A Van for All Seasons

Van Morrison's getting older, grouchier and, with his latest CD, better again

So on The Healing Game, when he suddenly rears back on "It Once Was My Life" and howls, it's quite a moment.

After listening to Morrison's latest, I decided that I'd been too hard on him these past few albums. Of course the older he gets the more he's going to cling to his old record collection. If you grew up in a world before mass media trivialized art and literature and music, it must be hard to accept MTV and the banality of modern entertainment. Ersatz white British jazz might, in the end, be preferable to alterna-ska or jungle. It's too early to make that call.

But I do know that it's no feat to sing about what young lovers do when you're 23, high on the bliss of just being you. It's much more poignant when an artist such as Morrison, battered around by life and from all accounts totally unlucky in love, dissolves into joy and projects it outward. When someone like him does something like that via music, it's a wonder.

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