Album Review: Van Morrison “Moondance” (1970)

Released in 1970, Moondance was Van Morrison’s third solo album and was also the album that helped establish him as a major artist in the music world. Following on from the highly regarded Astral Weeks, Morrison would move further away from that particular albums folk orientated sound towards a greater blend of R&B, soul, jazz, and folk rock on Moondance. This stylistic change of direction would ensure that he found his niche as a musician and the sound he would become best known for.

In what many regard as being his magnum opus, Moondance not only contains some of Morrison’s best songs, but it also sees Van at his most soulful as he delivers the songs like a man possessed. Right across the album Morrison’s vocals are sublime and include some of his best performances as he pushes his vocals to the limit. There is the pastoral folk-rock of “And It Stoned Me”, the rhythm and blues like “These Dreams of You”, the soul of “Caravan” and “Brand New Day”, and the jazz of Moondance. All of these songs contain amazing vocals, especially during the hook or chorus where Van lets rip with that distinctive range of his pushing the boundaries of what is possible vocally. As you listen you often get the feeling he has reached his maximum range and has gone as far as he can reach with some notes, but then he takes it even further to another level by at which stage you just sit back and admire the vocal prowess of this man.

There are really no weak moments or tracks on this album and in every instance, Morrison nails his delivery giving everything to each song and meaning every word he sings. The way he moves between a soft pastoral sound to a rough-edged soulful sound on different tracks also gives the album a much needed varied feel between soft and loud moments and ensures that for the listener this album isn’t just an explosion of soul coming at you at full blast. Van’s amazing vocals are also accompanied by some nice touches of semi-acoustic guitar playing, female backing singers, and a wonderful horn section all of which lend themselves well to the songs and are one of the highlights of the album for me.

Moondance for me is Van Morrison’s best album, while his vocal performance on it surely must be one of the greatest in popular music history. The effort he puts into every song and the range he displays whether it be his softer side such as on “Crazy Love”, or his full-on soulful side “Glad Tidings” helped establish him as one of the premier British R&B/soul singers for the rest of the decade, and ensured that he would have a highly successful and respected career from then on. If you want an album that represents classic Van Morrison then this is it, he made other good albums to but this one, in my opinion, is a touch above the rest in terms of singing ability and what he could achieve vocals wise. Moondance is an amazing exhibition of R&B and soul singing, and is a must listen for anyone who can appreciate quality singing and soul. And this has soul, plenty of SOUL!

– Sam

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