Astral Weeks showcased the stream-of-consciousness, improvisational side of Van Morrison’s music, Moondance is based around punchy R&B and concise pop songs. It’s certainly more radio friendly and accessible than Astral Weeks, but both are very strong records, documenting Morrison’s early phase. Moondance is often categorised as the first part of his “domestic trilogy”, which chronicle his life at Woodstock with his wife, singer Janet Planet, and young family.
If there’s a criticism of Moondance, it’s that it’s extremely front-loaded. Side one is packed with five outstanding compositions; the title track, where Van plays Sinatra, is the most well known, but ‘Crazy Love’ is pretty, ‘Caravan’ is jaunty, ‘Into The Mystic’ is lovely and esoteric, while ‘And It Stoned Me’ is all of the above.
The second side is far less interesting; it’s still very professional, but isn’t as evocative as the first half. There’s nothing below par; it’s just that the album suffers from placing its five best and more distinctive pieces on the first side; ‘Brand New Day’ is strong, while ‘Everyone’ is redeemed by a fine clavinet part.
The excellent songs on the first side set up a wonderful mood, and the lesser songs on the second side perpetuate that, even if they don’t stand out as individual pieces. It’s a sign of Van Morrison’s stature as an artist that he can produce two fine consecutive albums with such different focuses.