Saturday, 25 August 2018

Van Morrison - Keep It Simple (2008)

Don't go to nightclubs anymore....


Released March 2008

Running time 49.49

This album from Van Morrison is as blue as the cover. It is one of his bluesiest albums. Van has pretty much been a blues rock artist since the mid-nineties, when he settled into that groove, with bits of jazz and country thrown in. That is certainly the case here. His mystical, spiritual quests are long gone now.


1. How Can A Poor Boy
2. School Of Hard Knocks
3. That's Entrainment
4. Don't Go To Nightclubs Anymore
5. Lover Come Back
6. Keep It Simple
7. End Of The Land
8. Song Of Home
9. No Thing
10. Soul
11. Behind The Ritual                                  

It kicks off with a wonderful, slow burning blues potboiler in How Can A Poor Boy?, which is packed full of harmonica and blues guitar over its insistent, intransigent blues rhythm. School Of Hard Knocks is a appealing, melodic song with Van telling us that he was "educated in the school of hard knocks...". We know, Van, you've been telling us for a while now. Yes, Morrison doesn't change, not so much out of what is often a cynically-perceived wilful stubbornness, but simply because he doesn't want to. He is comfortable with what he does, and, if you are of a mind to accept it too, so will you be. This effortless bluesy approach is what he is happy doing and, listening to it, it has a "comfortable pair of slippers" feel to it. That's Entrainment has such as addictive groove to it. The music is, as always, immaculately played. Personally, I will always get pleasure from these albums.

Van's moaning is not quite as full on here, he rumbles away between the lines here and there, but in not quite so bilious as in the past. Now, he is just an ageing man telling us how he Don't Go To Nightclubs Anymore, in a re-write of the crooner classic Don't Get Out Much Anymore. He is right too, one needs to be "age-appropriate". Lover Come Back is a slow ballad with a bit of a Celtic air to it, with a twangy country guitar introduced at one point. "We got to keep it simple and that's that....", Van tells us in the gorgeous, soulful Keep It Simple. That's just the way it is. You know, he's got a point. The End Of The Land is a slow tempo soul blues, with a sumptuous, deep bass line and an evocative vocal.

Song Of Home is an organ-driven country ballad with some good backing vocals. No Thing is a slowed-down number which touches of rock'n'roll balladry in it and some jazzy backing vocals. Like many of the songs on here, they are blues songs with touches of country, like the steel guitar on here, or those rock'n'roll doo-wop style backing vocals, or some jazzy organ breaks. Soul has Morrison telling us, convincingly, what soul is, suitably soulfully. He hits that groove and it is most evocative, with a lovely saxophone break from the man himself, and some killer guitar too. The album ends on another soul-influenced track, the uplifting, inspiring Behind The Ritual. This is possibly the best track on the album. Morrison's vocal is a bit slurry, but affectingly so. The tone is deliberate. The song builds and builds and it is totally atmospheric. A great end to a good album. Every few years, he has released these albums and, although they don't change much, I love them all.

Incidentally, on the cover, Van looks somewhat like a cross between the legendary cricket commentator John Arlott and actor Michel "Foyle's War" Kitchen.


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