Van Morrison may be most identified with the ’60s — particularly Astral Weeks (1968) and Moondance (1970) — but the man has never stopped putting out music (or exploring: 2003’s What’s Wrong With This Picture? on Blue Note was a foray into the jazz he hinted at with 2002’s Down the Road). So there’s no reason to give up on his new material. But it’s a bit hard to get excited about a compilation like At the Movies: Soundtrack Hits, which includes nineteen of Morrison’s motion-picture-accompanying songs (some of which are live versions). Tethered to that relatively unintriguing theme, this is little more than a collection of canonized classics, a greatest-hits collection by another name.
For the most part, we’re given obvious classics like “Gloria” (from The Outsiders), “Wild Night” (Thelma & Louise) and “Bright Side of the Road” (Fever Pitch). There are a few surprises, including latter-career gems like “Real, Real Gone” (which you wouldn’t expect unless you actually saw Donovan Quick), “Days Like This” (As Good As It Gets) and an offset recording of “Brown-Eyed Girl” (Born on the Fourth of July). The reclusive Morrison might well deserve another wave of recognition for his glorious performance of “Caravan” on Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz. Also included here is Morrison’s version of “Comfortably Numb,” taken from The Departed.
All of the songs here stand on their own, without the cinematic back-story. But Morrison is the least likely rock character to showboat on the big screen; chances are he won’t be supporting At the Movies with a barnstorming tour of the nation’s suburban amphitheatres this summer.