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Van Morrison Album by Album Discussion: Part 1 (1968-1977)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by DJ WILBUR, Sep 25, 2007.

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  1. gohill

    gohill Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow, UK
    I think this album may almost fall into the category of something that is perhaps easier to admire than to truly love. Its such an intense and substantial piece of work that its often hard to get right into the depths of it. It throws out so many challenges. In a way i think its the musical equivalent of James Joyce's Ulysses. One of the greatest works in its own idiom but there's so many layers and levels both musically and lyrically that you can spend years listening to it but it can still elude you. I find Moondance ,Veedon Fleece and Saint Dominics Preview more enjoyable from a pure pleasurable listening point of view but this is his major artistic statement. I'll never tire of Madame George or Cypress Avenue, never tire of wondering what he is trying to get at, never tire of figuring how the music just seems so elusive so different, so touched by genius.
     
  2. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    yea, i'm of this mind set as well....As I've heard em all and as much as I love Astral Weeks its not in one of my top five all time Van album slots...
     
  3. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    I'll third that thought. Great as they are, I would say Astral Weeks and Moondance are both overrated to some extent. They set the basic framework/roadmap for the journey, but the journey would hit many higher points. (And Van's voice got better, too.)
     
  4. tkl7

    tkl7 Agent Provocateur

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    This album is definately different than other albums in his catalog, many people might think that, lyrically speaking, it is a masterpiece. I do see some foreshadowing of things to come - mainly after Tupelo Honey. Because of this, it doesn't quite stand out as much to me, except that it contains at least two GREAT songs - Ballerina and Cyprus Avenue. Yet, I don't rank it in my top five. Not a place to start, if you like Van's catchier and shorter tunes. More like the man ripped open his chest and let his soul come out on record.
     
  5. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    thats a great description...thats the one line in this thread, if you wanted to capture one line to describe this thing, thats the line for me! something I couldnt articulate into words in my post.

    I'd be curious to know if anyone knows what music Van might have been listening to as a music fan to have generated such a record at this time. I would have imagined he'd of not been very well off financially at this juncture and he followed it with such a "commercial" gem, so he knew the score of the music biz already to a degree and managed to get ownership of his masters shortly after Moondance I believe.

    Anyone know more about how the genesis of this album came to fruition? I'd love to have seen the faces of the WB staff when they got this from Mr. Brown Eyed Girl....:laugh:
     
  6. Randy W

    Randy W Original Member

    IMO there really is no way to analyze Astral Weeks for anyone other than yourself - it's personal and universal at the same time (the definition of true art for me). That's why I believe this album is often seen as overated - obscure lyrically, offbeat musically, and obtuse enough in philosophy to require multiple attentive listenings to approach. Not an album for everyone - I wouldn't want to be without it.
     
  7. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC USA
    Astral Weeks is at first dense and obscure. When I approached it I did not get it. But it was copelling and it drew me in, with repeated listening it embedded itself into my consciousness. I began to play it obssessively. The poetry and the organic improvisation were unified into a cohesive whole much greater than the sum of its parts. It is at once personal and universal. It is simultaneously surreal and down to earth.

    The fact that it is played on acoustic instruments by true jazz players gives it a unique sound. I believe it represents the power of chance. On a different day with different players it would never have come out the same. I have returned to this work over the years and found it was nourishing to my psyche. I don't find it overrated, to me it is a rare perfect work of art that stands alone in its idiom and in the canon of Van Morrison.
     
  8. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    I think we're all singing from the same songbook on this point. :righton:

    An album like Astral Weeks becomes part of one's family, one's consciousness, something to be protected and defended as if it were our own.

    The best albums are able to create special little worlds--yes, DJ Wilbur, I'm going to talk about my "worlds" theory again!:D ) to we which can escape and return to; worlds that are substantial and valid. (That these worlds exist only in our respective imaginations doesn't detract from their importance.)
    When we get to Moondance, I plan to discuss how I've been on that fishing trip with Van and Billy a thousand times or more--but then, so has everyone who is taking the time to read and contribute to this thread. Once again: the personal and the universal.

    But not every album can accomplish this; not every album possesses the depth and vision to impart such continuing gifts, year after year.
     
