Van Morrison got the name right for his new album. He isn’t sailing into the mystic, or listening to the lion, or seeking hymns to the silence. He’s looking to spend three-to-six minutes throwing some rhymes around, nailing a couple of clichés, sprinkling them with organ-based blues and a few nods toward Hank Williams and calling it a day. When he does decide to stretch to the seven-minute mark for the album’s closer, “Behind the Ritual,” his mantra consists of slurring variations on “drinking wine” and “blah, blah, blah.” But, while the album falls short of transcendence, it still has its appeal. He’s not referencing Iggy Pop, just keeping it simple—and plenty weird.
From just about any other singer, you’d call it a phone-in. But Morrison is such a master of inflection and timing that even his rote exercises pack extra buzz. And, of course, there’s his wonderfully twisted sense of humor. (That’s by-the-numbers nightclub blues deliberately perking up behind “Don’t Go To Nightclubs Anymore.”) “People come and people go, one monkey don’t stop no show” popped into his head and became the first line for “No Thing.” He once sold us a non-existent “Veedon Fleece” along with viaducts in dreams that had cracks in their mobile steel rims, so really, why argue lyrics? In the end, it’s about sound. “Lover Come Back” feels forlorn like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Song of Home” lopes along like a Celtic-country version of “Green, Green Grass of Home” and through it all, the voice never disappoints.
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