Monday, May 18, 2020

Albums That Defined My Musical Tastes – Van Morrison’s “Moondance”

Does anybody remember the sex scene in the movie “An American Werewolf in London”? I think it was probably the first movie sex scene I saw as a kid, but I was so young I probably didn’t even know what was going on. But I do remember loving the song that was playing in the background while they were rubbing up against each other in the steamy shower, although it took me years to figure out what song it was. You see, this was in the days before the internet, so you couldn’t just go to Google and type “song playing during sex scene in werewolf movie” and BANG, the answer magically appears. I didn’t realize at the time that you could wait until the ending credits to see the song names, so many years went by before I figured it out. It was “Moondance” by Van Morrison.

While there is no doubt that “Moondance” is a magnificent album, I feel that the greatest song ever written and performed in the history of mankind is on this album. “Into the Mystic” is a magical song and one that takes me on a spiritual journey every time I hear it. It’s a song about religion. It’s a song about sailing. It’s a song about enduring love. It’s a song about longing, but also hope. It is a song about death. The bass line is gorgeous, the piano is sparse but perfectly placed, the vocals are heartfelt and true, and there are maracas and horns, and guitar fingerpicking throughout, with simple guitar strumming layered in. The drums are understated and perfect, including the beautiful rhythm on the symbol at the start of the song that makes you feel like you are embarking on a long, difficult journey, but are ready for it. The mixing is incredible and there are sounds coming at you from all directions, at just the right time. The song builds, and grows thicker, and by the end instead of wanting for more, you feel fulfilled. If you are down, it lifts you up and carries you forward. If you are feeling good, it makes you feel better. When I listen to this song all my pain and worries drift away and I’m left with a sense of stillness. This is the song I want to be played at my funeral.

And Van Morrison did all this in three minutes and twenty-six seconds.

This discovery led me to purchase several Van Morrison albums (including the indescribable “Astral Weeks”), but also music from “Them”, his original band, whose monster hit songs like “Gloria”, “Brown Eyed Girl”, and “Here Comes The Night” really brought Van Morrison to prominence.  But the greatest impact the bluesy/soul/gospel/folk music of Van Morrison had on me was leading me into the world of jazz where I discovered the music of the jazz masters like Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and John Coltrane, but also newer jazz influenced artists - especially Sade, who holds a prominent place in our family playlists. I’ve never become a hip cat, daddy-o, jazz buff that can list off the best jazz percussionists or saxophone players by memory, but I do love the genre, and if you’ve ever joined us for dinner at our home, you are well acquainted with Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” album whether you knew it or not, as that is my go-to standard for dinner party music.

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