Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I finally got around over the last ten days to listening to Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" after having ordered it months ago. Wow. It is an amazing album, his first studio album I think, recorded in 1968. Many of us are more familiar with the Van Morrison of the "Moondance" stage two years later. "Moondance" contains an almost perfect collection of refined jazz/bluesy songs, some of which are my favorite songs of all time, like "Into the Mystic" and "Brand New Day" (which I have asked to be played at my funeral!). "Astral Weeks" is entirely different. It is less refined. The songs are not as distinctive one from another. I rather think of the songs in "Astral Weeks" as being like movements in a symphony. The music is more free-form, with acoustic guitar played by Morrison, flute, violin, and a truly amazing jazz bass. The song lyrics are mysterious and soulful, deeply soulful, evocative of Morrison’s Irish roots (maybe another reason I like him – my Irish heritage). Van Morrison's voice is at once a conveyor of his lyrics, and then like an instrument itself. It is hard to pay attention in a single listen to the song lyrics, the music, and the voice as an instrument. I like the whole record; the second song, "Beside You," is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I have ever heard. This is a work that I think has a timeless quality that is not stuck in any era of music. If you have not heard it, check it out, but give it two or three listens before you decide what you think about it. It really gets under your skin.