Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Magic Time

…you can call it nostalgia, I don’t mind
standing on that windswept hillside
listenin’ to the church bells chime
listen to the church bells chime
in that magic time…

Being a longtime fan of the man, I can say with genuine affection that Van Morrison is something of a crank; a curmudgeon who suffers fools not at all and who thinks his music tells you all that you need to know about him. And, of course, he’s right.

Van may be prickly but he’s paid his dues and his public persona can be whatever he decides he wants it to be. Because in the end…and most importantly…he already shares with us more than we, as music fans, could ever possibly repay: the songs, the music, and, the voice; the soulful, passionate, compassionate, wondrously grand voice that both retains youthful power and adds burnished nuance with age. I’m cool with that.

Magic Time touches on most of Morrison’s favorite latter day touchstones: the majesty of the blues, love (the beautiful “Celtic New Year”, the rocking “Evening Train”), odes to self-reliance and solitude (the earnest “Keep Mediocrity at Bay”, the wistful “Gypsy in my Soul”, the delightfully tongue-in-cheek “Just Like Greta”, the title song’s enchanting “stop and smell the roses” plea), and acerbic jibes against the invasiveness of fame (the world-weary “The Lion This Time”, the rueful “They Sold Me Out”.)

But these familiar themes are no less engaging since the disc finds Van in fine, feisty voice backed by an ace band that knows how to swing, how to soothe, how to work contours of the music as each song needs (Morrison contributes wailing harmonica and subtle guitar playing to several cuts as well as some lovely alto sax work on the opening “Stranded”.)

Morrison bolsters his originals with a handful of fascinating covers. He and the band inhabit the swinging spirit of “This Love of Mine” (co-written by Frank Sinatra) and he gives his blues heart a solid workout with “I’m Confessin’” (first made famous by Louis Armstrong.) Perhaps most poignant is “Lonely and Blue”, a cheeky (but not irreverent) rewrite of Fats Waller’s plaintive “Black and Blue”.

It’s a lovely record…yeah, ”magic time” indeed.

“Magic Time”
words and music by Van Morrison
©2005 Exile Publishing, Ltd./Universal Music Publishing, Ltd.

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