Monday, March 09, 2009

Rock of Ages: Van Morrison - "Astral Weeks" (1968)

Sometimes music has the ability to change you. It was 2004 - 2005. Junior year of college. A friend of mine asked me to listen to a song to see what I though of it. She couldn't quite wrap her head around it and knowing that I loved music, thought that I may have known the song or may have been able to give her some sort of analysis. This song was Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" from the album of the same name. I stood in her dorm room and literally had my mind blown. I demanded hearing the song over again as I myself was wrapping my head around it's greatness. I knew the great Irishman Van Morrison from his bigger hits and his unique croon. I never really delved deep into his works as songs like "Brown Eyed Girl" annoyed me and songs like "Moondance" got raped by the radio stations in the area ("Moondance" is an incredible song, but I have to want to listen to it to enjoy it anymore.) This song literally floored me. I needed to know everything about it and everything about the album it appeared on, which is equally transcendent.

The song is stream of conscious jazzy goodness. The lyrics are about seeing life from the other side of the spectrum of the living. The music is filled with strings, jazzy upright bass, beautifully interspersed flute and acoustic guitar parts that just flurry with emotion. Van's vocal performance is revelatory and stands above the rest of his career as a crowning achievement. The emotion he drips into his beautiful poetry is nothing short of breathtaking. I am forever indebted to my friend who imparted such lush beauty upon my ears. This song would have sounded awesome if performed by Nick Drake and sounds amazing done by present day psych rockers Secret Machines, but Van Morrison gives it a voice and an expression that is at once untouchable, yet seems easy to elaborate on. Something is unique about his version that any cover or alternate version is the same song yet completely changed. It's in this attribute that the song takes on a mystique of its own and makes it truly an experience to be heard.

I apologize that I do not have a youtube video of Van doing the song. He recently played the entire Astral Weeks album at the Hollywood Bowl and youtube is only giving me other versions of the song. Kinda sucks that I can't get a version for you, humble reader. But again, I advise you to get this album without hearing it, plop it on your turntable/stereo/iPod and close your eyes and venture the slipstream with Van the Man.

Up Next: Quick stop back to 1967 with Love

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