10 career-altering third albums from bands in the 1960s and '70s

Things changed for these groups with their third full-length releases.

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MOONDANCE by Van Morrison (1970)

There are some fans who consider Van Morrison’s second album, Astral Weeks, his true masterpiece. I’m not one of those fans. There is no denying the ambition and the creativity involved in creating Astral Weeks, but it plays to a narrow audience.

Morrison would never give up his love of jazz and free-from song cycles that he played with on Astral Weeks, but the fact is that most of his subsequent career drifted closer to the blues-rock of Them, his first popular band. He really cemented that style with his follow-up, Moondance.

To be sure, there are still plenty of jazzy influences. From the very first cut, “And It Stoned Me,” Morrison is finding ways to blend those jazz influences with more standard pop melodies. It worked.

Moondance rose into the top 30 on the US albums chart, paving the way for a run of top 30 albums throughout the 1970s. Moondance is chockful of great singles, from the impossibly catchy title track to the gossamer beauty of “Crazy Love, from the jazzy “Caravan” to the gospel rock of “Come Running,” these were sophisticated songs that were also popular, a pattern that Morrison would replicate throughout his heyday.