Van Morrison/ Latest Record Project Volume 1, Rock, Exile Productions
Some voices just refuse to age. At 75, Irish legend Van Morrison sounds like what he did in the 1970s. While that’s a great thing on the one hand, he also tends to repeat his style of composition often.
Van The Man, who’s spent the past year writing many anti-lockdown songs, now comes up with a 28-track double album lasting over two hours. In these days of short listener patience, that’s a gutsy thing to do, though the predictability shows after the first half.
Most songs are in the protest mode, talking of fraud and hypocrisy. Thus, you have titles like The Long Con, Big Lie, Duper’s Delight and Double Agent. In a sarcastic vein, he also sings Why Are You On Facebook? or asks, Where Have All The Rebels Gone?
The orchestration is typical Morrison, with guitar, horns and Hammond organ. Though many portions will appeal to fans, one wishes he had released this in two parts. And this is only Volume 1 of his Latest Record Project.
Rating: 7/ 10
DJ Khaled/ Khaled Khaled, Hip-Hop, Epic Records
Not surprisingly, half the hip-hop world has guested on producer DJ Khaled’s new album Khaled Khaled. From Jay-Z, Roddy Ricch and Nas to Drake, Puff Daddy and Cardi B, this is like a roll call of rappers.
For variety, you have a double Justin in Timberlake and Bieber, besides the omnipresent Beyonce and reggae star Buju Banton. While all that’s great, the music oscillates between the trendy and the terrible.
To begin with, both Drake songs Popstar and Greece are well-executed, with Drake rapping “I’m a popstar, not a doctor”. Sorry Not Sorry, featuring Nas and Jay-Z, features a neat rhythm n’ blues stretch by James Fauntleroy. Cardi B is smooth on Big Paper, added later to the track list.
Most of the other songs are cacophony, using a style that did the rounds 20 years ago. And with the same ‘Another one.. DJ Khaled’ intro all over the place, one gets quite tired.
Rating: 5/ 10
Julia Stone/ Sixty Summers, Pop, BMG
Australian singer Julia Stone has been in and out of the news for over a decade, alternating between duets with brother Angus, solo albums, and singles. Coming nine years after her previous solo album, Sixty Summers moves from her earlier folk-driven style to more mainstream pop territory.
Julia has an unconventional voice, with a distinct smokiness, teenage air, and cute slur. On the peppy opening track Break, she sings, “Darling darling, you take my breath away” in a singalong manner, whereas the title track is boosted by lush production.
Matt Berninger, a baritone vocalist of The National, appears on the slower We All Have, but the combination is quite odd – Julia could have well sung that alone. The track Dance has a new wave club air, with its video featuring Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon, and a French version adds variety.
On Who, Julia has a lovely retro style, and Fire In Me brims with desire. The variety is impressive, and Julia comes up with a set that could attract both teenagers and the middle-aged crowd. Go for it.
Rating: 8/ 10
The Black Keys/ Delta Kream, Blues-Rock, Nonesuch Records
Hailing from Ohio, the Black Keys have been on the blues-rock scene for nearly two decades. Their 10th studio album Delta Kream pays tribute to the roots and swamp sounds of the Mississippi region.
Guitarist-vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney make interesting choices, beginning with the famous Crawling Kingsnake by Big Joe Williams and John Lee Hooker. While their heart is in the right place, one is more used to raw, gruff voices in this genre, and this seems quite diluted.
Five songs have been written by their idol Junior Kimbrough, whose career took off rather late. Do The Romp has explosive guitars, whereas Sad Days, Lonely Nights have an infectious hook and incisive lyrics. The Big Joe Williams song Mellow Peaches has intense riffs.
With assistance from guitarist Kenny Brown, Auerbach grabs your attention with his fretboard virtuosity. Of course, one misses the sheer rawness of some of the originals.