Thursday, December 26, 2013

65. Moondance (1970) Van Morrison

  1. And It Stoned Me
  2. Moondance
  3. Crazy Love
  4. Caravan
  5. Into the Mystic
  6. Come Running
  7. These Dreams of You
  8. Brand New Day
  9. Everyone
  10. Glad Tidings 

Van Morrison is a genius apparently, at least that's what people keep telling me. He's not just the greatest musician ever to come out of Northern Ireland, or the finest singer to be named after a form of transport, he's the second greatest bandleader named Morrison, he's a bone fide genius with incredible talent and someone I need to respect and admire. But he's kind of dull isn't he?

I don't just means as a person, I'm sure he's an outstanding conversationalist, I mean as a musician he just seems to take the easy road a lot. There are people like Tom Waits who are keen to throw listeners for a loop at every opportunity and contemporaries like Neil Young and Bob Dylan who seem to have an obsession with reinvention. But Morrison's music tends to do what you think it will every time you encounter it and at times he sounds like a tribute act.

Crazy Love sounds like an attempt to make Soul Music in the sound of Sam Cooke which is fine but the falsetto voice he adopts makes it appear that Morrison is trying to do an actual impression of Cooke's finest moments. It's like a weird impression and it makes me want to listen to the original. The title track is a slower jazz number which everyone seems to think they've heard before when they first encounter it. It sounds like a cover because it sounds a lot like lots of other songs you've heard before and is by the numbers enough to do everything you expect it will.

The rest of Moondance is fairly by the book and predictable stuff. Whether you respond to it will probably depend on that most ephemeral and subjective of musical opinions: your opinion of his voice.

I've never really known what makes some people respond well to someone's voice while someone else doesn't. Is it related to something buried deep in our psyche? A subconscious memory perhaps? Are there those who don't like Morrison's singing because he reminds them of their least favourite teacher? Are we predisposed to like the sound of a voice that reminds us of our mothers who soothed us to sleep when we were kids?

I've wracked my brains and tried to think of all the teachers I haven't liked but can't come up with anyone who tormented me at school and sounded like Van. I've tried to think of a teacher who was a bit whiney and who pronounced "dry" as "Draaaaaye" but can't come up with anyone. (I've also tried to find a Dylan song that reminds me of my mother but come up wanting as well). Despite my inability to pinpoint why I really don't like Van's voice I definitely don't. And if you're not a fan of Van as a singer then Moondance is a difficult listen because his voice is all over it. He's not just a vocalist he's a scat singing musicians who fills in blank moments in the song with some made up stuff that grates even more if you find his voice annoying.

If you like Van The Man's pipes then you probably love this already. If you don't then it might be far too much to appreciate.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I can't even count how many times me and the girls have gotten really drunk and belted out "Brown-eyed Girl" or "Gloria"."

-I can. The answer is none. You haven't ever sung those songs while listening to this album. Unless of course you and the girls are the type of people who like to put on an album and then sing entirely different songs over the top of it. Neither of those tracks are on this album.

So is it a marvellous night for a Moondance? Let me know below

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