Written by 4:54 am Audiophile Music

Missed Opportunities

Mark Smotroff looks at recent releases by Van Morrison, Frank Gambale, and Daryl Hall


I went record shopping with a friend recently and saw a new Van Morrison album on sale. My friend commented snidely why anyone would want to buy it?   Paraphrasing him (and some other friends who I always hope would know better): ‘fans just want to hear the hits — why do these old has-been artists even bother making new music?’ I tried to explain to my friend that true artists make new music because that IS what they do — they create! So as long as they can make new music, and have the wherewithal to release it, they do so.  

He shrugged. I bought the Van Morrison album and have no regrets

Long ago I noticed that friends would suddenly stop being interested in an artist due to a weak release or two. I am guilty of this — I turned my back on Joe Jackson in the mid 80s around the time of his post “Night and Day” hits circa ’83-84 which I viewed as crass sell outs at the time. I later went back and discovered that he’d rediscovered his heart a couple years later with “Big World” and has since been putting out really wonderful records.

My bad.

Accordingly, here are some albums you may have missed along the way from artists you might not even realize are still alive and well and recording. 

Van Morrison: “Born To Sing: No Plan B” — This is another fine collection of blues and jazzy pop from this legendary singer songwriter, including the man playing sax and piano.On this new one he swings and rocks and rolls and blows the blues away. Tracks like “Goin’ Down To Monte Carlo” and “End of the Rainbow” shine alongside his best. “Close Enough For Jazz” could have been a Moondance outtake. If you were a fan of early 80s albums like “Common One” and “Inarticulate Speech of the Heart,” as well as some of the early 70s gems like “St. Dominic’s Preview” and “Moondance” you’ll probably dig this one.  


Daryl Hall: “Laughing Down Crying” – Like Hall and Oats never ended, this album is a nice addition to Hall’s solo works with a fine combination of well produced soul ballads, retro grooves (“Eyes For You” echoes H&O hit “I Can’t Go For That”) and rockers (“Message To Ya”). This album snuck out in 2011 on Verve Records. Verve Records you ask? The Jazz label? Well, sure and it makes total sense since Verve in its heyday was more than just a jazz label issuing seminal albums by the likes of Richie Havens, The Velvet Underground and the original blue-eyed soul duo, The Righteous Brothers, arguably the blue-print (if  you will) for Hall and Oats.

AR-frankgambale.jpgFrank Gambale Featuring Boca: “Soulmine” — I was surprised to find this smooth jazz pop album by fusion guitar wizard Frank Gambale. I was even more surprised when it turned out to be a very enjoyable album. Imagine a sort of more soul-strutting take on Tuck and Patti. It is not perfect (some of the lyrics are hyper lovey dovey as some smooth jazz stuff can be) but it does mark a new direction for Gambale that may bear more fruit in the years ahead. Having seen Frank on video with the reformed Return To Forever, he is playing with a confidence and joy that was missing in his earlier — technically amazing but spiritually heartless — guitar work. Now the man is writing soulful songs and playing some TASTY guitar. What’s not to like! With Victor Wooten on bass, and a guest appearance by Brian Auger, this is a treat worth checking out.   

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