Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Album by Van Morrison|
|Recorded||September 25 and October 15, 1968|
|Length||46 min 05 sec|
|Van Morrison Chronology|
|Blowin' Your Mind! |
Astral Weeks is a folk rock and R & B album by Irish musician Van Morrison, recorded in New York on September 25 and October 15, and released in November of 1968 (see 1968 in music). Astral Weeks was critically acclaimed upon its first release and remains a cult favorite, in spite of never achieving significant mainstream success.
The influential rock journalist Lester Bangs wrote in 1979 "It sounded like the man who made Astral Weeks was in terrible pain, pain most of Van Morrison's previous works had only suggested; but like the later albums by The Velvet Underground, there was a redemptive element in the blackness, ultimate compassion for the suffering of others, and a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cut right through the heart of the work."
With varied rhythms and frenzied vocals, mixed with bizarre lyrics that evoke images instead of coherent ideas and narratives, Astral Weeks has been compared to the school of Impressionism in painting, which similarly seeks to evoke emotions associated with an image. While few would argue that Astral Weeks is a concept album, the songs do seem to link together and form an extremely loose narrative.
The musician John Cale was recording next to Van Morrison's studio, and reported "Morrison couldn't work with anybody, so finally they just shut him in the studio by himself. He did all the songs with just an acoustic guitar, and later they overdubbed the rest of it around his tapes."
This is in fact completely untrue - the live tracks for the sessions were performed by Van on vocals and acoustic guitar, along with upright bass (not bass guitar), second acoustic guitar, vibes, flute, and drums. The only instruments added afterwards were strings, horns and the occasional drum part.
"Astral Weeks" uses a form of symbolism that would eventually become a staple of his songs, equating earthly love and heaven, or the closest a living being can get to it. Morrison's guitar and Richard Davis' upright bass can be seen as the earth opposing the tuneful horns and Connie Kay 's percussion.
Morrison has denied that "Madame George" (pronounced "Madame Joy") is about a transvestite, as many have believed. An earlier recording with slightly altered lyrics and a much swifter tempo changes the tone considerably from the Astral Weeks recording, which is downbeat and nostalgic; the earlier recording is joyous, and seems to be from the point-of-view of a partygoer who sees the titular character.
The blues song "Cyprus Avenue" is a live favorite of Van Morrison's fans.
In 1997 Astral Weeks was named the 9th greatest album of all time in a 'Music of the Millennium' poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In 1998 Q magazine readers placed it at number 52. In 2003 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 40, while in the same year Rolling Stone magazine placed it at number 19 (link).
all songs by Van Morrison
- "Astral Weeks" - 7:00
- "Beside You" - 5:10
- "Sweet Thing" - 4:10
- "Cyprus Avenue" - 6:50
- "The Way Young Lovers Do" - 3:10
- covered by Jeff Buckley on Live at the Sin-E
- "Madame George" - 9:25
- "Ballerina" - 7:00
- "Slim Slow Slider" - 3:20
- Van Morrison - guitar, keyboard, saxophone, vocals
- Jay Berliner - guitar
- Richard Davis - bass
- Connie Kay - drums
- John Payne - flute, soprano saxophone
- Warren Smith - percussion, vibraphone
- Producer: Lewis Merenstein
- Engineer: Brooks Arthur
- Arranger: Larry Fallon
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