Morrissey: California Son review – Covers album for fans only, and Moz himself

These 1960s and 1970s tunes oscillate wildly between schmaltz and soaring balladry

California Son
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Artist: Morrissey
Genre: Rock
Label: Etienne Records/BMG

Even for many die-hard fans, Morrissey is not the artist he once was. That has less to do with his music and more to do with the baffling oscillation of his political compass, so perhaps it's just as well that there is no new album of original songs to decipher and analyse. Instead, a long-awaited collection of covers comprises his 12th studio album.

True to form, these are not necessarily crowd-pleasers but songs from the 1960s and 1970s chosen by Morrissey simply because he likes them. The flipside of such pertinacity? Some veer perilously close to schmaltz, not least his take on Dionne Warwick's Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets, or Lady Willpower, originally recorded by '60s pop act Gary Puckett.

His real vocal strength lies in big, booming ballads, best heard on his exceptional telling of Roy Orbison's It's Over, which builds beautifully to an emotional crescendo. Esoteric selections from Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs' songbooks are given more understated arrangements, although the glam buzz of Jobriath's Morning Starship and Buffy Saint-Marie's Suffer the Little Children infuse the tracklisting with some dynamism.

Overall, it’s an album for fans only – and for Morrissey himself, probably.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times