Keep It Simple
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"Keep It Simple" is a mainly bluesy affair. He's returned to the usual mixture of autobiographical fare and the kind of mix of jazz, folk, blues, country and soul that may be chock-full of lyrical cliche but is always lifted by a voice that really hasn't deteriorated much in the last twenty years. Let's face it: the blues wouldn't be the blues without it's lyrical template. It's the way it's sung that matters, and Van is still peerless in this respect.
Husky, slurred, simple yet honest, the album is one enduring constant is in its title: the acceptance that less is more and that with restraint true quality always prevails.
After five decades of prolific and heart-felt melodies this is amazingly Van Morrison's 33rd studio album but is shows as much dedication as many new artist's debut.
His first recording of original material since 2005 it's also the first album penned solely by Van Morrison's own hand since "Back On Top" in 1999.
You have to try very to hard to find Van Morrison doing much wrong and even when he's not breaking new ground there's still generally enough going on to keep his music worth a listen.
On this one, he does more than just tow the line and even offers up one or two gems in the making - "Lover Come Back" and "End Of The Land" prove in particular why he's not yet disappeared into retirement.
There's a certain grace to Van's stripped-back band and as always he evokes images of sorrow and anguish but with such beauty and warmth that you can't help but smile when you hear him.Read more ›
The problem, for me, is the decline of Morrison's songwriting. While he was never a lyricist in the class of Dylan or Joni Mitchell, he could once conjure marvelous images and had a poet's ear. He also had the vocal chops - blending jazz, blues and soul - to create a unique style of music. Where immobile steel rims crack /And the ditch in the back roads stop /Could you find me? /Would you kiss-a my eyes? /To lay me down /In silence easy /To be born again (Astral Weeks) Those words read well off the page, but as performed by Van Morrison, they were magic. As a singer, he had no peer, and the combination of his words and music lifted Morrison into the highest echelon - alongside Dylan and Mitchell. His best songs were autobiographical but universal, beautifully crafted, tinged with mystery and ambiguity.
While he has had many ups and downs along the way, the deterioration of Morrison's lyrics might be traced to the otherwise triumphant Hymns to the Silence (1991). Since then, there have been a raft of songs about the woes of being Van Morrison in the music business - Professional Jealousy, Why Must I Always Explain?, Big Time Operators, Songwriter, They Sold Me Out, and now, School of Hard Knocks. Then there are the songs about the woes of simply being Van Morrison - Some Peace of Mind, Too Long In Exile, Melancholia, Underlying Depression. Now there's Don't Go the Nightclubs Anymore.Read more ›
It's natural of course to make comparisons, but I try to hear an album rise or fall on its own merits. And though Keep It Simple will probably not be seen as one of Morrison's best, it has quite a lot going for it. For one, it is mellow and is one of the most soulful records he's made in a long time. My favorites are How Can A Poor Boy?, Don't Go To Nightclubs Anymore, and Song of Home. There is nothing unlistenable except the blah, blah, blah passage in the final cut that almost ruins it. Some say that Van is having a little fun there, but its at our expense. Given the subject of the song, maybe the most charitable interpretation would be that he is expressing what he thinks about the chatter of the jabbering drunks he's leaving in his past.
Those who buy Keep It Simple will get nearly fifty minutes of music and a small booklet containing lyrics and all the info about who plays what on which song. Most people who have followed Van Morrison's career for years will like this album just fine. I like it as least as well as his last album and will certainly listen again from time to time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
love this guy voice and his musical stylings. This is a great down home collection of music that iis great to listen to on a relaxing sunday afternoon. Read morePublished 5 months ago by augustus
This Van Morrison album 'Keep It Simple' from 2008 is well named as Van eschewed the brass arrangements he loves in favour of a low key rootsy approach. Read morePublished 7 months ago by moro