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Van Morrison – The Best Of Van Morrison

Van Morrison occupies a unique place in music. He seems to be loved by most, and even those who dislike his music (that I’ve met, anyway) can acknowledge his reach and appeal.

This disc, which covers 25 years of his career, is filled to the brim with songs you know top to bottom. When an artist has so many records, like he does, for most people I’d bet that a hits set like this would be everything they’d want. All the big songs are here – Brown Eyed Girl, Bright Side Of The Road, Have I Told You Lately, Moondance, Domino, Wild Night … and on and on. I don’t like to pick favourites here, but I always wait for And It Stoned Me to come on.

But there are also a pile of songs (which are deservedly included) that casual listeners might not know straight away, like Full Force Gale, Cleaning Windows, and Dweller On The Threshold. You need to hear them all. Also included are three songs from his time with Them, and one collaboration with Cliff Richard. Cool!

There’s one sequencing glitch, though. I’d have put Baby Please Don’t Go before Moondance. That would flow better than having it as Gloria, Moondance, Baby Please Don’t Go, and Have I Told You Lately. It’s a little jarring.

Of course, there’s an excellent Volume 2 as well, and even a 2CD Volume 3, but to get you started on Van Morrison, you’ll be able to spend a long time with this disc before wanting to branch out.

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Van Morrison – Keep It Simple

Dear KMA Readers, I have been away for most of this week, in Toronto and visiting family, so that explains the (surely regrettable?) lack of content from me. But now I am once again firmly ensconced before my most beauteous Macbook Pro (oh, how I’ve missed her). Better still, I have a pile of new treasures to hear and review, and I’m a-rarin’ to go. So then, Go!

First up is this disc that my lovely wife bought for our edification. It’s safe to say that any Van Morrison album is a good album, to our eager ears, and this one is certainly worthy of his boggling, multi-decade discography. The man makes records that sound so easy, so sublime, that listeners everywhere have just got to sit up and take notice. His is a template handed down from the g-ds of Music.

Van Morrison is like that great friend that you’ve known forever, the one who knows you better than anyone else. Through his music he just nods and smiles knowingly, and then lets you know it’s all gonna be alright.

So here we have Keep It Simple. This he does, folks, indeed. All of the old tricks are here, in a stripped-down way. The pacing is superb, the 12 bar blues run rampant, and he mixes in some shuffles and sweet, sweet slow dancers to make the ladies sigh. OK, so I sighed too. Think what you will. This is a record of great amalgamation, too. Think of it as a collection of blues, jazz, country, soul, gospel, and any other style the man has brilliantly interpreted and utilized over the years.

True, it could be argued that Van Morrison kinda sounds the same on every record. It’s his voice. It’s so distinctive (and, by now, completely familiar) that you might just say “yeah, well, it’s him again.” And you’d be right. But it’s that very uniqueness that is his calling card, his seal of quality that lets the happy listener know that they are in for yet another top-notch, beautifully rendered record.

My lovely wife pointed out that one of the greatest strengths of this record is that, quite like Leonard Cohen’s Dear Heather, here is a snapshot of a musician who’s been at it for a lifetime and now, in their older years, they’re looking back. Reminiscing, with maybe some regret but not too much, just taking stock of what has been and what can now be. It’s bittersweet, it’s honest, and it’s entirely gorgeous.

If you’re a fan, you already know what you’re getting. If not, it’s time you joined the rest of the world and welcomed this man’s beautiful music into your life.

Track Listing:
01 How Can A Poor Boy
02 School Of Hard Knocks
03 That’s Entrainment
04 Don’t Go To Night Clubs Anymore
05 Lover Come Back
06 Keep It Simple
07 End Of The Land
08 Song Of Home
09 No Thing
10 Soul
11 Behind The Ritual

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