Monday, October 21, 2013

Van Morrison - Moondance Expanded Edition (Warner Brothers, 1970, 2013)

Moondance was Van Morrison’s third album as a leader, and was a follow up to the timeless Astral Weeks. Whereas that album was about the spiritual side of Morrison’s work, this album represents the earthier, flesh and blood side. Originally released in 1970, it was extremely well received and became a staple on the emerging FM album oriented radio format. This version is the 2CD remastered version with the original LP on one disc and a selection of alternate takes and extra tracks on the second. There is also a whopping 5CD version with many alternate takes and a BLU-RAY with high-resolution stereo and 5.1 surround sound audio of original album. The original album is nonpareil, ranging from the iconic title track with it’s jazzy arrangement for piano and saxophone to the driving rhythm and blues of “Caravan” and “Glad Tidings.” The album shows the range of music and lyrics that Morrison was capable of from the falsetto laden ballad “Crazy Love” to the introspective and allegorical songs “And It Stoned Me” and “Into the Mystic.” If the original album is flawless, the disc of alternate takes and extras is surprisingly good. While it is interesting to see the band experiment with different arrangements on the alternate takes, there are a couple of rhythm and blues performances that do not show up on the finished LP that are worthy of note. “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” was contemporaneously covered very well by Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos band, but Morrison’s version is no slouch either, hinting at the loneliness and pathos of the famous version by Bessie Smith. “I’ve Been Working” would show up on a subsequent album and would be a staple of Morrison’s live recordings for years to come. Soulful and horn driven, it makes for a powerful performance. This 2CD version is a good deal for Morrison fans, although be aware the he does not support the release (fourth paragraph) of any version. It presents an exquisite version of a classic album and then a selection of rarities that place the original album in context. Moondance Expanded Edition - amazon.com

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