Van Morrison’s latest album is enjoyable but nothing special

Maddie Wright

(Photo courtesy of iTunes)

Van Morrison, an iconic Irish rocker, released his newest album, “Versatile,” with a heavy focus on paying tribute to his jazz influences.

Famous for his hits like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Jackie Wilson Said,” Morrison covers jazz classics in this album. “Versatile” is not focused Morrison’s talent as a musician and songwriter but rather on the jazz movement itself. The entire album is smooth and enjoyable to listen to. The only problem: it’s a bit boring at times. 

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Morrison revamps classes like “A Foggy Day,” which was originally introduced by Fred Astaire in 1937. The songs are mellow and peaceful and follow beats established by swing bands. Morrison, who is often credited as a rock and roll musician, is exclusively jazzy in this album, using instruments like the saxophone and piano. 

Longtime fans of Morrison will enjoy this album, becomes it pays tribute to his roots and influencers while introducing a few new songs as well. Of the 16 songs released on this album, only six were either composed or arranged by Morrison. But those without ties to Morrison some may find the music to be overdone.  

The first track, titled “Broken Record,” sets the theme for the rest of the album, opening with big swing band rhythms. Appropriately titled, the track sort of feels like a broken record in style. And the rest of the album feels like a broken record because it is music we have all heard before.

Do you remember when Van Morrison used to sing “sha la la la la?” Well, that same type of lyric and jazz improvisation found its way into “Versatile” in the chorus of “Affirmation,” a six-minute track. The chorus  primarily consists of “Ringa dinga dinga ding ding ding.” Again, interesting, but repetitive. 

Some pieces on this album give focus to the instruments rather than Morrison’s voice. “Skye Boat Song” is an entirely instrumental piece. It’s an old Scottish folk song first composed in the 1800s. It is great study music with mellow undertones, and it has a lot of energy to encourage movement and focus. This is a good one. 

Should you listen to it? Maybe.

While enjoyable, ultimately, it’s nothing new and doesn’t feel particularly inspired but is still nice to listen to.If you need some new study music for your repertoire or are interested in jazz and Morrison, this is a great album for you. The content of the album is nothing particularly eye-catching, – or ear-catching – but it’s good music and shows talent. While boring at times, Morrison is here to remind us that jazz is not dead. It’s just a little been there, done that in this particular album. 

Collegian reporter Maddie Wright can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @maddierwright.