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Published: 2013/12/20
by Ron Hart

Van Morrison
Moondance: Deluxe Edition

Rhino

Its unclear how many infants were conceived to the music of Van Morrison’s singular smash album Moondance over the course of its 43 years in record stores as its soundtrack. Or first kisses kissed. Or first sexual experiences experienced. Or first dances danced at weddings. Or dinner parties hosted.

But if you were to tally up the figures of such statistics, chances are the former Them frontman’s landmark third LP would rival or even possibly exceed the numbers of such historic babymakers as Barry White and Marvin Gaye. Filled to the gills with such memorable chestnuts as “Into the Mystic”, “Ain’t It Stoned Me”, “Caravan” and, of course, the iconic title track, the album’s inter-generational crossover appeal is rivaled only by that of classic titles by The Beatles and maybe Bob Dylan. Certainly it stands as perhaps the only good LP in the collections of people who otherwise have horrible taste in music, transcending its place beside the likes of the first Third Eye Blind, the soundtrack to City of Angels and Santana’s Supernatural in the CD tower of some woebegone wife in the suburbs that’s been relegated to the garage to make room for her husband’s cigar humidor or whatever. Yet that’s what makes it so omnipotent, its ability to remain such a bedrock in the pop music conversation since it was released on February 28, 1970 despite the sliding scale of tastes which measure its listenership.

Morrison himself went to his website to denounce Rhino’s release of this five-disc box set for Moondance, which features 50 unreleased outtakes from the original recording sessions, never one to refrain from taking a stab at the music industry whenever the opportunity presents itself.

“I did not endorse this, it is unauthorised and it has happened behind my back,” he lashed. “My management company at that time gave this music away 42 years ago and now I feel as though it’s being stolen from me again.”

However, one should not allow the artist’s sour grapes over bad old business quash his or her interest into digging into this deep and intricate set. You get all six takes of “Caravan”, five for “Come Running”, nine for “Glad Tidings”, a whopping 16 runs through “Mystic”. But each performance offers up their own unique perspectives of these songs, transporting the listener into those very moments inside of New York City’s A&R Studios as they were being worked out by Van in real time. Its pretty amazing to hear, especially if you cite Moondance amongst your all-time faves. Also included here are fourteen takes of the previously unheard song “I Shall Sing”, a heady a mix of jazzy soul-folk as of the ten tracks that made the final cut, as well as an outstanding cover of the 1923 Jimmy Cox Prohibition-era blues standard “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”. Audiophiles will surely geek out over the sound quality of the Blu-Ray Audio disc containing the original album in 5.1 surround sound, while the bookworms will surely treasure the the extensive liner notes containing essays from music journalist Alan Light and original LP engineer Elliot Scheiner.

So whether you were the grandparents or the parents or the children that grew up to the warmth of this masterful chunk of sonic banana bread, Moondance remains as vital a soundtrack for life, love and laughter as it ever has.

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