Van's Back on Top

Van Morrison - Back On Top
(Pointblank Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Infusing rhythm & blues, jazz, country / western, gospel and deep-soul into a lyrical inferno of love, spirituality, swelling emotions and mysticism, Irish poet-musician Van Morrison has always been one of rock's true enigmas.
With a solid reputation as one of the reigning forces in the world of intellectual rock - one that is rivaled by the likes of Bob Dylan - Morrison is once again reclaiming his place in music on his latest album aptly titled Back On Top.
On it Morrison retraces many of the steps that he's taken throughout his prolific recorded legacy, which spans over 31 years and 25 full-length studio albums, including such wonderments as Astral Weeks , Moondance (1970) and Tupelo Honey (1971) which all have become time-tested rock classics, even if his music has never really conveniently fit into the realm of rock.
Wasting no time in getting things moving Morrison kicks off the album with the gritty Chicago-styled urban blues number "Goin' Down Geneva", with his low, husky voice hopping a free-ride on a runaway rhythm section and rambling honky-tonk piano. The train continues through making stops on the bouncy "Precious Time", "High Summer", with Morrison delivering a rich, soulful voice accompanied by a Dylan-esque harmonica, the gentle love sonnet "When The Leaves Come Falling Down" and the delicious R&B of the title track "Back On Top", which hearkens back to his G - L - O - R - Y days.
Morrison takes a punch at journalists making a quick buck from hack biographies on the catchy "New Biography" and searches for inner peace on the introspective "Philosopher's Stone", while it's love and love lost that he visits on the gentle "In The Midnight" and "Reminds Me Of You".
While it's doubtful that Morrison could ever sell records like whatever one-hit-wonder, flavor-of-the-day band is topping the current music charts, he's a least proven, with a fresh arsenal of songs to add to his cannon of brilliant work, that he really is back on top.

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