Van Morrison

Days Like This

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Van Morrison's 22nd album of new studio material will have a familiar sound to anyone who has followed his career thus far. The songs are set to steady mid-tempo grooves, with tasty guitar and organ solos and warm horn charts, over which Morrison sings in his butterscotch baritone, employing his characteristic slurs and repetitions, exploring topics that have interested him over the years. If there is any difference from earlier works, it is one of degree: Days Like This is typically introspective and given over to spiritual, psychological, and romantic concerns, but its songs are unusually straightforward. Beginning with a direct, up-tempo love song, "Perfect Fit," Morrison provides a statement of purpose in "Raincheck" ("Won't let the bastards get me down...I don't fade away, unless I want to"), yet confesses to doubt ("Underlying Depression," "Melancholia"). He matter-of-factly describes his profession ("Songwriter"), and discounts spirituality, at least in formal terms ("No Religion"), though in the extended song "Ancient Highway" he prays to "my higher self." In the title song, he turns the usual cliché on its head -- the "Days Like This" he means are the good ones, "when everything falls into place like the flick of a switch." Morrison changes the pace with two covers of 1950s oldies, the '56 Eddy Arnold hit "You Don't Know Me," and the '50 Kay Starr and Tennessee Ernie Ford hit "I'll Never Be Free," on both of which he duets with his daughter Shana. As he approaches 50, Van Morrison remains interested in the same subjects and is able to sing about them with the same forcefulness. "I cleaned up my diction, I had nothing left to say," he confesses at one point. Nothing new, perhaps, but on Days Like This Morrison says some of the same things with a new clarity.

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