After 35 albums I'm relieved that Van does have something else to sing about. Here, he does question materialism generally but thankfully quite sublimely wrapped in some sumptuous melodies. Much has been said about Van revisiting a few themes perhaps a little too often. Also, the fact that its been 3 years since his last studio album rather than the an album almost annually, may have contributed to a significant increase in quality: and this being the best album he has released since the nineties. There is not a weak track on the album and several real highlights reminding us why Van Morrison was so rated in the first place. The songs are well constructed, memorable, brilliantly played, and sung with Vans best and most convincing vocal performance for many a year.
The album has a relaxed easy listening feel, but is not in any way bland. The opener is catchy, radio friendly and will no doubt find its way on future Best of's. Going down to Monte Carlo, End of the Rainbow, Born to sing, If in money we trust, are real highlights and wouldn't be out of place on some of his 70s classics. Even Pagan Heart, is arguably his best and most authentic blues track in years.
Generally, even on first listen you can instantly tell that the album has been produced and crafted with care: more thought has been put into the making of this album than some of Vans recent offerings. There are still lyrical references to one or two philosophers, one of Vans staple devices. More interestingly is the track "If in money we trust" the extended jazz workout second half of the song which has echos of the theme tune to the old "Money" program from the 70s, clever!
I'm not sure exactly where it would rank with the rest of his work. After playing it probably twenty times now I would tentatively put it in his top ten best albums. A bold placement I know, but I would rank it along side "Into the Music", a personal favorite of mine for shear listen-ability alone.