Newest Review: ... have been performed by Van and various of his musicians over the decades, in many different styles, as the song is very genre-flexible.... more
Van reveals his 'gypsy soul'
Moondance - Van Morrison
Member Name: GentleGenius
Moondance - Van Morrison
Disadvantages: Nothing, unless you hate Van Morrison
Even people who are not fans of or who are largely unfamiliar with Van's music will be familiar with a few of the songs on Moondance, with the title track having become a standard, up there with the Sinatras of the world.
Although I've been listening to and adoring Van The Man ever since his first singles chart success back in the 1965 with his band Them, I didn't actually get to hear the Moondance album until some time during the late 1970s...but, my first experience hooked me and despite it appearing (initially) rather lightweight compared to much of Van's other work, I still love it just as much as I ever did.
Like quite a lot of Van Morrison's music, the first track on Moondance, And It Stoned Me, is a simple hark back to the rosy times of childhood. The tune is very easy to listen to, simple yet penetrating, with Van's voice backed by gentle piano, percussion and guitar with a welcome interjection of brass periodically. The wistful bite that Van is so famous and admired for is very present in this song, although the mood of it is gently happy. The lyrics are uncomplicated, yet poetic in a down to earth way, simply relating an experience of getting caught in the rain whilst fishing with his friends, marvelling at nature ("and it stoned me...stoned me just like jelly-roll") and being invited into an old man's house for a drink. The middle eight of the song is gentle, thoughtful, and very relaxing to listen to, with a slight jazzy tinge. All in all, a perfect opening to a perfect album.
The title track of this album, Moondance, is one of Van's best-known songs which everybody has heard, and has been covered by many other artists, including Michael Buble's dubious interpretation. The song opens in jazzy style with soft piano and drumming, then Van's voice takes the tune with quite a tender yet soulful tone. Lyrically, Moondance is a romantic song, inviting somebody to enjoy a dance (and perhaps more!) under an autumn moon. For me this is a highly skilful song for someone so young to have written (as young as Van was at the time). The middle eight is largely piano, enhanced by very softly strummed rhythm guitar, followed by an easy to listen to, but quite intricate piece played on tenor sax. Such increases the jazzy feel, along with a flute which then joins in for the rest of the song. Second in line to Brown Eyed Girl, Moondance was probably the song above all others which first drew me deeply into Van's work. Several live versions of Moondance have been performed by Van and various of his musicians over the decades, in many different styles, as the song is very genre-flexible.
The next track, Crazy Love, is a soft, gentle, tender love song. It is extremely easy to listen to, with a simple yet interesting tune. The backing is very quiet guitar and soft female vocals. Even when Van writes lyrics which are simple, as they are on this song, he never fails to inject tastefulness and intelligence into the words he chooses. I wouldn't say Crazy Love is my favourite track on this album or of Van's whole body of work, but it must be remembered that he can do little or nothing wrong for me, and I adore this....it's even better to listen to if you actually are in love.
On Caravan, which opens with a little piano roll accompanied by some soft percussion, Van delves into what he refers to as his 'gypsy soul'. The song has quite a slow tempo, with a few blasts of brass which although it can't really be classed as anything other than middle of the road genre-wise, does lend a jazzy feel. There are little lyrical hints in Caravan of Van coming from a spiritual place as a person, and those snippets (which during some of his later albums became the main focus) add a touch of mysticism. In this song, Van writes of observing a gypsy encampment, with his attention being drawn to a dancing woman. Caravan contains one of my all-time favourite Van lines.... "turn on your electric light so we can see what is really wrong..."
With Into The Mystic, Van takes another step down the route of all things earthly, yet on a spiritual plane. The backing is gentle guitar and drumming, the tune is quite spine-chilling in a good way, and the lyrics are simple yet thoughtful. It's all about being free, letting go, and I suppose 'turning on and tuning in'. Here, Van does speak of rocking his 'gypsy soul', and what a lovely line..... "magnificently we will enfold into the mystic..." In the middle eight of the song is a definite, yet slow-moving, gentle brass section. There is also some orchestration on Into The Mystic, but it is so laid-back that it is hardly noticeable, which for me is a good thing as songs by Van of this nature really shouldn't be over-produced. It also seems from the lyrics that Van is writing of returning home, urging a female to wait for him.
Come Running is a faster song, with an extremely catchy, lively tune. Van's voice is at its very best, and the piano/percussion backing is jaunty, slightly tinged with a little bluesy/jazzy sound. The addition of the brass section is tastefully done, blending in well with the mood of the song. The words of this song aren't particularly deep or mystical, but they are well thought out and intelligent. For me, the most important aspects of Come Running are the tune and the brilliant arrangement.
