Opening with ‘Some Peace of Mind’ a duet with Bobby Womack, a song that appeared originally on 1990s double album Hymns to the Silence, Morrison delves deep within a lightly jazzy arrangement, rampaging Hammond organ cascading in the background, the two singers blending energetically.

Gospel next on this extraordinarily starry album released ahead of Morrison’s 70th birthday this summer full of A-listers and legends mainly drawn from the worlds of jazz and soul. ‘Lord, If I Ever Needed Someone’ with Mavis Staples, a song from one of Morrison’s finest collections, 1970’s His Band and the Street Choir, Staples all croaky and emotional, the time and feel just delicious.

Produced by Blue Note president Don Was and Michael Bublé producer Bob Rock plus Morrison himself ‘Higher Than The World’ with George Benson has a sunny delight to it, soulfully jazz-flavoured and lightly swung; ‘Wild Honey’ from Common One with Joss Stone going into deep soul territory, Stone superb, Morrison meltingly effective on one of the most sensuous songs of the album. ‘Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby,’ amusingly with Proby returning from obscurity, has a Cab Calloway moocher flavour to it providing a little light relief: nothing to relate to any more unless you want to be mediocre the two old pros belt out with feeling.

‘Carrying a Torch’ with Clare Teal (another song from Hymns to the Silence) comes next, beautifully set up on piano, Morrison very tender on the opening lines, Teal rising to the melodic demands of a treatment that has little jazz connotation. Unless you’re playing the brave soldier prepare to shed a tear, Teal really responding brilliantly, the song coming alive for the first time and way better than the Silence treatment.

Gregory Porter duets on ‘The Eternal Kansas City,’ a paean to Hootie, Basie and the era generally, so very unaffected, the marvellous Gregory lighting up the album and the city is eternal cant you see, one of the most vintage jazzy episodes of the whole affair. 

One of Van’s greatest achievements both as a lyricist and performer, ‘Streets Of Arklow,’ is next Mick Hucknall stepping up to the plate on the Veedon Fleece song. Gritty to begin with, that mystery that it needs duly conjured, Hucknall subtle when he comes in channelling Bobby Blue Bland perhaps so that’s all right. But nothing can surpass the Veedon Fleece version.

‘These Are The Days’ has Natalie Cole joining Van, a more laidback and very engaging take on the lovely Avalon Sunset song from the late-1980s, Cole poised and with a smile in her voice the band also given some space.

‘Get On With The Show’ with Georgie Fame is fun even though the song is essentially a moan: things don't just add up as the What’s Wrong with This Picture song has it, less essential than most. But ‘Rough God Goes Riding’ with Morrison’s daughter Shana joining him, The Healing Game song infused with political and religious meaning, is the most serious song on the album, a fiery rapport between father and daughter evident, sparks flying musically, and another big highlight of a surprising album that isn’t at all devalued by showbiz posturing.

‘Fire in the Belly’ with Steve Winwood, ‘Born To Sing’ from Van’s most recent album done like a showband might here with a big voiced Tom Jonesian effortless-sounding Chris Farlowe, and a warm ‘Irish Heartbeat’ with Mark Knopfler come towards the end, Enlightenment song  ‘Real Real Gone’ with Bublé creamy as ever, and ‘How Can A Poor Boy’ featuring a gutsy contribution from Taj Mahal then complete an album that must count as one for the fans, a thank-you from Van happy to sing among his peers -– and the fans will be thanking him too for the pleasures in store here and over the years. All roads now lead to Cyprus Avenue.

Stephen Graham

Released on 16 March