The 28-track collection marks his 42nd release and showcases creativity through the pandemic lockdown. “Latest Record Project: Volume 1” was touted in an announcement released March 3 as an illustration of Morrison’s “ongoing love of blues, R&B, jazz and soul…However much you may love his classic albums, this new project proves that he’s living in the present.”
Morrison says, “I’m getting away from the perceived same songs, same albums all the time. This guy’s done 500 songs, maybe more, so hello? Why do you keep promoting the same 10? I’m trying to get out of the box.”
The announcement says the album, “is the result of our enforced period of isolation. Unable to tour, Morrison remained busy with constant songwriting, starting ideas on piano, guitar or saxophone. What emerged is a wealth of new material, which shimmers with a directness and vibrancy that comes from working with a rhythm section with whom he shares an immediate, spontaneous connection.”
But one-year into the worst health and financial crises in generations, this collection also serves to chronicle the strange times we have all been living in. According to the announcement detailing songs on the album:
“‘Dead Beat Saturday Night’…addresses lockdown life in matter-of-fact style: ‘No life, no gigs, no choice, no voice.'”
“‘Where Have All The Rebels Gone’…bemoans the lack of real independent thought, so often replaced in the modern age by mere posturing.”
“Morrison’s views on social media…are summed up on ‘Why Are You On Facebook?'”
And if the man behind such singular sensations as “Moondance” and “Brown-Eyed Girl” is unclear in any way about his stance on the chasm between old and new music, just listen to the lyrics of his title track.
“Have you got my latest record project?” he sings. “You got my latest record project?/Not something that I used to do/Not something that you’re used to/Not something might be able to relate to/ In the present.”
This deliberate and determined song has a hard groove, with sharp angles that give way to tone and texture through earnest organ lines, regimented “Sha-la-la-las” sung in the background and a triumphant call-and-response. Once you throw your arms around the lyrics, the tune sticks to you like syrup and is revealed as classic Van Morrison in its finest form.
Reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic is nothing new for Morrison, who is quite famously a former resident of the musical Catskill Mountain town of Woodstock, New York.
Morrison last year wrote three songs “denouncing lockdowns” and accusing officials of “taking people’s freedom,” while alleging “scientists were making up “crooked facts” to justify restrictions to “enslave” the population, according to the Irish Times. In January, the Northern Ireland native went to court in his home country to challenge a pandemic ban on live music.