Moondance (song)

Moondance

Moondance is the third solo album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, released in 1970 (see 1970 in music). The style blends R & B, country rock, and even jazz (most obviously on the title track). Moondance peaked at #29 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart and the hit single released, "Come Running" peaked at #39 on the Pop Singles chart. Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time ranked it at #65 in 2003. It has often appeared on many other lists of best albums of all times.

Recording

Moondance may be seen as a clear celebration of rural living, with its tales of growing up in innocence in the countryside. The album-opener, "And It Stoned Me", sets this tone with its nostalgic sadness at being removed from the country. Songs like "And It Stoned Me", "Caravan", and "Into the Mystic" are mixed with tender love songs like "Crazy Love" and "Moondance". 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.

Van Morrison began writing the songs for Moondance about ten months after the release of Astral Weeks. 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 Jeff Labes, Jack Schroer, and Collin Tilton, the album coalesced. All of the "tasteful frills" 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 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.

It 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.

Songs

The opening song, "And It Stoned Me", according to the singer, depicts a true tale of a day in his childhood. The title song is mostly acoustic but also includes electric bass and piano, guitar, saxophone, and flute 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." The song "Crazy Love" has Morrison's voice close to the microphone, 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, one can discern a decided interplay between the guitar and singer's voice. "Into the Mystic" 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. 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 "These Dreams of You" oddly 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'." Although Morrison says "Everyone" is just a song of hope, Brian Hinton says its lyrics suggest a more troubled meaning, as 1969 was the year in which civil war broke out in Belfast. The album's closing song, "Glad Tidings", has a bouncy beat but the lyrics remain largely impenetrable.

In the media

The two most familiar songs on the album, the title song and "Into The Mystic", did not fare well initially as singles, with "Moondance" peaking at #92, and "Mystic" failing to chart. However, both songs have since become staples of classic rock radio. 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.

Noteworthy reviews

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.

Rolling Stone's 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.

Critical Acclaim

  • Moondance was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and has continued to be a highly acclaimed album in the 2000s.
  • In 2001 the TV network VH1 named this album #32 on a list of the greatest albums of all time.
  • It is #65 on Rolling Stones 2003 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, Moondance was listed as #72 on the NARM Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "Definitive 200".

Track listing

All songs written by Van Morrison.

Side one

  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

  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" – 3:13

Personnel

Production

  • Producer: Van Morrison
  • Executive Producer: Lewis Merenstein
  • Engineers: Steve Friedberg, Tony May, Elliot Scheirer, Neil Schwartz, Shelly Yakus

Charts

Album - Billboard (North America)
Year Chart Position
1970 Pop Albums 29

Album - UK Album Chart (United Kingdom)

Year Chart Position
1970 UK Album Chart 32

Singles - Billboard (North America)

Year Single Chart Position
1970 "Come Running" Pop Singles 39
1977 "Moondance" Pop Singles 92

Notes

References

  • Heylin, Clinton (2003). Can You Feel the Silence? Van Morrison: A New Biography, Chicago Review Press ISBN 1-55652-542-7
  • Hinton, Brian (1997). Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison, Sanctuary, ISBN 1-86074169X
  • Yorke, Ritchie (1975). Into The Music, London:Charisma Books , ISBN 0-85947-013-X

External links

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