As with the best Van Morrison songs, “Transformation” billows out from its oft-repeated refrain. The lead single off Morrison’s upcoming Roll With The Punches (out Sept. 22) consists largely of the 71-year-old Irish singer belting “gonna be a transformation” over a triumphant soul progression. But if there’s been a transformation in Morrison over his long career, it isn’t evident here. This is a soaring bit of classic Morrison roots-soul — and his best outing in recent years.
This song has some of the wily, indulgent excess of Morrison’s most influential work, with more organic production than much of his modern output that’s far better suited to his loose vocal style.
Morrison is an artist who’s never been afraid of risking the ridiculous in pursuit of the transcendent. For proof, see: the line “Yeah when there’s no more words to say about love I go, NNGEEEEEEEEEE” at the end of “You Know What They’re Writing About,” the various growls on the 11-minute “Listen To The Lion,” the barn-burning cover of “Bein’ Green” live at the Rainbow and various album covers including — but not limited to — Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart and A Sense of Wonder.
Here, that tendency takes the form of a moving climax, complete with some vintage scatting. The moments that simultaneously elicit a laugh at his excess and a swell of feeling at his conviction — these are his specialty. “Transformation” brings us there once again. This is yet another testament to the transportive power of music and the changing force of a righteous love. That’s a note he’s sounded before, often over and over again at the end of a song, until the words loose their meaning and the inarticulate meaning comes clear.
Hear Van Morrison’s Soulful New Song With Jeff Beck, ‘Transformation’
Issued a soulful new single, “Transformation,” from his upcoming 37th studio album, Roll With the Punches. “Gonna be a transformation down in your soul,” the vocalist croons over a gospel groove with heavy Hammond organ. Jason Rebello anchors the track with smooth piano chords and rock legend Jeff Beck contributes a series of smoldering guitar fills.
Morrison also released a live video of the song filmed at his recent gig at London’s Porchester Hall. In that clip, available above, the singer leads the band with his impassioned delivery, throwing back in his head and stomping the stage.
Roll With the Punches, out September 22nd, features five new Morrison compositions and a series of blues and soul covers.
“The songs on Roll With the Punches – whether I’ve written them or not – they’re performance oriented,” he said in a statement last month upon announcing the LP. “Each song is like a story and I’m performing that story. That’s been forgotten over years because people over-analyze things. I was a performer before I started writing songs, and I’ve always felt like that’s what I do.”
The album includes versions of Bo Diddley (“I Can Tell,” “Ride on Josephine”), Lightnin’ Hopkins (“Automobile Blues”) and Little Walter (“Mean Old World”) songs, along with several post-war standards like “Stormy Monday,” which both Lou Rawls and the Allman Brothers Band recorded. Morrison promoted the LP in July by releasing his take on Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me.”
The Astral Weeks singer will promote Roll With the Punches on a short tour launching September 10th in Hershey, Pennsylvania.