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Music Review: The Prophet Speaks

by Van Morrison
reviewed by John Malkin
The Prophet Speaks album cover

Could it be that the answers we seek are right in front of us, but our ears haven’t been open to hear them? Van Morrison seems to have this in mind on his latest musical offering, his 40th studio album, The Prophet Speaks. It certainly fits the times when Morrison sings, on the title track that closes the album, “When the prophet speaks, mostly no one listens.”

Could it be that the answers we seek are right in front of us, but our ears haven’t been open to hear them?

Once again Morrison hooks deep into jazz and R&B and is backed by a masterful band. The slap bass, glaring harmonica, edgy Hammond organ, and tight horn section really make this album shine. The Prophet Speaks features multi-instrumentalist Joey DeFrancesco and his band, including Dan Wilson on guitar, Michael Ode on drums, and Troy Roberts on tenor saxophone.

These 14 tracks feature six brand-new Van Morrison songs like the playful “Got to Go Where the Love Is,” in which Morrison croons “Go somewhere where I can be myself, instead of sit on the shelf.” In addition, there are eight reinterpretations of R&B classics, including John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples,” Sam Cooke’s “Laughin’ and Clownin’,” and Gene Barge’s “Love Is a Five Letter Word” with its surprise, off-kilter punch line: “M-O-N-E-Y.”

Van Morrison continues to be a prolific recording artist at 73. The Prophet Speaks was his second album of 2018 after You’re Driving Me Crazy. And he also released two albums in 2017: Roll with the Punches and Versatile. The songwriter is obviously still going strong, 50 years down the road since his breakthrough albums Astral Weeks (1968) and Moondance (1970). —John Malkin

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