Born to Sing: No Plan B

Born to Sing: No Plan B is the 34th studio album recorded by Northern Irish singer/songwriter Van Morrison. It was released on 2 October 2012 on Blue Note Records.[1][2] Produced by Van Morrison, it marked his first studio album of original songs since 2008's Keep It Simple.[3]

Born to Sing: No Plan B
Studio album by
Released2 October 2012
RecordedBelfast, Northern Ireland
GenreJazz, blues, pop, rock, R&B
LabelBlue Note
ProducerVan Morrison
Van Morrison chronology
Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Born to Sing: No Plan B
Duets: Re-working the Catalogue

The album was well received by critics with most reviewers giving it four out of five stars, including Allmusic and Rolling Stone. It debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200, and has sold 132,000 copies in the US as of March 2015.[4]

It was also Morrison's first album since the merger of EMI and Universal Music Group, which consolidated ownership of all his albums from 1984 onward.


Recorded in his hometown of Belfast, the album was described as containing ten new original songs[5][6][7] although "Close Enough for Jazz" had featured as an instrumental on his 1993 release Too Long In Exile. The album was recorded live at the studio and features a six piece band of musicians, with Morrison on vocals, piano, guitar and alto-saxophone.[8]


One of the album's themes and some of the songs reflect on the current worldwide financial crisis. Morrison has spoken out that he felt the need to comment on what he perceives as "the worldwide preoccupation with money, materialism, income equality, and the greed that has poisoned society" while further remarking: "I’m not proselytizing, it’s not some kind of manifesto. Songs are just ideas, concepts, and you just put the mic there and go."[9]


Single "Open the Door (To Your Heart)" was released by EMI on 24 September 2012. It featured as the Record of the Week on BBC Radio 2 during the week commencing 25 August 2012.[10]

The Daily Nebraskan described the song as beginning "the album with a jaunty rhythm of bass, oscillating tones of an organ and an electric guitar accentuating the off-beats. The tempo is much slower but for those fans more intimately familiar with Morrison’s catalog of songs, it feels oddly similar to “Wild Night,” which appeared on his 1971 album “Tupelo Honey.” Casting off the wildness of youth, this easy-paced speed more fully exposes the intricate dialog between the instruments; not only on this song but throughout the album."[11]

Pre release

Blue Note's president Don Was, who oversaw the release, argued that the album features "great, really incisive songwriting. It's a cool record."[12] Was commented that Blue Note Records was "incredibly honored" that Morrison had chosen the label, referring to him as "one of the greatest singer/songwriter/musicians of all time".[13]

In an interview with John Bennett in the Belfast Telegraph, Morrison described his meaning of the title as: "Well it’s all about doing what you’re meant to do and no frills, like Mose Allison said about me, if you want to look it up, ‘There's no smoke or mirrors, there’s no lights. It is what you get.' That’s basically what you get. I’m not a tap dancing act. It’s just singing." [14]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Belfast Telegraph[17]
The Guardian[18]
The Independent[19]
The Irish Times[20]
The Observer[23]
Rolling Stone[24]

David Fricke with Rolling Stone gave the album four out of five stars calling it a "vividly irritated, vocally compelling record". Fricke concluded: "At 67, on his 35th studio album, Morrison feels like an endangered species, surrounded by jive and crooks, with nothing to fall back on but his sinuous growl – like gravel rolling through velvet – and scatting hallelujahs."[24]

A four out of five star review by Thom Jurek with Allmusic described the music: "Employing his trademark Celtic soul, the album also showcases incursions into jazz and blues and sometimes all three within the same tune."[16]

Stephen Graham with Jazzwise gave the album four out of five stars and wrote: "On this, his first studio album since Keep it Simple, this time recorded unusually in his home town of Belfast, Morrison has come up with the goods once again after the commercial and critical success of Keep It Simple and the huge interest shown when he followed it by releasing a live album based on his great 1960s masterpiece, Astral Weeks."[21] Previously in August 2012, journalist Mike Flynn wrote an early review of the unreleased album in Jazzwise commenting that "initial listens suggest it’s his strongest album for some time" and that the album "finds Morrison emphatically moving back into jazz territory, and has resulted in a wonderfully laconic, live-in-the-studio atmosphere. Yet the laidback feel is counterbalanced with some of his most acerbic, politically charged and socially conscious lyrics to date."[26]

A reviewer in the Belfast Telegraph rated the album with four out of five stars and called it "effortless, cool and classy" and commented that "when Plan A is this good, there's no reason to look any further".[17]

The Guardian's Dave Simpson reviewed the album and gave it four out of five stars. In his review of the album he wrote: "His 35th solo studio album is his jazziest: the warm brass and catchy, sweet melodies recall 1970's Moondance. But the music's velvet glove delivers some of his hardest-hitting lyrics."[18] A review in The Observer again rated the album four out of five stars and found "Morrison's voice remains peerless. A keeper, a goodie."[23]

The album received a four star rating in musicOMH and reviewer John Murphy commented on the band being "particularly wonderful, with a muted trumpet and double bass making for memorable solos." He concluded that the album "will probably be an acquired taste for some (the jazzy backing may put some off, as may Morrison's tendency to incessantly repeat lines and start scatting every so often), but it's yet another example of his sometimes erratic genius."[22] Another four star rating was given the album by The Independent's reviewer Andy Gill who called it "Van Morrison's best album in some while" and "a set of songs that, despite the relaxed tone of their jazz-blues settings, foam with indignation about the venality of capitalist adventurism."[19] The album was also reviewed with a four star rating in The New Zealand Herald where it was referred to as "Another worthwhile late-career high from Van" by reviewer Graham Reid.[27]

Jason Heller with The A.V. Club gave the album a C+ rating noting "His voice remains in sturdy form, all rumble and husk, and his once sinuous cadence feels wizened, not weakened, by the occasional arthritic crick" and that ending songs of the album, one of which the critic found "cynical" and another "exhausted R&B", but wrote it was salvaged by "solid, serviceable, latter-day Morrison material."[28] Uncut gave the album 7 out 10 stars with reviewer, Graeme Thomson concluding that the album "remains a vibrant and timely reaffirmation of Morrison’s talents. It is not the transcendent album some may have read in the runes, but it contains several hints that such greatness may, finally, be within his grasp once more."[25]

Tony Clayton with Irish Times gave the new album three out of five stars commenting that "While lyrically he ruminates on financial crises and (once again) the pressures of being Van the Man, musically it’s all jazzy breezes (Going Down to Monte Carlo) and leisurely blues (Pagan Heart). Nothing new then, but the same-old same-old somehow sounds fresher. Life in the old dog yet."[20] Brandon Stewart with 612 ABC Brisbane praised the album and commented: "The sound is warm and immediately familiar, as Van and his road band swing through the freshest set of songs we’ve heard from Morrison in some years."[29]

Colm O Hare of Hot Press writes that the new album "is chock-full of that newfound energy, lyrically and musically..." and that it "harks back to his ‘70s heyday". He concludes with "With superb accompaniment from a stellar band, the performances and arrangements on Born To Sing: Plan B are close to perfection. His best album since 1995’s Days Like This."[30]

Track listing

All tracks are written by Van Morrison.

1."Open the Door (To Your Heart)"5.19
2."Going Down to Monte Carlo"8.12
3."Born to Sing"4.39
4."End of the Rainbow"4.35
5."Close Enough for Jazz"3.45
6."Mystic of the East"4.56
7."Retreat and View"6.50
8."If in Money We Trust"8.02
9."Pagan Heart"7.52
10."Educating Archie"5.41


  • Van Morrison – alto saxophone, electric guitar, piano, vocals
  • Paul Moran – Hammond organ, piano, keyboards, trumpet
  • Alistair White – trombone
  • Chris White – tenor saxophone, clarinet
  • Dave Keary – guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar
  • Paul Moore – bass. double bass
  • Jeff Lardner – drums, percussion
  • Van Morrison – production for Exile Productions, Ltd.
  • Enda Walsh – recording, mixing
  • Tim Young – mastered at Metropolis Mastering, London, UK
  • John Rogers - management
  • Paddy Johnston - personal assistant

Chart performance

Year Chart Position
2012 Austria Albums Chart 10[31]
Belgium Albums Chart 18[31]
Denmark Albums Chart 12[31]
Dutch Albums Chart 20[31]
Germany Albums Chart 15[31]
Ireland Albums Chart 9[31]
Italy Albums Chart 39[31]
New Zealand Albums Chart 16[31]
Norway Albums Top 40 Chart 14[31]
Spanish Albums Chart 9[31]
Switzerland Albums Chart 33[31]
UK Albums Chart 15[31]
US Billboard 200 10[32]
World Albums Top 40 12[31]


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