Keep It Simple: FOUR Stars
Well, yes, that’s exactly right. “Keep it Simple.” This is the best advice Van Morrison could give himself at this stage of the game, when one can either warmly embrace the career’s twilight with dignity intact, or ruin the canvas with a too-liberal application of color. Morrison’s new one for Lost Highway — a nice fit, that — blends easy-rolling blues, folk and Irish soul with the singer’s ongoing concerns, they being the search for enlightenment, transcendence and uncluttered peace and quiet. The voice can still find hidden folds and wrinkles of emotional implication, and the graceful production leaves ample room for the listener to get lost in. There are no perfunctory time-fillers here, all the songs boasting a feeling of volition and necessity. But even among such stellar company, the album- closing epic “Behind the Ritual” stands out as one of Morrison’s finest. Over a poised shuffle groove, the singer slurs, intones, dances around the edges of the meaning, his activity serving to shine a light on what is unstated, much in the manner that the timeless “Madame George” said so much with so little. Morrison’s sax playing is breathily intimate and warmly intoned, too. “Behind the ritual, you find the spiritual,” our man sings. Nice.