Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue

Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue

3.5 2
by Van Morrison
     
 

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It's not hard to wonder if Van Morrison was trying to drive away listeners by titling this album Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue, a name that practically howls this is a work defined by a lack of ambition and a desire to rest on his laurels. The clumsy title is especially strange because this an honestly good album that doesn't fit those negative expectations.

Overview

It's not hard to wonder if Van Morrison was trying to drive away listeners by titling this album Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue, a name that practically howls this is a work defined by a lack of ambition and a desire to rest on his laurels. The clumsy title is especially strange because this an honestly good album that doesn't fit those negative expectations. Even though Re-Working the Catalogue finds Morrison reviving songs from his extensive repertoire, he wisely focuses on lesser-known tunes rather than compete with his best-known work, and Morrison is able to generate a genuine enthusiasm for this music, which might not be the case if he tried to record "Moondance" or "Brown Eyed Girl" one more time. And the Belfast Soul Man for the most part has chosen duet partners with intelligence; rather than load up this set with current chart-toppers who have little knowledge of Morrison's legacy, most of the singers working with Morrison are cut from similar cloth, such as Steve Winwood, Chris Farlowe, Georgie Fame, and Bobby Womack (in what proved to be one of the latter's final recordings). If Joss Stone is considerably younger and more melismatic than Van's other partners, she understands what "Wild Honey" needs, and Michael Bublé delivers an admirably lively performance on "Real Real Gone." There are almost certainly other singers who would have sounded better on "Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby?," but Mr. Proby himself seems to be in on the joke with his delivery, and Van honestly sounds like he's having a lot of fun (not a common occurrence) with Taj Mahal on "How Can a Poor Boy?" And if Mavis Staples' voice is a bit rough on "If I Ever Needed Someone," she delivers the song with a churchy authority that Morrison clearly respects. As for Van himself, at the age of 69 his vocals lack the power and emotional force he so easily conjured in the '70s, but his sense of phrasing is as soulful and idiosyncratic as it has ever been, and he seems determined to find something in these songs that he missed the first time. This could easily have been a very lazy album, but Morrison gives this material an honest and thoughtful effort. (His grainy but potent sax work is a lot of fun, too.) And the production (by Don Was) and mix (by Bob Rock) is smooth without polishing out the personality of Morrison and his guests. Recutting a batch of your old songs is usually a sign you've run out of ideas, as is recording a full album of duets; while it's hard to know what Morrison's motivations were for making Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue, the pleasant surprise is that Morrison has managed to dodge both those bullets, and if it's a long way from a triumph, it's a solid, heartfelt work from a veteran artist who isn't about to give up the ghost.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/23/2015
Label:
Rca
UPC:
0888750684424
catalogNumber:
506844
Rank:
1954

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Van Morrison   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Alto Saxophone
Taj Mahal   Harmonica
Natalie Cole   Background Vocals
Steve Winwood   Hammond Organ
George Benson   Guitar
Stanley Banks   Bass
David Garfield   Piano
Mark Knopfler   Guitar
Paul Moore   Bass
Paul Moran   Organ,Piano,Trumpet,Flugelhorn,Hammond Organ
Mark Nightingale   Trombone
Josh Brown   Trombone
Dave Keary   Acoustic Guitar,Banjo
Chris White   Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,tin whistle
Shana Morrison   Background Vocals
Abass Nii Dodoo   Percussion
Mike Osborn   Percussion
Khari Parker   Drums
Jacob Rodriguez   Baritone Saxophone
Justin Ray   Trumpet
Alan Chang   Piano,Leader
Rob Wilkerson   Alto Saxophone
Marion Felder   Drums
Jean Caze   Trumpet
Jumaane Smith   Trumpet
Nick Vayenas   Trombone
Robbie Ruggiero   Drums
Craig Polasko   Bass
Jake Saslow   Alto Saxophone
Marcel Camargo   Guitar
Ryan Lerman   Guitar
Alistair White   Trombone,Euphonium
Bobby Ruggiero   Percussion,Drums,Background Vocals
Jeff Lardner   Drums
Lilliana De Los Reys   Percussion

Technical Credits

Haydn Bendall   Engineer
Van Morrison   Producer
Bob Rock   Producer
Tim Summerhayes   Engineer
Fiachra Trench   String Arrangements
Don Was   Producer
Enda Walsh   Engineer
James Towler   Engineer
Alan Chang   Musical Director
Joe Kearns   Engineer
Michela Comisso   Art Direction

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Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
glauver More than 1 year ago
This is good but I expected a bit more. Van the Man is in fine voice and is to be commended for picking obscure songs to cover. The problem is that most of the numbers seem to be a bit on the meditative side. Streets of Arklow is a bit different but the CD catches fire on the last two tracks. Real Real Gone with Michael Buble is a rocker in the vein that more selections should have been in and How Can A Poor Boy? with Taj Mahal is a nice folk blues .
PaulaM More than 1 year ago
I couldn't agree LESS with the B&N reviewer or the other customer here. Van has ALWAYS been contemplative and obscure and very so slightly grouchy. It seems to me he's picked some of his more obscure songs because those were the ones he wanted to explore. As for his duet partners, I think they match perfectly. If anyone thinks of Van Morrison as 'pop" singer, they're wrong. He's always been about the blues, thank goodness. This is a wonderful album and I recommend it to anyone who thinks they know Van just because they can sing along with "Brown Eyed Girl."