As summer rolls on and we contain to enjoy the warm weather and seasonal fun, it’s hard not to reminisce about the bygone summers of our youth. What made those summers so special, who we spent them with, how they stick out in our mind—such nostalgic moments are easy to recall this time of year, especially with a little musical accompaniment. A single song can help transport you back to those summer days every time you hear it. It’s the perfect time to look back on what I consider the single greatest summer album of all time; Van Morrison’s Moondance.
Like many of the other entries in out Classic Albums feature, Morrison’s great triumph didn’t come at a high point in his career, but rather when he was struggling creatively. After the commercial failure of his first solo album Astral Weeks, Morrison was really on his heels. The critics were by no means dismissive of his debut, but the Irish folk and acoustic sound of the album didn’t strike a chord with the public.
In an attempt to reimagine his sound, Morrison relocated to a quiet getaway near Woodstock, not unlike The Band before they created Music From Big Pink. He wasted no time setting to work on the follow-up album, having learned from his perceived mistakes. Morrison was no fool, and he knew what the problem was with Astral Weeks, saying, “I make albums primarily to sell them and if I get too far out a lot of people can’t relate to it. I had to forget about the artistic thing because it didn’t make sense on a practical level. One has to live.”
Morrison recruited local musicians to help out with the recording of Moondance and set about making a album of more conventional song structures. This is where he began using the jazz/blues sound that he kept using throughout his career. The result was a much cleaner and tighter album that greatly succeeded in Morrison’s hope of reaching a wide audience.
What makes it such a wonderful summer album is how it effortlessly jumps around to all the feeling one has during the great summer of their youth. It’s easy-going and relaxed, then it kicks the party into high gear, then it sweet and romantic, and, oh yes, it is nostalgic.
The album kicks off in the perfect way with the joyous and immensely fun “And It Stoned Me”. It’s an almost mystical account of one of those childhood summer days that just sort of happened and you remember for years and years afterward. Play this song while you sit on the porch on a hot day with a cold drink in your hand and see if a smile doesn’t creep across your face.