Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019

The last of Van Morrison finds him in a relaxed groove

Van Morrison, "The prophet speaks" (Caroline International)

The first thing Van Morrison's longtime listeners will notice is the lack of anxiety – his 40th studio album misses the usual complaints about the greed and cynicism of the music industry. The next and most notable aspect is the relaxed and easy groove that permeates the ensemble "The Prophet Speaks", which reveals that Morrison is delighted with his relatively recent incarnation as a singer of jazz backed by an expressive and sullen band.

It is quite remarkable that Morrison has been singing for more than half a century and that he has rarely sounded so comfortable and voiceless.

He again uses the considerable talents of Joey DeFrancesco and his group. The results are impressive. Morrison, 73, focuses on the touch and texture of each song rather than looking for the revealing and entertaining crescendos of some of his earlier works. He seems to have found a style that suits him as he ages, a mix of Hammond instruments, including organ and horn, that we could have heard in the end 50s but sounds perfectly fresh today.

A few simple covers of old favorites, including John Lee Hooker's "Dimples" and Solomon Burke's "Gotta Get My My Mind," allow Morrison to pay tribute to the lost artists with whom he shared his bills. Half a dozen new songs, including "Spirit Will Provide" and the title track, evoke Morrison's more mystical approach to lyrics and arrangement.

Even more convincing is "Never Give Up," an original Morrison who swears both to complain and complain about himself and pays tribute to the greats who preceded him, including Muddy Waters, Hooker and, more or less, Louis Armstrong.

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