Moondance

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This article is about the album. For the song, see Moondance (Van Morrison song). For other uses, see Moondance (disambiguation).
Moondance
Studio album by Van Morrison
Released 28 February 1970
Recorded August–December 1969
A & R Studios
(New York City)
Genre Soul,[1] pop, jazz, Irish folk[2]
Length 38:14
Label Warner Bros.
WS 1835
Producer Van Morrison, Lewis Merenstein
Van Morrison chronology
Astral Weeks
(1968)
Moondance
(1970)
His Band and the Street Choir
(1970)
Singles from Moondance
  1. "Come Running" b/w "Crazy Love"
    Released: March 1970
  2. "Crazy Love" b/w "Come Running"
    Released: 1970
  3. "Moondance" b/w "Cold Wind in August"
    Released: November 1977

Moondance is the third studio album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was released on 28 February 1970 by Warner Bros. Records and peaked at #29 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart.

The album's musical style blends R&B, folk rock, country rock, and also jazz (most obviously on the title track).

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.[3] "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.[4] 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.[5] In 2003, it was ranked #65 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[6]

Recording[edit]

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.[7] The musicians who played on the album were recruited from nearby with the recording sessions beginning in the summer of 1969.[8] 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."[7] 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."[9]

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.[10]

Composition[edit]

"The yang to Astral Weeks yin, the brilliant Moondance is every bit as much a classic as its predecessor; Van Morrison's first commercially successful solo effort, it retains the previous album's deeply spiritual thrust but transcends its bleak, cathartic intensity to instead explore themes of renewal and redemption."[11]

AllMusic

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.[12]

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. Brian Hinton says, "This is a rock musician singing jazz not a jazz singer though the music itself has a jazz swing."[12]

"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.[13] He sings in falsetto, producing a sense of intense intimacy, with the backing of a female chorus.[12]

"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."[12]

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 opens with Collin Tilton's tenor saxophone, made to imitate 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.[12] These lyrics have also been used at the end of "Friday's Child" in his concerts.[14]

"In Moondance, Morrison bursts forth in warm Technicolor. The Van Morrison that the public would come to know and recognize over the decades—Van the Man, the Belfast Cowboy, etc—essentially makes his first appearance on Moondance."[15]

Erik Hage

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".[12]

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.[12]

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'."[12] 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.[16]

"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.[12]

The album's closing song, "Glad Tidings", has a bouncy beat but the lyrics, like "Into the Mystic", remain largely impenetrable: "And they'll lay you down low and easy" could be about murder or love.[12] 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."[17] 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."[18]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 89/100[19]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[11]
Robert Christgau A+[20]
The Rolling Stone Record Guide 5/5 stars[21]
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5[1]

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.[22] It was certified triple platinum by the RIAA in 1996, having shipped three million copies in the United States.[23]

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."[24] 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."[24] 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."[25] Robert Christgau, writing for The Village Voice in 1970, gave the album an "A" and asserted that "Morrison has finally fulfilled himself. Forget Astral Weeks--this is a brilliant, catchy, poetic, and completely successful lp."[26]

In a 1981 review, Christgau gave it an "A+" and commended Morrison for "adding punchy brass (including pennywhistles and foghorn) and a solid backbeat (including congas) to his folk-jazz swing, and a popwise formal control to his Gaelic poetry." He found "Morrison's soul" to be similar to "the black music he loves"—"mortal and immortal simultaneously"—and cited "visionary hooks" as his "specialty."[20] The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979) called it a "bolder flipside" to Astral Weeks.[21] In a retrospective review, 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."[11] Nick Butler wrote in a Sputnikmusic review: "This is Van Morrison's 6th Symphony; like Beethoven's equivalent, it's 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."[1]

Legacy[edit]

Awards

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.[27] In 2003, It was listed as #65 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[6] Moondance was voted #20 on the 2005 list of 885 All Time Greatest Albums by listeners on WXPN.[28] In November 2006, CNN published their list of "The All-Time 100 Albums." Moondance was listed among the 100 albums along with Astral Weeks.[29] In March 2007, it was listed as #72 on the NARM Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "Definitive 200".[30] 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.[31]

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.[32]

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.

