Back on Top

The great Irish rocker offers ten new songs here. "When the Leaves Come Falling Down" is a masterpiece, a memory of weather and Paris wherein Morrison's voice lightly colors a melody as his band conjures a background of symphonic impressionism. The other songs, rendered in lively arrangements, are various blues, uptempo tunes and ballads reminiscent of Morrison's most classically minded past work; engagingly sung, they are not pale imitations, but they don't venture anywhere surprising, either. On "Philosophers Stone," Morrison complains that even his best friends don't understand his strivings; in "New Biography," he reminds us that celebrity culture hasn't yet won him over. Back on Top is solid, brilliant, silly in sad ways. But it's still one Monet and nine Norman Rockwells.

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