Thursday, August 26, 2010

album of the day: Astral Weeks

Simply stated, Astral Weeks is among the very best albums of popular music in the rock idiom ever recorded. And what's most amazing about that fact is that it isn't really a rock album. It's just music.

Even if you don't know who Van Morrison is, you know him, because, unless you've been exiled to a part of the world without electricity, pop music, radios, or people, you've heard something, something, Van Morrison recorded in the 1960s or 70s. You've got to have heard "Brown Eyed Girl," or "Moondance," or "Jackie Wilson Says." If not, I strongly suggest reconsidering the question of your own existence.

Oddly, you may not have heard anything on Astral Weeks, except maybe "The Way Young Lovers Do," the big production number with the horn section.

It's impossible to pigeon-hole this album in any genre. By turns, the songs are like British Isles folk, contemporary hippy-psychedelia, blues, or a mixture of all that and more. My favorites are the simpler recordings, of Morrison belting away with his own guitar accompaniment and Richard Davis' bass, or maybe a bit of flute, as on "Cyprus Avenue" and "Madame George."

People consider Morrison, and the album in particular, to be "spiritual." I have no idea what that means. It's a bit ethereal - the title track opens the album on that note, to be sure. But the mood shifts in and out of that. What's consistent in the album has a certain feeling, but I would call it something like "organic." I sorta think the album just grew wild. It feels like you found it, like the meadow that opens up in the middle of a forest. Something like that. Call that spiritual?

Van Morrison is another hero of mine. If I could sing, or do whatever it is he does, not only would I, I wouldn't do anything else. No more teaching. No more cooking. I'd just sing, or whatever it is he did back then. Holy jumpin'.

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