"Sing a happy song and we will sing along"
Apparently every home should have at least two Van Morrison albums. The spot-on The Best of Van Morrison is one and if the cool-police are to be believed, the other is invariably Astral Weeks.
While it’s Astral Weeks that still consistently gets the cool-police in a lather, truth be told I’ve never really fallen under its spell. It’s always been just a bit too arty and meandering for me, which is why I’ve always preferred the much more focused and direct song craft of Moondance. Astral Weeks tries too hard to sound like an impressive statement piece, whereas Moondance is just a collection of enjoyable songs and boasts one of the great ‘side ones’ from the golden age of vinyl and the fact that it lingers in the shadow of its much-praised predecessor means that it’s a delightful treasure trove when you finally do get around to purchasing it.
Moondance is not an album that demands your attention, instead it gently convinces you that it is worthy of your time, its songs one by one filtering into your conscious and making itself a welcome addition to the list of great songs that plays in your head on a frequent basis.
Moondance’s first side distills everything great about Van Morrison, and the sequence of “And it Stoned Me”, “Moondance”, “Crazy Love”, Caravan” and “Into the Mystic” is easily his most jaw-dropping sequence of songs in a long career, and while there are prettier, and critically cooler Van Morrison albums, few have as many great tunes as Moondance and that’s what has always made it such a great listen. While the fried-gold status of the first half of this album is undeniable, its second side pays off patience as it’s less immediate tunes starts to reward you after a while, with the marvellous “Everyone” being one of Van Morrison’s more curiously underrated numbers. It might take time for you to realise, but eventually Moondance reveals itself as one of those beautifully balanced albums in popular song, and it very much deserves its place in the conversation about the all time greats.
The fact that Moondance is over-shadowed by its critically slavered over predecessor has meant that it rarely receives the kudos it deserves. Moondance deserves to be hailed as the single greatest achievement in Van Morrison’s career, and the fact it isn’t means that it will always be slightly underrated despite its obvious brilliance.