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Van Morrison

Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)

May. 26, 2008
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  Van Morrison's explorations into Americana continue on Keep It Simple, a follow-up to the jazzy What's WrongWith This Picture? and, more recently, the country escapades of Pay the Devil. And with residual elements of each—the B-3 organ of the former, the dobro twang of the latter—Morrison adds a Ray Charles-esque backing choir for a return to his blue-eyed soul roots.

  It's a mostly meditative, groove-centered song workout, with sprawling verses but a tight, polished band that Van truly lets go to work. And while nobody will ever mistake the poetry of an almost-gem like "Lover Come Back" as a cut from Astral Weeks, the unmistakable traces of the hungry Belfast cowboy that once was can still be heard. The soulful timbre, Celtic drawl and uncanny ability to ooze emotion and a song out of a repeated phrase—"That's Entrainment"—remind fans why they still need to reserve rack-space for the seemingly annual occurrence of a new Morrison release.

  Of course, by the time he gets around to groaningly defining soul on "Soul," the late-night vibe Morrison strives for may feel more like an after-hours wine-and-cheese soiree than the juke joints he used to visit. But, as he rationalizes aging in "Don't Go to Nightclubs Anymore," that may be the point.

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