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272 of 286 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Childlike Visions Leaping Into View
This is probably my favorite album of all time. I've listened to it countless times, and it never gets old. Those other reviewers who don't "get it" make a few valid points:
1) It isn't perfectly played.
2) The songs aren't polished.
3) It isn't Van's strongest collection of songs.
First of all, it isn't necessary for great music to be note-perfect...
Published on December 5, 2001 by stolenmoment

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When O When?
One of the great recordings from the 60's and one of Van Morrison's best. Nevertheless I have a big gripe with the quality of the sound and packaging. When is Warner Brothers going to remaster this recording as it (and all Van Morrison's Warner recordings) should be? The CD you purchase in 2004(!) is from a remastering done in the mid 80's -- at the dawn of the CD age...
Published on January 11, 2004 by Voltaire


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272 of 286 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Childlike Visions Leaping Into View, December 5, 2001
By 
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
This is probably my favorite album of all time. I've listened to it countless times, and it never gets old. Those other reviewers who don't "get it" make a few valid points:
1) It isn't perfectly played.
2) The songs aren't polished.
3) It isn't Van's strongest collection of songs.
First of all, it isn't necessary for great music to be note-perfect. ASTRAL WEEKS is about the magic of improvisation-- the suspended thrill of playing (and listening) on the cusp of discovery. In that way, the album is a perfect marriage of music and lyrics, as Van bends and twists the language in an effort to TRANSCEND the earthly significance of his words, to conjure a piece of heaven out of the frustration and pain that wracks his existence. Like Ray Charles did 15 years prior, Van fuses gospel and blues, the sacred and the profane.
For those of you hear only hippy-dippy (...), you're obviously missing the unbearable heartache that haunts these songs. Cypress Avenue deals with unrequited, perhaps forbidden love. Madame George captures the mixture of joy and sadness that comes with lost innocence, getting on "the train" that takes one away from a place of safety and comfort. Ballerina is a burst of effusive passion, but the object of the singer's affection is separate from him, a spectral fantasy that he can only gaze on with paralyzed amazement. Thank god these rough gems weren't polished for radio consumption-- their unique, spontaneous quality would have been ruined.
I concede that this isn't Van's strongest collection of songs, but it's hard to think of these tracks as "songs" in the conventional sense-- impressionistic sketches, maybe, but they hardly lose any artistic merit because of that. ASTRAL WEEKS is not a jazz album, but it certainly brandishes a jazz mentality-- the triumph of feel over form, emotional release over craftsmanship. If that's not your cup of tea, then proceed directly to MOONDANCE. But if you're searching for a true musical journey-- in the truest sense of the word-- then ASTRAL WEEKS is the apogee.
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67 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My desert island disc, October 2, 1998
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
This album has repeatedly turned up in the top ten of lists of the greatest albums ever recorded, and deservedly so. It can be listened to on so many levels. Sometimes I will listen to it while concentrating on the lyrics. Another time, I will focus on Van's phrasing. Another time on Richard Davis's inconceivably great bass playing (this is arguably the greatest performance on bass on any album ever recorded for a rock audience, even if the bass player was a jazz musician). This is an album that simply reeks of genius. Simply put: a masterpiece.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This album blows me away, March 9, 2005
By 
D. J. Richardson (Bay Area, California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
This album is absolutely phenomenal. This is one of the most personal, beautiful artistic statements I can think of. It is like a diary, but better, because the music adds color and depth that no words can describe. It is rare when the music compliments the singer so well... it is as if the musicians are from the same vein, the same heart. This cd is perfect, beginning to end; musically and lyrically. Van Morrison will show you his lowest low and ever so sweetly, he will take you away to a place that is timeless, a place so wonderful it will make you want to weep... because you know that at some point it will have to end. And what a sad ending it is to this miraculous cd. But you can always press repeat. :)
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal, January 1, 2010
By 
Manuel M. Michalowski "Mano" (Silver Spring, MD United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This Japanese import is the REMASTERED Astral Weeks; FAR SUPERIOR to the domestic Warner Bros. version available to consumers in the U.S. Why Warner Bros. has failed to remaster Astral Weeks for the U.S. market can only be wondered at; aren't we U.S. consumers just as deserving as our Japanese counterparts of superior quality product? It is shameful and a blatant attempt at parting you of your hard-earned cash for a shoddily-produced product because the record companies know they can get away with it. It sucks that I have to buy this CD at import prices to get a decent digital transfer of a genuine masterpiece. My recommendation; suck it up and buy this import if you TRULY LOVE this record, and are tired of waiting for Warner Bros. (U.S.) to get of their asses and do the right thing; after all, they remastered virtually all of Van's other albums--even the crappy ones. Sounds amazing!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In another world, In another time, May 3, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As with many remasters, I didn't know how good it could sound until I heard how good it sounded. The first thing I noticed was how much clearer the famous
bass playing was. The bass/guitars/vocal give a you-are-there space and presence, as opposed to the murkier mix of the previous release. I have no idea how Van and the band achieved the mind meld playing on these songs but as everyone knows, the results are poetic, magical, majestic, transcendent and sui generis in this or any past release.

