Singer, songwriter, producer, guitarist, and saxophonist Van Morrison has been at the game a good long time. An Irish lad smitten with the American sounds imported to the British Isles acoustic & electric blues, R&B, jazz, folk Morrison was singer for mid-1960s blues-rockers Them before embarking on a protean solo career.
While jazz was always present in his vocal approach (imagine Jackie Wilson with an improvisational bent, or a rockin’ Irish Mose Allison), recent years have found Morrison more plainly accentuating the blues, old-school R&B, and jazz aspects of his sound. Keep It Simple is loaded with gospel overtones, thick billows of Hammond organ, straightforwardly crisp guitar, and earnestly testifying vocals. The yearning "End of the Land" and "Song of Home" both deserve to become standards I can imagine Irma Thomas, Bonnie Raitt, or Solomon Burke doing wonderful things with them. Not to imply Van the man is a slouch his hearty, elastic vocals literally and elegantly dance the words into your ear.
"Don’t Go To Nightclubs Anymore" is Van’s wry re-write of the Ellington chestnut "Don’t Get Around Much Anymore," wherein Van good-naturedly addresses the (ever-)maturing process. Fans seeking the loose-limbed jump ‘n’ jive of Van’s What's Wrong With This Picture (on Blue Note & highly recommended!) or his Irish folk side (Morrison did a great album with the Chieftains, Irish Heartbeat) may be a little let down Keep It Simple is Morrison squarely in reflective-R&B-ballad mode and in fine voice. It's a nice chill-out platter, mellow without being lethargic. Put this one in the "win" column.