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'The Prophet Speaks' review: Van Morrison still has plenty to say

Van Morrison's "The Prophet Speaks" on Caroline International

Van Morrison's "The Prophet Speaks" on Caroline International Records. Photo Credit: Caroline International Records

VAN MORRISON

The Prophet Speaks

BOTTOM LINE Using his past influences to inspire new material

Rather than focus on the 50th anniversary of his masterpiece “Astral Weeks” last month, Van Morrison spent his time on his new album “The Prophet Speaks” (Caroline International), the 40th studio album of his legendary career.

The blues-fueled album is split between Morrison’s interpretation of material from greats like Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker and Solomon Burke and new originals. Sometimes the link is obvious, like “Spirit Will Provide,” which seems to bridge the gap between Cooke’s stirring soul and Morrison’s own work. Or when he pairs a grooving version of Gene Barge’s “Love Is a Five Letter Word” (spelled M-O-N-E-Y, in case you were wondering) with his own “Love Is Hard Work.”

And sometimes, it’s just Morrison discovering a great song and making it greater, as he does with J.D. Harris’ stunning “Teardrops,” where Joey DeFrancesco’s keyboard work and Dan Wilson’s bluesy guitar accents match Morrison’s fiery, brokenhearted delivery of lines like “Teardrops is on my pillow, ice water’s in my baby’s bath.”

“The Prophet Speaks” shows that Morrison still has plenty to say and has hit on a stylish, vibrant way of saying it.

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