By Adam Masterson
With production by long term Van Morrison engineer Mick Glossop and a room full of Van Morrison session players on the case, this album was bound to be interesting. For people not familiar with Van Morrison's last forty years this album from 20-something Londoner Adam Masterson is going to be a shaft of sunlight in a dingy bedsit. For people who have been listening to Van Morrison ever since Astral Weeks he's going to be a bit of a trial. BMG money and U2's A&R captor Nick Stewart are behind him so you might have to decide which camp you're in fairly soon.
The debut album's eight longish songs are emotionally stirred up and achingly incoherent, in the way that only young lovers' stuff can be. Sunlight, yesterday, surrender, starlight, fingers touching, the moon .... the full gamut of literary cues push you to that fragile part of yourself that drops a nostalgic tear for the lost but fleeting love of a stranger and the imagined security of an isolated (beautiful or bleak) location away from parents'/teachers'/employers' control. Masterson's voice has that Jeff Tweedy (I'll clear my throaat at the end of the song) catch that is either gorgeously endearing or bloody annoying, depending on your mood and/or sexual orientation. It's richly textured and resonant, with a full sounding depth and range. He lets it soar, and he busks away with extended vowels and American inflections like a good 'un. A hell of a singer, to be truthful.
The recording quality is sharp and close. The vocal mike gets the spittal and tongue and the guitar mike gets the finger style acoustic to absolute perfection ("Beneath the Moon" is as good as it gets). Cor anglais and oboe from Kate St John, upright bass from Dudley Phillips and loads more old timers bring memories of "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher" (1986) flooding back. Modern studio craft gets it even more faithfully to your ears.
The only question is the big one. Why would you buy this when the real thing is also in the shops (and available at a discount)? The answer is firmly set in your date of birth and your tolerance of airbrushed sentiment.