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Moondance by Van Morrison

by Mike Singleton - Mikeydred 8 days ago in album reviews · updated 8 days ago
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The Successful Follow Up To "Astral Weeks" by Van Morrison

Moondance

The Aftermath of Astral Weeks

I recently wrote a piece on “Astral Week”s by Van Morrison. The New Musical Express said that it was one of the top ten rock albums but Moondance was even better, so did that mean that two of his albums were in the top ten.

I have never been a fan of naming favourites but I do have a favourite album, and “Astral Weeks” and “Moondance” are a stunning pair of albums whichever way you look at them.

“Astral Weeks” after its release was seen as a failure, although artistically we now know it is a brilliant success, at the time the apparent failure caused Van Morrison to change artistic direction abandoning the abstract compositions of Astral Weeks in favour of more formally composed songs, that were self-written and produced.

And So Moondance

The music incorporated eclectic sounds into songs about finding spiritual renewal and redemption in worldly matters such as nature, music, romantic love, and self-affirmation which has continued throughout his writing and composition since then.

I remember the title track being sung by Nana Mouskouri on her TV series so that was not an ideal introduction, but I was a teenager at the time and it is probably my least favourite song on the album, but it did get Van Morrison out to the masses.

Moondance was released on 27 January 1970 by Warner Bros. Records. After the commercial failure of Astral Weeks), Morrison moved to upstate New York with his wife and began writing songs for Moondance. There, he met the musicians that would record the album with him at New York City's A & R Studios in August and September 1969.

Moondance was an immediate critical and commercial success. It helped establish Morrison as a major artist in popular music, while several of its songs became staples on FM radio in the early 1970s, and it frequently features in greatest album lists.

So we will go through it song by song.

And It Stoned Me

This opens the album and takes you right into the mood. Hearing this you feel you are in for a wonderful musical experience. This is classic Morrison feel.

Morrison related the song to a quasi-mystical experience he had as a child:

“I suppose I was about 12 years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he'd got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this 'other dimension'. That's what the song is about”

Moondance

As I say, my least favourite song on the album even though it is the title track. Although I don’t mind listening to it and never skip it when I play the album, I used to think it was too close to lounge jazz for me, but it has grown on me, and is picked by many people to cover. That has spread the word and therefore makes it a marketing masterstroke, though I know many people will disagree with me on my opinion of the song.

It was released as a single seven years after the album and is the song that Van Morrison plays most frequently in concert, so Van disagrees with my opinion of the song as well.

Crazy Love

This is a beautiful romantic ballad and was released as the “B” side of “Come Running” although later the single was flipped, but both songs are wonderful so maybe it should have really been a double “A” side”

Caravan

This is an album highlight (one of many). It was a live concert highlight for many years and Van Morrison performed it at The Band’s Last Waltz concert.

The theme of the song is about gipsy life and the radio and Morrison described why he included the reference to radio in the song:

“I could hear the radio like it was in the same room. I don't know how to explain it. There was some story about an underground passage under the house I was living in, rumours from kids and stuff and I was beginning to think it was true. How can you hear someone's radio from a mile away, as if it was playing in your own house? So I had to put that into the song, It was a must”

The song has an insistent chorus and brass backed beach that you just don’t want to end. As it fades you just want it to continue forever but as the album goes silent we are treated to ….

Into The Mystic

The closing song to side one of “Moondance” addresses a spiritual quest of Morrison’s. It has a wonderful ethereal feel, and a great side closer, although on CD the album continues.

Come Running

This picks up pace after “Into The Mystic” and was the first single released from the album backed with “Crazy Love”. Morrison describes the as a light happy-go-lucky song which is an apt description.

These Dreams Of You

So surreal but close to the structure of “Moondance” but not picked up by as many to cover, but I like it much better than “Moondance”, though all the songs on this album are great and you just drop into them when they start playing.

Van describes this as:

“The result of a dream I had about Ray Charles being shot down. That started off the whole song. The line 'you paid your dues in Canada', I don't really know where that comes from, I just have a romantic image of going to Canada and that's about it. The song is basically about dreams.”

Brand New Day

An introspective spiritual beauty, featuring saxophone improvisation and a beautiful backing vocal trio. Another of the wonderful building blocks of the amazing album.

Everyone

This opens with a wonderful harpsichord type sequence.

The song is the fastest on the album. It is in 12/8 time and features a more prominent acoustic guitar than other tracks on “Moondance”. Morrison has said "'Everyone' is just a song of hope, that's what that is."The song was used for the final shot of the film The Royal Tenenbaums,but did not appear on any of the film's soundtrack releases.

Glad Tidings

The closing song on the album, and you really don’t want it to finish. A friend had written him a letter and on the envelope were the words “Glad Tidings From London” providing the inspiration for this wonderful album closer.

Concluding My Thoughts on Van Morrison’s “Moondance”

An easier listen than “Astral Weeks” for most listeners, but they are both different types of albums, and both should be in everyone’s collection.

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Mike Singleton - Mikeydred

Mike Singleton writes,blogs,makes music,loves,explores,and helps

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