VAN MORRISON IS REPORTEDLY miffed by Warner’s decision to release an expanded version of (can we say this?) his second-best album (or is that Veedon Fleece? Your call). Back in July, the rotund soul man took to his website to declare that “I did not endorse this, it is unauthorised and it has happened behind my back. My management company at that time gave this music away 42 years ago and now I feel as though it’s being stolen from me again.”
Van being miffed is of course not in itself unusual. In fact it’s the contrast between his apparently permanent public apoplexy and the extraordinary tenderness he’s capable of on record that sits at the heart of the Van enigma. Vide Into The Mystic: the keynote meditation at the heart of his incredible 1970 album, Moondance.
This version, one of 11 alt. versions on a bonus disc in the dastardly Warners’ new package, is in its own way nearly as marvellous. In fact, you know that if he sang Into The Mystic 100 times he would find 100 subtle variations on its journey over the sea, back home, somewhere praeternatural and into the bosom of his lover’s “gypsy soul”. It’s one of those Van numbers that swallows all misery whole.
To this listener, Take 11 is more earthily casual than the one on the 1970 album. It lacks the twangling high acoustic guitar overdubs and cello smears that underline its misty ethereality and the bubbles of perky brass winking at the brim. But its bareness is the benefit; it’s less of a declaration for posterity, more of a conversation, perhaps in a bosky grove with toothsome contemporary squeeze, Janet Planet.
Neither version is quite certain how it wants to end. The “proper” Moondance take kind of stops – in preference, presumably, to rolling to infinity and going all Listen To The Lion. At 03.30, Take 11 chooses a different tack, and Van gets into that speaking-in-tongues mad-tramp-scat thing he does when you know he’s away with the faeries. It’s arguably the more satisfying finale.
“How was that?” Van asks at the end of the newly-revealed take. There’s only one answer to that: absolutely life-saving.
Moondance: Deluxe Edition drops on October 21. It’s available to order now on amazon and elsewhere.
PHOTO: © Elliott Landy