Belfast Telegraph

Van Morrison's singalong with Natalie Cole, Mick Hucknall, Mavis Staples, Georgie Fame, Steve Winwood, Mark Knopfler and the late Bobby Womack hailed his best album in years

By Amanda Ferguson

Legendary Belfast singer-songwriter Van Morrison is garnering rave reviews for his latest album Duets: Re-working The Catalogue.

The internationally-acclaimed musician's performance on his 35th studio album was described as "outshining everyone" by Neil McCormick of the Daily Telegraph.

The album features Van performing with Natalie Cole, Mick Hucknall, Mavis Staples, Georgie Fame, Steve Winwood, Mark Knopfler and the late Bobby Womack.

Martin Townsend from the Daily Express said: "The album's sub-title may sound like a record company memo but Duets turns out to be Van's most satisfying record in years, the wily old campaigner matching his songs beautifully to each accompanist."

A popular chart star on the album is Canadian crooner Michael Buble, who joins Van to take the hit Real Real Gone to new heights.

Late last year, when Buble gigged at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, he told fans of his respect and admiration for Van.

East Belfast Partnership chief executive Maurice Kinkead is among the Van Morrison fans enjoying the singer's newest offering. "I really like the album," he said. "There isn't a weak song on it. Sometimes these duets things can be tricky but I think it has worked really well. I particularly like the songs with Joss Stone, Claire Teal and Mavis Staples."

Mr Kinkead added that Morrison's sold-out Cyprus Avenue gig in Belfast on August 31 - which coincides with the star's 70th birthday - is drawing lots of visitors to the city for extended holidays.

"Cyprus Avenue is the final event of the Eastside Arts Festival," he said.

"International visitors are telling us they are going to stay for the festival week. They are keen to hear other musicians on the line-up too."

Earlier this month Van Morrison said he is not a fan of the modern incarnation of the musical genre that inspired his career, dismissing today's R&B as "terrible" and "robotic".

"I can't relate to it now, what they call R&B," the 69-year-old said. "It doesn't have any rhythm in it. It doesn't have any blues. To me it is very unrhythmic.

"Words take on different meanings after a while. It's like soul - I don't know what that is now. To me, soul was like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Bobby Bland, Solomon Burke, Bobby Womack. But what is it now? It is just a word. It can mean anything. What is jazz? Some of the stuff that they say is jazz, I don't know what it is. Blues also."

Quotes

"Morrison outshines everyone, with a quality of relaxed joyousness, riffing all over lush, lively new arrangements with his band. It helps that he has dipped into odd corners of his catalogue, old and new, breathing fresh life into such extraordinary songs as Rough God Goes Riding (with daughter Shania) and Streets of Arklow (with Mick Hucknall)."

Neil McCormick, Daily Telegraph

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