Could any artist hope to be even a smidge cooler than Johnny Kidd & the Pirates? Their lead singer, Johnny Kid, infamously posed with a patch on the eye for the release of Shakin’ All Over, a chilling chart-topper in the UK which Van Morrison now has his hands on. Smooth and obsessive this opening guitar riff is, the vocal performance from Morrison here is less-than-desirable. Still, the instrumentals are carrying the weight through Shakin’ All Over, which feels as close to capturing the contemporary release as it gets for these shaky and constant covers from Morrison. He always hits out a couple of decent tracks, even Moving on Skiffle had one or two tracks which worked as cover pieces. Shakin’ All Over is a hopeful sign.
They are few and far between in these blinkered releases from the Astral Weeks legend, whose legacy and ethic is far grander than his first release. But from there comes little and even covers like this one do less and less for a man who should be cemented as something so much more. Striking well enough, Shakin’ All Over does grow on the brain after a first listen. A few playthroughs later, it is hard not to fall for the immaculate guitar work here, the crawl of clustered notes given their dues as Morrison’s vocal work fades into the background. There lies the inevitable guitar and saxophone structures which guide these covers. It did not work for Moving on Skiffle but Morrison has powered through with the feel of the times, ending and beginning each song with much the same aplomb.
Eventually grinding the listener down, it is hard not to like parts of Shakin’ All Over, though it is a pale mockery of its original and still a ways off the classic charm found on the Johnny Kidd tune. Replication gets Morrison no further than a faded pastiche of Johnny Kidd. What a tune Shakin’ All Over is in its original form. A mangled interpretation from Morrison does not do this track any justice though it is one of his far more palatable options at present. For those familiar with the Kidd edition of this track, they will be somewhat disgruntled or not at all bothered by the Morrison cover. Those who had not heard the Kidd classic before this will find a new lease of life in Shakin’ All Over when they are guided toward the original piece.
Should covers be a way of paying tribute to the great and forgotten artists of the past, then Morrison does an integral job of showcasing just how great songs of old are. His covers are nothing special, no more interesting than the karaoke bar attendances people can make across the globe. Hearing someone belt out a song they enjoy is no different, in this instance, to Morrison and his efforts, which are loose when it comes to the vocals, strained and lost to a lack of meaning. At least the instrumentals are upheld, but when it comes to replicating the Kidd classic, it does not bode well to even attempt to stray away from what makes it a powerful, recognisable classic. Morrison knows that much, at least.