A mystical master of Gaelic rhythm and blues, Van Morrison has for more than 20 years served up musical puzzles to which he has offered no answers. But on A Sense of Wonder, his first album since Warner Brothers, his long-time label, reportedly dropped him, the Irish-born singer has stopped asking questions altogether. The result is lacklustre music with none of Morrison’s usual gut-wrenching soul. On the title track, Morrison contemplates nature’s beauty; with “Ancient of Days” and “The Master’s Eyes” he thanks the Creator for His generous ways; on the dirge-like “Let the Slave” he delivers the 18th-century visionary poet William Blake’s “The Price of Experience” in rapid monotone. Only on two moving instrumentals and the opening “Tore Down á la Rimbaud” do his creative juices flow. Once a Celtic soul-singing poet who sang of gypsies, despair and spiritual quests, Van Morrison seems now to have found his peace, but in the process he has lost his music.
Originally published in Maclean's 25 February 1985