What's Wrong with This Picture?

What's Wrong with This Picture?

by Van Morrison
     
 
Over the course of the past four decades, Van Morrison has cast himself as a hard-drinking brawler, an astral-projecting mystic, a smooth-as-silk jazzbo, and a Celtic shaman. What's Wrong with This Picture? is something of a smorgasbord of those elements, held together by the immutable force of Morrison's voice and his iconoclastic, instantly recognizable

Overview

Over the course of the past four decades, Van Morrison has cast himself as a hard-drinking brawler, an astral-projecting mystic, a smooth-as-silk jazzbo, and a Celtic shaman. What's Wrong with This Picture? is something of a smorgasbord of those elements, held together by the immutable force of Morrison's voice and his iconoclastic, instantly recognizable songwriting style. The disc-opening title track may be the gentlest of Van's career, with his quizzically slurred vocal tones bundled up in a cloak of simple-yet-elegant strings and brass -- an ambience that takes a sharp turn on "Whinin' Boy Moan," a guttural blues that finds Morrison tapping into his darkest back pages. He stops to muse about the blues here and there -- most notably on a cover of "Saint James Infirmary" -- but the bulk of the disc is painted in brighter hues. On "Once in a Blue Moon," Morrison breathlessly chases, catches, and endeavors to hold on to a wisp of romance, his inimitable phrasing matched by vivid splashes of horns (supplied in part by legendary British jazz clarinetist Acker Bilk, who helps shape "Somerset," which he also co-wrote). Morrison also gets in touch with his celebrated cerebral side on a brace of tracks, pondering the deep mysteries of Mother Earth on "Little Village," which chugs along stealthily on well-worn rails of supple rhythm. While not exactly a new chapter in the story of Van Morrison, What's Wrong with This Picture? is peppered with enough well-spun yarns to merit turning its pages again and again.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
While 2002's Down the Road was the best Van Morrison release in ages -- with its autobiographical allusions, cultural critiques, and new band -- it could not have prepared listeners for the jolt of this, his Blue Note Records debut What's Wrong With This Picture? While the album is hardly a straight jazz record, it does take the territory he explored on Down the Road another step further into the classic pop music of the 20th century filtered through his own Celtic swing, R&B, vocal jazz, and blue-eyed soul. The title track that opens the album is as close to an anthem as Morrison's ever written; he states with an easy, swinging, jazzy soul groove that he is not the same person he once was and wonders why that was so difficult for others to accept. There is no bitterness or bite in his assertions. If anything, the question is asked with warm humor and amusement as if it is indeed the listener's hangup if he/she can't accept Morrison "living in the present time." He asks, "Why don't we take it down and forget about it/'Cause that ain't me at all," as the song whispers to a close. Morrison's employment of a large horn section -- actually a pair of them as the disc was recorded in different sessions -- is full of teeth and big, bad soul. "Whinin Boy Moan" is a direct cue from Mose Allison as read by Big Joe Turner. Hard-swinging R&B horn lines (including his own alto saxophone) combine with killer solos by tenorman Martin Winning and trumpet boss Matt Holland as Morrison does his most inspired blues shouting since Wavelength. Celtic soul is never far behind, either, as it displays itself on the stunningly beautiful "Evening in June." The way Morrison employs brass, woodwind, and reed textures is unique for him as clarinets, alto and bass, flügelhorns, and loads of saxophones gradually build as the emotion in a tune imparts itself. Acker Bilk makes a return appearance here co-writing and performing on the elegant, bluesy swing of "Somerset." Other than this collaboration and stellar covers of "St James Infirmary" and Lightnin' Hopkins' "Stop Drinking" -- the most unique and timely interpretation of the nugget since Louis Armstrong's, and it contains the greatest horn solo interplay on any Morrison record ever -- Morrison's songwriting is more expansive, more intricate, and more luxuriant in its use of grooves, vamps, and riffs as they intertwine with beautiful horn charts, sophisticated melodies ,and the always-present blues feel. There are 13 tracks here, and virtually all of them would be standouts on any of his other records. But the aforementioned tracks, along with "Meaning of Loneliness" and "Once in a Blue Moon," are among the finest tunes he's ever written, let alone recorded. This is the sound of an artist who is comfortable making a break with his past because it is not a break; he understands it as the next part of a continuum that goes deeper and wider than anyone else ever expected. This is the sound of self-assurance as it articulates itself with grace and aplomb.
Rolling Stone - Richard Abowitz
There is no filler or slackness here.... In fact, there is nothing wrong with this picture.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/21/2003
Label:
Emi Europe Generic
UPC:
0724359016726
catalogNumber:
5901672

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Van Morrison   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Alto Saxophone,Vocals
David Hayes   Bass,Background Vocals
Acker Bilk   Clarinet
Liam Bradley   Drums,Background Vocals
Keith Donald   Bass Clarinet
Lee Goodall   Alto Saxophone,Baritone Saxophone,Background Vocals
Mick Green   Electric Guitar
Pete Hurley   Bass
Bobby Irwin   Drums
Gavin Povey   Piano
Nicky Scott   Bass
Fiachra Trench   Piano
Alan Wickett   Conga,Washboard
Foggy Lyttle   Electric Guitar,Background Vocals
Martin Winning   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Alan Smale   Leader
Irish Film Orchestra   Strings
Matt Holland   Trumpet,Flugelhorn,Background Vocals
John Scott   Mandolin,Electric Guitar
Richard Dunn   Piano,Hammond Organ

Technical Credits

Acker Bilk   Composer
Lee Goodall   Horn Arrangements
Lightnin' Hopkins   Composer
Brian Masterson   Engineer
Van Morrison   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Horn Arrangements
Walter Samuel   Engineer
Fiachra Trench   String Arrangements
Patrick Roques   Art Direction
Alastair McMillan   Engineer
Matt Holland   Horn Arrangements
Traditional   Composer
David Collett   Composer

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