VAN MORRISON”Hymns to the Silence” Polydor* *...

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“Hymns to the Silence”


* * * 1/2 Young Master Axl doesn’t have a lyrical lock on celebrity crabbiness. And now for the other new double-CD studio set in which a rocker of legend gets grumpy about all the attention trained on him: “I have to stand in line, baby, when I’m in a queue / I got to do it all, just the same as you,” sings Van the Man to his fans, looking in vain for “Some Peace of Mind.”

There the comparisons end. For if Axl Rose is a cranky misanthrope, Morrison is a cranky mystic. “Hymns” is a fascinating (if, at 95 minutes, overlong) two-parter, with the first CD focusing more on those worldly hang-ups of Morrison’s, and the second part detailing his love of God, women and his happier, simpler childhood, roughly in that order.


Few rock artists have ever been as preternaturally comfortable with both overt religiosity and secular delights as Morrison, a Christian who finds the sacred where he can find it: In green Irish fields, in Louis Armstrong on an ancient wireless radio, in romantic love, in choruses of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”--often scrunched together in the same song. For this, and for lilting, light-touch European soul music that sounds equally fine on Saturday night or Sunday morning, we can forgive him a few grouchy complaints.