“Keep Me Singing” by Van Morrison (2016)

+++ Originally published in Varsity on 12 October 2016 +++

Keep Me Singing mixes impulses from soul, gospel, and blues into a good, though not exceptional, record. Van Morrison moves with ease between the musical idioms that have long been his home ground. While the gospel-infused title track is reminiscent of a late 1970s Bob Dylan, ‘Going Down to Bangor’ sees a Muddy Waters-like 12-bar blues transplanted to Morrison’s native Northern Ireland. Appropriate for the season, ‘Memory Lane’, a string-supported ballad, offers a melancholic meditation on bygone days while the first leaves of autumn touch down. In other places, listeners may be reminded of Sam Cooke (‘Every Time I See a River’) and fellow blue-eyed soul singer Mitch Ryder (‘The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword’), and ‘In Tiburon’ evokes San Francisco’s beat generation and the trumpet of Chet Baker. Overall, Morrison’s 36th studio album is a mellow take on the various directions that have influenced him over his long career, the execution of which leaves little to be criticised.

van-morrison
Varsity print edition, 7 October 2016, p. 31.

Morrison’s hand is clearly recognisable throughout, in both the songwriting and the production, (co-)producing being a role he has assumed in the recording of his albums for nearly five decades. Despite being 71 years of age, he has retained his vocal class, and the familiar phrasing paired with the slightly slurred drawl doesn’t depart much from the days of Astral Weeks andMoondance. The record comfortably joins the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s oeuvre, without delivering any big surprises. Still, Morrison and his studio band ultimately shine with excellent musicianship assuredly demonstrated in convincing arrangements and instrumental sections, and Keep Me Singing can be recommended as a high-quality contribution to the soundtrack of this autumn.