Review: Van Morrison – Keep It Simple

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Label: Lost Highway

Released: April 1, 2008

Van Morrison has done some of his best work over the last decade or so. The old curmudgeon has shown that he still knows how to put his entire soul into song, whether he’s making an album that concentrates on folk or soul or even skiffle. That makes Keep It Simple kind of puzzling. Everything he’s been bringing to his music for over 40 years is strangely absent here.

First of all, there is entirely too much blues on this album. Morrison has a soul voice. It’s rich and smooth and deceptively powerful. Blues is neither as clean nor as subtle so it robs Morrison of his strengths. One of those strengths is his ability to know just how much to give and how much to withhold from a song. It comes both from knowing the song and trusting himself. Instead, on this album, he seems detached from the songs and he over-trusts himself. That arrogance leads him to go through the motions rather than get into the songs. Sure, he loosens up on a few, like “That’s Entrainment” and “End of the Land,” but most of the album is stiff with Morrison stumbling through music from which he’s a thousand miles away.

It has long been said that Morrison has never shown much regard for his fans, though he almost always cared about his music. But not here. He’s just going through the motions and he’s not the kind of singer that can get away with that. He needs the subtleties that come with intimacy, but this album has no love, only a cold feeling of obligation.

Satriani: 6/10
Zappa: 5/10
Dylan: 5/10
Aretha: 4/10
Overall: 5/10

If you’re curious about my rating categories, read the description.

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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