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30 years later, people still want to have this MOONDANCE
on August 28, 2001
Everyone knows that Van Morrison first started his musical career as a blues-shouting frontman for the highly-underrated British rock band Them. It was during that time that Van wrote such rock standards as "Gloria" (sing it with me, everybody! G-L-O-R-I-A!) and "Mystic Eyes". When Them broke up, Van began a somewhat rudimentary solo career with the pop chestnut "Brown Eyed Girl", which even though it may be a little too pop for the now-very-deep-in-his-R&B-roots Van, it remains a rock classic. His follow-up ASTRAL WEEKS (1968) was one of the most enchanting pop albums ever recorded, and even though it had no hits, it is rightfully been considered as one of the best albums of any genre. For the follow-up, Van decided to venture back into his R&B and jazz roots with MOONDANCE (1970). The fact that it is so high on the Amazon Sales Rank (#399 as of this writing) sure is amazing, for even those people who are listening to artists who could be Van's grandchildren (he just turned 56) are realizing the magic that is MOONDANCE. The album is just as beautifully-executed as ASTRAL WEEKS, but it's less improvised & made of more songs than stream-of-consciousness exercises. The first side of MOONDANCE is made up of songs that are widely recognized outside of the context of the album, and are some of Van's best songs in a career filled with many. "And It Stoned Me" starts out automatically with a vocal from Van that is as restrained as ASTRAL WEEKS, but still rather soulful like he was in his Them days. This is the perfect song to listen to on a warm summer Sunday. And no, stoned doesn't have anything to do with marijuana, but something more metaphoric. Next is the title track that is by far in the top echelon of Van's classic songs. You'll immediately get the feeling of dancing with your sweetheart in the moonlit night, and who knows you may be making a track back to his house later on, if you know what I mean. It's the same with "Crazy Love" where the romanticism of this track is nothing less than intoxicating, and I'm sure one listen to this song will turn anyone to putty. An excellent wedding song, too. Those who listen on will get to the more uptempo (if you can call it that) "Caravan", which once again has Van in his soul-belter mode. But if you thought those four songs were well known & legendary, "Into The Mystic" almost steamrolls those songs in that respect. Articles have been written on this song alone, and while that may be overstating it, that only proves why this song is so loved, because "the mystic" could be just about anywhere for us. The closing line "It's too late to stop now" would inspire the title of Van's live album (1974). The second side is not very recognizable, but it does have some highlights. "Come Running" was the only song on this album to become a top 40 hit(!), and while it may seem a bit slight, it showed that AM radio may have been behind Van Morrison to some extent. "Brand New Day" is probably the most soulful of the bunch, with it having a hint of gospel as well. Maybe Sting was inspired by this song to create his own "Brand New Day". Those may be the best of side 2, but MOONDANCE as a whole is a well-deserved classic. Even if its commercial success was somewhat limited, it's made just about every critic's "Best Albums of All Time" list, so that may be some redemption. Even if Van Morrison retired after this album, his place in rock history would be assured, but 30 years later, he's still going strong releasing albums at a time in his life when most people would be resting on their awards. But while Van may continue to release some quality music well into his golden years, chances are MOONDANCE will still rank as one of the best albums of not only his career, but pop music too.