Wednesday, February 25, 2009
ASTRAL WEEKS, ASTRAL DECADES
And I will stroll the merry way and jump the hedges first
And I will drink the clear clean water for to quench my thirst
And I shall watch the ferry-boats and they'll get high
On a bluer ocean against tomorrow's sky
And I will never grow so old again
Once in a great while the magic strikes, rivers run backwards, planets line up like billiard balls, and the wind plays strange melodies on empty bottles. Astral Weeks is just such a moment. The album signaled the end of the "Brown-eyed Girl" radio-friendly pop of early Van Morrison and carried us into the mystic. This wasn't top forty music at all, but something luminous, deeper and more personal, new Celtic soul and folk rock with jazzy notes--and enough bizarre lyrics to keep the hopheads up late at night working their decoder rings.
If I ventured in the slipstream Between the viaducts of your dreams Where immobile steel rims crack And the ditch in the back roads stop Could you find me?
Elvis Costello said Astral Weeks is "still the most adventurous record made in the rock medium, and there hasn't been a record with that amount of daring made since."
Van at the Hollywood Bowl, 2008
In 2008, forty years after its release, Van Morrison returned to this cycle of songs with a series of concerts in Los Angeles in which he played the album in its entirety. "Astral Weeks at the Hollywood Bowl" will soon be released on CD and DVD. Before the shows, Morrison offered this explanation:
“Astral Weeks” songs...were from another sort of place—not what is at all obvious. They are poetry and mythical musings channeled from my imagination...[They] are little poetic stories I made up and set to music...The songs were somewhat channeled works—that is why I called it “Astral Weeks.” As my songwriting has gone on I tend to do the same channeling, so it’s sort of like “Astral Decades,” I guess.
And I will raise my hand up
Into the night time sky
And count the stars
That's shining in your eye
Just to dig it all an' not to wonder
That's just fine
And I'll be satisfied
Not to read in between the lines
And I will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
And I will never, ever, ever, ever
Grow so old again.
Lester Bangs wrote a review of the album back in 1979, and he called it "the rock record with the most significance in my life so far." Bangs said this was " a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend." Lester was probably stoned when he wrote that, but even so...the album clearly is shooting for more than your standard rock tropes of girls and cars and the diddy-wah-diddy. Maybe it's worth some late night contemplation.
(You can read the rest of Lester Bang's rambling review by clicking here).
Listen to the title track "Astral Weeks" by clicking the button:
(track removed by request from WEB SHERIFF on behalf of Exile Productions and Exile Publishing. See comments)