BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Van Morrison: Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)

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Van Morrison: No Thing
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Van Morrison: Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)

Another year and another Van album on yet another label . . .

And with the reissue of his earlier albums drawing attention to great work like It's Too Late to Stop Now (read about it in Essential Elsewhere) it would hardly be surprising if this one was ignored by even longtime followers, many of whom might be picking up the remastered back-catalogue or one of the new greatest hits collections also released.

And while many may have also had their fill of a guy who seems to have elevated grumpiness to an art form, there is no denying that this album -- yes, he's keeping simple and soulful -- is one of his most approachable, relaxed and pleasant in many years.

It's almost as if he has been listening to some of his most laidback late 60s/early 70s songs while keeping Sam Cooke on the turntable.

There is a welcome straight-forwardness about the writing (all originals), a stressless approach to the melodies (many which recall his finest hours) and although the odd lyric confirms he still thinks life was better in some other lifetime this one possesses that rarest of Van qualities: a sense of a man at ease with himself.

With soft organ and light backing vocals, this one also keeps the focus on the vocals and he isn't competing with a horn section.

Morrison has certainly been down this path before, but not for some time and rarely with this sense of approachability.

Quite a welcome surprise.

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