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Back on Top

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Back on Top

Artist: Van Morrison
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: March 1999

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

Morrison is really a wonder. More than 3 decades into his career, he's come up with one of the best records of the year.  Back on Top is accurate. It's certainly one of his best works in two decades.  The songs have a classic feel. Morrison projects a cool confidence but never seems complacent. The millions who bought Morrison's greatest hits CD but ignore his recent work should know that he's making music on a par with his classics from the 70's. Philosopher's Stone, Precious Time and the title track would easily sit beside his most famous songs. Morrison makes it clear that we're in for a good time from the start of Back on Top. Goin' Down Geneva, with Geraint Watkins' great rollicking piano, has a great classic blues feel as Morrison easily evokes the life of a blues man "living on the exile plan" doing gigs throughout Europe.

Everything Morrison does seems so right. Part of the reason for Morrison's success is that he's still searching for meaning in music and life.  While his contemporaries are gone or living on their oldies, Morrison still wants to challenge himself, trying to turn "lead into gold."  The Philosopher's Stone is a touching song about how Morrison is still searching for meaning. The music is relaxed and beautiful and the vocals have real poignancy. There's also a kind of arrogance there, that he knows he's doing something pretty amazing, but he can get away with it because he's right. Back on Top, which is also a justifiable celebration of the current strength of his work, is an excellent upbeat, comfortable jazzy song with Fianchra Trench's nice, easy piano. Precious Time has a fun, light feel with Pee Wee Ellis's smooth sax.  Morrison is consistently able to create vivid lyrical images and enjoyable musical settings, singing of "listening to Chet Baker on the beach" and inviting his love to "follow him down" when the rain comes, in When the Leaves Come Falling Down. The record finishes well with Morrison singing on Golden Autumn Day of "taking in the indian summer." Back On Top is always solid and is often remarkable. At age 53, Morrison added another masterpiece to his catalog.



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