Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer William Witt at firstname.lastname@example.org
More often than not, an album is either thoroughly applauded at the time of its release or is critiqued harshly and never given much of a second thought. The opposite happened to Van Morrison with the release of his 1968 record Astral Weeks. Upon its release, Astral Weeks received generally negative reviews from critics who said it was shallow, dull and monotonous. Crazy to think that 40 years after its release, it is heralded as one of the greatest albums of all time.
In any conversation I have about music with someone, Van Morrison somehow always gets brought up. They want to know if I’m a fan. They don’t know the half of it. They inform me that their favorite song is “Brown Eyed Girl.” Typical. I ask if they’ve heard Astral Weeks. They haven’t and they ask me, “Is it good?”
Astral Weeks is brilliance in musical form. The entire album is a stream of consciousness, blending together elements of folk, celtic and rock music to create a beautiful and mystical piece of timeless art. For falling asleep, sitting around the campfire or just a pleasant stroll through the University of Colorado campus, no album fits the mood better. Morrison’s lyrics speak about the love of nature and the earth, mixed in with lyrics about women and things he has seen on his travels.
“Sweet Thing”, the so-called “single” of the album, is a progressive, acoustic-based song with poetic lyrics and a build-up to a chorus that never really comes. The intricacy put into each song on the album is most apparent in “Sweet Thing,” with every instrument coming in at the appropriate time to add a new level of depth to the song. As Morrison’s singing becomes louder and more passionate, the beat gets faster and the instruments more emotional. The flute in the background is a great touch, adding high notes to a song primarily driven by guitar and bass. “Sweet Thing” is a song that stays with you even after you’re done listening to it. I always find myself whistling the lyrics or tapping my hands on my desk to the bass line. Other people may find it annoying, but they would understand if they listened to Astral Weeks.
Many of the songs on the album are incredibly soft and impressionistic, with very poetic lyrics that set Morrison apart from other songwriters of his time. The nearly 10-minute “Madame George” tells the story of a woman who “plays dominoes in drag.” It is a masterpiece that delves into the depths of Morrison’s life and experiences.
“Cyprus Avenue” is another slow song with only three chords throughout the entire piece. It depicts a man driving in Belfast, where he passes a rich woman with whom he immediately falls in love, though he will never see her again. Morrison got much of the inspiration for the album in Belfast, and his fascination with the place comes through in “Cyprus Avenue.”
The rest of the album blends together perfectly in a stream of consciousness that wouldn’t make sense to a first-time listener, but after a few listens, the ideas presented in the album become clearer and more serene. The poetic nature of this album and the intricacy put into every song instrumentally and vocally are what make it flow so nicely. Morrison wanted to do more than just pop hits after the release of his 1967 album, and he accomplished his goal.
Astral Weeks is a timeless record, and with each listen, a stronger sense of love and humbleness comes across to the listener. The passion, the wonder and the overall beauty and majesty of this album have made this into a classic, and promise a moving experience for those who take the time to listen to the album in its entirety. After listening to this album, spark a conversation with someone and ask them what their favorite Van Morrison album is. Theirs probably won’t be Astral Weeks, but I’m sure yours will be.
The verdict: 5 out of 5 stars