Morrison was fronting Them in Sutch's and Proby's heydays, and "Whatever Happened" -- a noirish blues with a creeping-wolf rhythm -- is a salute to lost and stranded peers, sung with pugnacious affection. It is also top Morrison, a biting indictment of pop today ("There's nothing to relate to anymore/Unless you want to be mediocre") and a personal statement of bulldog purpose: "Facing head-on and doing it my way." Morrison spends the rest of Down the Road living up to that promise.
The cover shot of old R&B LPs in a shop window sums up the record's reflective tug. "Hey Mr. DJ" is a requiem for the one-on-one electricity of pre-Clear Channel radio, swinging with sweet brass and the iconic echo of Sam Cooke's "Having a Party." Morrison fondly evokes his own greatest hits, too: the Tupelo Honey-style waltz "Steal My Heart Away"; the Astral Weeks-like whisper of "The Beauty of Days Gone By."
But when Morrison sings, he's facing forward. "Down the Road" is cut from the same scar tissue and country-funk backbone as Bob Dylan's Love and Theft, right down to Morrison's very Bob-like harmonica work. And in "Evening Shadows," featuring the snake-charming clarinet of British jazzman Acker Bilk, Morrison turns his autumnal fire into spring fever, yearning for love with the potency of a man in the prime of life -- and voice.
(RS 897 - June 6 2002)
(Posted: May 9, 2002)
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