Should you buy the import or hold out for a US release? I've waited 20 years for this and I am not holding my breath, but perhaps you can fathom record company logic and scheduling more than I. Next week it could be on the shelves and you could get it for $10. Or it could appear in 5 years. Or never. But if you think this is one of the greatest albums ever and have the coin, this is well worth it.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This album is pure magic, March 10, 1999
By 
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
Van the man fans don't have to be told this is a fabulous album.Somehow he reached a level of transcendence with this album rare to find with any artist.He was able to capture those magic moments we sometimes have which illuminate the everyday with timeless wonder.I can't be sure as to what he means in some of the songs, but this doesn't matter, it's the overall mood he creates that is the essence of this album.In the "Astral Weeks" album above others, and in songs like "Autumn Song" from Hard Nose the Highway, he creates what poet Robert Bly has called the Van Morrison mood (in "The Sibling Society").Those are the mellow, magical moods which linger in the recesses of memory and remind us of our days of glory and the "visionary gleam"(Wordsworth).Van has never sung better than he does here.Some top jazz musicians help make the music very special.Words and music blend so well together into one seamless whole. This is not only my favourite Van album,but my all-time favourite album.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When O When?, January 11, 2004
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
One of the great recordings from the 60's and one of Van Morrison's best. Nevertheless I have a big gripe with the quality of the sound and packaging. When is Warner Brothers going to remaster this recording as it (and all Van Morrison's Warner recordings) should be? The CD you purchase in 2004(!) is from a remastering done in the mid 80's -- at the dawn of the CD age. This and other Van Morrison recordings deserve the full treatment, with, at minimum, new remastering (and if possible extra tracks).
It took the record companies nearly 20 years (2003) to give the Rolling Stones' original albums the remastering they deserve (SACD). It has still not been done with the Beatles original albums which likewise were originally remastered in the early-mid 80's and sound terrible!!
There are in fact many original albums from the 50's, 60's and 70's being sold today on CD that were originally remastered back in the 80's with heavily compressed, flat sound quality. To me that is a rip-off considering the price we are forced to pay for CD's (often more than a DVD)!!!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Soothing, Soaring, Healing, May 18, 2008
By 
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
A friend recommended this to me, knowing I was Irish, a Dylan fan, and contemptuous of contemporary popular music. So I bought it, half expecting the radio Van Morrison of "Brown Eyed Girl", "Moondance", "And It Stoned Me", "Crazy Love", "Domino", "Wild Night".

And at first I hated it.

I hated jazz and I hated hippies too. I was much more in tune with Shane McGowan's punk rock sensibilities than Van's bittersweet reveries. There were moments of the title track I could get and I thought "Sweet Thing" was a nice song. But that was it. The repititions were driving me crazy. After the eighth or ninth "dry your eye for Madame George" I said, "to hell with you, Van" and took the CD out of the player.

The CD gathered dust on my shelf for a while. I don't remember why or when I started listening again. I just know that I was listening at a dark period in my life. I was homesick, there was a failed romance that had me heartbroken, there was the death of a friend at a young age by his own hand. There was too much of the drink and the drink was actually making me feel worse instead of the way it used to make me feel. In short, I wasn't ready for adulthood but adulthood was at the door, whether I was ready or not.

There's a part in the song "Astral Weeks"
"Could you find me,
would you kiss my eyes
and lay me down
in silence easy
to be born again"
that reminded me of the way I'd been with the girl I was still pining over, my first real love. And that part of the song to this day still gets me near to weeping. Well, misty eyed at least. In black and white it doesn't quite get it all, Van's voice, that lovely bass playing, the vibes, the strings, the quiet, gentle guitar. At the time I thought I was torturing myself with it, listening to it over and over again and when he'd say those words I'd think of lying with her and holding and kissing her and remembering that that was over now. I thought I was torturing myself with the song, but in a way I was healing myself as well. I needed to feel that pain. I needed somebody to put that into words and music and Van had done that.

