Music Reviews: The Latest From Van Morrison, Action Bronson, Laura Marling and More

Find out what you should be listening to this weekend.

ByAllan Raible
March 29, 2015, 3:10 AM
PHOTO: Van Morrison and Roger Daltrey perform at Teenage Cancer Trust 15th Anniversary Year Concerts at Royal Albert Hall, March 25, 2015, in London.
Van Morrison and Roger Daltrey perform at Teenage Cancer Trust 15th Anniversary Year Concerts at Royal Albert Hall, March 25, 2015, in London.
Mick Hutson/Getty Images

— -- intro: This week, Van Morrison returns with a duets album, rapper Action Bronson makes his full-length debut, British folk singing phenom Laura Marling branches out, singer Nellie McKay delivers a covers collection of songs from the mid-to-late sixties, singer-songwriter James Bay makes his debut and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion once again bring the funk. It is yet another densely populated week of new releases.

quicklist: 1title: Van Morrison’s “Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue” ***text: There apparently comes a time in just about every entertainer’s career where stock is taken. During this time, said entertainer looks through his/her back-catalog and decides to re-record songs previously recorded with often younger friends in the hopes of refreshing the material for a younger generation.

"Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue” is exactly what its title says that it is for Van Morrison. Although, Morrison does not pick his most popular songs. You won’t find “Moondance,” “Into The Mystic” or “Brown Eyed Girl” here. But this strategy allows him to give a bigger overview of his career, allowing later gems to shine.

He sings with peers like Steve Winwood, Mavis Staples and Georgie Fame along with younger voices like Joss Stone and Michael Buble. He even duets with his daughter, Shana Morrison on “Rough God Goes Riding.”

Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall, Natalie Cole, George Benson and Taj Mahal also make appearances and it is really nice to hear the late Bobby Womack one last time as the two duet on “Some Piece Of Mind.”

In the end, while this record is a rather standard exercise with nothing truly noteworthy to set it apart from other albums of its type, it still does its job by celebrating Morrison’s vast influence and saluting his long career. Could this have been done with a better known set of songs from his past? Certainly! But one gets the feeling that Morrison prefers to do it this way.

Focus Tracks:

“Whatever Happened To PJ Proby?” (with PJ Proby) It’s pretty funny that Morrison chose to record this song he originally cut in 2002 with its subject as his duet partner. Proby is an American singer who had more success in England than he did in the U.S, where he scored only one hit with 1967’s “Niki Hoeky.”

“Streets Of Arklow” (with Mick Hucknall) To a generation of fans, Mick Hucknall is known for the hits he had with Simply Red, mainly in the eighties that were somewhat bland “lite-radio” fare. To his credit, he has is a great vocalist and if you’ve ever seen the movie “24 Hour Party People,” you know that in that film, Steve Coogan, playing Factory Records-founder Tony Wilson tells us that Hucknall was actually one of the surprising people in attendance at a key event at the dawn of punk, so the man probably deserves more respect. Here, Hucknall plays well off of Morrison with a more stately rendition of this classic originally from Morrison’s 1974 album, “Veedon Fleece.”

Irish Heartbeat” (Featuring Mark Knopfler) Last week, by coincidence, I compared Mark Knopfler to Van Morrison in my review of his new album, “Tracker,” so this week it is funny to hear them sing together.

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