Album: Van Morrison

What's Wrong with This Picture? Blue Note
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The Independent Culture

There's little discernible difference between Van Morrison's debut for jazz label Blue Note and his previous half-dozen or so albums, which have ploughed much the same blues-jazz furrow. The most shocking thing about it is his burst of laughter in the first verse of the title track, an uncharacteristic display of levity from music's most famous misery-guts. Not that you have to wait too long for the usual grousing, mind: tracks such as "Fame", "Too Many Myths" and particularly "Goldfish Bowl" find Morrison railing against the "parasites and psychic vampires" he encounters in the celebrity game he hates. "I'm singing jazz, blues and funk," he chunters, "Baby that's not rock'n'roll/ So why should I want to live in this goldfish bowl?" And up to a point, he's right: What's Wrong with This Picture? is rooted in the classic R&B forms of such as T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner and Lightnin' Hopkins, with warm horns, brooding organ and, on a couple of tracks, Acker Bilk's smoky clarinet adding to Van's familiar round of romance, reminiscence and reflection. "Meaning of Loneliness" is the longest and deepest piece, where the singer claims: "Nobody knows the existential dread/ Of the things that go on inside/ Someone else's head". Unless they sing about it, of course.