These Dreams Of You is presented in a lazy style, tinged with a jazzy mood. It's a happy-sounding song, but I'm not quite able to work out what the words are supposed to signify (if anything). There does appear to be an element of lost-love in there, but just judging by the feel of the song rather than the words, one wouldn't immediately notice it. Of course, it's also possible it could be one of Van's first (of latterly many) digs at the insincerity of the music business. Overall this is a very pleasant song to listen to, and is yet another perfect arrangement of guitar, percussion and a brass section, with a rather nice sax piece in the middle-eight. Reference is made in the second half of the song to a time, many many years ago, when Ray Charles was shot at one of his concerts, but bravely managed to carry on singing.
Brand New Day is probably my least favourite track on this album, although I still love it. It is a quiet song, with soft percussion and some rather poignant-sounding piano. Slow in tempo, and lyrically uplifting in a spiritual way, Brand New Day I suppose is an overall praise of merely being alive, gaining greatest pleasure from the simple things such as nature. The description of these occasional natural high moods we are lucky enough to get is put across so very well in this song, especially from the aspect of having been down in a black pit, then rising up to become quietly happy again. If listened to properly, the words of Brand New Day are quite thought-provoking, but I perhaps would have liked to hear it performed a little faster. There is a lovely piano break during the middle-eight which sounds like running water and is very soothing to listen to. If you focus hard enough, you can hear an occasional little guitar roll in the background which contains tons of that Van 'wistful bite'.
Everyone is a pleasant little ditty which begins with a harmonium, sounding almost medieval. The tune sounds quite simple, but is actually fairly complicated...jerky, yet interesting. The lyrics aren't amongst Van's most thought-provoking or unfathomably deep offerings, but nonetheless this is a good, well put together little song which seems to concentrate on celebration, dancing, singing and joining together embracing a Celtic spirit. A light and airy-sounding flute takes the middle-eight, and the whole song seems to dip a little toe into the folksy mood which was around the edges of society during the early 1970s.
The final track on Moondance, Glad Tidings, opens with some interesting guitar, percussion and soft handclapping. Van's voice is rich, warm and soulful, then is enhanced by a brass section joining in. The tune of the song is very pretty, almost sugary, yet very good. There are lyrically a couple of small digs at the music business, but overall the words wander from one topic to another, and are very poetic. Even though initially, until you listen to it properly, Glad Tidings sounds a bit 'empty' due to its almost nursery rhyme content tune-wise, the Van 'wistful bite' appears about midway through, accelerating as the song progresses, almost seeming as if to pave the way for all that was to come through the following years from this amazing singer/songwriter/poet/multi-instrumentalist known as Van Morrison, or affectionately, The Man.
Moondance was Van Morrison's second official album offering after the deep and complex Astral Weeks which although has gone down as a hallowed classic, perhaps was too difficult for most people at the time. Moondance sweetened Van's load somewhat, quite likely drawing new listeners to him who'd found Astral Weeks totally baffling and impossible to get to grips with.
Overall, it does seem as if Moondance is a 'surface' album compared to Astral Weeks and some of Van's later work, largely due to its immediacy of impact, easy-listening quality and pretty tunes, but if time is taken to focus on the not so obvious undertones, Van's depth is up, running and functioning just as highly as on any of his other albums - it is just that the auditory wrapping is prettier.
All through the Moondance album, Van's voice is on top form, although it does contain that higher quality which later deepened as he aged. Some people aren't too fond of his high notes when he was younger, but for me I got used to it as I delved deeper into his work once having first discovered him....got used to it to the point where he grew in my estimation and has become my most admired soul/R&B/blues/Celtic/rock'n'roll singers, not to mention his gently penetrating songwriting skills and unique way with words.
Moondance definitely in my opinion is a perfect album with which to introduce yourself to Van Morrison if you aren't very familiar with much of his work, and aren't quite sure where to start. As said above, a couple of the songs have become standards (especially the title track), and people may have become familiar with one or two others due to them having been used as part of various film soundtracks - to me such use is sacrilegious, but it must be borne in mind that as far as Van The Man is concerned, I am dedicated and bull-headedly biased.
Moondance (the album) is, in my opinion, an absolute must for everybody's music collection, and chances are high that even your granny would love it!
At the time of writing, Moondance can be purchased on CD from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.93 to £36.27
Used: from £1.72 to £21.71
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Summary: Not got this in your music collection? Time to rectify.