Van Morrison
Keep It Simple

3.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike JeffersonVan Morrison’s craggy image on the cover of “Keep It Simple” makes him look like he should be the fifth face on Mount Rushmore. The eleven songs on the album are far less coarse. Now 62, Morrison has eased into his Medicare years as a fatherly R & B/rock guru. His new album doesn’t have instant classic burned into its grooves like 1971’s “Tupelo Honey,” or the bump a minute funk of 1977’s “Period Of Transition,” but each subdued track locks in place with the next as if it were a patch in a quilt, and together the songs form a beautiful musical tapestry. Van the man keeps it simple, and the result is his best effort since 1978’s “Wavelength.”
Morrison has a habit of recruiting name musicians, many of whom are mid-range legends in their own right. (For example, he tabbed New Orleans voodoo man Dr John to helm “A Period of Transition,” and during his 90’s comeback worked with keyboardist Georgie Fame, who had solo hits in the 60s with “Yeh, Yeh” and “The Ballad Of Bonnie and Clyde.” In a surprise move, he recruited the Jeff Beck Group’s powerhouse vocalist Bobby Tench as his lead guitarist for “Wavelength.”) For “Keep It Simple” Morrison has drafted guitarist Mick Green, the former strummer for Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, who were best known for “Shakin’ All Over,” (which Mick missed out playing on). Mick is also the less famous brother of 60s blues legend/acid casualty Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac. It was Mick who engineered Peter’s credible 80s comeback, writing four albums worth of material for his medicated brother. Unfortunately, few noticed it was Mick, not Peter writing the songs. It was also rumored that Mick played the captivating chords on well received albums such as “White Sky” and “The Dreamer.” That might be giving Mick a bit too much credit. You only have to hear a few notes to be able to name that Green. Peter’s a head-turning lead guitarist, a virtual sweet spot machine, while Mick’s a master of subtle fills. Playing alongside veteran Morrison band member and fellow guitarist Johnny Platania, Green keeps it simple.