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MARC RIBOT Songs of Resistance 1942-2018

Album · 2018 · Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Marc Ribot’s latest offering “Songs Of Resistance 1942-2018” comprises quite a few well known guests covering some originals and old nuggets fitting the album’s title. Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Fay Victor, Meshell Ndegeocello, Sam Amidon , Justin Vivian Bond and an artist who does not want to be named due to possible ramifications concerning their residential status is mentioned as “Ohene Cornelius”. The album was recorded as a protest against the current U. S. Administration with eleven tracks included with Fay Victor being the biggest contributor after Marc Ribot of course as she appears on three with Steve Earle being an old political campaigner himself appearing in two.

The old Gospel number “We Are Soldiers In The Army” with Fay Victor on vocals gets things underway with some quite interesting saxophone accompaniment bringing a different touch to this old nugget but what the majority of listeners will be interested in is the following old Italian Anti Fascist song “Bella Ciao ( Goodbye Beautiful)” with Tom Waits providing his unique style delivered close to a lament with Marc Ribot’s guitar backing it all up as he has done on so many songs that they have recorded together. Steve Earle wrote “Srinvas” concerning an Indian immigrant’s murder as a direct result from racism with quite a pick up for the tunes ending. “How To Walk In Freedom” is where we get the folk singer Sam Amidon leading vocals with Fay Victor assisting with flute bringing texture to the song and “Rata De Dos Patas” is Latin based with a not to subtle English introduction for the persona Ohene Cornelius.The protest songs keep coming with two more from Marc Ribot, Fay Victor doing “John Brown”, another from Steve Earle and even the trans genre artist Justin Vivian Bond comes in to finish things up with “We’ll Never Turn Back” and perhaps even Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger might approve.

Interesting listen and I have tried to keep out of the politics not being my own Country and just cover the music with what it is about and there are some great sounding songs and tunes included and I hope that they do resonate from this project for the artists. Tom Waits is a great addition for Marc Ribot within the album as he will increase sales with those fans of Tom’s that want them all, still I feel like many Political themed album’s they are doomed to a short lifespan.

JOHN FEDCHOCK Reminiscence

Live album · 2018 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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js
If you enjoyed John Fedchock’s 2015 release, “Fluidity”, then there is a good chance you will like his new one, “Reminiscence”, as well as both CDs contain material recorded during the same three night run at the nightclub Havana Nights in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Apparently Fedchock was recently going through the tapes of those shows and realized he easily had enough strong material on hand to get one more CD release out of those performances. The closing track on “Reminiscence” is from an older show at the same club, but you would never notice any difference if someone didn’t tell you. Much like “Fluidity”, “Reminiscence” contains a mix of originals and standards all arranged so that everything blends together into a congruent set.

John Fedchock is mostly known for his big band work in NYC where he has been holding concerts and releasing albums for some 20 years now. Despite his success with the large ensembles, John also likes to work with combos in small clubs as it allows the musicians to stretch out and take chances that can’t happen in more heavily arranged ensembles. In Fedchock’s own words, “playing in this (small club) setting allows the players more of a chance to interact and create an intimate conversation through improvisation”. The performers that John has chosen on here are all well known to him and have performed with him many times in the past and include John Toomey on piano, Jimmy Masters on bass and Dave Ratajczak on drums.

“Reminiscence” opens with a couple of up-tempo bluesy originals that establish the players strengths. Fedchock is not a particularly flashy player, but he is a master of endless melodic variations that always swing. Toomey makes for a good contrast to Fedchock, on the up tempo numbers he is apt to get a little crazy with some full fisted attacks that have some similarities to Jaki Byard. On the more laid back tracks he gets more mysterious, sometimes recalling Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child” album. Solo space for Jimmy and Dave is limited, but maybe that’s not a bad thing, a good rhythm section should feel no shame in providing a swinging drive for the lead instruments. There is a good variety to the song choices with four groove numbers, one Bossa Nova and two semi-ballads. Some call this type of jazz “straight ahead”, which makes for a good description because throughout, John Fedchock avoids any bad detours.

