Van Morrison's new album is much like his earlier ones, in tone and theme. Yet, at least a few songs are among the best I have ever heard. It is rich with insights, redolent with mood-calming notes and fine lyrics. His voice, that rarest of rarities, is still in good form, .
"Stranded" is a typical Morrison piece, dealing with being stranded on the shores of a new world, a world changed. A thoughtful piece, it features a saxophone section of some worth."It’s leaving me stranded/In my own little island/With my eyes open wide/But I’m feeling stranded"
"Celtic New Year" is a song straight out of "Astral Weeks" or "Avalon Sunset". Dealing with loss, desire, and hope, it has some vivid imagery of "Louisiana", "Bourbon Street" and the "Jack of Diamonds". The harmonica complements the lyrics ably."If I don’t see you when the bonfires are burning, burning/If I don’t see you when we’re singing the Gloriana tune/If I’ve got to see you when it’s raining deep inside the forest/I got to see you at the waning of the moon"
"Keep Mediocrity At Bay" is an uptempo piece, almost political in content, although one is unsure which side is being supported, if any. "You gotta fight every day to keep mediocrity at bay/Gotta fight every day to keep mediocrity at bay/Got to fight with all your might not to get in the bleeding heart's way
You gotta fight for your rights, you can't bury your head in the sand/You gotta fight for your rights, you can't just bury your head in the sand/Politics and religion, superstition go hand in hand"
"Evening Train" keeps up the pace. It is similar to classic blues songs from the 1930s, although it does not have quite the punch one might expect, which is something one can say for most of the album. The guitar work is great, by the late Foggly Lyttle, to whom the album is dedicated.
"This Love Of Mine" builds on the jazz theme introduced earlier. It is a cover of the classic Sinatra tune, done true to the original, with the classic Van Morrison touch.
"I'm Confessin'" is another jazz cover, done earlier by Lester Young, Perry Como, and more. This version is more slow-paced, except for an inspired harmonica section. This song gives him the chance to layer vocal intonations through repetition of simple phrases, something he does well. "I'm guessing, guessing that you love me/Dreaming dreams, dreaming dreams, dreaming, dreaming. dreaming dreams of you in vain"