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Down The Road
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Qu'est-ce qui nous rend cette voix si chère ? Qu'est-ce qui fait qu'elle éveille en nous tant d'émotions enfouies ? Comme si cette voix avait le pouvoir de faire surgir à chaque fois une mémoire oubliée, transmise malgré nous. Car Van Morrison reste l'un des chanteurs de rock les plus authentiques, si ce mot a encore un sens. Et il continue de proposer des albums comme celui-ci. Des petits modèles de perfection, équilibrant à merveille le blues, la soul, le rock and roll et le rhythm'n'blues – celui de New-Orleans en particulier trouve une résonance particulière dans un titre comme "Meet Me In The Indian Summer". Et ce "Down The Road" contient le dosage idéal qui fait que tout devient soudain évident. Évident que ce piano, ces churs féminins, ces couplets inoubliables (la version de "Georgia" peut rivaliser avec celle de Ray Charles) représentent les ingrédients indispensables de cette vibration étrange nommée "rock", justement. Quand l'organisation des éléments se réalise à ce point d'harmonie, la seule réponse est le plaisir. --José Ruiz
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dans cet album, je crois qu'il chante comme il réspire; tres à l'aise. le choix des instruments est à la hauteur. en plus il a rendue hommage à un de mes idoles: ray charles dans la reprise d'une de ses chansons.
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This new compilation shows Van back in stride - "Down the Road" is perhaps his best return to form since "Hymns to the Silence" (1991). As on that great double album, Van taps into and invokes the musical hertiage that has powered his finest efforts over the past 30 years - the title track, a mid-tempo re-write of "Real Real Gone", "Hey Mr. DJ" which evokes the best of Sam Cooke, "PJ Proby", "The Beauty of the Days Gone By" and the final track "Fast Train" all reflect his continuing fascination with the soulful side of R&B and demonstrate his ability to construct tight compelling arrangements that add depth to traditional bluesy melodic structures. His rendition of Carmichel's "Georgia on My Mind" recalls his "Just a Close Walk with Thee" on "Silence" - Van wraps his growling voice around this standard and brings out all the yearning he can muster. It's an amazing performance.
The high points on "Down the Road" probably aren't as high as those on "The Healing Game": three tracks off that album - "Rough God Goes Riding", "Piper At the Gates of Dawn", and the title track stand as three of the finest songs he's ever done. However, "Down the Road" avoids the lows of that album too - there's no misfires here, nothing you want to skip over. At first, Van appears to be simply retreading many of the old sounds and riffs he's done before - "Choppin' Wood" and "All Work and No Play" sound like bar-band standards - but the album has a cumulative power that resolves even the more derivative tracks into a cohesive whole. The beauty of some of the final tracks - "Only a Dream", "Man Has to Struggle", and "Fast Train" especially - demonstrate Van's unwillingness to allow his style to become formulaic.
All in all, a lively and lovely album - a revealing meditation on the unrecoverable past and the uncertainities of the future but without the moodiness that has characterized his earlier statements on this theme. Definitely recommended - especially for those long cross-country road trips you'll be taking this summer.
Personally, I think that this is Van's best, most well-rounded album since Too Long In Exile. It has all the joyful bounce of Street Choir and Moondance as well as a taste of his introspective mid-period moods.
My favorites are Talk is Cheap, Choppin' Wood (OK, the background vocals are obnoxious but its still a great song), the maligned All Work and No Play (its those background vocals again), the soulful Whatever Happened To PJ Proby, Only A Dream, and Evening Shadows.
That last merits special mention. Originally written as an instrumental by 50s soft-jazz pioneer Acker Bilk, Van adds lyrics to Evening Shadows which really fit the music then brings Bilk aboard to do a clarinet solo on his own music brought to life! Tremendous!
About the only song I don't care for is Van's rendition of Georgia On My Mind, but then that song has never been a favorite anyhow.
I'm with the reviewer who said he did not care if Van broke no new ground. He has given the world forty years of wonderful music and its hard to see what new ground he could possibly break. I highly recommend Down the Road to one and all.
Back On Top of recent years. In fact, this album arguably has some of Van's best songs of the past decade. Note the title track, "Choppin' Wood", "Steal My Heart Away", "Only A Dream",
and the amazing "Fast Train", which reminds one of the classic
"The Waiting Game", especially the harmonica intro. If that were not enough, listen to the exquisite rendition of "Georgia On My Mind".
Some of the tracks here evoke some of Van's earlier 80's and 90's work, especially "Only A Dream", a gem in itself. The
beautiful piano and sax work here is welcome return to the jazzier side of Morrison. And the lilting "That's What Makes the Irish Heart Beat" is evocative of the early 70's Tupelo Honey and Hard Nose the Highway, with a country and western feel. Beautiful!
In "The Beauty of the Days Gone By", Van sings, "...lift your glass and raise it high/to the beauty of the days gone by".
Amen! But Van is creating beauty still, to "keep me young as I
grow old". This is a great hymn led by acoustic guitar with a wonderful organ part. It sends me back to Avalon Sunset and even Saint Dominic's Preview. To keep me young, indeed!
With his triumphant trio of The Healing Game, Back On Top, and now Down the Road, Van has once again proven, along with Neil Young, and even Bob Dylan, that age is no barrier to true genius. I'm already looking forward to his next classic!
The tunes themselves are pleasant reworkings of familiar themes, but what really makes this album work are the instrumental textures, combined with Van's "only-gets-better-with-age" vocals.
The rhythm section sounds relaxed, but confident, providing a solid, swinging foundation for Van's jazzy vocal interjections.
The addition of several lower-pitched instruments offers a more mellow, darker sound. In various combinations throughout the album, Van employs baritone sax, clarinet, viola, and yes, real strings! He has also done away with those annoying, repetitive background vocals of Brian Kennedy that plagued some of his more recent work. (His daughter's vocals are also nowhere to be found, thankfully)
The tunes tend to sound vaguely familiar;
"Hey Mr. DJ" sounds a lot like Sam Cooke's "Havin' A Party";
"All Work and No Play" is a re-write of the R&B standard "Things Ain't What They Used To Be", and "Whatever Happened to P.J. Proby" revisits "Minnie The Moocher" & "Fever" territory.
No matter. The music is swinging, Van's at the top of his game, and the whole thing works beautifully.
Immediately after listening to this, I put on "Beautiful Vision", one of Van's albums from the early 80's and was surprised to find how sterile it sounded by comparison.
Come take a journey with Van down the road; you won't be disappointed!
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