The Band - Islands vinyl lp NEW SEALED
It’s been a long haul for both the Band and Van Morrison; they have made their livings as rock & rollers for close to 20 years now. To judge solely by their new albums (Morrison’s is his first release since 1974) time is catching up with them, though whether they will again outdistance it remains an open question. Morrison made better music in ’64 and ’65 with Them, the first (and last?) great Irish rock & roll band; as the Hawks, the Band made better music in ’63, covering Bobby Bland and Muddy Waters tunes at the tail end of a Ronnie Hawkins session. Not that rock & roll has ever had anything to do with “progress.”
There is a lot of neo-R&B huffing and puffing on A Period of Transition (from what to what?), but Morrison’s performances rarely find a focus, almost never hit a groove. The grand gestures of Morrison’s style at its most rhetorical (“We are Them, take it or leave it,” he snarled during his 1964 sessions) fade in the air. The emotion that would justify those gestures, that would put a little terror into borrowed lines like “From a whisper to a scream,” is just out of reach: Transition is “Jackie Wilson Said” without the bite.