Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pay The Devil (To Sit Through It)

Crossposted at HickoryWind.

Pay the Devil
Van Morrison
Lost Highway

The second time I listened to this album I didn't hate it quite as much as the first time. Who knows, if I gave it a few more spins I might make it to "indifference."

Van Morrison. Really great songs. Bombproof songs, really. A band with the necessary chops on paper. Why is this album so boring, and sometimes a baffling mess?

The band has a thin, tinny sound. The Nashville Sound strings and backing singers are generally heavy handed and weirdly placed. There are some instrumental breaks that actually sound like they are played by a human being but they're rare and only draw attention to the Casio Keyboard Backing Track Number 6 quality of the rest of it.

But these are good players so I guess we have to blame the producer who is listed as ... Van Morrison. Ahem.

Van himself is uneven and sounds unsure where to go on alot of the songs. He’s good on “What Am I Living For” and “Till I Gain Control”, OK on some others and terrible on “Once A Day.” A really, truly terrible performance. That’s particularly disappointing since it’s one of my very favourite classic country numbers, but he rushes it out like he’s following a bouncing ball. What's going on? Weird, I tell ya. It's all just weird.

I’d like to hear some live renditions of these songs before I completely write off the idea, the pieces are all there. Live maybe the band gets to break loose, and Van wakes up.

And maybe we've just been spoiled over the years by the rush of musicians paying homage to their influences. We've just accepted that a great artist with a great bunch of covers is going to deliver an album of rootsy magnificence. I like to think Van still can, but not with this disappointing mess.

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