Album Review: Moondance [Deluxe Edition] by Van Morrison
Very Good, Based on 4 Critics
Record Collector - 100 Based on rating 5/5
Ostensibly the most nostalgic of songwriters, Van Morrison has resisted attempts to archive his back catalogue; a succession of remastering programmes have bitten the dust or emerged in a most illogical manner. So there was cause for rejoicing when the Moondance package was announced: a 4CD-plus-Blu-ray box comprising the remastered original of the 1970 album that brought him acclaim, and all the trimmings. You get works-in-progress, mono mixes and alternates, the lure of Van’s first stabs at “Irish folk song” I’ve Been Working (completed for His Band And The Street Choir), calypso and ska version(s) of I Shall Sing (a hit for Art Garfunkel) and the unreleased Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, a prohibition-era blues song penned by Jimmy Cox and popularised by Bessie Smith.
"Here we go to the main course!" ad-libs Van Morrison on an extended "Caravan," one of the shaggy outtakes on this fi ve-disc unpacking of the Belfast bard's 1970 jazzy-pop masterpiece. That LP is nearly all main course, and if the numerous alternate takes here often feel incomplete without their sublime, brassy final arrangements, they compensate with intimacy – see "Into the Mystic," take 11, mainly just Morrison and acoustic guitar. The set's grail is the long-lost outtake "I Shall Sing," a Caribbean-style confection that became a signature for many (Miriam Makeba, Judy Mowatt, Art Garfunkel).
How much of a good thing is too much..?“It’s too late to stop now,” sang Van Morrison on Moondance in 1970, and he was right: here we are again in its aura, drawn back like wanderers to the light of an inn. Recorded when he and his wife Janet (pregnant with their daughter, Shana) lived in the mountains near Woodstock, Moondance was the third LP in a solo career that stretches to this day. Morrison had already made his first masterpiece, Astral Weeks, and was assiduously cultivating his five-decade grudge against those he deemed the enemies of his music.
Deluxe? Sure. Necessary? Probably not. Expanded, overhauled and otherwise overloaded, this five platter, beautifully appointed and annotated Moondance set is the very definition of bloated. It features three packed discs of outtakes, rehearsals, mono remixes, working cuts and the like, most never meant to see the light of day.