Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Van Morrison 42: Keep Me Singing

Eight years earlier Van Morrison pledged to keep it simple; now he’s asking whoever’s in charge to Keep Me Singing. Considering how his output had tailed off in that time, it’s a reasonable request.
It’s a slightly schizophrenic album—about half revives the lush sound perfected in the late ‘80s, which he abandoned as soon as it became profitable, while a variety of uptempo tracks attempt to provide variety, but simply seem badly placed. “Let It Rhyme” opens the proceedings with a reiteration of that theme he’s repeated since “Stepping Out Queen”, while the subtle pedal steel guitar gives a nice ambience. “Every Time I See A River” is a collaboration with lyricist of note Don Black, who apparently made his money in movies and theater. We like it anyway, and no, that’s not Georgie Fame on the organ. The title track isn’t very exciting, but “Out In The Cold Again” expresses a rare vulnerability, and “Memory Lane” begins with another out-of-character flourish, this time of strings. Then things go completely off the rails: “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword” is a decent groove, but the lyrics sound like a first draft, and completely at odds with what we’ve heard already.
Better you should skip right to “Holy Guardian Angel”, which repeats a bunch of blues clichés but still has a lovely arrangement with nice backing vocals for a change. He probably heard “Share Your Love With Me” from Bobby “Blue” Bland, or even The Band; most likely he ignored the Kenny Rogers cover. The reminiscing continues in “In Tiburon”, wherein his memories and impressions of the Beat scene in San Francisco weave through the verses. The comparatively brief “Look Beyond The Hill” begins as a cool-jazz instrumental, then delivers three quick verses and a middle eight. “Going Down To Bangor” is basically a tourist advertisement for some of the sights in County Down in 12-bar blues, and “Too Late” is strangely attached to a doo-wop tempo. Finally, “Caledonia Swing” is a pure instrumental akin to closing credits.
Had he shaved a few of the uptempo oddities from the running time, this might have been an overdue successor to his No Guru through Enlightenment period. Instead, Keep Me Singing is just another Van Morrison album, to be filed aside the rest.

Van Morrison Keep Me Singing (2016)—3

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