When Van Morrison entered the recording studio in the fall of 1969, he was known as the former lead singer of Them, one of the grittier bands of the British Invasion, and for his big hit single “Brown Eyed Girl.” When he emerged, he had recorded one of the better albums in rock history. Moondance was released in February of 1970 and proved to be his critical and commercial breakthrough.
Moondance has now been remastered and reissued in several different configurations. There is the huge 4 CD/1 Blu-ray disc edition that contains over 50 unreleased takes, several of which are over 10 minutes in length, plus the debut of the lost song, “I Shall Sing.” It you want or need everything by Van Morrison, this is the set for you. If you do not need eight takes of “Caravan” or “Brand New Day,” there is the simple one-disc remaster of the original album.
The middle ground of the releases is Moondance (Expanded Edition), which contains the remastered album on the first disc and 11 alternate takes on the second. The out-takes give a flavor of the music’s developmental process without overwhelming the listener. How many times you may want to listen to this second disc is unknown as when it comes to Moondance, it is the original album of songs that rings down through music history.
While Van Morrison can be considered a rock artist, he twists and turns that definition in a number of directions and at times leaves the rock and roll idiom behind all together. Depending on the material he can travel in a rhythm & blues, jazz, and blues direction and even infuse the music with some of his Celtic heritage. This confluence of styles is nowhere more apparent than on this seminal album.
In many ways Moondance is an album of moods and feelings. Various instruments swirl to create the music to support his incisive lyrics. The passion and emotion of his vocal performances adapts to each song.
There is no filler material and the tracks form a cohesive unit. The album begins with the autobiographical “And It Stoned Me,” which is about his childhood. The title track travels in a jazzy direction. “Crazy Love” is an intimate performance that makes one feel Morrison is speaking to you personally.
The two best tracks on a very good album are “Come Running” and “Into The Mystic.” The first is a layered piece of music where the two saxophones run counter point to each other. “Into The Mystic” has lyrical textures that bear repeated listening’s. It remains one of the better tracks of the era.
Moondance is an album that defies time. It remains relevant and highly listenable over 40 years after its initial release. It is an album that should grace any music collection.