Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” is an undisputed rock n’ roll legend just as much as its composer is, and in his latest trip to the studio, Andrew Hendryx (with the assistance of singer Dan Lotti) gives it a tasteful touchup fit for today’s discriminating generation of music connoisseurs. As one of the most recognizable songs from the unparalleled MoondanceLP, “Into the Mystic” has been covered by a litany of artists spanning genres, genders and scenes, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it played the way that Hendryx and his band do in this version. It’s a smart alternative rock cover if I’ve ever heard one, and it’s one of the more exciting releases out this month.
Lotti, best known for his work in the band Dangermuffin, gives a really emotional vocal up here, and though it’s somewhat understated in the grander scheme of things, it nevertheless adds a texture to the final product that simply wouldn’t be there otherwise. It’s clear that both he and Hendryx have a lot of respect for Morrison, and moreover, the integrity of this composition, as in even the most experimental moments within this single, they never dismantles the classic rhythm of the song. We flow with the same gracefulness that we did in the Warner Bros. cut released back in February of 1970, only alongside a much more tempered vocal attack from a very ambitious singer.
This is a pretty minimalist arrangement on its face, but there’s a lot of boisterousness in the instrumental play that would be impossible for anyone to cage even if they tried. The master mix is super-streamlined, and though it’s as sleek as anything currently dominating the FM dial, it doesn’t stop the strings from really lighting up the intro of the song with a lusty vibrato that stays in our heads long after the track has stopped playing. I get the impression that Hendryx isn’t satisfied unless his music is affecting us on every level, which is exactly what happens with “Into the Mystic,” even after a dozen listens or more.
There’s a lot of crossover potential with this single, to the point where I can see it being easily marketable to fans of pop, jazz, folk and even experimental rock without having to give listeners some sort of context about Hendryx, or for that matter, Lotti. The slinky percussive track is dynamically wedged between the strings and an evasive organ, and while the vocals are always stealing the lion’s share of the limelight, they don’t take away from the instrumental prowess in the least. This song’s got the chops to satisfy hardcore music aficionados without overwhelming casual pop fans, and that’s more than a little uncommon nowadays – in any genre of music.
“Into the Mystic” is one of the classiest covers that I’ve reviewed in a really long time, and while it would be a lie for me to say that I didn’t expect some really great results from Andrew Hendryx in the lead up to this review, I was blown away by how robustly faceted his most recent release is from start to finish. You’d be hard-pressed to find flaw within these exquisite beats and multidimensional melodies; there’s just too much effort put into both the production and the execution of the material for anything else to be the case. The bottom line? This is incredible work from an incredible artist that belongs on your stereo this spring.