Track-By-Track Guide To “Moondance” By Van Morrison
via Van Morrison/YouTube
Light and Sweet
Van Morrison reached his creative peak with “Moondance.” It was remarkably easier to like than its predecessor, “Astral Weeks.” And yet with its arrival, it served to create the balance in his catalogue. “Astral Weeks” was a commercial failure upon its release. And so Morrison tried to remedy all the things that didn’t work and put those on “Moondance.” The material was a mix of jazz, soul, pop, folk, and rock. It’s diverse but cohesive.
It’s a classic through and through and it gave him the breakthrough he deserved. He explored themes of spiritual renewal and redemption. He was clearly in his element when he made this.
And It Stoned Me
It’s an appropriate opener because that’s basically how it felt like listening to the whole album. In 1985, Morrison explained his inspiration for the song, “I suppose I was about twelve years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he’d got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this ‘other dimension’. That’s what the song is about.”
One of his strongest output, it’s perhaps the reason why the LP still sounds fresh even after all these years. It’s light and jazzy – something you’d want to listen to to feel cheerful. It’s a staple in his live repertoire. Morrison revealed that he first wrote the melody and he played it on a soprano sax.
This soulful ballad showcases Morrison’s vocals. It’s mesmerizing from start to end which is pretty much why it’s been featured numerous times in films. It also includes backing singers singing in Gospel style.
Catchy, infectious, and addictive, it’s absolutely irresistible. Speaking about the radio reference, Morrison said: “I could hear the radio like it was in the same room. I don’t know how to explain it. There was some story about an underground passage under the house I was living in, rumours from kids and stuff and I was beginning to think it was true. How can you hear someone’s radio from a mile away, as if it was playing in your own house? So I had to put that into the song, It was a must.”
Into the Mystic
Funky and tastefully played, this easily stands out in an album full of musical gems. If there’s such thing as a perfect song, this is a prime example. He originally wrote it as “Into the Misty” but because it had that ethereal feel, he changed it to “Into the Mystic.”
This fast-paced and upbeat track is simple but never fails to cheer up the listener. It’s often overlooked but that’s not to say it’s not as excellent as the more popular tunes on side one. It strikes a balance with some of the other songs.
These Dreams of You
Just when you thought it can’t get any better, you hear a sweet sax solo halfway through. It may be upbeat and energetic but Morrison got the idea for the song after dreaming about an assassination attempt on Ray Charles. Morrison said, “That started off the whole song. The line ‘you paid your dues in Canada’, I don’t really know where that comes from, I just have a romantic image of going to Canada and that’s about it. The song is basically about dreams.”
Brand New Day
He slows it down with this soulful and beautiful number. Stunning and uplifting, it doesn’t exactly stand out in his catalogue but it’s not something you forget once you listen to it. The impeccable harmonies are a huge bonus too.
The fastest track on the LP, it’s full of energy and is hands-down delightful all throughout. Done in Baroque style, Morrison called it “just a song of hope, that’s what that is.”
The perfect way to wrap up the LP is with another infectious tune. The musicianship is superb. From the bass line to the drumming, guitar playing, saxophones, and vocals – it’s as good as it gets.