Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
I must have heard Van Morrison for the first time when I was very young, maybe 6 or 7. It was probably “Moondance” or “Wild Night,” the only songs that would’ve been played on the Top 40 radio stations at the time. By the time I was actively listening to “Rock Radio” (WPLJ and WNEW, both FM stations in New York) in the late 70s, I started hearing songs like “Domino,” “Tupelo Honey,” “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)” and “Caravan.” Slowly I realized he was more than just those two songs I heard in my parents’ car.
I’m guessing I was about 12 or 13 when I bought the Moondance album, and it was like nothing I had heard before. At the time I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, Stevie Wonder, Kiss, Yes, The Cars, The Kinks, etc. Sure, those seem like pretty obvious choices for a kid barely into his teens in the late-70s, but they each offered their own unique sound. Moondance was no exception. In fact, it helped broaden my musical horizons, as I was drawn to its mystical, jazzy, hippy, poetic vibe. Even the record sleeve was different than anything I had ever seen. Who’s this serious-looking bearded fellow on the front cover? And who’s this Janet Planet? It all seemed so far-removed from what I had been exposed to, but that drew me even closer. That’s the joy of being young & open-minded (at least, musically speaking).
Moondance is an album I came to love very quickly, and although people often say they’re sick of the title track because it’s overplayed, I’ve never tired of it…even after playing the song many times with my college band.
For some reason, I didn’t buy another Van Morrison album until I was out of college. Sure, I would hear songs here & there, but there was never one particular album that drew me. I got the sense that each album had one or two good songs & the rest were filler, so the next album for me was, predictably, 1990’s The Best Of Van Morrison. That introduced me to at least a dozen songs I hadn’t heard before, and after numerous times playing that CD, I began accumulating his entire back catalog. That continued through 2006’s Pay The Devil, which is the most recent album of his that I own.
Other than Moondance and that Best Of CD, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to any of his albums more than 3 times. I distinctly recall really loving several albums: Tupelo Honey, Enlightenment, Hymns To The Silence and Down The Road. A few others I remember enjoying, like Saint Dominic’s Preview, Into The Music, the live album It’s Too Late To Stop Now… and The Philosopher’s Stone (compilation of rarities). Yet I couldn’t have a conversation about any of these albums without needing to look up the track listing, and even then I would have forgotten many of the songs. Now, after I re-listen to these albums, writing down my thoughts about them and doing some research, I hope to know these albums a lot better and I look forward to discussing them with you.
Now I’m off to listen to a cluster of his early albums: His Band And The Street Choir, Tupelo Honey, Saint Dominic’s Preview, the Bang Masters compilation, and Moondance. I’ll check in soon.