Packaging[edit]

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.[33] The album cover was taken from a photograph by Elliot Landy, the official 1969 Woodstock Festival photographer.[34]

2013 Releases[edit]

On October 22, 2013, Warner Bros. released a 4 CD/1 Blu-ray Deluxe Edition of Moondance, 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 2 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.[35]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Van Morrison

Side One
No. Title Length
1. "And It Stoned Me"   4:30
2. "Moondance"   4:35
3. "Crazy Love"   2:34
4. "Caravan"   4:57
5. "Into the Mystic"   3:25
Side Two
No. Title Length
1. "Come Running"   2:30
2. "These Dreams of You"   3:50
3. "Brand New Day"   5:09
4. "Everyone"   3:31
5. "Glad Tidings"   3:42

Chart history[edit]

Album[edit]

Year Chart Position
1970 US Billboard Top LPs 29
1970 UK Album Chart 32
2013 US Billboard Catalog Albums 1

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Position
1970 "Come Running" US Billboard Hot 100 39
1977 "Moondance" US Billboard Hot 100 92

Personnel[edit]

Musicians
Production

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Butler, Nick (26 June 2006). "Sputnikmusic review". sputnikmusic.com. Archived from the original on 10 May 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "Van Morrison: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 9 October 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  3. ^ DeWitt. The Mystic's Music. pp.63–64
  4. ^ Eskow, Gary (1 April 2005). "Classic Tracks: Van Morrison's Moondance". Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "Best of All Time Lists". acclaimedmusic.net. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of all time". rockonthenet.com. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Yorke, Into the Music. pp. 70–83
  8. ^ Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison, p. 50
  9. ^ Heylin, Can You Feel the Silence. p. 215
  10. ^ Buskin, Richard (May 2009). "Classic Tracks: Van Morrison 'Moondance'". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Ankeny, Jason. "allmusic review". allmusic.com. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hinton. Celtic Crossroads. pp. 106–111. 
  13. ^ Collis, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. p.118
  14. ^ Hinton, Celtic Crossroads. p. 133
  15. ^ Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison, p. 49
  16. ^ Yorke, Into the Music. p. 83
  17. ^ Marcus, Greil and Bangs, Lester (17 March 1970). "Moondance:Van Morrison". superseventies.com. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  18. ^ Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison. p. 53
  19. ^ "Moondance [Deluxe Edition] - Van Morrison". Metacritic. 
  20. ^ a b Christgau 1981, p. 265.
  21. ^ a b Marsh, Dave; Swenson, John (Editors). The Rolling Stone Record Guide, 1st edition, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979, p. 27.
  22. ^ Elias, Jean-Claude (24 January 2010). "Van Morrison's undying Moondance inspires". jordantimes.com. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  23. ^ "Riaa Gold & Platinum search results:Van Morrison". riaa.com. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  24. ^ a b Yorke. Into the Music. p. 82. 
  25. ^ Hinton, Celtic Crossroads. p. 111
  26. ^ Christgau, Robert (23 April 1970). "Consumer Guide (9)". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  27. ^ "VH1: 100 Greatest Albums of All Time". rockonthenet.com. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  28. ^ "885 All Time Greatest Albums". Retrieved 12 August 2007. 
  29. ^ Tyrangiel, Josh (13 November 2006). "The All-TIME 100 Albums: Moondance". Time. Retrieved 9 March 2007. 
  30. ^ "2007 National Association of Recording Merchandisers". timepieces. Retrieved 6 May 2010. 
  31. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (18 December 2009). "Stellar Van Morrison offering tops best album list". The Irish TImes. Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  32. ^ "Van Morrison filmography". imdb.com. Retrieved 2 September 2008. 
  33. ^ "Van Morrison Moondance". albumlinernotes.com. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  34. ^ "Van Morrison, Woodstock, NY, 1969, ‘Moondance’ album cover shot". landyvision.com. Retrieved 4 November 2007. 
  35. ^ "Van Morrison to release deluxe edition of Moondance". uncut.co.uk. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]