At the age of 71, the recently knighted, Northern Irish soul prodigy, Van Morrison has released his 36th studio album, Keep Me Singing, a reminder that no matter the decade, putting on a Van Morrison album transcends time. His voice, hasn’t aged. The only changes, stylistic nuances to fit the genres he crosses, delivering the coolness he mastered long ago.
Drawing on jazz and blues influence, Keep Me Singing continues Van’s trend of mellow albums, hearkening the smoothness he exhibited in Astral Weeks, only with more focus and less of the signature vocal riffs that few, if any artists other than Morrison, could ever pull off. These days, those vocal runs are often replaced with his impromptu, melodic harmonica playing, which fits with the stylistic journey he has embarked on over the last decade.
The album opens with the sparse, “Let it Rhyme,” followed by a more vintage sounding Morrison on “Every Time I See A River,” which offers a glimpse back at the soulful passion Morrison is known for, going from his tenor voice to the complimentary contrast of his low grumble.
The title track, “Keep Me Singing” is a perfect example of Morrison’s ability to blend his signature style while maintaining a pop sensibility. “Keep Me Singing,” is the catchiest track on the album. Van sings “Little things that count in life / Just to know my people got soul / Sam Cooke singing ‘That’s Where It’s At’ / And ‘Let The Good Times Roll,” a pretty accurate description of his career. Even though he’s from Northern Ireland, The Belfast Cowboy’s voice finds artists such as Cooke or Otis Redding peers, a feat no other “Blue Eyed Soul” artist has even come close to achieving.
“Share Your Love With Me,” is a minimalist track featuring horns and an organ as accompaniment to Van’s vocals. The track, offering up a Moondance era flavor. With melodic, easy listening songs between, Morrison ventures into straight blues with “Going Down to Bangor,” a song that echoes the grittiness of his early days with Them mixed, with the Americana vibe of Tupelo Honey.
Rounding out Keep Me Singing, is “Caladonia Swing,” which leaves leaves one wondering why, perhaps the greatest vocalist of all time, would end the album with an instrumental track.
But as Morrison sings on the opener, “Let it Rhyme,” “Put another coin in the wishing well/Tell everybody got to go to hell.” And that’s Van the Man, an artist who does what he wants, rarely cares to tour outside of Northern Ireland, but thankfully continues to put out albums that no matter the style, offer a vocal familiarity that has remained consistent for over a half century.
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