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Music Review: Van Morrison – ‘Moondance’ Deluxe Edition (4 CDs/1 Blu-ray Audio) [Box set]

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This review is based on the streaming audio of the 4 CDs in the new deluxe edition of Van Morrison’s Moondance. The actual set includes, according to the press release, a Blu-ray audio disc “with high-resolution 48K 24 bit PCM stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound audio of original album (no video).” It also states that the CDs are “presented in a linen-wrapped folio and Includes a booklet with liner notes from Alan Light and original engineer Elliot Scheiner.”

vanmorrisonAll of that is very nice but of course the most important thing is the music. The first CD is the remastered version of the original album, which many people, including this reviewer, believe to be one of the best recordings ever made. It sounds wonderfully crisp and clear.

But the set also includes 3 discs of previously unreleased material from the sessions. What does this mean?

Well, only 13 songs are covered on this set. There are the 10 songs on Moondance plus an outtake of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “I’ve Been Working,” which came out later in 1970 on His Band and The Street Choir, and a song unreleased by Morrison called “I Shall Sing” which was a Top 40 hit for Art Garfunkel in 1973.

What accounts for the other 47 tracks? Outtakes, studio chatter and redos/alternate takes.

And that is where your level of devotion comes in. It may be interesting to listen to these songs evolve in the studio once, but after that, do you really want to hear eight takes of “Caravan,” plus two redos on a later disc, seven takes of “Into the Mystic” and “Brand New Day,” 13 takes of “I Shall Sing.” and so on? The only songs that don’t have a lot of takes or alternate versions are “Crazy Love” (one), “Moondance” (two) and “These Dreams of You” (two).

It is a tribute to Moondance and Morrison that there would even be a possible demand for this material. But even for the most devoted fan, all these takes must get repetitious and I cannot imagine there will be a great deal of replay for three of these discs. It may be that this documentation could be useful for writers and historians of pop music, but it has little value for the average fan.

For any but people who must have every available Van Morrison thing in their collection or the most completely devoted fans, it is just a matter of whether it is worth it to you to get the excellent remastered original and the Blu-ray audio disc and consider the rest of this bonus material.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.
  • Marcel

    Spot on review. Even though Van Morrison has been in my life for a long time (I am 40), I am neither a writer nor a historian so I will let this one pass me by. Can’t imagine listening to several versions of the same song in one go. I’ll get the 2-disc set instead. I just hope the remastering has been done with care. Also I read somewhere that Van hasn’t endorsed this release and he feels like the material has been stolen from him by the record company..

  • Cat Steppings

    There is also a nice two disc edition of the album, called the Expanded Edition, which has a bonus disc of 12 outtakes, including “I Shall Sing” and “I’ve been working”, in a nice double digipak case, with well done liner notes (it has an essay about the album, a bunch of photos, printed on matte finish paper, not the glossy kind). The two disc is $25 (at my local record store), or $19 on amazon. You can also buy all the songs of either set on mp3, for about half the cost. I may buy the mp3 versions of the 4 disc set, if I feel eventually inclined to hear all the different versions of these songs.

    I bought the two disc, just because the four disc set just has too much (and I do not need the blu-ray audio). I’ve bought other expanded editions from artists, and for the most part I do not listen to “outtakes” by any artist more than a few times (such as the expanded edition of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, or any of David Bowie’s extra stuff). However, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits always have really great outtakes and unreleased music. Usually there is a good reason the songs were not originally included on the original albums.

    Also, the sound of the Moondance remaster is really great so far, sounds like an improvement. At least for digital audio and koss portable headphones. It sounds “warmer” in general, and like it is mixed better.