Van definitely the man with latest album
“Put another coin in the wishing well
Tell everybody got to go to hell
Let it rhyme.
In time you’ll be mine.”
That’s the first line from the opening track, “Let It Rhyme,” from Van Morrison’s brilliant new album “Keep Me Singing.” I had goose bumps the very first time I heard it. It sounded so amazing, I just melted.
Van the man sounds like he did the first time I ever heard him, 44 years ago. The song to me is the summation of all things Van Morrison that we have been treated to for over 50 years now: soulful piano and B-3-driven Celtic rock, highlighted with a mouth harp. All of this backs an incredibly sincere voice that has not changed in those 50-plus years. It sounds like it would have fit nicely on “Moondance” or “Tupelo Honey.”
Lamenting lost love, “Every Time I See a River” is a 1950s-style, slow-moving, jazz-drenched tune that I could see Boz Scaggs or any number of crooners from the 1950s singing, including Frank Sinatra. Celtic folk, country, R&B and soul all come together on the title track as Van cheerfully sings “Keep me singing, while I’m winning. Waiting on my change to come.”
“Out In the Cold Again” is highlighted by Van’s incredible voice delivered deftly over just a piano and strings for the most part. Clocking in at over 7 minutes, it is a classic torch song delivered by one of the best ever at it. “Memory Lane” could be the sequel to the great, “I’m Tired Joey Boy.” It is a wonderful lament about a 71-year-old man spending a fall day drawing comparisons to his own life. One of my early favorites is the mostly blues driven, R&B song, “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword.” An irresistible hook with some great lyrics like:
“They’re gonna get burnt ‘cause they’re playin’ with fire. They’re gonna to get caught ‘cause somebody is a liar
Every man is me
Every man is you
Can’t tell you what you’re supposed to do
You’ve gotta live by the pen
Cause it’s mightier than the sword
I got live by the pen
Cause it’s mightier than the sword.”
“In Tiburon” is another beautiful, piano-driven jazz tune featuring a Miles Davis-style muted trumpet as Morrison expresses his obvious deep love for San Francisco and the beautiful Bay area to his love. “We need each other to lean on/Across the bay In Tiburon.” Drawing heavily on Glenn Miller and Bennie Goodman, “Look Behind the Hill” is a short, sweet, big-band swing number straight out of the 1940s. “Going Down To Bangor” is the bluesiest song on the record. Written in the classic Delta blues style with the Little Walter-style harmonica intro to the Muddy Waters-style guitar, Morrison seems to be drawing on some of his earliest influences on this driving blues cut. “Too Late” is a catch ‘50s-style doo-wop tune that will have you tapping your feet along with a “Wild Night”-like beat. “Keep Me Singing” closes with the instrumental, “Caledonia Swing,” which is a very aptly titled swinging jazz ditty.
In my opinion “Let It Rhyme” is Morrison’s best record since “Into the Music” from 1979.
“Throw another coin and make a wish
Put a spell on you and make it stick
Let it rhyme
You’ll be mine.”