JURE PUKL Doubtless

Album · 2018 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
European Jure Pukl has been getting quite a few accolades lately as one of the new Jazz innovators with a different modern approach to Jazz which is evident within his latest release “Doubtless” with the compositions included and the playing of the two saxophones from himself and Melissa Aldana in conjunction at various times throughout the album’s compositions. This current album from the prolific saxophonist is the fifth under his leadership in the last eight years with his prior being ‘Hybrid” which was released last year in 2017. He is also known for not sticking to one particular style of Jazz by taking on most forms with Avante Garde, Post Bop and Fusion being just three examples within his own releases not his mention his many appearances as a sideman with quite a few of Jazz’s well known names such as Maceo Parker, Esperanza Spalding, Vijay Iyer, Jeremy Pelt and Aaron Goldberg just to name a few. Melissa Aldana the other tenor saxophonist from Chile is no slouch either and she has been gaining quite a reputation for herself with four albums of her own with two being her Crash Trio and even picked up The Thelonious Monk award in 2013 being the first South American artist to win it. Also present within the album’s quartet is Joe Sanders on Bass having played with quite a few luminaries such as Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Charles Lloyd, Herbie Hancock with a longer list to add and we also have Gregory Hutchinson drumming who has been at it quite a while now since starting in the late eighties with another extensive list of his own a mile long bringing us to quite an experienced band for this current new release of Jure Pukl’s, “Doubtless”.

The album’s title is the first number with a slight touch of Avante inserted between the two saxophonists and the band following in for a call and response interplay between them both with Joe Sanders coming in for a brief interlude on bass in this interesting opening number. It is with the next composition “Doves (for my Mother)” where we have a conjunction with both saxophonists playing the opening together within this lovely more relaxed composition with the conjunction coming back each time for the theme and Gregory Sander’s bass following for another delightful solo. Gregory Hutchinson’s drumming has quite a distinct input of his own bringing a statement within this track as well as every other one included within the album. It is more co-play for “Intersong” with the following “Eliote” bringing back that saxophone conjunction and Joe Sanders to the fore. “Compassion” bears a ballad and introspective feel to the number with plenty of space for quite a nice dreamy feel. The remaining four compositions still keep up a high degree of interest in “Elsewhere”, “The Mind And The Soul”, “Where Are You Coming From?” and finishing up with more of that delightful sax conjunction in “Bad Year-Good Year”.

It is different with something new to hear and an album I sought out myself due to that fact and it is not only the saxophone co-play which is only present at times but the mix of styles inserted within the compositions bringing a touch of Bop and the Avante in amongst it all. Something new and original is what I am always chasing and albeit it does get harder over the years with so many ideas covered Jure Pukl has managed to come up with it for us listeners in an interesting and delightful manner within this current release. I for one will be keeping my eye out for his future albums. Good stuff!

YAGULL Yuna

Album · 2018 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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kev rowland
I have been fortunate enough to have been living with this album for a couple of months now, and I believe that it is still going to be another couple before it is actually released, but I can’t wait anymore as I have to write about it, as this is simply one of the most beautiful and entrancing albums I have ever come across. This is the third album from Yagull, the first (‘Films’) being Sasha Markovic and some guests, while the second (‘Kai’) was Sasha (guitars, bass, percussion) and his wife Kana Kamitsubo (piano) plus assorted guests. But, although I really enjoyed that album I felt they had missed an opportunity, and said “The interplay between the two musicians in simply beautiful, there is no other word for it, and I would have preferred to have heard an album filled just with their songs, with no other musicians, as there is no need for the purity of their sound to be messed with.”

When Sasha and I made contact, he asked me if I would like to hear the new album, which had just been completed and was incredibly personal to him and Kana. How personal I only found out later, as while ‘Kai’ was named after their son, ‘Yuna’ is named after the child that would have been, as Kana suffered two miscarriages during the period of time it took to record the album, and Yuna was the name they had chosen.

