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Van Morrison – Accentuate the Positive Review

As if there were a crying demand for more lazy covers, Van Morrison delivers on the dull promise left by his first completed works from this year. Two albums and not an ounce of quality to show for it. What a miserable time to be had – it gets worse than Moving on Skiffle after all. The once-strong vocalist who enjoyed his best years decades ago now drops, quite literally, Accentuate the Positive. It is scuffed and kicked together as though it was smashed into pieces after being thrown from the back of a moving van. Here it is though, more covers from a voice well past its sell-by date. Morrison once more plays catch up with Bob Dylan and now even struggles to keep pace with the dying breed of twilight years musicians phoning in covers albums. Bruce Springsteen, at least, has originality.  

Not set on ruining the songs of his youth, Morrison plants himself like a faux Freddy Krueger in the dreams of music critics who forgot to take their shoes off after a trip to the corner shop. You Are My Sunshine rips right through the classic lullaby with a hokey and disjointed rock piece which Dylan has perfected on the stage for his recent tour. Morrison once more plays catch-up, this time with a tune delivered better by parents than Pay the Devil singers. From the soulless I Want A Roof Over My Head to the shallow titular track, there is an emptiness which flows through this piece which, surprisingly, was not present on the preceding covers collection. Toothless Bye Bye Johnny sounds like Johnny B. Goode-lite, though Morrison covers never manage to haul themselves beyond a slim and weak likeness to tracks of old.  

As it drones on, the musical equivalent of paste being poured into your ears, Accentuate the Positive becomes as nondescript and absent as the people on the front. Vague faces, indistinct places and all the while Morrison is covering the likes of Sea of Heartbreak and Bonaparte’s Retreat. These are interesting songs – full of life and character – but Morrison makes it his sworn duty to remove this life from it all. Utterly tragic this pace and style may be, it is unforgivably dull and consistently so. At least something about this record is consistent. Round it out with the misery-inducing, flat and dullard turn on Shake, Rattle and Roll and the troubles of this covers collection come clear. No heart, no interesting spin, nothing at all.  

Considering the state of Morrison’s work on original material, perhaps covers are the safest bet. He has backed himself into the corner, half-heartedly hitting out with lockdown ruminations and covers of songs he vaguely remembers and wishes to butcher. But the vultures are circling, and people tire of the shtick. Being a legend does not give you a free pass. On every track for Accentuate the Positive, Morrison tries and fails to replicate a big band close with the same few tacky instrumentals. Morrison makes these hour-long covers collection a suitable piece of background noise for filing invoices – while also maintaining such a sluggish encounter with each track it all feels like an eternity. Consistent, geriatric misery.

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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