Friday, December 1, 2023
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Van Morrison – Lucille Review

Instinctively, heading into a Van Morrison cover track from last year, the guards are almost certainly up. Listeners are burned too often by the warbling tones of a man in touch with his youth. Dangerous times are ahead for those paying much, if any, attention to the man whose Moving on Skiffle record provided a desolate and rambling showcase of songs which meant much to his youth. Little more than that appears apparent in this Accentuate the Positive threat, which now features a cover of Lucille. No, not the Kenny Rodgers song. That would have been quite the turn though. Little Richard is dragged across the coals this time as Morrison hopes to retrofit his discography into that of Bob Dylan or the latest Bruce Springsteen offering. Covering the tracks of his past. 

But in doing so he brings nothing credible to the present or the future. A Grammy Hall of Fame recording was massacred by the man who once held such talent. Morrison has lost his way and hopes instrumentals make up for his lost cause releases. Light and breezy guitar work which may as well be lifted from the works of Chuck Berry are cause for concern here, but that is all forgotten when Morrison’s vocal range springs to life. Barely identifiable, strained and slurred vocal range like this does little to cement a legacy, let alone a cover. It is a rough traipse through the songs which should bring out the best in Morrison. Instead, his raspy tone is off the mark and lifeless.  

Again comes the brass, and it is as though these pieces write themselves for the implementations they make at times. There is little life to any of this. He takes a backseat in parts of this anyway, to a voice worse than his but at the very least slightly linked to the efforts found in the heyday of Little Richard and company. Again the purpose of a cover track is missed entirely. Not to improve but to implant a mention of the artistic traits which can push a track that much further. No dice for Lucille, and the wavering good faith of Accentuate the Positive is lost once more. These singles, somehow, sound like DVD menu music for Home Alone. These are certainly Problems, though Morrison has gotten off lightly with this batch of vaguely improved pieces.  

Compared to Moving on Skiffle this is frankly divine. But working ears and a brain between them is enough to see off these tracks as nothing more than what they are. Loose and lazy covers of tracks from a time when Morrison was a plucky and interesting musician learning his craft. He appears to have traded it all in for tepid tracks which counter the whole point of his positively impressive artistry over the last few decades. A pandemic has simply played with his mind, obsessed him and turned him into a dullard covers artist whose references to the past, present and future are as mind-numbingly plain as they are uninteresting. Lucille, as repetitive as it can be, should have trickles of charm in it. No such luck here.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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