No one ever mistook Van Morrison for Mr. Warmth. But on his first solo album in four years, he’s on a misanthropic tear. “Sartre said hell is other people/ I believe that most of them are,” he sings near the disc’s start.
“I’m trying to get away from people,” he announces in a later cut, while, in another, he hurls at all humanity: “You’re controlled by the mediaâ€¦tell me what happened to you?”
Soâ€¦just what happened to Van to inspire this blanket condemnation? The world financial crisis, it seems – something that hit his home country of Ireland particularly hard. Many of the new songs speak of the wages of greed, and of capitalism itself. “Money don’t make you fulfilled/ it’s just pay the bills,” he sings in the album’s first song. “You’re a slave to the capitalist system,” he barks in its last.
As much bile as Van spews in the words, he forgives with the bliss of the music. The new tracks have an ease and generosity that leaves lots of room for his ace band to spin caring and erudite solos. It’s his jazziest album in years, with lots of scat, and a free hand awarded his horn players. If there’s an antidote to materialism, this just may be it.