Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Some songs have the capacity to weave a legacy greater than simply a sum of their constituent parts. “Into the Mystic” is one such song. It isn’t necessarily the best song Van Morrison has ever constructed, but somehow it strikes chords heavier than it first seems to hit. Prefacing and pre-empting Morrison’s classic mid period of dreamy treatises on humanity and higher powers, all spiritual quests and transcendentalism, “Into the Mystic” actually appears on 1970’s Moondance, that almost most commercial of his works, the follow-up to the way more cerebral Astral Weeks. But for all the FM-friendliness of many of the songs, go read the lyrics, and Van is as philosophical as he ever has been. “Into the Mystic” proves to be the epitome, a yearning hymn to the seeking of an understanding of the cosmos, within and without the body and world.
The first draft was entitled “Into the Misty”; we can be grateful he took a pen through that, the meaning so less, well, cosmic in that phrase, and so more earthbound. The effect of the song is in no small part down to the superlative musicians then at his command, and the consummate arrangements, with the guitar, keyboards, and sax of John Platania, Jef Labes, and Jack Schroer, respectively, exquisite and never bettered subsequently. Even better than the studio take is that on 1974 live opus It’s Too Late To Stop Now, with the same musicians, and a stellar string section, still a high-water mark for live recordings by anyone.
Mind you, the vocals are pretty damn good too.