MU­SIC re­view

Rotorua Daily Post - - Entertainment -

Van Mor­ri­son The Prophet Speaks

The first thing long­time lis­ten­ers to Van Mor­ri­son will no­tice is the lack of angst — his 40th stu­dio al­bum is miss­ing the usual com­plaints about the greed and cyn­i­cism of the mu­sic busi­ness.

The next and most re­mark­able as­pect is the re­laxed, easy groove that per­me­ates through The Prophet Speaks, which finds Mor­ri­son rel­ish­ing his rel­a­tively re­cent in­car­na­tion as a jazz singer backed by an ex­pres­sive, moody band.

It’s rather re­mark­able that Mor­ri­son has been singing for well over half a cen­tury and he’s rarely sounded so com­fort­able and un­forced.

He’s once again us­ing the con­sid­er­able tal­ents of Joey DeFrancesco and his band. The re­sults are im­pres­sive, with 73-year-old Mor­ri­son fo­cus­ing on the feel and tex­ture of each song rather than seek­ing the rev­e­la­tory, soul-stretch­ing crescen­dos of some of his ear­lier works. He seems to have found a style that fits him as he ages, a blend of in­stru­ments, in­clud­ing Ham­mond or­gan and horns, that could have been heard in the late 1950s but sounds per­fectly fresh to­day.

There are a few straight for­ward cov­ers of old favourites, in­clud­ing John Lee Hooker’s Dim­ples and Solomon Burke’s Gotta Get You Off My Mind, that let Mor­ri­son pay trib­ute to de­parted per­form­ers he used to share bills with. A half-dozen new songs — in­clud­ing Spirit Will Pro­vide and the ti­tle track — con­jure up Mor­ri­son’s more mystical ap­proach to lyrics and ar­range­ment.

Even more com­pelling is Ain’t Gonna Moan No More, a Mor­ri­son orig­i­nal that both swears off his of­ten com­plain­ing, self-pity­ing ways and pays homage to the greats who pre­ceded him, in­clud­ing Muddy Wa­ters, Hooker, and, in some depth, Louis Armstrong. — Gre­gory Katz, AP

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