Musically, Sasha and Kana decided this time to concentrate on the interplay between each other, with just a backing singer used on one song: everything else is just the two of them. As previously they have included a cover version of a classic song, but interestingly the one they have chosen this time is a new version of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” which also appeared on the debut, but as Kana wasn’t in the band at that time they have re-recorded it. Apart from that, and “Fall Winter” (which is credited just to Kana), every song was a collaboration between them, sometimes with Sasha credited first and sometimes Kana. “Searching For The Moon” was apparently written when they were asked to just play something during a photo shoot, and took less than five minutes, so they consider it a gift

The delicacy and understanding between the acoustic piano and acoustic guitar, from two musicians who know each other intimately, is too hard to describe. To say that it is a thing of beauty, creating a new world just from carefully selected notes which hang in the air, seems both twee and ineffectual, while this is an album of considerable power and might. Sometimes the notes are rippling streams, while sometimes they just sit there, using space and time to bind them together. There is no desire to hurry, no need to fill the space with unnecessary adornment, everything has its place.

This is an incredibly special album, something that feels very personal indeed, and we have been fortunate enough to be given a glimpse behind the curtain. It almost feels that we are interlopers, listeners who are trespassing on some hidden and private moment which we came across by accident, but couldn’t turn away. Whenever I finish listening to this album I always feel honoured to have been let inside, but also saddened that for most of us the real world isn’t how this music makes me feel. This is truly a wonderful piece of work, and I feel enriched by having heard it.

CUONG VU Cuong Vu 4-tet ‎: Change In The Air

Album · 2018 · Fusion
Cover art 3.67 | 2 ratings
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Antonis Kalamoutsos
.... and then, there are these moments when the only thing you ask of music is to embrace and surround you like a huge, colourful cloud.

Born in Vietnam and based in Seattle, Cuong Vu has already accomplished some great achievements in the jazz genre, despite being still at his late 40s. The most important achievement though is that he has shaped his own personal voice, having explored with his trumpet a variety of different jazz paths, from “traditional” to fusion and from there to its most experimental aspects. So, his very breath has managed to form that huge, colourful cloud that shades everything tenderly, peacefully and with limitless expressive power. Let us not forget that the trumpet is an ideal case if you want to hear the Man behind the instrument. Well, Vu sounds like a great man and this is neither irrelevant nor insignificant.

Change in the air is Vu’s second release with 4-Tet where he coexists and co creates with three wonderful musicians, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Ted Poor. This collaboration is fulfilled with terms of equal and collective creation, a strategic choice that makes the album take off. That is because Vu’ s trumpet may stand over the compositions, like a parental supervision, being also the music’s “battering ram” but that doesn’t mean his companions get lost in the background. On the contrary, they are equally under the spotlight next to him.

Frisell’s guitar feels like a multilingual instrument: it explores all kinds of harmonic moods and polysemous chords, it discreetly uses modern effects and decorates music with its unrivaled presence. On the other hand, the rhythm section of Bergman/Poor, being one of the wisest and more balanced I have ever encountered in a jazz album, spreads gigantically in space supporting, emphasising and sending light to any dark corners, always in the best possible expressiveness.

The above mentioned collective effort is mostly reflected on the fact that all four musicians contribute almost equally their compositions, with three tracks each and Bergman adding one. As a result, Poor and Bergman are equivalently pointed out as amazing composers. Poor instantly sets the bar to unreachable heights with the opening nostalgic noir of ''All that's left of me is you'' and the ravishing and personal favourite ''Alive'' that follows, a composition in which the band dares to enrich with an almost bluesy Americana aura. Bergman’s ''Must concentrate'' carries a completely different rhythmic, almost dancing character while progresses into one of the album’s most intense moments. The three compositions by Frisell reveal a distant relation with those of Poor, with a dominating sense of bittersweet and sometimes sexy melancholy, as well as an immense harmonic richness. As for Vu, he keeps for himself the album’s most experimental and dark moments ''Round and Round'' and ''Round and round (Back around)'', as well as ''March of the owl and the bat'' , probably the only genuine fusion track involved. While these compositions are not my cup of tea, i think they are extremely valuable for the album’s flow, painting it in darker tones for a while.

