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Van Morrison - Astral Weeks (1968)

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by Tattoo'd Lady, Apr 3, 2010.

  1. Tattoo'd Lady

    Tattoo'd Lady Scentless Apprentice

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    okay. so is van the man pretty much dead on this forum? i never see him mentioned but he totally deserves the talk. he has crafted so many beautiful albums, but his sophomore solo effort Astral Weeks is by far his best imo.

    now i could rant on and on about how this album forms a huge coherent loop and narrative. Or how Van's lyrics evoke nonstop images and emotions while the listener simply floats through the picture he has created. But my own rambling would not do this album justice, because it is truly a great triumph in music. Instead i'll post some selections from Lester Bangs' famous essay on Astral Weeks because he really gets it, and can get to the core of this album like no one else.




    Astral Weeks by Lester Bangs from "Stranded" (1979)

    "Van Morrison's Astral Weeks was released ten years, almost to the day, before this was written. It was particularly important to me because the fall of 1968 was such a terrible time: I was a physical and mental wreck, nerves shredded and ghosts and spiders looming and squatting across the mind. My social contacts had dwindled to almost none; the presence of other people made me nervous and paranoid. I spent endless days and nights sunk in an armchair in my bedroom, reading magazines, watching TV, listening to records, staring into space. I had no idea how to improve the situation and probably wouldn't have done anything about it if I had.

    "Astral Weeks would be the subject of this piece - i.e., the rock record with the most significance in my life so far - no matter how I'd been feeling when it came out. But in the condition I was in, it assumed at the time the quality of a beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk; what's more, it was proof that there was something left to express artistically besides nihilism and destruction. (My other big record of the day was White Light/White Heat.) 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

    "I don't really know how significant it might be that many others have reported variants on my initial encounter with Astral Weeks. I don't think there's anything guiding it to people enduring dark periods. It did come out at a time when a lot of things that a lot of people cared about passionately were beginning to disintegrate, and when the self-destructive undertow that always accompanied the great sixties party had an awful lot of ankles firmly in it's maw and was pulling straight down. so, as timeless as it finally is, perhaps Astral Weeks was also the product of an era. Better think that than ask just what sort of Irish churchwebbed haints Van Morrison might be product of. "




    "Cale's story might or might not be true - but facts are not going to be of much use here in any case. Fact: 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 is a precious and terrible gift, born of a terrible truth, because what they see is both infinitely beautiful and terminally horrifying: the unlimited human ability to create or destroy, according to whim. It's no Eastern mystic or psychedelic vision of the emerald beyond, nor is it some Baudelairean perception of the beauty of sleaze and grotesquerie. Maybe what it boiled down to is one moment's knowledge of the miracle of life, with its inevitable concomitant, a vertiginous glimpse of the capacity to be hurt, and the capacity to inflict that hurt.

    "Transfixed between pure rapture and anguish. Wondering if they may not be the same thing, or at least possessed of an intimate relationship. In "T.B. Sheets", his last extended narrative before making this record, Van Morrison watched a girl he loved die of tuberculosis. the song was claustrophobic, suffocating, mostrously powerful: "innuendos, inadequacies, foreign bodies." A lot of people couldn't take it; the editor of this book has said that it's garbage, but I think it made him squeamish. Anyway, the point is that certain parts of Astral Weeks - "Madame George," "Cyprus Avenue" - take the pain in "T.B. Sheets" and root the world in it. Because the pain of watching a loved one die of however dread a disease may be awful, but it is at least something known, in a way understood, in a way measureable and even leading somewhere, because there is a process: sickness, decay, death, mourning, some emotional recovery. But the beautiful horror of "Madame George" and "Cyprus Avenue" is precisely that the people in these songs are not dying: we are looking at life, in its fullest, and what these people are suffering from is not disease but nature, unless nature is a disease. "





    These words are only a small part of a brilliant essay that really gets to the core and truth that is Astral Weeks. it recognizes it as a musical achievement that doesn't come very often. a musical piece that is more than music. and you can find the rest of his essay here. (PS: i strongly urge you to read the rest)

    my recommendation? buy this album and never look back. take 45 minutes out of your day to simply sit there and be immersed into images and visions and emotions that are riddled throughout this album.

    [​IMG]

    Side One - "In the Beginning"
    1. Astral Weeks
    2. Beside You
    3. Sweet Thing
    4. Cyprus Avenue

    Side Two - "Afterwards"
    1. The Way Young Lovers Do
    2. Madame George
    3. Ballerina
    4. Slim Slow Slider
     
  2. LG

    LG Fade To Black

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    I like Van Morrison, but I don't know enough about him to do him justice. A friend of mine on another board did the best Van Morrison thread I have ever read, I would not even be able to touch the quality and passion he has for this artist.

    Astral Weeks is essential if you like Van, Moondance is my personal favorite.

    Very well done Tattoo'd Lady.:grinthumb
     
  3. Magic

    Magic Woman of the World

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    :clap:

    Well done Tatoo'd. I know absolutely nothing about Van Morrison and have skipped over his music for some odd reason. I cant say it is bad or good because to be completely honest, I would have to listen to it first.

    Seeing your review has such passion for him, I will give him a spin :tup:
     
  4. Tattoo'd Lady

    Tattoo'd Lady Scentless Apprentice

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    Astral Weeks is definitely the album to get. Moondance is very great too and its different, but there's something about the cohesive sound and vibe from Astral Weeks that really sets it apart. its a rare kind of album
     
  5. eberg15101

    eberg15101 Senior Member

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    nice review, or article find, either way.. nice thread:tup:
    I only have a greatest hits collection from Van Morrison, I'll put this one of the never ending list though:D
     
  6. Magic

    Magic Woman of the World

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    Hey, I do know some of his music! Amazing how threads like this will jog the ole memory :)

    Astral Weeks is some good stuff, Tatoo'd. I also got Moondance while I was at it....along with a greatest hits, too.

    Sweet Thing
     
  7. Tattoo'd Lady

    Tattoo'd Lady Scentless Apprentice

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    yeah! i love sweet thing, although my favorite songs are probably the title track and the closing number, Slim Slow Slider
     
  8. Magic

    Magic Woman of the World

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    Actually the whole album is good. :tup:
     
  9. jackory

    jackory The NEW King of Pop

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    Astral Weeks definitely Van's greatest moment. You just can't follow up a masterwork like this, no matter how talented you are. "Sweet Thing" is about as close to a perfect song as any I can think of just now. I really should listen to it again soon.
     
  10. Kink Floyd

    Kink Floyd Senior Member

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    Re: Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

    Love Van and Astral Weeks. Haven't heard it in years, but it's a beautiful album and an anomaly for its time.
     

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