Van Morrison, "Versatile" (Sony)
Van Morrison has proven that he'd rather be singing than anything else.
Stage chatter? Not so much. Interviews? Not his thing.
But he loves making music. And make no mistake, he'll sing what he wants and put his own imprint on it — and there's a chance it will be wonderful.
Morrison's 38th studio album, "Versatile," comes hard on the heels of "Roll With the Punches," a tribute to the rhythm and blues influences that helped forge the style that made him one of the world's greatest songwriters. He may not be in his prime at 72, but he isn't stopping now.
On "Versatile" Morrison veers toward the swinging vibe that has enthralled him at times, applying his signature vocal fearlessness to his own songs, some new and some not, and assorted well-traveled classics. Those include the Cole Porter composition, "I Get A Kick Out of You" and "Unchained Melody," perhaps the album's most heartfelt cover.
A gentle re-casting of "I Forgot That Love Existed" does nothing to detract from the legacy of one of his best songs.
The new compositions generally don't rise to that standard. On "Broken Record," Morrison at one point sings the title repeatedly — sounding like, well, a broken record. Perhaps the album's weakest cut, it's an odd choice for the opener.
But the rest goes down easy, with stellar ensemble playing and just enough free-form adventurousness to keep the loyalists happy — and Morrison, too, as long as he's singing.