  9. fac51x

    fac51x New Member

    I grew up with this record. My mom used to pull out her vinyl copy and play it over and over on long afternoons indoors. What a mood this one sets. I always want to put it on when it is chilly and raining outside. I can't believe he was so young (was he just 23 or so?) when he made this record. It seems like the work of a much older man. Amazing.

    I was going to post about Madame George, but words escape me. It's hard for me to put into words how this song affects me.
     
  10. Cassius

    Cassius On The Beach

    Location:
    Lafayette, Co
    One of the finest expressions in the recorded music form ever. Deserves every accolade it gets, and probably deserves even more. I find this piece of music on the level of A Love Supreme.

    Some of the best music is so passionate, and personal that it doesn't reveal it's true beauty on first listen. Once you crack through to the core of music that lies within, it becomes something you can't let go of for the rest of your life.

    I understand why some haven't cracked the code, and I do no think less of them their tatses or their perspectives. I'm just happy that there are and continue to be so many others who get it and we can share our excitment.

    C
     
  11. JJ3810

    JJ3810 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    Astral Weeks is at or very near the top of my favorite Van Morrison catalog and at the very bottom of any list I would generate of LPs I'd ever care to review. A major work that will endure for generations & generations. And then Moondance. Pretty incredible, to say the least.
     
  12. elborak

    elborak Forum Resident

    Which is where Van's magic really shows. Most artists would be overjoyed to accomplish this feat once in their careers (think Forever Changes or Mott). That Van has done it as many times as he has is indeed a rare and wonderful thing.:thumbsup:

    I can think of at least 5 Van albums (others will obviously count more or less) that succeed for me to that degree, where the whole album sets a mood, a place, a feeling that transcends the individual songs.:love:
     
  13. zobalob

    zobalob Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland.
    Among the many albums released by Van the Man, this is the only one that draws me back time after time. I remember when it first came out, I fell in love with it straight away. It reminds me of clear, crisp and cold Autumn/Winter days for some reason. His other works have their stupendous moments, but, for me, this is the one.
     
  14. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    The endless stream of accolades doesn't make for such good reading, does it? ;) I find myself at times wanting to send John Hunter a PM and ask him to drop by the thread for a cup of piping hot contrarianism.:laugh: :thumbsup: In lieu of that, if anyone wants to voice a pet peeve or anything about the album which made it less than tantamount to a life-changing experience like the rest of us seem to feel it was, please share your thoughts, I'm certain Van could take it---although I certainly couldn't:laugh: , but I think Van could.

    I also wanted to ask what everyone's favourite covers have been of Astral songs. I remember reading an interview with Van in which he was asked about the Waterboys' take on "Sweet Thing", and the sum total of his response was something like "Well, it wasn't as good as mine, was it?"

    Mmm--yeah, I can hear Van uttering those words.

    Any other cool Astral Weeks covers spring to mind?
     
  15. CM Wolff

    CM Wolff Senior Member

    Location:
    Motown
    I am a fan of Maria McKee's take on "The Way Young Lovers Do". No chance at topping Van, but bonus points for both good taste and giving it a shot. The Waterboys' version of "Sweet Thing" is indeed very worthy, as Mike Scott obviously has a feeling for Van.

    I'm a huge Van fan and am at a loss for words to describe Astral Weeks because I can't do it justice. Very well covered already, and much more eloquently that I can.

    When I think of Astral Weeks, all the little turns of phrase that are etched into my brain come out. I can recall hundreds of them as necessary, right on the spot..."the dynamo of your smile caressed the barefoot virgin child, to wander..." with that perfect rhyme of "smile" and "child". Don't know what half of the lyrics mean, but it all certainly reverberates within me on a different level. Favorite track is "Beside You".
     
  16. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC USA
    Well put, I also consider it to be similar to A Love Supreme in that respect.
    I am heartened to see so many members appreciate both works.

    It seems to touch many people deeply, even some you would not expect. I remember reading an interview with Nick Lowe where he said he had worn out two copies of Astral Weeks.
     
