Down The Road – Van Morrison
Universal Records 3145891772
Other possible titles for this release? Remember Recall? Down Memory
The artwork on Van Morrison's latest says it all. A storefront window of
"Memorabilia & Records" displays vinyl album covers of Ray Charles, Muddy
Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, Hank Williams and others, while inside it shows
stacks of old beat-up vinyl jackets.
Like that record store, on Down the Road Morrison revisits not one
several career paths — from the lightly grooving mystic who seeks something
more in life to the Belfast-bred Irishman influenced by American blues, soul
and jazz music.
On paper, this journey seems like a misguided attempt to unite the
different musical periods of Morrison's nearly four-decade long career. But,
I've got to admit that, just as he did on numerous works in the past, he
hypnotizes me with a sound that bears the flavors of Morrison's favorite
songs but ends up becoming something uniquely his own.
"Steal My Heart Away" sounds like the next song that Rod Stewart should
cover in order to make it a hit single. It contains a simple yet effective
atmosphere due to its arrangement and choice of instruments that it doesn't
so much blare through the speakers as it softly float through them to fill
the room with a lush quality that cannot be found elsewhere.
That feeling of being taken away from the present is what happens on some
of Morrison's best work. How do I know when he really affects me? I can
sense my pulse rate slow and blood pressure drop and the reality of the
shifts to the side momentarily. It's a tranquil moment that occurs through
the mesh of ethereal sounds given voice by a group of sympathetic musicians.
That's not to say that "Down the Road" ranks with Morrison's classics.
It's a solid record, not stellar, but – at this point in music history – can
find somebody that matches Morrison in his ability to match word and sound
and come up with aural pictures? Okay, I'm sure some of you can, but right
now my mind is stuck in the blissfulness of his cover of "Georgia on My
followed by the elegant "Only a Dream". Besides, where else are you going to
find a Celtic blues number ("Talk Is Cheap") with a violin solo and find
it makes perfect sense?