Any shortlist of all-time great pop music vocalists should include Sam Cooke and Van Morrison. There’s no arguing that. It’s not up for a seven-person panel CNN style debate. It’s been settled. Cooke was “Mr. Soul,” a preternatural crooner who could lift you up or make you cry with the same vocal quiver. Morrison, despite fifty years of work to comb through, is a still inscrutable talent seemingly beamed in from the cosmos.
That Morrison would then cover Cooke for his forthcoming album, Roll with the Punches, is all too perfect. It’s safe to assume that Van would’ve turned in a stellar performance with whatever song he picked but “Bring It On Home to Me” is a particularly wise choice for the Northern Irish singer. Across the various Cooke takes (of which the Harlem Square performance is still the best), there’s a remarkable vulnerability to “Bring It On Home to Me.” It isn’t a demand or bold call for love but a tender, passive plea. It’s a gentle ask for some affection. And across his five-and-a-half minute take, Morrison gets that. Morrison finds the song’s steadily beating heart and let’s us all hear it. And once you, you won’t leave it behind.
Roll with the Punches is out September 22 via Exile/Caroline.