Van Morrison looks to return to his roots on Keep It Simple. Either that, or he's spotted someone with a cooler hat than him. No way!
A while back I bought Van Morrision's CD Keep It Simple for my wife, who is a Van Morrision fan. She's followed Van through his various phases in recent years, his muse has taken him through a variety of sounds including Country and Jazz. For me, I tend to stick to his "radio friendly" sound of Classic Rock mixed with R&B and Folk (and a touch of Irish Celtic sounds) so when I heard my wife play the new disc I became a little interested.
That's because Keep It Simple is a return to that trademark sound of his. Van's voice is as supple and smooth as ever and has an unwavering sincerity. While most "back to basics" albums tend to be self conscious, I don't detect any of that here. Simplicity is the theme as Van goes through the "School Of Hard Knocks" and "Don't Go To Nightclubs Anymore" (extrapolating the famous "Don't Get Around Much Anymore") to arrive at the "End of the Land" with the "Song of Home".
Musically and thematically, Van returns to his home. The bluesy opener "How Can A Poor Boy?" starts his journey. The journey leads to my favorite track on the album, "Soul", about how the soul of the person isn't based on outer appearance. It's a simple, overstated point to make but it is made so well with Van's relaxed, confident vocal and old style R&B backing that it seems brand new.
While Keep It Simple won't eclipse Van Morrison's famous hit generating period (meaning classics like "Brown Eyed Girl", "Moondance", "Crazy Love" or "Domino") it is a welcome throw back done with warmth and feeling instead of desperation. Taken on its own terms, Simple is like riding through the countryside to visit the house of an old friend.