Picks and Pans Review: A Sense of Wonder

updated 03/11/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/11/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

Van Morrison

No pop-rock musician of the '60s has aged more gracefully than Morrison, 39, who has profited from his advancing years to make music that is reflective and complex without being stuffy. Morrison still employs bits of blues and funk—including the honky saxophone—on such tracks as Mose Allison's If You Only Knew and Ray Charles' What Would I Do Without You. But he is also experimenting with blends of pop music and musical styles from his native Ireland. The instrumental Boffyflow and Spike sounds like a combination of a jig and a tune from Nashville, the wistful Evening Meditation could be a kind of Caribbean-Irish mélange. Furthermore, Morrison remains the most literary-minded of pop musicians, reciting the William Blake poem commonly called The Price of Experience as part of his tune Let the Slave and singing of a dissolution rivaling that of the 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud in Tore Down a la Rimbaud. Morrison's vocal articulation is still distressingly uneven for someone to whom words are so important—the Blake poem is recited quite mushily—and his excursions into neo-Christian mysticism, such as The Master's Eyes, won't appeal to everyone. Morrison manages, however, to make a whole out of all the disparate components of his music. What might otherwise seem abrupt shifts of tone or style seem natural, so sharply does Morrison focus the varying elements of his music on the universal experience of trying to make sense of the baffling eccentricity of life. (Mercury)

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