The Music Box's #7 album of 2005
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2005, Volume 12, #5
Written by John Metzger
Itís a natural tendency for artists, as they age, to settle into mediocrity, but while Van Morrison certainly has experienced long stretches during which he appeared to lose his way, he always has succeeded in transcending his disenchantment by reconnecting with his past and rediscovering his muse. Since his trilogy of early í90s releases ó Enlightenment, Hymns to the Silence, and Too Long in Exile ó he has been clamoring to get back to his roots ó the blues of John Lee Hooker, the big band jazz of Duke Ellington, the R&B flavors of Ray Charles, and the smooth-sailing soul of Sam Cooke, for example ó and with few exceptions, each of his subsequent outings has offered a similar blend of the past and the present with delightfully consistent results.
Morrisonís latest effort Magic Time is, astoundingly, the 38th solo recording of his illustrious (and absurdly prolific) career. While the album contains absolutely no surprises, it also is a remarkable collection of material that is so impeccably performed that it essentially conquers everything offered by his competition, both young and old. At its best, the suite finds Morrison adding a number of new nuggets to his canon. Indeed, the suavely seductive strains of Stranded; the dreamy, pop-infused majesty of Celtic New Year; the Impressions-painted perfection of They Sold Me Out; the Saint Dominicís Preview-evoking, baroque-inflected beauty of The Lion This Time; and the weary ode to solitude Just Like Greta are all masterpieces. As for the rest, itís darn good, too, as Morrison puts his own spin upon a trio of big-band selections (Frank Sinatraís This Love of Mine as well as the perennial standards Iím Confessiní and Lonely and Blue) and rumbles through a series of blues motifs that stretch from the driving, horn-punctuated refrains of Evening Train to the easy-going groove of Gypsy in My Soul. Through it all, his exquisitely fine-tuned voice grumbles, growls, darts, and soars with positively stunning emotional range and dexterity, proving without a doubt that, despite the fact that 40 years have passed since he made his debut, Morrison has lost none of his passion or his edge.
Magic Time is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box