Van Morrison: Amazing & Guiding His Peers
At a young age when most people are mapping out their futures, Van Morrison had already been entertaining Belfast audiences for half a dozen years and was in the process of influencing generations of musicians with his groundbreaking blues-rock band Them. And now at an age when most men are contemplating their options for a quiet retirement, Morrison is looking back on a lifetime of important musical achievements (last year saw the release of an unbelievable three separate hits collections from the Irish superstar) and still looking ahead to new challenges and establishing new parameters to amaze and guide his peers.
At first blush, Keep It Simple, Morrison's latest, doesn't seem to venture into new territory as he accentuates the bluesy groove that's underpinned his sound across five decades. More focused listening reveals the sinewy and transcendent soul that has informed the heart of Morrison's genius and constitutes the elemental reason his appeal has never waned through dozens of hits and any number of phases and style shifts. The spartan arrangements and lyrical directness of blues-drenched tracks like "How Can a Poor Boy?," "School of Hard Knocks" and the swinging melancholy of "Don't Go to Nightclubs Anymore" are compelling evidence that Morrison's estimable songwriting and performing gifts remain as potent and moving as the days when he set his earliest and most high-profile benchmarks. The cover of Keep It Simple features a shot of Morrison looking timeless and immutable, like he should be the fifth chiseled face on Mt. Rushmore.