Van Morrison, Moondance, Warner Brothers WS-1835, 1970
Sometimes a remarkable album comes out by someone you’d least expect from. Yes, Van Morrison had made bit of a name for himself as the lead singer of Them, and with a slightly bubblegum-ish 1967 hit single, Brown Eyed Girl. But who knew he had THIS in him? Brown Eyed Girl was a big enough hit that he got a major label deal with Warner Brothers, and Morrison spent most of 1968 preparing his Warner’s debut, Astral Weeks. It was a very jazzy and abstract record that was a hit with musicians and critics but didn’t really sell.
Moondance was the follow-up, and Morrison spent most of 1969 writing and recording it in Woodstock New York. When a half million hippies rolled into town, Morrison left for the city where he finished the record. Dropping a needle on side one, the record opens with And It Stoned Me, a song that literally jumps out at you. From there, you’re drawn in deeper and deeper until it ends. Crazy Love, Moondance, and Into The Mystic are classics of their-or any other-era. Yes, I love this record.
Oddly, there were no hit singles from Moondance. Come Running and Crazy Love were both released as singles, but neither charted. For some bizarre reason, Moondance was released as a single at the height of the Disco era in 1977, when it climbed all the way to #92. The album only reached #29 on the charts, but despite failing in all of the traditional measures of a hit album, Moondance still sold over three million copies. It has probably never been out of print. Naturally, I held out for an original Warner Brothers copy, with its gatefold cover and extensive liner notes.
Cost: $7, $19 Remaining
Joni Mitchell, Blue, Reprise MS-2038, 1971
This is a very highly rated album with both critics and record buyers. It’s #30 in the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums of all time if that appeals to you. Of course, you’ll have to get past Joni Mitchell’s singing voice, which is very much an acquired taste. While I happen to love this album, others would prefer listening to car alarms or animals in pain.
The stand out track is California, which naturally enough was written in France. James Taylor, who was Ms. Mitchell’s love interest at the time, plays guitar on it. Like the rest of the album, it is so direct and honest that it’s almost feels like fiction, but this all really happened in real life. As such, and despite both Carey and California being released as singles, neither was a hit on AM radio.
But for $3, what does it matter? Trust the Best Of lists and listen to this record. Don’t compare the voice to another vocalist you like. Listen to the words and the incomparable songwriting, it will grow on you. And then you’ll get what Blue is all about. As Alan Rickman says to Emma Thompson in Love, Actually “To continue your emotional education”.
Cost: $3, $55 Remaining
Carole King, Tapestry, Ode SP-77009, 1971
This one is easy to fall in love with. This is Sunday morning tea making music, rainy afternoon music, and Friday afternoon heading out of town music, all rolled up into one. This is a most essential album, and luckily for anyone who wants one, it is easily available. Tapestry is #36 on the latest Top 500 Albums Of All Time list from Rolling Stone, yet it’s the only one you’ll find that places that high in neat mint condition for under $5. Chalk that up to virtually every woman alive in 1971 buying and cherishing this album.
Tapestry has hits past (Natural Woman and Will You Love Me Tomorrow) present (It’s Too Late and So Far Away) and future (You’ve Got A Friend). But I almost feel that the non hits are why this record stayed on the Top 200 for 313 weeks. Songs like Beautiful, Home Again, and Smackwater Jack are what really make Tapestry so great.
There’s no need to rush out and buy the first copy of this you see. 25 million copies sold mean that the near mint copy of your dreams is out there waiting for you. Until you find it, flip through your Aunt’s record collection or hit a garage sale for a placeholder.
Cost: $4, $129 Remaining