A refreshing change in a week where Van is universally lauded we have P.R.Mullen's slight rant against the great man. Read his full complaint at the Classic Album Review - Life Changing Records blog.
In unusual fashion I'm going to begin by slagging Van Morrison off. Big Time. He is one selfish mother. Let me take you back to 1999. I was sixteen years old, and heavily into music. There was an advert in my local paper claiming that Van Morrison was coming to town - the genius songwriter who had penned the likes of Brown Eyed Girl, Moondance, and Gloria. I called my friend Sarah, we agreed to go, and I booked the tickets. He came on stage for forty minutes, played none of the above - in fact, played only one recognisable song in the whole gig (Have I Told You Lately That I Love You) - and strutted off without returning for an encore.
At the time, of course, I had no idea that this was unusual practice. Only later did I realise how arrogant and selfish this had been. The highlight of the gig had, in fact, been the support act, Lonnie Donnegan. He was brilliant, and I got to meet him afterwards where he signed an album for me. I had no idea at the time how important in the whole scheme of things this man was. He put a smile on my face that night though - that's how I remember him.
So, wind the clock forward a few years. 2002 to be precise. I decided to give Van Morrison another chance - the venue: Sheffield City Hall. Yet again a horrendously selfish set of obscure, inconsiderate crap. He had his own audience looking round in bemusement. For the first half an hour he hung in the shadows playing saxophone instrumentals. Nobody was there to see that. And, yet again, he kept his hits under lock and key. The man plays what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants with no consideration for his fans.
It was essential that I got that off my chest. Nevertheless, the bigger picture is this: the man is an awesome talent. That is demonstrated in no better form than his third solo album, and subsequent Grammy Hall Of Fame inductee, Moondance. Astral Weeks, the prequel to Moondance, is often cited as Morrison's masterpiece. I have bought and returned that album three times in an attempt to see what the fuss is all about. In my opinion it doesn't touch Moondance, an absolute triumph from beginning to end. And It Stoned Me - the singer's true recollection of an afternoon in his childhood - is a heartfelt, rural epic. The title track, Moondance, is one of those timeless, undying classics, with inspired lyrics: "Well it's a marvellous night for a moondance/With the stars up above in your eyes."
Crazy Love, the album highlight, is a sensual, intimate love song that bleeds warmth. Some sort of divine inspiration is surely needed to write a song like this. Caravan is the beginning of Morrison's fascination with Gypsies - a theme that still runs through his work today. The ethereal Into The Mystic is Morrison's songwriting working within new dimensions, musically and lyrically. The same beauty filters into the happiness of Come Running, These Dreams Of You is a Dylan-esque wander through random thoughts and feelings, Brand New Day a lovely, optimistic song, and Everyone a message of hope in a time of unrest (1969 had seen civil war break out in Belfast). Throughout the record Van Morrison's vocal is impeccable, and projected from the soul. A wonder to behold. The album closes with the horn-soaked Glad Tidings, another tune infused with love and optimism.
This is a wonderful, wonderful record. The sort of record you can put on when the sun is beaming down and the world will seem such a good place to be.