My attempt to blog all of the entries from the book 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Brief Background: Astral Weeks was recorded over three sessions in the fall of 1968 and was released in November of the same year. Morrison had performed the songs live with flautist John Payne, but the rest of the instrumentalist on the album had never played with Morrison. Those instrumentalists were given no direction and just told to go were the music takes them. Many of the songs were done in the first take with the only overdubs being horns. Morrision described the recording of the album as an act of desperation, as he had no money and only limited studio time. In other words, the album had no big plan or meaning, many of the songs were chosen as the session went along. The album is almost universally praised as one of the greatest ever.
What I think: Van Morrison is one of, if not, my favorite musicians. He has his own genre of music, it’s a mix of jazz, blues, soul, rock, folk, and mysticism. This is were that started for him, were he was able to finally record what he wanted to. And while this isn’t his most accessible album (my favorite is Tupelo Honey, probably because of the greater accessibility), it rewards the listener for spending time with it. Don’t try to find a grand meaning in it though… it’s not a concept album. It’s an experience so sit back and enjoy and fall into… remember the recording wasn’t planned and was based on how things felt, that is how you should listen to it.
It’s really hard to pick favorite tracks here, but I myself feel all of the songs on side one are the strongest with “Beside You” (which has a Bang Sessions version that is an outtake from Blowin’ Your Mind that seems to get panned, but I love the organ on it and the emotion in Morrison’s voice. That version doesn’t fit on this album, but is still magnificent in its own right) and “Sweet Thing” probably slightly edging out the rest. On a final note, “The Way Young Lovers Do” gets crap for being the only song out of place here… I think it fits just fine. I like how it switches up the mood a little bit.
Do I agree or disagree with the writers as to this being an album you must listen to? There is no question that this should be here… it may not be my favorite from Morrison, but it’s really high on the list, in which he is really high on my list of being the best ever.
Rating (Out of 5): 5
Amazon Review (Out of 5): 4.5
Is this my first time hearing this album? No (30/139)
Percentage of Albums that are new to me: 78%