In total, Change in the air is not an album of intense soloing and technical gymnastics. It is more like a sentimental dive into the Challengers Deep of quality music enthusiasts and like a human structure raised by a broad musical mind. Free and unforced, all the notes never end but just keep on reaching beyond, as if they are to reach the most distant horizons. If it was a painting it would be an impressionistic one, with open forms, diffused light and blurry colours. The subject is rather open to the perception of the listener though. Through my own filters, this is ultimately a midnight album, of nights with undefined moods and purposes unknown.

Change in the air is a work of sheer beauty, unique as a fingerprint and kind as an innocent memory. Washed away from every arrogance and hypocrisy, Cuong Vu 4-Tet deliver a crystal album, a collective breath that rises above until it hangs over your head like a cloud, ideal for all those moments when you just ask of music to embrace and surround you, without offending anything within you.

Originally written for againstthesilence.com

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LES MCCANN On Time

Album · 1962 · Soul Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
Appearing in 1962, the album “On Time” comes fairly early in Les McCann’s career. Les and his crack rhythm section of drummer Ron Jefferson and bassist Leroy Vinnegar had already recorded a couple of successful albums that had established them as leaders in the new combination of jazz, gospel and blues that was being called ‘soul jazz’. This trio didn’t really need any help, but I suppose in an attempt to push things a little further, ace guitarist Joe Pass was asked to join the band and make it a quartet for the recording of “On Time”. Joe is usually known for his ability to navigate fast moving be-bop changes and similar technically demanding fare, but on this McCann opus, he settles into the band’s blues groove and makes an already exciting group just a bit better. So successful was Pass’ merger with the band that he would go on to record with them again after this album.

“On Time’ opens with the hard driving up tempo of the album’s title cut which establishes this bands musical forte, which has more to do with the funky soul of gospel and blues than jazz per se. Les does not play fleet bop lines, but instead plays those riffs that are well known to the church pianist. From here the album continues with mostly mid-tempo blues. “This for Doug” offers a little change up in that it is that rare blues tune in waltz time. Side two continues the party in fine form, the standard “It Could Happen to You” opens as a slow tempo ballad before the band picks up the beat half way through. The album closes with a surprise when they turn Miles’ well known relaxed cool classic “So What”, into a fast paced be-bop barn burner. If you like this sort of early 60s blues-jazz hybrid, “On Time” will not disappoint. This quartet has talent to burn as they put out an album that smokes from start to finish.

JUHANI AALTONEN Juhani Aaltonen & Iro Haarla : Kirkastus

Album · 2015 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Juhani Aaltonen and Iro Haarla have been playing together for quite a while now having first meet in the early 1970’s whilst Iro was still a teenager and still studying music and then again a few years later when both were performing with Edward Vesala in the late 70’s and early 80’s where after they went their own ways until reuniting in 2002 whilst recording for the Finnish Jazz label Tum with both appearing on various albums led by Juhani or Iro with the label since. Juhani Aaltonen plays tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute and bass flute within this recording “Kirkastus” whilst Iro Haarla is on piano, harp , guzheng or chen ( Chinese stringed instrument) and percussion for this duo recording released in 2015. Both have extensive histories in music with Juhani first releasing his debut as a leader in 1974 for the album “Etiquette” as well as performing with the Rock band Tasavallan Presidenti whilst Iro Haarla has kept working right up till the late 1990’s with her husband Edward Vesala until his death and did not release an album until 2001 under her own name in conjunction with the saxophonist Pepa Paivanen who also had been playing with Edward Vesala. All the recordings included within the album are written by Iro and as such are predominately intricate ballads with perhaps her most well known album being “Vespers” released in 2011 with the ECM label and a prime showcase for her style of Jazz composing.

“Evening Prayer” open subtlety with Juhani on Tenor saxophone and Iro playing piano for this lovely gentle ballad where one hear can the understanding both musicians have between each other with some beautiful solo input with the piano from Iro on this near six minute piece which is followed by “Out Of The depths” with Juhani on flute and Iro on piano and adding in addition a chimed percussion and although it another ballad which the whole album being it is the variety of instruments used throughout the compositions that keep things from not sounding all the same with the playing still remaining in a beautiful gentle mode.”Still Waters”, “Nightjar” and “ Long Sole Sound” has Iro playing Harp whereas Juhani plays flute on three of the ten ballads and Iro plays the chen on only one for ‘Nightjar” being one of my picks with the addition of “Long Sole Sound” where bass flute and harp are combined keeping the album interesting throughout all the tracks.

