Keep It Simple

Van Morrison

Exile Productions, 2008

http://www.vanmorrison.com

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/04/2008

Okay, I’m no idiot. I recognize that Van Morrison is a great artist, even – horrors – an artiste at times, but can someone please explain to me how he can get away with making basically the same album time after time?

He’s still mixing up country, R&B, blues, rock (though not so much anymore), and folk into that burgoo he’s been cooking since at least Avalon Sunset in 1989 – nearly 20 years now – but really, it’s been even longer than that. He still sounds much like a goat bleating (though not as bad as Dylan) and he still seems to be pretty much annoyed by the whole “fame” thing.

And yet.

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And yet, his bazillionth disc, Keep It Simple, is an entertaining piece of work. Oh, it’s no Moondance or Tupelo Honey or even 1991’s Hymns To The Silence, his last great fairly recent disc, but it’s a solid entry in his catalog.

And there’s a comfort in knowing what you’re going to get from Van. There’s no fear that you’re going to pick up a Van disc and get “standards” à la Rod Stewart or decade-themed albums à la Barry Manilow or rock and roll retreads à la Ann Wilson. Not that they’re in his league, but still.

Morrison even makes fun of the fact he’s aging with a Van-ized nod to “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” called “Don’t Go To Nightclubs Anymore” where he drops names like “my old friend Mose” and “Mr. Clive” and mixes in lyrics like “Don’t get around much anymore / The smoke has driven me out the door / All night I used to walk the floor / Don’t go to nightclubs anymore … I’m such a bore.”

And he can still craft an affecting love song, even if it is a love song for a lover who’s left him: “The sound of the evening breeze / Is calling you back to me / The sun behind the clouds / Reminds me that you’re not around / Lover come back to my arms/Lover come back to my heart,” he sings on “Lover Come Back;” that’s a sad, lonely man, and a narrator who sees no train in the distance before the song’s end. He begins the song yearning, and contrary to popular “happy ending” wisdom, ends it the same way.

Van stays true to the disc’s title, preferring simple musical constructions to putting on production sheen and glitz. This is not musical crack. There aren’t many traditional hooks. But instead, if you’re patient and you listen for the reward of the art, you get songs. Real ones.

Van may still be mining the same vein musically, but when you’ve struck the motherlode, why dig a new line?

Rating: B

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© 2008 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Exile Productions, and is used for informational purposes only.