ASTRAL WEEKS: VAN MORRISON Saturday 14 January, 2012

Magical.

When I was growing up I idolised two people. My older cousin Graham (seven years older than me) and my childminder’s son Stephen (six years older than me). My younger musical taste was largely shaped by those two people. It’s also thanks to the latter that I am familiar with this album. I was already listening to Jeff Buckley (again thanks to Steve) and told him that I really liked the song ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’. He then told me that it was actually a Van Morrison song from his second album ‘Astral Weeks’. I made a note to get a copy of this album and assess whether the original version was better or not (it is).

I think I found my first copy of this album in a bargain bucket in Tesco. I paid about £3 for it and it was on cassette. This is also probably why I like it so much. Had I had the luxury of skipping tracks I most certainly would have skipped many of them. As it was I was forced to listen to it all or spend frustrating minutes going backward and forward trying to find the start of a particular track. At that point in my life this was certainly not the kind of music I liked.

There is something very odd about this album. It is incredibly evocative. It is almost mystic in it’s powers to transport you away from the daily grind. I have also long suspected that it might me be a great soundtrack to the kind of late night garden parties that I neither hold nor attend.

Van Morrison’s voice is probably best described as an acquired taste. He veers wildly from the softly to the bellow. I think it’s an approximation of ‘soul’ singing but these melodies are not pop melodies and at times you might find yourself lost within the music with very little to hold on. I still find the arrangement of this album a little bewildering. It seems so untidy. Maybe it is but that only adds to the charm.

Given the current trend for (pallid, tepid, shit) folk music this album is surely due a revival. Maybe if people started listening to this we could once and for all kill the blight of Shitford & Sons. Now that sounds like a plan. Tell your friends. Van will save us all.

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