Picks and Pans Review: Hymns to the Silence

updated 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Van Morrison

The chasm between spiritual and pop music has been closed by secular singers going sanctified (Al Green) and vice versa (Amy Grant). But only Van Morrison has been able to straddle both worlds successfully.

The first part of this two-disc release is the more secular. In fact, with titles like "I'm Not Feeling It Anymore" and "Professional Jealousy," it would seem that Morrison has entered the land of the grumpy singer-songwriter personified by Graham Parker. Even though the lyrics are often disenchanted, the melodies are pretty, the arrangements graceful, and all entries are hoisted by Morrison's smoky, single-malt voice. Especially striking is a cover of Ray Charles's 1962 hit, "I Can't Stop Loving You," which Morrison gives the airy Hibernian treatment with the help of the Chieftains.

The second disc finds Morrison retreating from the hurly-burly to religious contemplation ("By His Grace," "Be Thou My Vision") and romantic devotion ("Carrying a Torch," "It Must Be You"). The" music is usually lovely. With backup singers Carol Kenyon and Katie Kis-soon murmuring like a breeze frisking a leafy tree, the limpid beauty of the title track is absolutely transporting. (Polydor)

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