Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March 18: Van Morrison, "Moondance"

Artist: Van Morrison
Album: Moondance
Year: 1970
Label: Warner Bros.

As the 1960's transitioned into the 1970's, traditional folk music was being pushed aside in favor of singer-songwriters who could command more musical power than simply a guitar. Pulling influence from jazz, blues, r&b, and even some Celtic folk styling, Van Morrison remains today one of the biggest innovators ever in music. Having already made his name with the critics with his previous effort, Astral Weeks, Morrison finally earned the adoration of the public with his monumental 1970 release, Moondance.

Though it is best known for the title track, the song "Moondance" is just the tip of the iceberg on this sensational album. First off, the actual song "Moondance" was not even released as a single until nearly seven years after its initial release; yet the record was a commercial success from the start. Ridding himself of nearly every musician from the Astral Weeks recordings, Moondance almost plays as the perfect connected-contrast to it's predecessor. Instead of the bleak lyrics and borderline overdone orchestral movements, the songs are far more simple, yet uplifting and hopeful. The fact that Moondance marks Morrison's first credit as a producer most likely plays a large part in the albums' "different" sound. Morrison once again peers deep into himself and brings the listener a host of brilliant lyrics and delivers them in perfect form.

Van Morrison is absolutely one of the most brilliant musical composers of his generation. Instead of using musical charts, Morrison mostly created the music while the sessions were in progress throughout the recording of Moondance. Aside from the most basic musical structures, the music is nearly completely improvised. The fact that such little planning and production went into the record, and yet such a masterpiece was created is a testament to Van Morrison's skill and talent in every aspect of the world of music. From gospel ballads to more intimate numbers, as well as his trademark Celtic-folk, Morrison proves time and time again that he is anything but a "traditional" folk artist.

The vocal work on the record is almost mythical in nature. It has been noted many times that nearly EVERY vocal track was recorded in a single take, many without instrumentation for him to hear. Morrision has been quoted many times as simply stating, "No one knew what I was looking for except me, so I just did it." It is nothing short of astounding that, with such little planning, and little to no backing music, Morrison was able to nail nearly every vocal on Moondance on the first shot. Having one of the strongest, most wide ranged voices around certainly didn't hurt either. Morrison has the soul of the finest jazz singers, and the power of the best rock frontmen. Whether swinging the tune, mellowing out and getting sensual, or belting out like a rocker, Van Morrison brings is "A game" throughout Moondance, in every style and on every song.

Van Morrison will forever stand as a music legend. While he may be best known for penning one of the most covered songs in history ("Gloria"), it his full length album work that allows him and his endless talent to shine. Fusing together the sounds of jazz and blues with a heavy dose of soul and his own personal roots, his music has a universal feel, yet is absolutely individual and unique. All of Van Morrison's "pre-Mercury records" albums are worth owning and enjoying. However, his 1970 release, Moondance, is a perfectly flawless and commands a prominent place in every music collection.

Standout tracks: "Moondance," "Crazy Love," and "Into The Mystic."

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