Lovely relaxed music with some great playing from Juhani in these beautiful low key compositions and although Juhani Aaltonen is first in the credits it is Iro Haarla’s just as much. She has her own style of composing and it is quite individual leaving her own mark on modern Jazz which is beautifully displayed on this album. Great for those quiet times.

TAJ MAHAL The Natch'l Blues

Album · 1968 · Jazz Related Blues
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Back in 1973 as a fourteen year old kid I was reading a novel named “The Merry Month Of May” by the author James Jones and throughout the novel one subject that kept being mentioned was they always playin’ The Blues in amongst all those sordid details of an American Family living in Paris throughout the student demonstrations set at the Sorbonne during the late sixties. Asked an older friend if he had any of this Blues music as living in Australia it was primarily Rock And Roll, Folk and Country that I was being fed, albeit I was hearing Blues via The Rolling Stones, Dylan etc but I wanted to hear the real stuff and along came a couple of albums on loan with one being a BB King and this one by Taj Mahal titled “The Natch’l Blues”.

Recorded in 1968 being Taj Mahal’s second release for that year after his self titled debut album that featured Ry Cooder with this having close to the same band with the exception of Ry Cooder and Bill Boatman on Rhythm Guitar with this being primarily a four piece band but we do have the addition of Mr “Like A Rolling Stone” Al Kooper adding piano and Earl Palmer on drums most famously known for his work with Little Richard making appearances as well. One of the interesting points concerning this album is it hard to categorise and it is not Chicago or Soul but having most of its Roots in Folk with a contemporary electric approach which is perhaps when one looks back is the reason for its success and high status that it has garnered over the years due to its difference when recorded during this period in time.

Taj Mahal’s steel guitar is the first thing one hears for the opening number “Good Morning Miss Brown” having that classic 4/4 time in this great mid tempo number with the following “Corrina” bringing a more distinct folk presence to the album but it is not the old classic folk number ‘Corrina Corrina” as this one was penned by Taj with some delightful Harp inserted. It’s a great bounce for “I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Steal My Jellyroll” with Taj letting fly with some more of that Steal bodied guitar and the following “Going Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue” has the harp back. Side one closes with the promise “Done Changed My Way Of Living” delivered with a harsh beat for Taj’s roughed up vocals to sing over. Things keep getting better when one flips the record with the delightful and one of the best numbers “She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride” with more of that great bounce and harp instilled with more to follow for “The Cuckoo”. The ballad “You Don’t Miss Your Water ( ‘Til Your Well Runs Dry)” is one of the album’s covers with some great Blues flavour and Brass added for this album standout with the album finishing up with another cover and the rockiest number within “A Lot Of Love”

Classic Blues with its own touch and even though I heard it in my early days I was lucky that this one came along with that loan which I went and bought when I had to return it. As for the James Jones book after I felt like I had to wade through it I was delighted to get back into Harold Robbins and Alistair McClean but it did get me into The Blues.

ALAIN MALLET Mutt Slang

Album · 2016 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.52 | 2 ratings
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js
The most difficult CDs to review are the ones that don’t fit into a convenient style or genre. I’m listening to all the influences and cultures that go into Alain Mallet’s “Mutt Slang”, and I am thinking how can I possibly define and explain this music to someone else. Alain Mallet is a veteran pianist who has been working with artists like Paul Simon, Phil Woods and others for over 25 years. Just a few short years ago, he finally decided to record his first album as a leader. Alain lists a diverse group of influences at work here, including Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Rachmaninov, Stevie Wonder, Salif Keita and others, and all that diversity shows through in his music. For example, opening track, “Till I Dance (In Your Arms Again)” opens with a Middle Eastern flavor, before there is a shift and the bands kicks into a Latin American rhythm in 5/4 time. Its this sort of mixing influences from all over the world that best describes the music on “Mutt Slang”, as different sections of tracks may take us to Africa, Israel, Latin America or some imaginative places that don’t quite exist outside the musical realm.

