Talk From The Rock Room: Take One: Slowhand and Van – ‘The Rebels’ –Van Morrison and Eric Clapton

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Take One: Slowhand and Van – ‘The Rebels’ –Van Morrison and Eric Clapton

The second of two recent Van Morrison and Eric Clapton musical collaborations was released as a single on June 11th. The first, 'Stand and Deliver' was released in December of last year to mixed reviews. Playing under the obvious moniker of Slowhand and Van, the duo retooled a track from Morrison’s controversial 2021 LP Latest Record Project Vol. 1, originally titled, ‘Where Have all the Rebels Gone’. The aforementioned album is a fat 28 track recording swinging with stellar and current Van the Man. Proceeds from the sale of this single will go directly to the ‘Van Morrison Rhythm and Blues Foundation for assisting out of work musicians negatively affected by the global pandemic.

Morrison has been recently under fire for the lyrical content of some of his current work for reasons not exactly clear to the ‘rock room’. Morrison’s recent comments and lyrics have been in regards to his own Northern Ireland and their lockdown rules. Live performance as of this writing is still illegal in Northern Ireland with Morrison’s own June 10th performance being stopped by police. There is obviously much to dig into in this story, but we want to be brief. It was only when the American music media, specifically Rolling Stone got involved that certain segments of music 'experts' got triggered in regards to Morrison’s feelings.

The ‘rock room’ doesn’t get into our favorite musicians beliefs, conjecture or politics, all we know is Morrison is naturally cantankerous, highly opinionated and one of the finest musicians to grace a rock and roll stage. Clapton as well has had current comments placed under a microscope  and has been set as an example of a boomer musician subject to cancellation by the social media mob.  As Indira Ghandi stated, “Rebels and nonconformists are often the pioneers and designers of change”. I do know that supporting struggling musicians and artists is a noble cause and we will leave it at that.  

Lyrically 'The Rebels' finds Morrison searching the landscape for someone who take a stand for personal freedom, or actually anything. While there has been some media offence taken (when is there not these days?) to lyrics like the opening stanza, ‘Where have all the rebels gone? /Hiding behind computer screens/Where’s the spirit, where’s the soul? / Where have all the rebels gone’? Lyrics like the aforementioned come as no surprise to those who actually listen to Van Morrison, he has been doing this for years. Seek out the cut, ‘The Great Deception’ found on 1974’s Hard Nose the Highway.

Morrison calls em' like he sees em', unfortunately these days that may put you in the crosshairs. Morrison’s new releases and LP was deemed ‘dangerous’ by Northern Ireland's health minister. Lyrically in 'The Rebels' Morrison is asking point blank, where are his contemporaries, where are the new voices of free thinking or natural decent? Morrison hailed form an era of outspoken artists and cultural figures unafraid to speak their mind. The ‘rock room's opinion is that Morrison is entitled to ask this question musically without being vilified. Isn’t that what ‘rock and roll’ is about? Morrison’s music is labeled “dangerous”, but other popular music spotlighting moist private parts or drug use is on the ‘ok’ list? This is a war that has been waged since Elvis's pelvis so its really nothing new in the art or entertainment world.

But I digress, ‘The Rebels’ is a straight rock track with no chaser. Tough guitars, a good groove and sincere vocals, I wouldn't expect any less from such a legendary meeting. The tune strays from Morrison’s original recording by adding EC’s still acute guitar abilities. Whereas the original has a faster ‘honky’ groove, Clapton’s addition takes it to a deeper shade of blue. A churning four in the bar with intermingled acoustic and electric guitars meshing is the core. Clapton’s guitar has as serrated edge that slices open the opening salvo. Morrison has given over the main vocal duties to Clapton on the song but joins in harmony at the conclusion of each line.

The song is a gritty ear worm on a loop in my brain after a couple of listens. Clapton’s central lick dissects the verses while singing in bluesy rapport. Throughout his soling is patient, edgy and is soon joined by Morrison’s own horny harp blasts. This instrumental collaborative continues throughout the song and during the track’s excellent fade as well. Here, Morrison sings along with his famed wordless melodies combusting from thin air. The song has become a flowy oblique rolling over onto its self and seems to gain momentum as the verses move by.

A video has been made to accompany the single and can be watched here.  Based in blue and graced with line drawings, ‘rebels’ from James Brown to Kurt Cobain are scribbled throughout as Slowhand and Van march toward the screen in sketched gangster sympatico. ‘Wanted’ signs flash as John Lennon, Janis Joplin and Elvis are also mentioned through the litany of ‘rebels’ yesterday and today. I have to assert that the 'rock room' and more substantial media outlets talking this much about a new single from a couple of ‘rock and roll fossils’ must mean Morrison and Clapton are doing something right. 

Now, obviously I live for this stuff, but I feel lucky to have these two pillars of rock still creating and still speaking their mind.  Rock is still about being a rebel right? Born to be Wild and all that? I don’t necessarily think that stops when you hit a certain age. Art is supposed to elicit a response, good or band, right or wrong, it makes us feeeeeel. You don’t have to agree with Slowhand and Van, but understand they can say what they want and still have the talent and podium to do it. Whether to listen or not is up to you.

The Rebels

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