Into The Mystic: An Instrumental Tribute To Van Morrison
CMH Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/09/2001
If any artist would seem to fit into a bluegrass/country tribute to their music, it might be Van Morrison. Sure, some of the songs he's been noted for have had more of a rock or a jazz edge to them, but there always seems to be an acoustic backbone to his music, and such tribute albums always seem to highlight the acoustic nature of the music.
So what is different about Into The Mystic: An Instrumental Tribute To Van Morrison? The musicians involved in this project follow the same pattern as other albums I've heard in this vein, and they're more than adept musically. The main difference might be that, occasionally, the heart of the music seems to be lost.
Maybe it's when a more recognizable shape is taken away from a song like "Gloria," which just doesn't seem to work as well as one would like it to. Maybe it's that the musicians who take part in this disc (including multi-instrumentalist David West) aren't able to capture the Celtic flavor of the music that Morrison always seems to weave into his songwriting.
Maybe the occasional slip isn't even the fault of the musicians; no, maybe it's just that Morrison's music doesn't lend itself nearly as well to the translation. It's not for lack of trying on the band's part, and I do tip my hat to them for the effort. But because of Morrison's style of song writing, it sometimes feels like no new ground is being broken with these versions. Tracks like "Bright Side Of The Road," "Crazy Love" and "Into The Mystic" come off sounding like something you might hear on a new-age album than anything else.
This isn't to say that Into The Mystic is a bad album; indeed, if you've heard any of the other discs from this collection, you're bound to find some things to smile about with this one. Their versions of "Domino," "Moondance" and "Brown Eyed Girl" do have an exciting amount of musical kinetic energy, which shows the listener that this undertaking was not fruitless.
Into The Mystic was an admirable attempt to pay tribute to possibly one of the most underrated songwriters and musicians of our time, and I'm sure if Morrison heard this disc, he would be pleased that someone made this kind of effort to honor his work. But while there are some stellar performances contained herein, the disc itself doesn't live up to expectations. Still, it was a good try.