|Studio album by Van Morrison|
|Released||28 February 1970|
A & R Studios
(New York City)
|Genre||Soul, pop, jazz, Irish folk|
|Producer||Van Morrison, Lewis Merenstein|
|Van Morrison chronology|
|Singles from Moondance|
The single released was "Come Running" with "Crazy Love" as the B-side, which peaked at #39 on the Pop Singles chart. "Crazy Love" was only released as a single in the Netherlands and did not chart. "Moondance" was not released as a single until 1977 and peaked at #92.
Moondance was critically acclaimed when first released and established Morrison as a major artist. The songs on the album quickly became staples of FM radio. It has proven to be Morrison's most famous album, often appearing on many lists of best albums of all time. Among other awards, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2003, it was ranked #65 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".
After recording Astral Weeks in New York City, Morrison moved with his wife to a home on a mountain top in upstate New York near the village of Woodstock. Morrison began writing the songs for Moondance about ten months after the release of Astral Weeks. The musicians who played on the album were recruited from nearby with the recording sessions beginning in the summer of 1969. With the arrangements for the music only in his head, he entered the recording studio, where everything on the album except for the basic song structures came to fruition. Without musical charts and with help from the creative innovation of Jef Labes, Jack Schroer, and Collin Tilton, the album coalesced. All of the "tasteful frills" were generated spontaneously and developed in the A & R Studios in New York. Although most of the vocals were live, Morrison expressed in 1973 that he would have preferred to cut the entire album live. It was the first album where Van Morrison was listed as producer. He remarked, "No one knew what I was looking for except me, so I just did it." Lewis Merenstein (listed as Executive Producer) had brought in Richard Davis, Jay Berliner, and Warren Smith, Jr. from Astral Weeks for the first recording session, but Morrison, according to John Platania, "sort of manipulated the situation and...got rid of them all. For some reason he didn't want those musicians."
Shelly Yakus, the recording engineer for the album, recalled that Morrison told him to put "more bottom on his voice" but otherwise was "very quiet and really introverted" during the recording sessions.
The combination of music and lyrics of the songs on the Moondance album comprised the first Van Morrison album that was highly accessible with various genres that blend jazz, soul, country, and blues.
The opening song, "And It Stoned Me", according to the singer, depicts a true tale of a day in his childhood. The lyrics show that the setting of the song is rural, including references to a county fair and mountain stream.
The title song is mostly acoustic but also includes electric bass and piano, guitar, saxophone, and a flute over-dub played softly behind Morrison's voice, which imitates a saxophone towards the song's end. Musicologist Brian Hinton says, "This is a rock musician singing jazz not a jazz singer though the music itself has a jazz swing."
"Crazy Love" has Morrison's voice so close to the microphone that a click of Morrison's tongue hitting the roof of his mouth is picked up. He sings in falsetto, producing a sense of intense intimacy, with the backing of a female chorus.
"Caravan" is about gypsy life and also about the radio. Morrison said, "I'm really fascinated by gypsies. I love them." Musically, there is a decided interplay between the guitar and the singer's voice. The song opens with Jef Labes trilling on piano, the drum kit then comes in, whilst Morrison sings the line "And the caravan is on its way". The chorus consists of Morrison and the band singing "La la la la, la la la" repeatedly. John Platania then improvises around Morrison's voice: "[Morrison's] interplay with Platania's softly picked guitar touches the soul."
According to Morrison "Into the Mystic" was originally called "Into the Misty" but as he had thought there was "an ethereal feeling to it" he changed the name. Morrison has also said that some of the songs lyrics could have more than one meaning: "I was born before the Wind" could also be "I was borne before the wind" as well as "Also younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was one" being "All so younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was won". The song includes Collin Tilton's tenor saxophone imitating a foghorn blowing, and ends with the words "Too Late to Stop Now" – a phrase he would famously use to conclude concert endings in the 1970s. After a dynamic stop-start ending to "Cyprus Avenue", Morrison would bellow this phrase and then stalk from the stage. This phrase also served as the title to his acclaimed 1974 live album. These lyrics have also been used at the end of "Friday's Child" in his concerts.
