Astral Weeks

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A list of the people who have been influenced by Van Morrison would read as a who's who of rock n roll. To be honest, I had never really heard of him until someone mentioned in passing about his influence on Bruce Springsteen. I then made the effort to listen to Van Morrison's albums, all of which are good, but the one that moved me the most was Astral Weeks.

Two quotes about the album by the great Lester Bangs sums up Astral Weeks better than I ever could;
"Van Morrison was twenty-two or twenty-three—years old when he made this record; there are lifetimes behind it. What Astral Weeks deals in are not facts but truths. Astral Weeks, insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend." 
“It sounded like the man who made Astral Weeks was in terrible pain, pain most of Van Morrison's previous works had only suggested; but like the later albums by The Velvet Underground, there was a redemptive element in the blackness, ultimate compassion for the suffering of others, and a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cut right through the heart of the work."
For me, Astral Weeks is a visual album, with Van Morrison painting pictures with words. The lyrics reverberate a place both physical and emotional. I see those places out of the corner of my eye, a still life of pain and redemption. The whole album is lit from behind and highlighted by swirling flutes & violins creating an emotional core seldom found in music.

From the opening bars of Astral Weeks to the quiet rhythms of Slim Slow Rider, I am always moved by the humanity of this album. Listen closely and you will hear a thousand songs intertwined in tight eight song set. Feeling sparse or at least minimalist, the empty spaces speak as much as those filled with music.

At once a meditation on quiet back streets and a visceral growl of truth, Astral Weeks is best listened to during a cloudy sunset, where the music can carry you to worlds of indescribable reality. Try to time it so Madame George is the song playing when the sun sets behind the hills, it's dreamy quality will fill your mind and soul.

I may have only been five years old when Astral Weeks was released, but it's music lives on in my heart, soul and mind. It is a true classic. Go find a sunset and put Astral Weeks on. It will change your life.*

*I stole that line from Almost Famous, but this is one of those albums that will have a profound effect on you.

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