The Austin Chronicle

Phases & Stages

Reviewed by Dan Oko, March 28, 2008, Music

Van Morrison

Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)

"No wavelength, no mileage ... nothing is what it's supposed to be," sings Van Morrison on the second track of Keep It Simple, a simple declaration that the Man is back in the saddle. Morrison's first collection of originals in longer than most of us can remember relies on a characteristic combo of jazz phrasing and bluesy riffs that should please die-hards and maybe bring in a few latter-day converts. Without working too hard, Morrison also bestirs a classic sense of spiritual longing with his inspiring harmonies. "Soul" is a little pat ("Soul is not the color of your skin"), but we can forgive Morrison, because for nearly four decades, the cantankerous Belfast cowboy has been redefining how his audience thinks of soul rather than "blue-eyed" soul. Early highlight "That's Entrainment" – not "entertainment" – has a supple "Tupelo Honey" feel, while the spiritual Morrison turns up on the forlorn "Lover Come Back." The organ-inflected, fiddle-backed "Song of Home" sounds like a leftover from his so-so 2006 C&W effort, Pay the Devil, which isn't a put-down. "Home" has a heartfelt aura that would've helped that album. This one's good to go.


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