In Morrison's words, "Come Running" is "a very light type of song. It's not too heavy; it's just a happy-go-lucky song." The song starts with Jef Labes improvising on piano. The two saxophones then split apart, playing different rhythms during the chorus, and come back together for "You gotta rainbow if you run to me".
The song "These Dreams of You" manages to be simultaneously accusatory and reassuring. The lyrics cover such dream sequences as Ray Charles being shot down, paying dues in Canada, and "his angel from above" cheating while playing cards in the dark, slapping him in the face, ignoring his cries, and walking out on him.
Morrison says he was inspired to write "Brand New Day" after hearing The Band on FM radio playing either "The Weight" or "I Shall Be Released": "I looked up at the sky and the sun started to shine and all of a sudden the song just came through my head. I started to write it down, right from 'When all the dark clouds roll away'." Ritchie Yorke quoted Morrison as saying in 1973 that "Brand New Day" was the song that worked best to his ear and the one with which he felt most in touch.
"Everyone" opens with Jef Labes' clavinet in 6/8 time. A flute comes in, playing the melody after Morrison has sung four lines, with Jack Schroer playing the harmony underneath on soprano saxophone. Although Morrison says the song is just a song of hope, Brian Hinton says its lyrics suggest a more troubled meaning, as 1969 was the year in which The Troubles broke out in Belfast.
The album's closing song, "Glad Tidings", has a bouncy beat but the lyrics, like "Into the Mystic", remain largely impenetrable. In the words of Hinton "the opening line and closing line, 'and they'll lay you down low and easy', could be either about murder or an act of love." Rolling Stone magazine reviewers Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs have suggested that the song is the most vital on the album by saying: "Perhaps 'Glad Tidings'... is the song that most makes one want to come back to this album without even thinking about it." In 2009, Erik Hage observes that "'Glad Tidings' is also a premonition of the future. For the next four decades, Morrison would continue to use a song here and there to vent about the evils of the music industry and the world of celebrity."
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Record Guide|||
|The Village Voice||A|
Moondance was a commercial and critical success with the album charting in the Top 30 in the US and #32 in the UK. While Blowing Your Mind! was recorded and released under Bert Berns's control and Astral Weeks was a commercial failure if lauded by most critics, Moondance represented Morrison's first success as an artist in control of his music and his band and it established him as a top selling singer-songwriter. Said to be an "extraordinary achievement", as of 2010, it had continuously sold well during the forty years since its release. It was certified triple platinum by the RIAA in 1996, having shipped three million copies in the United States.
Rolling Stone magazine critics Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs jointly reviewed it and concluded: "Moondance is an album of musical invention and lyrical confidence; the strong moods of "Into the Mystic" and the fine, epic brilliance of "Caravan" will carry it past many good records we'll forget in the next few years." In the San Francisco Chronicle, Ralph J. Gleason noted: "It is really in the quality of his sound that Van Morrison's impact comes through most strongly. He wails. He wails as the jazz musicians speak of wailing, as the gypsies, as the Gaels and the old folks in every culture speak of it. He gets a quality of intensity in that wail which really hooks your mind, carries you along with his voice as it rises and falls in long, soaring lines." Jon Landau considered the album's only flaw to be that of perfection. "Things fell into place so perfectly I wished there was more room to breathe. Morrison has a great voice and on Moondance he found a home for it." Robert Christgau, writing for The Village Voice in 1970, claimed that "Morrison has finally fulfilled himself. Forget Astral Weeks--this is a brilliant, catchy, poetic, and completely successful lp."
In a retrospective review, Christgau said that on Moondance, Morrison skillfully integrated his style of Irish poetry into popular song structure while improving his "folk-jazz swing" with a strong backbeat, lively brass instruments, and innovative hooks. He found "Morrison's soul" to be similar to "the black music he loves", calling it "mortal and immortal simultaneously". The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979) called the album a "bolder flipside" to Astral Weeks. AllMusic's Jason Ankeny said that "virtually every track exults in natural wonder, whether it's the nocturnal magic celebrated by the title cut or the unlimited promise offered in Brand New Day." Nick Butler from Sputnikmusic wrote that, like Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, Moondance is "fixated on the power of nature, but rather than merely sitting in awe, it finds spirituality and redemption in the most basic of things. The pinnacle of Van The Man's career, and maybe, of non-American soul in general."
