Great Albums: Moondance (1970)

I already knew of Van Morrison, long before he released a solo album. In 1964, I bought a single by the band Them, from Northern Ireland. Van Morrison was the lead singer of that group. The song was their version of the old Blues classic, ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, and the B-side was ‘Gloria’. In 1967, Van Morrison embarked on a solo career, though his first album was hardly noticed. The second, ‘Astral Weeks’, received critical acclaim in 1968, but poor sales at the time. I heard the album and enjoyed some of it, but didn’t buy it then. I was only 16, and immersed in Soul Music as well as an early appreciation of Jazz.

Two years later, ‘Moondance’ was released. This grabbed me immediately, with its fusion of musical genres. It had everything in one package, with a Jazz mood on some songs, as well as a nod to Irish culture, and Rhythm and Blues. There was a horn section too, and more orchestration. Just the title track gave instant indication of the quality to come. As soon as it had finished, I put the needle back, to hear it again.

The next track was just as good, though very different in feel. ‘Crazy Love’ began with plaintive vocals from Van, and gentle guitar. Then the backing vocals drifted in, and I drifted away…

Track four was so good, I played it around half a dozen times on the bounce. It remains my top track on this album, and one of my favourite songs ever from Morrison. A classic distinctive vocal that could never be confused with any other singer; the singalong chorus beautifully harmonised with the backing singers, and some wonderful lyrical construction. If you are not in the mood to dance, this is just the perfect song for listening enjoyment.

The last track on side one had echoes of the Folk-themed ‘Astral Weeks’. But the couple of years devoted to writing new songs really shone through. Gentle guitar, slow build-up, and poetic lyrics delivered ‘Into The Mystic’. The perfect end to the first side.

After spending a great deal of time on the first side, I was reluctant to turn over to side two. But there was no disappointment to come, just more great songs. Five tracks again on that side, including the meaningful ‘Brand New Day’. A song where we can all feel the emotion seeping out of the vinyl.

A relatively short album of just ten tracks, but one that had a great effect on me at the age of 18. I have never tired of listening to it to this day, even though I later bought ‘Astral Weeks’, along with almost every album Van has released since. After an illustrious career that has seen him win countless awards, and even a knighthood for services to music, he continues to perform today, aged 72.

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58 thoughts on “Great Albums: Moondance (1970)

  1. I am very glad to see that others had bad concert experiences with him. I was very excited to go hear him and he was dreadful. Fortunately, as an opening act we were treated to Solomon Burke. He was no longer able to walk, so was wheeled out and boy could he sing. After that Morrison was a real letdown and we left. As for Moondance, the less I write about my very checkered past, the better!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have also seen Solomon Burke live, and he sat in a huge ‘throne’, and belted out his favourites. I could listen to Van Morrison everyday, but swore I would never waste a penny watching him ever again.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I came to Van Morrison a bit late, but do appreciate his songs and his voice (although I love beautiful voices, I’m particularly fond of voices with a bit of characters rather than necessarily pitch perfect). Being a country fan, I really enjoy ‘Pay the Devil’. He sounds so relaxed and his enjoyment performing does come through… Thanks, Pete.

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    1. Thanks, Olga. I think that Van’s success has come from his wide appeal to many listeners. Most people you talk to like at least one or two of his songs, if not all.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. I’m listening to the song ‘Moondance’ right now – love it! But although I’ve always loved VM I’ve never owned any of his albums and really knew nothing about Moondance the album. You’ve convinced me that I should remedy this, Pete πŸ™‚

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  4. Into The Mystic is brilliant, best of the lot, though as far as albums go, I prefer Astral Weeks and the live album, It’s too late to stop now! Despite being grumpy and seemingly disconnected with his audiences, he’s was very good musically live too.

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    1. My favourite album overall from Van is ‘Into the Music’ (1979). But ‘Moondance’ had the significance of making me want to hear more at the time, as well as containing ‘Caravan’ of course. I only saw him once, and he was truthfully bloody awful that night. I never went again, despite living in London, and having many chances to get to his concerts. But I continued to buy and listen to everything he churned out.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That was the first of his I bought, after I borrowed a copy from the library. Soon after, I bought others, I have quite a number but don’t play many of them. Tupelo Honey is on my car playlist but I found I only liked the title track, though it was mixed in with other artists, like Otis!

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  5. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard a Van Morrison song on a Toronto radio station … I was 13, standing in the living room of a friend’s house after school one day, the song was Brown-Eyed Girl, and thus began a lifelong love of Van and his music! I have everything he has released, and when I returned to Canada last week I placed orders for his two most-recent CDs. Van Morrison, forever and always for me, Pete!

    Cheers!
    Susan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Susan. I have only missed buying one or two of his albums over the years. I went to see him in London, at the Albert Hall, around 1989/1990. I was very disappointed, as he didn’t even look up at the audience, and rushed through all the songs as if he had a train to catch. That put me off him for a while, and then I heard ‘Jackie Wilson Said’ on the radio one day, and got right back into his music.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve heard the same complaint about his performances from everyone I know who has attended, so I’ve never had any desire to see him in concert. I’m quite content to just listen and enjoy. But there’s always this rather energetic performance from “The Last Waltz” that I appreciated all the more after reading Robbie Robertson’s description of it, and Van, in his memoir: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44wDwMQVqCc

        πŸ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Which two, Pete? I still remember an old article written by Rod Liddle – never less than controversial but sometimes thought provoking – he said it was never worth having more than two albums of any artist because there’d be no sane reason to listen to anything other than their best. I sort of see his point and it’s true for a lot of them.

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        1. These are the ones I haven’t got. (I looked up his discography, to check.)

          Keep On Singing (2016) *
          No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986) (Heard at a friend’s house but not bought)
          Roll With The Punches (2017) *
          Versatile (2017)

          I hadn’t even heard of the two marked * (must have missed those) and didn’t buy the covers album, ‘Versatile’.
          Cheers, Pete.

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