EXPERIENCE ROCK HISTORY!
VAN MORRISON – ASTRAL WEEKS – August 1968
The BEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME?
If we can put Sgt. Pepper’s to the side for a moment and really look and listen to what music, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the essence of what moves us, touches our soul and transcends genres and realize what is truly iconic, historic and pleasurable to our senses, then Astral Weeks is easily Number One.
1968 was a tumultuous year, the highs and lows were historic, and in the midst of all of this Van Morrison released an album whose title really lived up to the music it represented.
Now I’m admittedly a huge fan of him from his days as the leader of “Them” and I already had a symbiotic connection with the Voice and the Songs that he produced – as far as I’m concerned Them is the Best Rock Album of All Time – really. That means that he really is “Van the Man” –
I mean THE MAN!
So when Astral Weeks was released I went out and bought it straight-away because I knew it would be great – but I never thought that it would affect me as it did and still does.
Here is an album that defied genres, much in the way that Love/Arthur Lee’s “Forever Changes” album did only I must say this even went deeper.
Any kid at 17 years old is going through major changes in their life and in 1968 that was tripled as we were facing not only life changing issues but life threatening ones and many life realizations that made every day wondrous, yet ominous. Astral Weeks seemed to take all of those feelings and swirled them together into a mesmerizing and beautiful concoction that touched on the prevailing vibe. In a dark, mysterious way it soothed my soul, it was as if Van removed us from all that was tumultuous and provided a spiritual and uplifting, yet melancholy, musical tide that washed over us and cleansed the bad and exemplified the good.
With the title to this LP, Van actually touched on the Astral as I’ve come to know it and allowed us all a trip like no other; tranquil, yet brooding, spiritual yet instantly memorable with rhythms, passages, lyrics, instrumentals, hooks and that Voice; pure and hip, that could Rock better than anyone and croon on a level higher than Sinatra.
Before the decades of reviews that this LP has acquired, I felt the moment I listened to both sides that this was like a continuous song – I knew it wasn’t – but when you listen it seems as though one song just morphs into another phase of the same exquisite mood yet totally different. I was not all that familiar with “stream of consciousness” at the time, I mean I was, because I was experiencing it through many drug-induced conversations with others and with myself, but as a term to be applied to music, Astral Weeks was the definitive example.
Forty-five years since its release this LP has cast a dominant creative shadow down through musical history that cannot be denied. It is as strong and influential now than nearly all the LPs released since, it is truly, truly, otherworldly music in the best sense and the fact that it was recorded within three days, of which the second day did not produce any songs that made it to the LP, speaks to the fact that this was the emergence of true genius and a blessed inspiration to music lovers and music artists then, now and forever.
All songs written by Van Morrison
- Side one
In The Beginning
- Side two
- “The Way Young Lovers Do” – 3:18
- “Madame George” – 9:45
- “Ballerina” – 7:03
- “Slim Slow Slider” – 3:20
- Van Morrison – vocals, acoustic guitar…..
- Jay Berliner – classical and steel-string acoustic guitars…..
- Richard Davis – double bass…..
- Larry Fallon – harpsichord on “Cyprus Avenue”…..
- Connie Kay – drums…..
- Barry Kornfeld – acoustic guitar on “The Way Young Lovers Do”…..
- John Payne – flute, soprano saxophone on “Slim Slow Slider”…..Warren Smith, Jr. – percussion, vibraphone
“Ain’t Nothing But A Stranger In This World”