Do you ever get down about how most albums that come into existence are extremely easy to sing along to?
If not, it’s OK, this just happens to be yet another one of my sustained quirks. Sure, it’s nice to sing along, but it is much harder to write lyrics and music that are delivered in a way that is entirely yours.
Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” is the exclamation point of this very type of album. I have never heard anything so beautiful, stylish, yet unorthodox and entirely hard to sing along to.
While some might find an album that is virtually impossible to mimic a letdown, I see it as a feat – a feat so brilliant in song structure and delivery that it is easily one of the best albums ever.
The liner notes should read: “Slowly building up to more of the same” that might best describe the album’s unflappable stroll.
There isn’t anything radically diverse or jolting on this album, rather its genius is undeniably more subtle. Inevitably, moments of intimate euphoria are found amongst the collective stride of this Sunday-morning-paced album.
The title track, “Astral Weeks” just begs to be listened to, meandering like a rock-skipping child on the banks of some aged river.
“Madam George,” is the most beautiful moment on the album, filled with warm strings and a carefully thought-out bass line. The track also possesses some of the best trademark moments (where Van Morrison sounds as if he’s about to vomit, singing from deep in the belly of his throat).
If “Astral Weeks” is the child along the riverbanks, “Beside You” is the skipping rock – easily careening along the top of the stream – gliding with the purist ease ever imagined.
Yet another perfectly crafted song, “The Way Young Lovers Do,” it is the most stand-out track of the bunch.
Probably my second favorite track is “Sweet Thing,” with that unmistakable beat on the symbols. This track is the perfect example of why the album is constantly building to nothing. Through the entirety of this song you have the illusion of it building to something huge, but it just moves along the same ground, albeit flawlessly, containing nothing more than subtle variations.
Try and sing along with Van Morrison sometime. Have the lyrics in front of you, and try to sing along. You will fail – and will then realize the genius.
“Astral Weeks” is a simply arcane experience, of which I believe to be one of the top five albums of all time.