A sim­ple choice

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music Reviews -

VAN MOR­RI­SON Keep It Sim­ple Poly­dor Van Mor­ri­son re­leases al­bums too of­ten for a new one to be any­thing other than just an­other record from a gi­ant who no longer tow­ers over his con­tem­po­raries. His out­put over the past 15 years hasn’t done him any favours, ei­ther, rang­ing from lack­lus­tre (1993’s Too Long in Ex­ile) to just plain poor (1997’s The Heal­ing Game).

Even his most ar­dent fans, who surely buy his al­bums more out of duty and op­ti­mism than love, have won­dered if Mor­ri­son will ever de­liver at least one album that not only harks back to for­mer glo­ries but says some­thing about him other than how ag­grieved he is at the me­dia or the mu­sic in­dus­try.

Keep It Sim­ple isn’t that record, though (as the ti­tle sug­gests) there is a cer­tain back-to-ba­sics approach that ren­ders it Mor­ri­son’s best album in many a year. Sim­ply put, Van has the blues: from the cover to the con­tent, he utilises slow-burn­ing blues mo­tifs (sneaky gui­tar from for­mer Pi­rate Mick Green, or­gan runs, har­mon­ica fills) al­lied to lyrics that stick pretty closely to the Mor­ri­son for­mula.

What makes Keep It Sim­ple such a respite from re­cent of­fer­ings is the lack of ir­ri­ta­tion; Mor­ri­son might not be a fully fledged vis­i­tor to The Happy Club, but on the ba­sis of this he’s at least con­sid­er­ing a mem­ber­ship. Also out in the stores (phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal) are var­i­ous Van Mor­ri­son reis­sues:

Tu­pelo Honey (1971 is equal parts sub­lime and ten­der, recorded at a point in the singer’s life when he ap­peared to have found rel­a­tive peace and quiet via mar­riage (to the im­prob­a­bly named Janet Planet) and lo­ca­tion (Up­state New York’s Wood­stock).

It’s Too Late to Stop Now (1974 ) is de­scribed by Mor­ri­son as “some kind of peak” – a live album that is ar­guably the best ever re­leased.

Into the Mu­sic (1979 one of Mor­ri­son’s few in­dis­pens­able records, mark­ing the start of his se­quence of “spir­i­tual” al­bums. www.vanmor­ri­son.com

TONY CLAY­TON-LEA Down­load tracks: Domino, Old Old Wood­stock, And the Heal­ing has Be­gun

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