  17. mfp

    mfp Forum Resident

    Location:
    Paris, France
    Astral Weeks is probably my favorite album ever. It's somewhere in the top three anyway. I bought it when I was fifteen, but it really clicked some seven years later. I don't know if it was because I heard it on vinyl for the first time (more dynamics, and with music so alive, it really matters), or just because I had lived more; that's one album I think is not suited so well for kids (kinda like John Wesley Harding, if you know what I mean).
    What can I say about an album I love so much? Just kudos to Larry Fallon for the heartbreaking arrangements (Chelsea Girl is another of my all-time favorite albums) and extra special kudos to Richard Davis for his mind-blowing out-of-tempo bass lines, especially on Young Lovers Do and Ballerina.
     
  18. realgone

    realgone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Singapore
    I first listened to AW as a teenager in the 70s and I didn't get it then. But since then, it has grown on me and I now consider it one of my all time favorite albums. There's nothing by Van that has quite the same feeling and sound.

    I read that the musicians didn't rehearse much and Van gave them lots of room to just improvise. It's amazing to me then that each instrument sounds like they are off on a tangent of their own but somehow everything still coalesces into a deeply beautiful whole.

    Music for the ages :righton:
     
  19. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    Well that was probably all hashed out in that previous "i dont get astral weeks thread" see below...

    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=49724&highlight=astral+weeks
     
  20. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid Thread Starter

    I believe you just outlined his entire career's work ethic when making records or performing live!!!! I'll be curious to learn what albums he didn't take this approach with.
     
  21. johnny33

    johnny33 New Member

    Location:
    usa
    The Way Young Lovers Do

    We strolled through fields all wet with rain
    And back along the lane again
    There in the sunshine
    In the sweet summertime
    The way that young lovers do

    I kissed you on the lips once more
    And we said goodbye just adoring the nighttime
    Yeah, that's the right time
    To feel the way that young lovers do

    Then we sat on our own star and dreamed of the way that we were
    and the way that we were meant to be
    Then we sat on our own star and dreamed of the way that I was for you
    and you were for me
    And then we danced the night away
    And turned to each other, say, 'I love you, I love you'
    The way that young lovers do

    Sorry couldnt help myself. Seems it would be a shame not to have his lyrics floating over a discussion of the album from time to time.So pardon me for freely rambling.

    If I didnt know the tune I could almost imagine Nat King Cole doing something rich with these lyrics.

    It almost is out of place on this album.Its a wonderful soulful song. No explaining necessary it's just a song about young lovers.Probably the simplest of them all on the album. A break in the action of a very cerebral excersize.

    You'll run just about anywhere with someone you are in love with in youth and it all seems so damn wonderful.The rain seems sweeter , the sun is warmer and the nightime is regarded so deeply.Every second is amplified.And to be so lucky later in life to gaze into that persons eyes and do the same again.

    Great song.
     
  22. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    Maybe he was trying to avoid a recurrence of the dreaded "choke thing" approach of the musicians who played on the Bang sessions, when he wanted them to be "freer."
    Anyone ever play "Beside You" from Bang Sessions before putting on the Astral Weeks version? Prime example of the "choke thing"--squeezing the life right outta the song.
     
  23. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    Some Astral Weeks trivia (gleaned from John Collis' Inarticulate Speech of the Heart)

    1) Recording commenced at 7:00 p.m. on September 25, 1968 at Century Sound Studios on West 52nd Street, NYC. Another session was booked for October 15 where the inspired, atmospheric overdubs were added.

    2) As proof of how quickly things moved along, guitarist Jay Berliner showed up at 9:00 p.m. and had already missed his chance to play on "Cyprus Avenue" and "Madame George."

    3) Decisions about running order of songs and naming the respective sides "In the Beginning" and "Afterwards" were made by Lewis Merenstein.
     
  24. JasonK

    JasonK Active Member

    Location:
    Tujunga, CA.
    It's a great album, but the most interesting element for me is to consider what music was around during the same era. Astral Weeks sounds YEARS ahead of its time.
     
  25. Jeff Buckley did a wonderful cover of this song on his first live EP. Just him and a Telecaster. He plays a long, slow intro, scats a lot, and throws some bluesy licks in.
     
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