(Warner, BSK 3103, January 27, 1970)
On the heels of his commercially unsuccessful second record, Astral Weeks, Northern Irish singer/songwriter Van Morrison apparently decided that being too artsy was not for him. This episode of InStore at Lost & Found Records is Morrison’s third, and highly successful, release, Moondance.
Already known for his classic tune “Gloria” (with Them) and his first solo mega-hit, “Brown Eyed Girl,” Morrison’s Astral Weeks was an abstract folky/jazzy concept album that likely flew over the heads of the music-buying public upon it’s release in 1968. Warner wasn’t sure what to do with it, and it languished because of their inattention. Critical acclaim has grown over the years, and the record became a ubiquitous entry on critics’ “Best of” lists and is considered today to have been highly influential.
But, Van Morrison wanted to make a living. And critics don’t pay the bills.
In mid-1969, Morrison and his wife moved to the Catskills, near Woodstock, New York, where he began writing songs that he hoped would be more accessible. He went into the studio later that year with basic song structure written down, but with most of the actual songs’ arrangements remaining in his head. Band members assisted with recreating melody from Morrison’s memory, and the sessions were spontaneous and creative. He took the lead as producer for the first time because he felt that he was the only one who knew what he wanted. Makes sense.
Of the songs, Jason Ankeny writes at AllMusic.com:
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.
The lyrics on Moondance were likely as deep and meaningful as those on Astral Weeks, but set in more appealing bed of R&B influences, including horns, piano, and a solid backbeat. And immediately upon it’s release, Moondance received rave reviews from critics, became the commercial success he had hoped for, and established Morrison as a major independent artist.
Moondance garnered many awards and chart positions, including going platinum in the US alone.
The title track is likely the most recognized tune, but we’re going to link to “Into the Mystic” on Spotify based on the bass line alone. Come by Lost & Found Records and pick up this gem on vinyl.