Astral Weeks Review

artist: Van Morrison date: 03/11/2014 category: compact discs
Van Morrison: Astral Weeks
Released: Nov, 1968
Genre: Folk Rock, Singer-Songwriter
Label: Warner Bros
Number Of Tracks: 8
"Astral Weeks" was Van Morrison's first solo album, and is today held as an underrated folk classic.
 Sound: 9.5
 Lyrics: 9.5
 Overall Impression: 9
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overall: 9
Astral Weeks Reviewed by: jimmydvn, on september 25, 2013
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: "Astral Weeks" was Van Morrison's first solo album, and is today held as an underrated folk classic. So what does it sound like? It's sparse, very sparse, to the point that sometimes you don't even register that instruments are playing behind Van's voice. In all the songs we have an acoustic guitar and a bass - they're fleshed out with pipes, percussion, strings and brass, though never all at once. The music is hard to explain: it is neither tranquil nor chaotic, mainly resting somewhere in between. "The Way Young Lovers Do" is a great example: it starts gently and sneaks up on you, culminating in a jazzy trumpet solo rising above a pumping, crazy bass and a skillfully disorganised drum pattern. The production is average, as you'd expect from a '60s record, and sometimes it's difficult to pull individual instruments out of the haze. All in all though, the musicians create a perfect gypsy-jazz-folk backdrop for Van that never obstructs the main attraction, the lyrics. // 9

Lyrics: The lyrics are for a certain type of person. If you can't stomach lines such as "Clicking, clacking of the high heeled shoe / Ford & Fitzroy, Madame George / Marching with the soldier boy behind / He's much older with his hat on drinking wine" then stop reading now, as it won't get any better for you. The lyrics are poetry, genuine poetry - it's an overused expression, but on this album Van Morrison really transcended the cheap second-hand lyrics that were standard fare for a rock song at that time, and still are. The words read like an Irish Allen Ginsberg poem, without the profanity. The lyrics are the most important thing in the album; clearly Van doesn't give a toss about regular line lengths or rhyme patterns if they would mean adapting the words, and sings straight through. Morrison found a way of singing so uniquely in the same way as Dylan and Joe Strummer, that nobody can emulate, and molds the songs to fit the ragged phrasing of his words. A brilliant voice singing brilliant words - perfect. // 10

Overall Impression: The closest album to "Astral Weeks" (outside of Van's other work) would be "The Wild, Innocent and E-Street Shuffle" by Bruce Springsteen, but only in certain ways. Bruce was influenced by Van in his early years and it shows, but though the albums share similar jazzy music and Beat lyrics "Astral Weeks" is much quieter, calmer, more mature. If you've come for a "Brown Eyed Girl" or a "Gloria" you won't find it here, because this is as arty, as confusing as Van Morrison ever got. There's no single, no key song you can pick out of the album, as it must be heard as one, and everyone has a different favourite. I've given the album a 8/10 because "Astral Weeks" really isn't for every mood, it's not something you can listen to every day: sometimes I think it's really boring and can't get through thirty seconds. However, if you're in that elusive "right mood," there's nothing better. Give it a listen, you might even enjoy it. // 8

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overall: 9.7
Astral Weeks Reviewed by: benthegrunge, on march 11, 2014
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Released in the winter that followed the summer of love, "Astral Weeks" is the seminal second album of Northern Irish superstar Van Morrison, and perhaps his biggest contribution to music. The album was made by musicians who had never met and were without sheet music, which contributed to the free-flowing, improvisational manner of the many lead parts on the album. 

Not only is every track beautiful, but even every instrument. Fluttering acoustic lead lines, swinging double bass slides, tooting, whistling and chirping flutes and heart tickling harpsichord - these are the album's staple. "The Way Young Lovers Do" stands out as different for having more of a jazz feel and hi-hat driven rhythm that feels like a glimpse into later hit "Moondance." Otherwise the album is somewhat in the vein of a more aggrandised Neil Young or Bob Dylan. The arrangements grow into elaborate tapestries that really bend the mind and can't help conjuring images of the hippies, sitting in fields and around campfires, smoking pot and feeling free. Van Morrison is so free in his compositions; changes are imaginative and unpredictable, each instrument is given its chance to step into the foreground, speak, and then bow out for another. For this reason I would argue that that the arrangements are not overkill. They are cluttered but in a stimulating way, offering multiple storylines that run concurrently. // 10

Lyrics: The songs are often mystical in nature, pointing to the enormous mystery of what is being observed in this life, and its defiant refusal to be pinned down. Van Morrison impels us to "never ever wonder why it has to be." Van Morrison's signature vocals are raw and emotionally charged, yet there is no strain to achieve this. "Beside You" chronicles a disenfranchised runaway named Johnny, "wrapped up in a magic shroud" with "scraps stuck with glue," a perfect song to capture the hippy emotion and those who find religious experience without religion. // 9

Overall Impression: Despite being voted album of the year by Rolling Stone, "Astral Weeks" did not storm the charts and is a major stone left unturned by plenty of hard-line music fans. Van Morrison was only twenty-four at the time of recording, and many say he never touched this standard again. One criticism could be that the album is somewhat uniform in it's style - although some tracks have more space, there is no solo acoustic. Other than "The Way Young Lovers Do," every song utilises a similar down tempo that crescendos as the instruments become more intense and Van Morrison's vocal turns into passionate cries. My favourite is "Beside You," but not track really stands out from the pack as one you would skip the others for. The album can be pigeonholed as a lazy Sunday afternoon listen - but it is the perfect album of this kind, and lovers of pure musicality will be enthralled. Students of sixties culture and the hippy movement have no excuse. // 10

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