Few artists have paralleled the eclectic career of
singer/songwriter Van Morrison. Morrison is the rare example of an
artist who, as a result of early pop success, was able to shape his
creative development. Morrison did what he wanted, when he wanted.
While at times a blessing, this artistic freedom created many a
failure. Morrison’s newest release, What’s Wrong
With This Picture, is not one of them.
Released on the legendary jazz label Blue Note, What’s
Wrong is essentially a blues album. This is a fortunate genre
choice, for over the course of the album it becomes clear that this
is Van Morrison, and this is what he does best.
What’s Wrong features Morrison leading a full band
(complete with woodwinds, horns and sometimes strings) through
mostly originals. These songs are among Morrison’s finest,
holding on to the jazzy Irish sound listeners have come to
associate with Morrison, while incorporating elements of ’50s
The title track and album opener is reminiscent of a Sam Cooke
ballad. Morrison tells us he is not what the public perceives him,
stated clearly when he sings, “Picture hanging on the wall
… ain’t me at all.”
This theme manifests itself throughout, from the aptly titled
“Too Many Myths” to “Fame.” Morrison even
makes an attempt at defining his sound in the slow riff-based blues
“Goldfish Bowl”: “Jazz Blues & Funk /
That’s not Rock & Roll / Folk with a beat / and a little
bit of Soul.”
And while this self-indulgence becomes irritating at times,
Morrison’s delivery is all-in-all redeeming. His nonchalance
and B.B. King-esque coolness make each song completely his own.
Whereas any other performer would come across as whiney, Morrison
somehow keeps us interested with his sincerity. There are even
moments on What’s Wrong when Van is heard
This album is a testament to Morrison’s ability to cross
genres and create a sound uniquely his own. What’s Wrong
With This Picture is subtle yet loud, vital yet funny, and when
it comes down to it, these are undeniable combinations.
Rating: 3.5 stars.