Alain works with a steady rhythm section on “Mutt Slang” that includes Jamey Haddad on percussion, Peter Slavov on bass and Abraham Rounds on drums. A very talented bunch as they are all expected to handle the wide variety of rhythms presented here. A large cast of rotating guests supply solos on a variety of instruments, as well as vocal leads too. There are plenty of good soloists on here, but the best rides belong to Alain, whose ability to build a dynamic piano solo may remind some of Herbie Hancock, but with a pronounced Afro-Cuban influence too. Another particularly remarkable solo comes from vocalist Song Yi Jeon, as she takes a Flora Purim type flight on “Spring”. Daniel Rotem also turns in some nice solos on tenor sax on a couple tunes. “Mutt Slang” is a multi-cultural smorgasbord, but none of this culture mixing sounds gratuitous or cheap, instead, Mallet has built a musical vision that carries the integrity and logic of all the cultures that gave this music birth.

VAN MORRISON Hymns To The Silence

Album · 1991 · Jazz Related RnB
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Released in 1991 being Van Morrison’s 21st studio album as well being a double containing quite a mix of styles covering Spiritual, Celtic, Narrative, Rock, Jazz and with a touch of Blues thrown in for good measure. Eclectic is one description but personally for me it’s just Van The Man doing what he has always done mixing it up but not just keeping various styles to predominately one album here we are getting them all. The Chieftains are back for two numbers, George Fame (Hammond organ , piano) , Terry Disley (piano), Candy Dulfer (alto sax), Dave Early (drums), Carol Kenyon, Katie Kissoon, (backing vocals) and the list goes on with two different bassists, flugelhorn, another pianist, accordion all employed for the various studio sessions recorded in London with Van himself inputting vocals, guitar, harmonica and alto sax within the album “Hymns To The Silence”

“Professional Jealousy’ gets it all going having a touch of resentment inserted into the lyrics over this mid tempo number with “I’m Not feeling It No Anymore” perhaps being a response for the prior number over a jaunty piano line throughout the song. Blues based “Ordinary Life” with Van on harmonica and a touch of Jazz follows with “Some Peace Of Mind” as the following “So Complicated” keeps that theme going.” Why Must I Always Explain” is often referred to the similarity with “Tupelo Honey” albeit at a slightly faster pace which seems to gel more with the song’s chorus. The Chieftains are the band for the Don Gibson classic country number “I Can’t Stop Loving You” with Van inserting guitar, Paddy Maloney with a Pipe solo and the two backing vocalists adding input for quite a nice take of the song. “Village Idiot” is one of the picks from the album which harkens back to “Crazy Face” from Van’s 1970 album “Van Morrison His Band And The Street Choir” with the odd one out being the topic but perhaps that is not the case at all for this lovely number. Spiritual is the base for the lovely “ See Me Through Part 11 (Just A Closer Walk With Thee)” containing a section of narrative with a later connection to his another narrative on the following disc “ On Hyndford St”. The last one is the slow Blues of “Take Me Back” with repetition a plenty within Van’s vocals in this stretched out delightful low key take.

The Spiritual comes to the fore within the second disc’s make up with the lively “By His Grace”, the Jazzed up “All Saints Day” following and the stunning title song “Hymns To The Silence”. Two narrations are included being “On Hyndford St” and “Pagan Streams” with the later being my pick. The Chieftains are back for another Spiritual “Be Thou My Vision” with the next “ Carrying A Torch” being the best ballad on the album with even Tom Jones using the number with three others contained within this album in his own 1991 release “Carrying A Torch”. The laid back “Green Mansions” and “Quality Street” follow with another nice ballad “It Must Be You” and the album finishing up with the love song “I Need Your Kind Of Loving”.

You won’t be rolling up the carpet or getting the dancing shoes on but this album is still one of Van Morrison’s best releases in the last thirty years containing a great mix of styles with plenty of great moments from Van’s vocals hitting the notes included. Needs a few plays and just have it on early morning, late at night or any quiet moments and just let it roll over and sing and dream along with all these beautiful hymns and narrations, to the silence.

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