July 17, 1995 12:00 PM

Van Morrison

His 24th studio album finds the Irish minstrel in a looser, more festive mood—a departure from his ruminative output of the past decade. Morrison sounds relaxed as he rambles from the whistling-down-the-lane gambol of “Perfect Fit” to the jazzy swing of “Raincheck” to the finger-snapping R&B of the title track. Perhaps kinship has lifted his spirits. He zestfully duets with his daughter Shana on the bluesy barroom ballad, “You Don’t Know Me,” that was a hit for Ray Charles in 1962.

But while the tone is lighter, the songs are not particularly distinguished. Carefree is one thing, but some of these tunes, like “I’ll Never Be Free” and “Songwriter,” sound almost careless, as if they were recorded quickly. A cheery Van is rarer than an all-sunny weekend in summer, but one can’t help wishing that on this occasion he had spent a little more time suffering in the studio. (Polydor)

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