Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quick Hits: New Van Morrison, Rolling Stones

Continuing the spring wrapup, while I continue to work on a post commemorating the 30th birthday of Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Keep It Simple, Van Morrison. Robert Christgau once wrote that Van Morrison had a “direct line to certain souls.” I’m not one of those souls, but I’ve always had the deepest respect for Van’s work and career. I don’t own but a handful of his records, and was convinced to buy Keep It Simple, his new album, by Mona’s review. When you read it, you’ll be left with little doubt that Mona is one of those souls. And in a separate post, you’ll see that she is eagerly acquiring the sets of Van Morrison remasters, which suggests a level of reverence akin to my own relationship with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Warren Zevon. In short – if Mona likes the new album, it’s got to be good, right?

And very good it is. I won’t presume to comment in detail, except to say that on this record, Morrison sounds like the wise Jedi Master of the music universe, at peace with himself, content in his mastery of the form and feeling no great need to top past successes. So while I don’t hear any song on the album that would immediately join “Tupelo Honey,” “Jackie Wilson Said,” “Carvan,” or “Wild Night” in the Morrison pantheon, neither do I hear anything which sounds less than absolute commitment to his craft, both on an emotional and musical level. Good stuff, and well worth the journey.

Shine A Light, The Rolling Stones. With my purchase of Shine A Light, I think I can now say with pride that I own mediocre live albums by the Rolling Stones from five different decades. That’s not really fair – 1995’s Stripped was really quite good, but it had the acoustic/unplugged gimmick going for it, plus the fact that the tunes were recorded in small venues where Mick apparently felt less desire to dance to the point where he would be too winded to actually sing. But medicore as they may be, buy those live albums I do, perhaps in the vain hope that yes, this release will finally provide some tangible evidence that the Stones are indeed the Greatest Show on Earth, the best live band in existence. So far, what I’ve been left with is the unescapable feeling that “I guess you had to be there.”

As soundtrack albums go, this one really isn’t too bad, and for all I know Martin Scorsese's film is quite spectacular. But on CD, the Stones sound like they’re going through the motions; there’s really nothing about any of these tracks that sets them apart from the originals. Turned up loud and fueled by a couple of beers, you can have a good time listening to it. But you’d be much better off with the originals.



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Hi Jeff,

On behalf of Exile Productions and Exile Publishing, many thanks for plugging Van Morrison's new album and, if your readers want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, full versions of "That's Entrainment" and "Behind The Ritual" (along with album track samplers) are available for fans and bloggers to listen to (and link to) on Lost Highway's web-site at .

Up-to-the-minute info on Keep It Simple and Van’s 2008 shows is, of course, also available on and and, for a limited period, you can still hear Van's exclusive BBC concert at and you can also see his BBC sessions at .

Thanks again for your support.



Mona said...

Hahaha, looks like you're on the Web Sheriff radar too.

Thanks for the review of the Stones album. I think I'll enjoy the movie more than the album. For me, the miracle of the Stones is that they're still alive (well, the jury is out on Keith Richards) and enjoying the rock star life, without resorting to playing the Cyprus Room at the Ramada. That's tough to sustain over 40 years.