You’ve crossed many waters to get here: Best of Van Morrison

Respectful but not obeisant, I approach Van Morrison as I would a neighbor whose manicured lawns and shiny car deserve my respect until I remember that their owner’s gut falls over his bathing trunks and his toenails need a trim. I’m not a fan because the sixties R&B to which he’s pledged his troth is not represented on my phone. But surveys as rich as Brad Nelson’s on eighties Morrison compelled me to a deep dive in the summer of 2015. As Brad remarks, Van’s devotion to the verities of his youth means he has recorded no album-length Fairlight experiments like his boomer colleagues. He has instead written the most diaphanous of love songs, dependent on boilerplate phrases and garnished with the filigrees — a piano ripple here, a sax bleat there — that a lifetime devotee of the studio hopes will transport listeners into the mystic. It doesn’t matter that “Someone Like You” and “Have I Told You Lately” can sound like supper club music to a person who’s never visited a supper club; their harmlessness is the point.

Call me tin-eared but even the Van of Tupelo Honey, Saint Dominic’s Preview, Veedon Fleece, and Into the Mystic had little interest in — little talent for — tumult. Van Morrison comforts. When Bryan Ferry covered “Crazy Love” in the late seventies, the joke was that it sounded exactly like Van’s; these singers have in common an idea of “crazy” restricted to the metaphoric, which suits me fine: love is a world imagined by Plato anyway. Remember: he wrote a song called “So Quiet in Here.” He’s a world-class grouch, you know.

1. Full Force Gale
2. Listen to the Lion
3. Madame George
4. Jackie Wilson Said
5. Wild Night
6. Almost Independence Day
7. Cleaning Windows
8. Into the Mystic
9. Tupelo Honey
10. Someone Like You
11. Did Ye Get Healed?
12. Domino
13. Crazy Love
14. Give Me the Rapture
15. You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River
16. Wonderful Remark
17. And It Stoned Me
18. When the Leaves Come Falling Down
19. Fair Play
20. Queen of the Slipstream
21. Enlightenment
22. Caravan
23. Here Comes the Night
24. Sweet Thing
25. I’d Love to Write Another Song
26. In the Garden
27. And the Healing Has Begun
28. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
29. Moondance
30. Gloria
31. Mystic Eyes
32. Real Real Gone

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