Picks and Pans Review: The Healing Game
And on and on rolls Van, that rotund, irascible leprechaun, 51, and author now of some 27 albums. With the exception of How Long Has This Been Going On, a ’95 tribute to ’50s jazz, the last half-dozen years’ worth of Morrison records have been virtually indistinguishable: an easy-rocking procession of well-produced, spare, R&B-based pop, featuring the star’s idiosyncratic first-person narratives and inimitable baritone. He has settled into the business of making music for the faithful: a few hundred thousand 45-to-50-year-olds who remain stuck on rock, the sound of their youth, but whose aging eardrums require stroking, not high-decibel assaults.
With this automatic market, it’s easy for the Irishman to coast, and coast he does. Only one song here comes within shouting range of the goose bump-inducing epiphanies Van used to reach with impressive frequency: “Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” a nature anthem that strives for, though falls short of, the cathartic oomph of “Into the Mystic,” “Tupelo Honey” or “Wavelength.”
Three decades in the studio and on the road is a long time, and one hardly expects transforming moments from such a veteran. The Healing Game will satisfy Van’s crowd, those too eager for the consolations of familiar-sounding music to spend much time remembering the heights to which their man once soared. (Polydor)