CD review

Van Morrison – Three Chords And The Truth

Van Morrison – Three Chords And The Truth
(Exile/Caroline. CD review by Adam Sieff)

Here’s Van Morrison at 74, a hard working man with a busy tour schedule releasing his sixth album in four years. The 14 songs, all by Morrison (one a co-write with lyricist Don Black) were cut at studios in Wales, Northern Ireland and the US with a different rhythm section for each side of the Atlantic. They were partly recorded, mixed and mastered by longtime Van collaborator Jim Stern, truly the Rudy van Gelder of the West Coast and a key part of the Fantasy Records story. The album’s title comes from the prolific American songwriter Harlan Howard’s quote that “Country Music is three chords and the truth”, and on the title track’s chorus Morrison amends that to “Three chords and the truth, a shot of rhythm and blues”, which is a more accurate description of this 70-minute album.

So what do you want from Van Morrison, 51 years after Astral Weeks and now 40 since Into the Music? He had it all figured out a long time ago, and seems perfectly content to head into the studio with musicians he trusts to capture the feeling and spontaneity with an early take. Most of the players go back a long way with Morrison, for example, guitarist Jay Berliner, who contributes some fine acoustic guitar, performed on Astral Weeks, while bassist David Hayes began playing with Van back in ’72.

On first listening the album felt a little loose for comfort, perhaps Morrison’s production was a touch light-handed? But after the second and third plays the magic began to reveal itself, and it really does, especially on the songs You Don’t Understand, with its strong Ray Charles’ I Believe To My Soul influence, the slow-burning Up On Broadway and the brooding Dark Night Of The Soul. I also enjoyed his grouchy Bags Under My Eyes, the nostalgic rock and roller Early Days and the timely Nobody In Charge. But the album’s sweet spot is the closer Days Gone By (no relation to Down the Road’s The Beauty Of The Days Gone By) based on Auld Lang Syne with a wonderful extended coda that heads straight into the mystic. 

Morrison is in fine voice throughout, soulful and even playful, deep in the flow. It’s probably unfair to highlight any of the musicians individual performances as they are all playing for and supporting each other, but organist John Allair and guitarist Dave Keary play some terrific solos and Morrison plays some fine saxophone and guitar himself.

This is a welcome album for chaotic times from a man whose deeply soulful music heals so many people. And that’s the absolute truth.

Remaining UK dates:

28 October – Nottingham
2-3 December – Brighton
31 December – 2 January – Belfast

Categories: CD review

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