How Van Morrison’s Trust Made ‘Moondance’ Magic
Acclaimed session musician Gary Mallaber recalled how Van Morrison’s trust in his musicians helped make his breakthrough 1970 album Moondance such a success.
The LP helped cement Morrison’s reputation as a singer-songwriter and included the radio staples “Caravan,” “Into the Mystic, “Come Running” and the title track. But the bandleader’s approach to studio work is something that might surprise people, as Mallaber told Uncle Joe Benson on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show.
“Van approached music more like a jazz artist than a rock or R&B artist,” said the multi-instrumentalist, who played drums, percussion and vibraphone on the LP. “He would really just let things be; he relied on the musicians to interpret. Anything premeditated – none of that existed.
“There’s another thing I tell people, and it’s a little hard for them to believe, especially in today’s recording world: The takes were chosen by vocal take, not by band take. Van never went back in and sang a lead vocal again. So the takes on Moondance were [chosen by Morrison saying,] ‘I wanna take that take because I like my vocal on it.’"
Mallaber noted that "people are a little overwhelmed by that. They go, ‘You mean you didn’t do the band track and then you came back and sang?’ ‘No, the band track was established by the vocal track.’”
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