At first you think: now this is more like it. In the past 24 months Van Morrison has issued a faux-country album (lame), a volume-3 best of (why?), a 2-CD greatest hits package (terrific) and a collection of his songs used on movie soundtracks (wha?). But now he’s issued Keep It Simple, his 33rd studio album, and his first one in a long time with original songs. The tunes put one in mind of Morrison’s 1970 Moondance, even if they ultimately fail to live up to that classic.
On the new album Van makes like a mellow Irish blues man, playing pretty good lead guitar, saxophone and ukelele on 11 songs that dig deeper into his roots than just about any other album of his 41-year career.
On the opener, “How Can A Poor Boy,” he riffs, Dylan-like, on a traditional blues lyric which he winds up turning into a lament on how people don’t take the time to get to know the true Van the man. “That’s Entrainment” is a nimble toe-tapper that manages to live up to its title, and “Song Of Home” dips a toe into Tupelo Honey-style Celtic country. And the closing epic “Behind the Ritual” closes down the bars with a sad tale of “drinking wine in the alley.”
As entertaining as it is, Keep It Simple elicits a few complaints. It seems Morrison loses interest pretty much midway through every song. You rarely get a new idea, a fresh lyric past the middle, just some repetition and vocal scatting. Not that I mind that so much, but on “Behind the Ritual” he even resorts to muttering “blah blah blah blah” like he’s checking his BlackBerry while wrapping up the session.
Nice album Van, but next time how about you stick around long enough to finish it? Just sayin’.
Van Morrison official website