Moondance was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and has continued to be a highly acclaimed album in the 2000s. Over the years, it has been featured on several prominent lists of best albums of all time. In 2001 the TV network VH1 named this album #32 on a list of the greatest albums of all time. In 2003, It was listed as #65 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Moondance was voted #20 on the 2005 list of 885 All Time Greatest Albums by listeners on WXPN. In November 2006, CNN published their list of "The All-Time 100 Albums." Moondance was listed among the 100 albums along with Astral Weeks. In March 2007, it was listed as #72 on the NARM Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "Definitive 200". In December 2009, it was voted #11 top Irish album of all time by a poll of leading Irish musicians taken by Hot Press magazine.
- In the media
The songs from the album have remained popular to the present day. "Moondance" was used over the love scene in An American Werewolf in London, and it was a recurring theme in August Rush. "Glad Tidings" was prominently featured in The Sopranos Season 5 finale ("All Due Respect"). "Everyone" was used over the closing scene and end credits of Wes Anderson's film The Royal Tenenbaums.
- Covers of songs
Several of the songs on the album have been popular cover songs since its release in 1970, most prominently the title song, "Moondance" but "Crazy Love", "Into the Mystic" and "And It Stoned Me" have also been frequently recorded and performed live by popular artists. Cover artists of Moondance songs include: The Allman Brothers Band, Michael Bolton, Michael Bublé, Vicki Carr, Paul Carrack, Joe Cocker, Rita Coolidge, The Dead, Glen Hansard, Colin James, Brian McKnight, Helen Reddy, Rod Stewart, and The Wallflowers. Duets were performed by Morrison with Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.
In its original vinyl release, the album cover folds out, revealing A Fable, a short tale written by Morrison's then wife, Janet Planet. The fable pertains to a young man and his gifts. The album cover was taken from a photograph by Elliot Landy, the official 1969 Woodstock Festival photographer.
On October 22, 2013, Warner Bros. released a Deluxe Edition of Moondance with four CDs and one Blu-ray disc, comprising a newly remastered version of the original album, three discs of previously unreleased music from the sessions, and a Blu-ray Audio disc with high-resolution 48K 24-bit PCM stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound audio of the original album. It was presented in a linen-wrapped folio and includes a booklet with liner notes from Alan Light and original engineer Elliot Scheiner. A two-CD Expanded Edition set that features the newly remastered version of the original album and 11 previously unreleased tracks drawn from highlights from the Deluxe Edition and a Standard Edition of the newly remastered version of the original album were released on the same day.
All songs written and composed by Van Morrison.
|1.||"And It Stoned Me"||4:30|
|5.||"Into the Mystic"||3:25|
|2.||"These Dreams of You"||3:50|
|3.||"Brand New Day"||5:09|
|1970||US Billboard Top LPs||29|
|1970||UK Album Chart||32|
|2013||US Billboard Catalog Albums||1|
|1970||"Come Running"||US Billboard Hot 100||39|
|1977||"Moondance"||US Billboard Hot 100||92|
- Van Morrison – vocals, guitar, rhythm guitar, tambourine, harmonica,
- Jack Schroer – alto and soprano saxophones
- Collin Tilton – flute, tenor saxophone
- Jef Labes – organ, piano, clavinet
- John Platania – guitar, rhythm guitar
- John Klingberg – bass
- Gary Mallaber – drums, vibraphone
- Guy Masson – conga
- Emily Houston – backing vocals on "Crazy Love" and "Brand New Day"
- Judy Clay – backing vocals on "Crazy Love" and "Brand New Day"
- Jackie Verdell – backing vocals on "Crazy Love" and "Brand New Day"
- Producer: Van Morrison for Inherit
- Executive Producer: Lewis Merenstein
- Engineers: Steve Friedberg, Tony May, Elliot Scheiner, Neil Schwartz, Shelly Yakus
- Photographer: Elliot Landy
- Designer: Bob Cato
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- Discogs: Moondance release history