Van Morrison – The Prophet Speaks
Van Morrison's 40th studio album, and fifth since 2016, is another collection of jazz and blues; standards and originals, they're all as one now for Van the Man
The Prophet Speaks – the song – is one of those Van Morrison songs. The title track of Van the Man's 40th (!) studio album, the slow jam is a brilliant blues number based on rolling Rhodes keyboards, fat horns, thin cymbal splashes and a vocal with such clarity, concision and quality that it will stop you in your tracks. Yep, that good. The rest? Well, you've seen this movie before: blues, jazz and soul standards delivered with minimum fuss and maximum quality.
His fifth album since (and including) 2016's brilliant Keep Me Singing, the Belfast bard's latest is more of the same: a mix of 12-bar interpretations and originals. Once again, American jazz star Joey DeFrancesco dominates with his Hammond organ, but horn and harmonica solos colour in lots of the material here, too. The originals? The aforementioned title track is the stand-out, Ain't Gonna' Moan No More is a relaxed roll through midnight in a minor key, 5am Greenwich Mean Time rolls and tumbles all the way back to Ronnie Scott's ('It's 5am and I think I'm gonna need some help'), while the beautiful Spirit Will Provide gives a much-needed break from the blues.
It was Bob Dylan who once said that albums are just a collection of moments of how songs sound on the day they're recorded, and it would seem Morrison has now settled into a pattern of releasing everything that he commits to tape. Capturing lightning in a bottle, it appears, is now confined to the stage and records are released as an excuse to stay on the road.
Somewhere down that road, though, you have to believe Van has half a dozen more time-stopping tunes in him, and hope he finds the time to get them on to tape. Too late to stop and smell the roses? Let's hope not.
Listen to: The Prophet Speaks, Spirit Will Provide