Listening to Van Morrison's new album Magic Time, gave me reason to despair--not because the music was awful (the opposite was actually true), but because I once again realized that the music press can no longer write coherently about music. Their poor writing, I believe, is the result of a relatively modern phenomenon: the music press has become even more secular than the mainstream media. Thus, they are in the no-win situation of trying to use secular language to write about a spiritual art form. It doesn't work.
Rolling Stone, for example, offered a one paragraph review of Magic Time that was really nothing more than a laundry list of musical genres. Reviewer Rob Sheffield wrote that Morrison offered "some serious astral blues poetry," "tributes to his pop culture heroes," and "lots of mellow, easy-rolling jazz." Oh. Then what accounts for the goose bumps that rose on my arms during the song "Celtic New Year"? How do you explain my involuntary shudder at the sound of beauty in "Gypsy in My Soul"?
I believe that only two people could properly assess Morrison. Sadly, they are both dead. John Henry Cardinal Newman and Aldous Huxley, who lived in the 19th and 20th centuries respectively, were great music critics. They believed that all music was from a divine source. Therefore, it could only be described in divine terms, if indeed it could be described at all.
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