Van Morrison Is More Than ‘Astral Weeks’—and He Damn Well Knows It

Astral Weeks turns 50 this month. What a record. Lester Bangs, in perhaps the greatest piece of rock criticism ever written, poetically referred to the 1968 Van Morrison album as a ‘beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk.’ Greil Marcus, less poetically, called it ‘a profoundly intellectual album,’ and meant it as a compliment. Both would agree that Astral Weeks is one of the best 47-minute pieces of music ever created. A landmark in the fusion of rock and jazz. A masterpiece. But you’ve probably heard people talk about how great Astral Weeks is more than the album itself. Van Morrison’s next record, 1970’s Moondance, is far more popular; if you were sexually active in the late 20th century, Van Morrison likely howled ‘I wanna rock your Gypsy soul!’ at least once during an intimate moment. Given the album’s elevated position in the rock canon, it can be difficult to find your own place in Astral Weeks, to discern it with a personal filter rather than via the plaudits of celebrated rock critics. Can anyone in 2018 queue up ‘Madame George’ for the first time and just hear a song, and not every thinkpiece ever written about it? Astral Weeks might very well be Van Morrison’s most essential LP, but it’s a problematic entry point. … What Van couldn’t (or wouldn’t) accept is that the messianic pub rock that he perfected in the early ’70s on albums like 1970’s His Band and the Street Choir and 1972’s Saint Dominic’s Preview was readily available to others because he himself had long since abandoned it. Hell, he had forsaken that music, right when the rest of the world caught up with it. For as much credit as Bob Dylan and Neil Young get for their anticommercial contrarianism, nobody is more perverse than Van Morrison. Dylan and Young reacted to middle age by, respectively, going Christian and antagonizing David Geffen; Morrison made a half-instrumental record that sounds like a cross between traditional Irish music and Roxy Music’s Avalon, and dedicated it to L. Ron Hubbard. It’s not a shock that consumers opted instead for ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ …”
The Ringer (Video), YouTube: Astral Weeks (2015 Remaster)
Astral Weeks – Lester Bangs
A Moment in Time: Van Morrison & Astral Weeks (Video)
Discogs (Video), amazon: Astral Weeks (Expanded & Remastered)
W – His Band and the Street Choir, amazon, YouTube: His Band and the Street Choir

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