point. What’s wrong with indulging your music passions and enjoying what you’re doing? Nothing. Van says: “Rock ‘n’ roll is about simplicity, sincerity and expressive power and there’s no way you can get away from that. That’s why it’s good and that’s why it’s lasted. It’s spirit music.”
“Spirit Music” indeed! If he continues this trajectory, what will be theme of the next album? Music chronology suggests it could be early soul/Motown or Merseybeat! No w there’s a thought!