Magic Time – Van Morrison
CD Review by Mark Witner

10/2005


         



Track listing
1.
Stranded
2.
Celtic New Year
3.
Keep Mediocrity
At Bay
4.
Evening Train
5.
This Love Of Mine
6.
I'm Confessin'
7.
Just Like Greta
8.
Gypsy In My Soul
9.
  Lonely And Blue
10.
  The Lion This Time
11.
  Magic Time
12.
  They Sold Me Out
13.
  Carry On Regardless

Label: Geffen Records
Release Date:
May 17, 2005

 

   

If anyone is keeping track, this should be Van Morrison's thirty-first studio recording since his debut, "Blowin' Your Mind," way back in 1967. Of course, that does not include his work with Them, the Dublin-based rock outfit with which he made his major debut as a vocalist. He's been at this game for a long time now, and after almost 4 decades it seems that he still manages to come up with something fresh and compelling with each new album release. He's had a few misfires along the way, but overall his musical output over the course of the past 38 years has been remarkably consistent and artistically credible. His new disc, Magic Time follows in that tradition as Morrison once again has created a thoroughly enjoyable and artistically pleasing piece of work.

He doesn't break any new musical ground here. In fact the songs on Magic Time are samplings of his previous styles, but it's the way the songs are performed and the way he approaches each one with his unique vocal style that makes them all so gratifying. The album overall has a mellow, laid-back feeling as Morrison takes you on a journey into his musical past and also touches on styles and songs from the 1940s and 50s that have been an inspiration for many of his own compositions.

The album kicks off with "Stranded," a breezy tune augmented with some beautifully executed sax and piano flowing serenely underneath Morrison's smooth and carefree vocal. A nice touch here is the lilting doo-wop chorus that appears sporadically throughout the song. "Celtic New Year," a haunting and introspective piece that sounds very much like his work on the ground-breaking "Astral Weeks" LP is next, featuring a masterful, yet unobtrusive string arrangement by Dublin-born composer Fiachra Trench. The blues make a grand entrance on the next two numbers, "Keep Mediocrity At Bay" and "Evening Train" with both tunes featuring some very nice harp work by Morrison. Since his earliest days with Them, Morrison has always been a master of the blues and his command of the genre is ever present on this disc. "Evening Train" really cooks with an infectious, chugging beat that is complemented by a vigorous horn section and Morrison's down and dirty vocal.

Photo: Kim Komenich

The 1940's swing era comes alive next as Morrison covers Frank Sinatra's brassy "This Love of Mine" and Perry Como's "I'm Confessin'", bringing these vintage tunes up to date with his own inimitable style. Though a bit tongue in cheek, Morrison nonetheless delivers serious and credible readings of these classic numbers as he pays homage to a great bygone musical era. Up next, Morrison, who has been known to value his privacy, laments about the subject on "Greta Garbo." Set to a slow, seductive melody with a melancholy string arrangement, Morrison croons, "I need my solitude, gonna have to make it on my own, I want to be alone, just like Greta Garbo." The lyric is based on Ms. Garbo's immortal line from the 1933 silver screen classic, "Grand Hotel," and is one of the many occasions where Morrison has expressed his preference for a solitary existence.

The next tune, "Gypsy In My Soul," has an infectious, upbeat melody over which Morrison testifies, "The gypsy in my soul, makes me want to pack my things and go. Sometimes I just have no goal, it's just the gypsy in my soul." Again, another personal statement from Morrison, who reveals a lot about himself through his music. Up next is an outstanding, true to the original cover of Fats Waller's classic composition, "Lonely and Blue," followed by two of the finest ballads Morrison has written in quite some time, "The Lion This Time," and "Magic Time." The disc is capped off with "They Sold Me Out," and "Carry On Regardless," two soulful and gritty blues numbers that lay claim to his long-standing disdain for the practices of the music industry. In "They Sold Me Out" he professes, "My own people did it to me because they could, and it just might happen to you. They sold me out." Some strong words from a man who's seen it all and done it all in the music business for close to 4 decades now.

Magic Time is pure, unadulterated Van Morrison. As with all of his previous recordings, he once again reaches out to his audience and speaks to them from the depths of his soul. The inner workings of this talented and complex man are brought to the forefront through his music and his unique and undaunted vocal style is always a pleasure to listen to. With Magic Time, Mr. Morrison has added once again to his long list of outstanding musical accomplishments and has also proven that after 38 years, he is still at the top of his game.

 
       


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