Thursday, May 19, 2005

Van Morrison's Magic Time

Van Morrison's new album is much like his earlier ones, in tone and theme. Yet, at least a few songs are among the best I have ever heard. It is rich with insights, redolent with mood-calming notes and fine lyrics. His voice, that rarest of rarities, is still in good form, .

"Stranded" is a typical Morrison piece, dealing with being stranded on the shores of a new world, a world changed. A thoughtful piece, it features a saxophone section of some worth."It’s leaving me stranded/In my own little island/With my eyes open wide/But I’m feeling stranded"

"Celtic New Year" is a song straight out of "Astral Weeks" or "Avalon Sunset". Dealing with loss, desire, and hope, it has some vivid imagery of "Louisiana", "Bourbon Street" and the "Jack of Diamonds". The harmonica complements the lyrics ably."If I don’t see you when the bonfires are burning, burning/If I don’t see you when we’re singing the Gloriana tune/If I’ve got to see you when it’s raining deep inside the forest/I got to see you at the waning of the moon"

"Keep Mediocrity At Bay" is an uptempo piece, almost political in content, although one is unsure which side is being supported, if any. "You gotta fight every day to keep mediocrity at bay/Gotta fight every day to keep mediocrity at bay/Got to fight with all your might not to get in the bleeding heart's way

You gotta fight for your rights, you can't bury your head in the sand/You gotta fight for your rights, you can't just bury your head in the sand/Politics and religion, superstition go hand in hand"

"Evening Train" keeps up the pace. It is similar to classic blues songs from the 1930s, although it does not have quite the punch one might expect, which is something one can say for most of the album. The guitar work is great, by the late Foggly Lyttle, to whom the album is dedicated.

"This Love Of Mine" builds on the jazz theme introduced earlier. It is a cover of the classic Sinatra tune, done true to the original, with the classic Van Morrison touch.

"I'm Confessin'" is another jazz cover, done earlier by Lester Young, Perry Como, and more. This version is more slow-paced, except for an inspired harmonica section. This song gives him the chance to layer vocal intonations through repetition of simple phrases, something he does well. "I'm guessing, guessing that you love me/Dreaming dreams, dreaming dreams, dreaming, dreaming. dreaming dreams of you in vain"

"Just Like Greta" is a ode to the need to be alone, "Just like Greta Garbo/I want to be alone". A truly wonderful song, with great lyrics, and the classic, slow-paced Van Morrison 'howling at the moon'. "Some days it gets completely crazy/And I feel like howling at the moon/Then sometimes it feels so easy/Like I was born with a silver spoon

Other times you just can't reach me/Seems like I've got a heart of stone/Guess I need my solitude/And I have to make it on my own"

"Gypsy In My Soul" is about a restlessness of the heart. The initial notes are quite similar to the theme for "The Wire", another fine tune. "Well it seems like some kind of cruel fate/Keep me moving, moving in permanent restless state/Seems like some days I don't have any goal/It's just the gypsy in my soul"

"Lonely And Blue" is a gentle piece with a jazz blue note, a classic Fats Waller tune.

"The Lion This Time", penned by Van Morrison, is again reminiscent of early Morrison. A classic acoustic ballad, well executed. "They couldn't take away his throne/He knows that he must stand alone/If need be have a heart of stone"

"Magic Time", the title track, is scripted by Van Morrison again, and classic style for the man. Memories of a time past, timeless, much like this album.

"They Sold Me Out" is an acerbic warning against trusting too easily. "The oldest story that's ever been told", being sold out 'for a few shekels'.

"Carry On Regardless" is another personal expression of betrayal, featuring a slipped in reference to at least three "Carry On" films (Khyber, Dick, Doctor), yet a very sharp, reggae-influenced song - probably the best on the album "Carry on regardless, in spite of the music business scam/Carry on regardless, in spite of all the petty minded little women and men/Carry on regardless, when everybody don't give a damn
Carry on and start all over again, in spite of all the TV trash/Carry on regardless, in spite of all the media rehash/And the white wash, the brain wash and all the white trash"

The album features a variety of musical styles and moods. It is a worthy addition to a weighty oeuvre. While it might seem dated and similar to others, it still makes a good listen, one for a summer's night, with a glass of Irish or perhaps Scotch, memories of time, love, loss and betrayal.

Magic Time/Van Morrison Astral Weeks/Van Morrison Can You Feel the Silence?: Van Morrison: A New Biography/Clinton Heylin Into the Music/Van Morrison Moondance/Van Morrison Avalon Sunset/Van Morrison Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison/Brian Hinton

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader