SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Van Morrison – Moondance (Deluxe Edition) – Warner Brothers/Rhino R2 536560 – (4 CDs+1 Pure Audio Blu-ray)

A unique opportunity to witness the making of Moondance in detail…

Published on November 5, 2013

Van Morrison – Moondance (Deluxe Edition) – Warner Brothers/Rhino R2 536560 – (4 CDs+1 Pure Audio Blu-ray)

Van Morrison – Moondance (Deluxe Edition) – [TrackList follows] Warner Brothers/Rhino R2 536560 – 4 CDs+1 Blu-ray (incl. original Moondance album at 48K 24 bit PCM stereo plus DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) – [10/22/13] *****:

Disc 1 & Blu-ray (original album remastered) : 38:56
Disc 2 (all previously unreleased) : 77:00
Disc 3 (all previously unreleased) : 72:24
Disc 4 (all previously unreleased) : 63:14

(Van Morrison – vocals, rhythm guitar, tambourine; Jack Schroer – alto and soprano sax; Collin Tilton – tenor sax, flute; Jeff Labes – piano, organ, clavinette; John Platania – lead and rhythm guitars; John Kleinberg – bass; Gary Malabar – drums, vibes; Guy Masson – conga drum; Emily Houston, Judy Clay, Jackie Verdell – background vocals; 5.1 surround sound mix and project remastering by Elliott Scheiner)

Van Morrison was 24 years old when Moondance was recorded. Coming on the heels of Astral Weeks, which many critics and fans consider his spiritual masterpiece, Moondance was a much bigger commercial success when it was released in 1970. It became certified triple platinum, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and found its way into the top 100 of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It remains the most well known of all of Van’s releases, which number over forty. It has the distinction of being soulful, jazzy, and with a happy polish that makes it stand out among all of Morrison’s albums. Over the years Van has developed a crustiness and distaste for the music business and record labels that comes out in his lyrics, but is not diminished by the superb musical production values found in his usage of horns, strings, and background singers that always save the day for his hardcore fans.

You will not find the angst, nor bitterness, nor even the searching for the meaning of life on Moondance. It is filled with a joyful rhythms honoring his love for the classic American music that Morrison experienced in Europe while growing up with his ear glued to the radio soaking up gospel, blues, and jazz from the States.

Those of us that have a special place in our hearts for early Van Morrison are in for a treat with the release of the expanded version of this classic album. It can be experienced as a single remaster of the original album, or an expanded 2 CD set with the remastered original and 11 previously unreleased tracks. But for the whole enchilada, the full meal deal, it is hard to pass up the Deluxe Edition with 4 CDs and a glorious high resolution Blu-ray (audio only) of the original album in the best possible sound including surround. [Though the surround field may be a disappointment to some since the original master was only eight tracks on one-inch tape with each track in mono...Ed.]  With a linen book with liner notes by Alan Light, and the original engineer Elliott Scheiner, it’s a Christmas gift that keeps giving. There are 50 (!) unreleased tracks consisting of multiple takes, early versions, outtakes, alternative versions and remixes. For Morrison fans it is not overkill, but a chance to hear Van experiment, develop new arrangements, change enunciation, and hone his craft at a relatively young age. There is a bit of conversation between Van and the recording engineers, some joking, and just a taste of grumbling.

I found it hard to argue with the master takes that made up the final issue of this album, but it is fascinating to hear some tracks without horns and his three background singers. There is even an instrumental take onboard. There are tracks where the piano is featured, and many where the guitars wail in true rock glory of the day, such as on “I’ve Been Working.” Van’s grumbling often appears to be about being in a sound booth away from the band. [Understandable, and remedied on some current recordings...Ed.] What is consistent throughout is the power of Van’s emoting, the gutsiness of his blue-eyed soul. He can turn on that bluesy swagger in a heart beat, right out of the box, virtually instantaneously.

Bonuses found here include totally different takes of “I’ve Been Working” than found on His Band and Street Choir, where this track was originally released. We also get to soak in the unheard track, “I Shall Sing” in many takes. Morrison never released this number, and it first showed up on an Art Garfunkel 1973 solo release. Fans of “Caravan” will find it covered here ten times including the master take. Each has its delights, and some bring to mind his ultimate version done with The Band on the film The Last Waltz.

Elliott Scheiner, the original engineer, and remastering guru here, explains in his liner notes that the original album was recorded in eight-track, one-inch analog tape (the newest format at the time) with one track for drums, one for bass, one for guitar, and one for keyboards. Van’s vocal was recorded on one track, his guitar on another, background vocals on another and the last track for the horns. Every instrument was recorded in mono, with the resulting final mix in stereo. The polish and sheen (even before today’s remastering ) has been obvious for years, and helped with the mystique of this album, like a rose opening up in layers, with such sweet fragrance.

Go ahead, buy the deluxe version. You know you want it, if you are a fan of Van the Man….

TrackList:

Disc One – Original Album Remaster:
And It Stoned Me, Moondance, Crazy Love, Caravan, Into the Mystic, Come Running, These Dreams of You, Brand New Day, Glad Tidings

Disc Two – Previously Unreleased:
What Do We Call This Van, Caravan (Takes 1-8), I’ve Been Working (Early Version, Takes 1,2,5), Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out (outtake), I Shall Sing (Takes 1-13)

Disc Three – Previously Unreleased:
Into the Mystic (Takes 10-17), Brand New Day (Takes 1-7), Glad Tidings (Takes 1-4, 7-9), Caravan Redo (Takes 1-3)

Disc Four – Previously Unreleased:
Come Running (Takes 1-5), Moondance (Takes 21-22), Glad Tidings (alt version), These Dreams of You (alt version), Crazy Love (remix), Glad Tidings (Remix 1-3), Caravan (remix), These Dreams of You (remix), I Shall Sing (mix)

Disc Five – Blu-ray Pure Audio disc with 2.0 & 5.1-channel tracks

—Jeff Krow




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