Van Morrison

Hymns to the Silence

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Morrison's best album of the '90s still casually hangs out in the spiritual world that served as his home for most of his '80s material, but the mystical touches are at least kept in check for a good deal of the time. Better still is that Morrison sings with a passion that had crawled into laziness during big, and crucial, chunks of his career (most prominently the early to mid-'80s). The songs, or more accurately (as the title makes very clear) hymns, combine the elements that have guided Morrison's best albums -- R&B, folk, pop, Celtic, rock, even gospel -- for a satisfying journey through the mystic and the real. Its double-disc length, however, is a bit off-putting; a spirited rewrite of his last album (1990's Enlightenment) really doesn't need this much space to make its point. But his rambling musings (like the soulfully suave "Why Must I Always Explain") retain a compelling power.

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