70 FROM ’70 — THE TOP TEN — #7

7.  VAN MORRISON — Moondance


With albums one has lived with for years, knows inside out, and sings along with, it can be easy to forget just how good the songs are; familiarity can obscure the craft. Then you notice you are singing—or at least humming—the whole damn thing and realise it’s because there isn’t a dud track. Many choose Van’s ‘first’ album (Astral Weeks) as their favourite, but for me it’s his second proper record that hits all the right spots and maintains an internal integrity belied by the blending of blues-rock, Caledonia soul, jazz, and Irish folk influences.
Unlike a couple in this list, Moondance isn’t confronting or laser bright, it doesn’t make you squint or run away. It’s inviting, like a great beer, a fine Shiraz or an open fire. Managing to canvas both the spiritual and the corporeal, the record is a trusted lantern, shedding a warm bronze glow when something known and reliable is needed.

Do you like moon dancing?

34 comments

  1. This is a very good choice. I agree that there are no bad tracks, but I also think the best five are all on the first side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you have other favourites in Van’s extensive solo catalogue, Graham?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Into The Music is my favourite, then St. Dominic’s Preview. There’s plenty there beyond the big two of Astral Weeks and Moondance.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Bruce, I also prefer Moondance to Astral Weeks. It seems to me there’s a lazy conformity to baby boomer rock critic album lists (your distinguished self excluded, obviously). Astral Weeks, Velvet Underground and Nico, Trout Mask Replica, Pet Sounds. So who actually listens to any of them in preference to all the other albums those artists made? Chin-stroking pontificators maybe. With both AW and TMR, my reactions when I bought them in the 70s – because of lists – was yeah, nah, but nah. I changed my mind about AW but I still think TMR is an enormous pile of festering horse manure. And I tried very hard to like it.

    My fave of Van’s work is probably Tupelo Honey, but really, I like pretty well all his stuff, when he’s not bitching about the music biz in rhyming couplets, while having never shovelled shit for a living precisely BECAUSE of the music biz…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fabulous comment, Dave. Thanks for joining in!
      I chuckled out loud at your Trout Mask Replica comments, as I just wrote a piece on it for my paying gig at Discrepancy Records. Your take is certainly succinct!
      Love the last para too. I gave up on Van after one too many bitching and moaning songs about how hard his life is. I’ve seen Van’s house in Bath. Wouldn’t you hate to have his dreadful life challenges? 😆

      Like

  3. “Moondance” was my introduction to Van Morrison, and I loved it the first time I heard it. While I can’t claim I’ve extensively explored Van, I’ve listened to “Astral Weeks,” another great album. I also dig his music with Them. If I had to choose between “Astral Weeks” and “Moondance,” I’d probably go with the latter as well – in part because I’m more familiar with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Familiarity is always a major component of our choices, Christian. Early solo Van is definitely worthwhile. ‘Tupelo Honey’ is lush, vibrant and consistently good, while a personal favourite is ‘Veedon Fleece’.
      Thanks for sharing your responses!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It won’t be remotely surprising to hear this is on the 1001!
    I think I finally ‘got’ the appeal of Van Morrison when I heard It’s Too Late To Stop Now – tonight could be a marvelous night for a Moondance revisit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Two thumbs up for “Its Too Late”, Geoff. A fabulous live album. Dance on, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Moondance is my go to Van moment as well. I think after so many years we forget how different an album it was in 1970, let’s face it there were not many songwriters sounding like him back in the day. I came to Van via the Icicle Works cover of Into the Mystic shallow eighties youth that I was, he was old fart music until the third best band in Liverpool covered him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ‘Third best band in Liverpool’. Priceless. 🙂

      Like

  6. At last! I discovered Moondance in college, a decade after it was released, and I still have the LP. I share Aphoristical’s assessment that the best tracks are all on the first side. My favorite is Caravan, about which I did one of my very first blog posts (she said, promoting herself shamelessly…) The ‘liner notes’ of the LP are a trip: ‘A Fable’, written by Janet Planet, Morrison’s girlfriend (later to be wife).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hooray! (And more to come, JDB)
      Trying to remember liner notes…don’t think the Aus release had any. Certainly the CD release doesn’t have any Janet Planet whimsy.
      And here’s the link to JDB’s brief and shining post:
      https://augenblickblog.com/2013/03/19/caravan/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Here’s a link to ‘A Fable’ for those who might be interested (takes a while to download): https://www.oocities.org/tracybjazz/hayward/van-the-man.info/miscellaneous/fable.html

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Yup again but you know that.
    I turn my back on you for a minute and you go all prolific on me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. After such an epic journey (the 70 FROM ’70 series, I mean) I thought the final 10 each deserved their moment in the sun.
      #6 coming on the weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good call on your “deserved their moment”. Hmmm? #6

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Feel free to take a guess on the final half dozen, CB.
          Of course I am unable to confirm or deny anything. 😎

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I would guess a certain Fripp guy would be involved but dont let me mess with your head.

            Like

            1. Dude, my headmess doesn’t have much space left.
              The list was finished about six months ago, CB, and Robert’s two contributions have been tabulated already (in Part 4 and Part 2).

              Liked by 1 person

            2. I cant remember everything but with a little help I’m pretty good. I still like the surprise of what’s next without looking.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Well played, sir! Depending on the US time zone, sometime Saturday afternoon.

              Liked by 1 person

  8. Into the Mystic still takes me there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Borne before the wind, DD.

      Like

    2. It always rocks my gypsy soul

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m probably in that “other” category of people in liking Astral Weeks more. But Moondance for me has always been that proverbial old flannel shirt which always feels good when you put it on. In fact, it’s yet another album where the big hit from the album — the title track, of course — is less interesting than all the other songs. “Caravan” is such a great song. Thanks for the reminder, Bruce. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair call all round, Marty. There is a beautiful ‘sound’ to Astral Weeks (the much admired acoustic bass being a vital part of that) that I thoroughly admire. I’ve never really worked out why the debut (proper) doesn’t quite do it for me. Perhaps it’s that earnestness in Mr Morrison? Who knows. He’s done enough great music to deserve his place in the pantheon.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Poetic prose, VC.

    Beyond the radio, I’ve never really explored — (or been tempted to explore – Gasp!) Mr. Morrison. Can I claim Patti Smith’s cover of ‘Gloria” as my favorite Van?…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hm. Will have to send that one upstairs for review, Vic.
      If I was to suggest anything for sir, it would be Van’s energetic live album “It’s too late to stop now”. Bursts with life and a big sound.

      Like

  11. And It Stoned Me to have These Dreams of You my Crazy Love.
    Come Running, I’ll join you in the Moondance, then we’ll hitch a ride
    on the Caravan and ride off Into the Mystic of a Brand New Day
    to wish Everyone Glad Tidings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like an excellent plan. 😊

      Like

  12. Yes. It’s a perfect album. I received it as a gift when it first was issued and have listened to it with pleasure ever since.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A few spins, then Jadi. 🙂

      Like

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