Moondance is the third solo album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was released on 28 February 1970 by Warner Bros. Records and peaked at #29 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart. The album’s musical style blends R&B, folk rock, country rock, and also jazz. The single released was “Come Running” with “Crazy Love” as the B-side, which peaked at #39 on the Pop Singles chart. “Crazy Love” was only released as a single in the Netherlands and did not chart. “Moondance”, as a single was not released until 1977 and peaked at #92.
Moondance was critically acclaimed when first released and established Morrison as a major artist. The songs on the album quickly became staples of FM radio. It has proven to be Morrison’s most famous album, often appearing on many lists of best albums of all time. Among other awards, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2003, it was ranked #65 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.
After recording Astral Weeks in New York City, Morrison moved with his wife to a home on a mountain top in upstate New York near the village of Woodstock. Morrison began writing the songs for Moondance about ten months after the release of Astral Weeks. The musicians who played on the album were recruited from nearby with the recording sessions beginning in the summer of 1969. With the arrangements for the music only in his head, he entered the recording studio, where everything on the album except for the basic song structures came to fruition. Without musical charts and with help from the creative innovation of Jef Labes, Jack Schroer, and Collin Tilton, the album coalesced. All of the “tasteful frills” were generated spontaneously and developed in the A & R Studios in New York. Although most of the vocals were live, Morrison expressed in 1973 that he would have preferred to cut the entire album live. It was the first album where Van Morrison was listed as producer. He remarked, “No one knew what I was looking for except me, so I just did it.” Lewis Merenstein (listed as Executive Producer) had brought in Richard Davis, Jay Berliner, and Warren Smith, Jr. from Astral Weeks for the first recording session, but Morrison, according to John Platania, “sort of manipulated the situation and…got rid of them all. For some reason he didn’t want those musicians.”
Shelly Yakus, the recording engineer for the album, recalled that Morrison told him to put “more bottom on his voice” but otherwise was “very quiet and really introverted” during the recording sessions.
Moondance was a commercial and a critical success with the album charting in the Top 30 in the US and #32 in the UK. While Blowing Your Mind! was recorded and released under Bert Berns’s control and Astral Weeks was a commercial failure if lauded by most critics, Moondance represented Morrison’s first success as an artist in control of his music and his band and it established him as a top selling singer-songwriter. Said to be an “extraordinary achievement”, as of 2010, it had continuously sold well during the forty years since being released. It was certified triple platinum by the RIAA in 1996, having shipped three million copies in the United States.
Rolling Stone magazine critics Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs jointly reviewed it and concluded: “Moondance is an album of musical invention and lyrical confidence; the strong moods of “Into the Mystic” and the fine, epic brilliance of “Caravan” will carry it past many good records we’ll forget in the next few years.” In the San Francisco Chronicle, Ralph J. Gleason noted: “It is really in the quality of his sound that Van Morrison’s impact comes through most strongly. He wails. He wails as the jazz musicians speak of wailing, as the gypsies, as the Gaels and the old folks in every culture speak of it. He gets a quality of intensity in that wail which really hooks your mind, carries you along with his voice as it rises and falls in long, soaring lines.” Jon Landau considered the album’s only flaw to be that of perfection. “Things fell into place so perfectly I wished there was more room to breathe. Morrison has a great voice and on Moondance he found a home for it.” Robert Christgau, writing for The Village Voice in 1970, gave the album an “A” and asserted that “Morrison has finally fulfilled himself. Forget Astral Weeks–this is a brilliant, catchy, poetic, and completely successful lp.”
Moondance was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and has continued to be a highly acclaimed album in the 2000s. Over the years, it has been featured on several prominent lists of best albums of all time. In 2001 the TV network VH1 named this album #32 on a list of the greatest albums of all time. In 2003, It was listed as #65 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Moondance was voted #20 on the 2005 list of 885 All Time Greatest Albums by listeners on WXPN. In November 2006, CNN published their list of “The All-Time 100 Albums.” Moondance was listed among the 100 albums along with Astral Weeks. In March 2007, it was listed as #72 on the NARM Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the “Definitive 200”.In December 2009, it was voted #11 top Irish album of all time by a poll of leading Irish musicians taken by Hot Press magazine.
All songs written and composed by Van Morrison.
|1.||“And It Stoned Me”||4:30|
|5.||“Into the Mystic”||3:25|
|2.||“These Dreams of You”||3:50|
|3.||“Brand New Day”||5:09|