The Arts

Jun 8, 2018

The unclassifiable genius of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks

Van would go on to produce some great music; he never again produced anything like Astral Weeks. But who did?

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle

Correspondent-at-large

We strolled through fields all wet with rain/ And back along the lane again ...

The album starts, the first track explodes from the speakers, and the first line explodes from the first track: "The Way Young Lovers Do." Nineteen sixty-eight has a lot of anniversaries to it, but one of the most beguiling is the 50th of Astral Weeks, Van Morrison’s second studio album, and absolutely the strangest and most singular album in the rock canon. Driving, rocking, drifting, folk, rock, jazz, what the hell is it? It jumps track by track from acoustic pop, to near-psalm, to rock jazz impro punk, to runaway train. Record of a strange time in its creator’s career, it applies the full force of his life and young memory into 47 minutes.

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36 comments

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36 thoughts on “The unclassifiable genius of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks

  1. swimming the Hellespont

    The 2009 Live at the Hollywood Bowl version goes alright too.

  2. Simon

    Guy,
    You nailed it. A unique recording of time & place. One of the most important & enjoyable albums of all time. I never tire of listening to this masterpiece.
    S

  3. Linda Connolly

    yes indeed and still on my playlists. Madame George one his most evocative pieces ever…. “Throwing pennies at the bridges down below”

  4. susan winstanley

    lovely guy, thanks, van is the man

  5. BeenAround

    Thanks Guy for reminding me of the strange brilliance of Astral Weeks. Truly one of the greatest albums ever recorded.

  6. Jack Robertson

    Loves to love the love’s the love to love and loves the love etc…even a year on high rotation in a freezing caravan in Donegal couldn’t kill its ethereal magicke.

  7. zut alors

    Thanks for this evocative piece, Guy.

    Brandy + dry, arguably the beverage of the 60s (in Adelaide, anyway).

  8. Dog's Breakfast

    A great and so distinctive album, even for Van.

    Like Dylan, his only real equivalent, this prolific songwriter has had some tremendous albums later in life and serious rubbish inter-mingled, coupled with a reputation for concerts that will likely leave you very annoyed to demanding a refund.

    Try Inarticulate Speech of the Heart for later albums that are as good, or nearly as good, as this.

    1. Jack Robertson

      Ha! Dylan: Neil Young for the gullible/thick/tin-eared/lumpen-groupie. George Ivan = whole different plane to them both.

      1. Jack Robertson

        Gah, what a nob head. Pls excuse, Dogs (and writer), for sullying a gentle blameless thread. Man with naught but a pisspoor hammer sees everything as a nail, etc.

        Wonderful, wonderful album.

      2. Sergei Walankov

        “Dylan: Neil Young for (insert literally anything at all)” is the dumbest musical take I could possibly imagine.

        1. Jack Robertson

          An uncannily accurate articulation of the creative limitations of the average Dylan fan, Serg. Well done!

  9. Vasco

    Beautiful homage Guy.

  10. murraymcdowall

    Thanks Guy. Some sublime stuff from Van in that era. I knew Astral Weeks from years back but I’ll never forget hearing “I’ll be your lover, too” from a couple of years later (1970) for the first time when it played over the end of Proof of Life in a large cinema. Took my breath away.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6cvp2juNc0

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