Review Summary: Sing a happy song and we'll sing along
It always astounds me how good music can overcome almost anything that sets out to tarnish its name. In the case of my love of Van Morrison, this attack to his creations came from Van himself at a concert at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. Both my dad and his second wife were huge fans of the Northern Irishman and jumped at the chance to see Van “the Man”, and me being a kid looking to stay out late on a school night was willing to endure an evening of “old folks” music in able to do so was down for it as well. Sadly, the Van Morrison that took the stage that night was a drunken mess, insulting the crowd, badly slurring the lyrics to his most well known songs. Despite this horrid baptismal into Van Morrison, his music endured. Years later I would stumble upon his classic 1970 release, Moondance
, and all would be forgiven.
Born in 1945, Van Morrison was introduced to American jazz and blues by his father and by the age of twelve had formed his first band, The Sputniks (if this isn't a sign, then I don't know what is. Ha!), but it wasn't until the latter half of the 60's when things started to pick up from him. In 1966 he and his band at the time, Them, released the rhythm and blues standard “Gloria” and by 1967 Van had set out on his own and found success with his single “Brown Eyed Girl”. In 1968 everything changed with the release of the critically acclaimed Astral Weeks
. To this day Astral Weeks
is still heralded by many as Van's masterpiece. Sounding like what Nick Drake's Bryter Layter
would have sounded like if it was recorded in 1960's Detroit, instead of at the tutelage of Donovan, it truly was a monumental achievement for Van, but its follow-up, Moondance
was set to be Van Morrison's true masterpiece.
is a vibrant, uplifting experience. Its ten tracks not only are nearly all of Morrison's most successful singles, but a soulful affirmation of life, love, and promise. Moondance
stands as a shining beacon of hope, piercing through the haze of post-60's malaise. When the needle hits the record and the lush, folky “It Stoned Me” begins to make its way through the speakers, one could take an educated guess and think that it's going to end up as just another pop-rock record driven by the UK's love of the blues, but the title track changes that. Its meticulous weaving of silky Motown soul re-envisioned through classic bop-era jazz influence and British blues sets the bar ridiculously high, but Van is able to retain this golden standard throughout the whole of Moondance
. As it weaves between the bouncy shuffle of the aforementioned eponymous track as well ans the joyous “Everyone” and “Glad Tidings”, and the more subdued balladry of slow burners such as “Into the Mystic” and slow dance standard “Crazy Love”, Moondance
always retains a positive vibe that warms the soul like the first rays of sun after a long, cold, lonely winter.
The continued adoration on not only the FM radio band, but in the music collections of millions is a testament to what this smooth-voiced Irishman accomplished during a brief sting of genius during the late 60's and early 70's. After the release of Moondance
's true follow up, Tupelo Honey
, things went down hill and fast for Van Morrison, but it looks as though at 65 he's in prime position to recapture his glory years, as two years ago he did a stint of well received performances at which he played Astral Weeks
in its entirety to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Here's hoping he does the same with Moondance
sometime this year. Fingers crossed.