Saturday, March 19, 2011

Van Morrison: Moondance

Name a song that received a considerable amount of airplay with the release of the album but was not released as a single until seven years after the fact. Well you know from the title that I am talking about the title cut of Van Morrison’s third LP for Warner Brothers – “Moondance.” How did it do, not very well chart wise – it peaked at #92 on the singles charts in 1977 – so, I guess it qualifies as a real bubbling under tune.

It is said that Van Morrison wrote the melody line of “Moondance” while playing soprano sax and then came up with the lyrics. Opinions differ on whether the song is jazz or jazz influenced – I say yes. There’s not a bad part of this tune. I love the horns, walking bass, piano accompaniment and solo, the flute, and saxophone solo. It is one of the several cuts (like "Into the Mystic," "Crazy Love," and "Caravan") that make the album “Moondance” one of the best in Van Morrison’s discography.

I love playing this song on the mandolin. Its structure in Am makes it an easy progression to mimic. The idea of playing it on mandolin was not original. In 1982, I attended a bluegrass festival in Bruceton Mills, WV. One of the last bands of the evening was a group from Forest Hills, Pennsylvania near where I lived as a child. In fact, my first traffic violation (running a red light) occurred in Forest Hills in 1974 when I ran a red light.

Back to the story, this band did the traditional bluegrass fare ala “Salty Dog” and others until the very last song. They introduced the next song as something different and they proceeded to play a mesmerizing version of “Moondance” as the bluegrass purist crowd booed them off the stage. I thought they sounded great with their treatment of this classic album cut from 1970. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the band’s name – but I can do on better, I can feature Van Morrison’s original.

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