I started "really listening" to the rest of the album as well. Van's voice of course, and as a guitarist myself I'm always interested in good guitar playing. But I think it was when I finally began to listen for the bass lines that I really began to appreciate just how beautiful the music on this CD is. I almost never listen to the bass in bands . The only other bassist I can think of who is that important to a band's sound is John Entwhistle of the Who, and this bass player is the exact opposite of Entwhistle. Entwhistle sounds like a jet engine roaring past your ear. Richard Davis on the other hand is playing accoustic the entire CD. But there is just something so delicate, fluid and expressive about his bass lines. Richard Davis is the unsung hero of this album. People forget him because Van is up there front and center with his voice, guitar and words, but without Richard Davis, "Astral Weeks" isn't "Astral Weeks."

Somewhere along the line I began to "get" Madame George as well. I finally figured out that the song was about a lonely old drag queen, who likes to play dominoes, get high, and listen to music with a bunch of young boys, and they're willing to hang out with him as long as he sends them to the shops for cigarettes with a little of his money and lets them listen to his records and get high on whatever the hell it is he drops out the window. I'm not sure if the cops really are coming through the door for him or if it's just paranoia, but the cops are mentioned. One can imagine what Lou Reed or Nick Cave might have done with the setup. But Van's song is about a glance. When the narrator, another school kid, glances into the eyes of "Madame George" and suddenly realizes that this is a person, a human being not a monster, not a freak. And he has to leave and never come back. In black print on a white page, it sounds sordid and depressing, I realize, but on the CD you have Van's haunting voice and the music and it's beautiful somehow. Transcendant somehow. Transcendant enough to make an avowed hippy-hater use the word transcendant and mean it. I can't really explain it, you'll have to feel it yourself to understand.

I think what this CD is about is leaving home, and leaving childhood.

And looking back at it ALL --- the beauty, the love, the pain, the joy, the sadness, the ugliness, the horror. And loving it all. And missing it all. And saying goodbye to it all and not getting trapped there, but still remembering, even though it hurts so much sometimes.

Then again, maybe the CD isn't about any of that at all, but that's what it's about to me.

Highly recommended to those of you out there who "ain't nothing but a stranger in this world."

Peace be with you.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Work of Genius Expressing an Honest Spirituality Firmly Rooted in Reality, September 20, 2006
By 
C. Lee (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
I have Lester Bangs to thank for turning me on to this album and making me realize its genius. Actually, I should probably thank Cameron Crowe and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as well, because Crowe's movie "Almost Famous" (and Hoffman's excellent performance as Bangs) made me want to read something written by the legendary rock critic, so I looked him up online and immediately found his review of "Astral Weeks" (which, incidentally is a great read).

Though prior to this I had no interest whatever in Van Morrison (whom I knew nothing about, not even realizing that I had already heard a couple of his songs, like "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Domino"), Bangs aroused my curiosity and made me want to hear the album so I could see what he saw in it. So I opened my Rhapsody player, found the album and put it on. I was immediately struck by the uniqueness of the sound, not to mention the poetry of the lyrics. And slowly, with a quiet insistence, Morrison pulled me into his world, like an impressionist painter who leaves most of the details up to the imagination of the viewer, painting just enough to evoke an impression of having experienced this dreamlike procession of scenes that seem to hover on the edge of reality.

"Astral Weeks" is to me a sublime culmination of everything that was good about classic rock, folk, and the blues. But this is not the kind of album that you should sample by picking out just one or two songs to listen to. It is my firm belief that in order to truly be appreciated, this album has to be listened to in its entirety from beginning to end. Furthermore, I believe that Morrison is trying to communicate something indefinable with this work... something mystical if you will, but not in the overt -- I'm tempted to say gimmicky -- way that most 60s and 70s artists peppered their songs with quasi-mystical references. Rather, this is an inspired invocation of the mystical as something ineffable that arises from the totality of human experience, and the real genius of Astral Weeks is that it communicates this sense of the mystical not only without ignoring everything that is sorrowful, shabby, painful, or pathetic about life; it often does so by focusing on those very aspects of human existence.

Since first discovering "Astral Weeks" I have listened to everything by this artist that I could find, but so far I have found nothing equalling the deep, honest soulfulness and haunting beauty of this album. I have to concur with Lester Bangs when he says that though Morrison was only "twenty-two - or twenty-three - years old when he made this record, there are lifetimes behind it."
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103 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Avalon Music, April 2, 1999
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
After nearly three decades, Astral Weeks remains the most mysterious, mystical and ultimately, most beautiful record ever made. Eight songs that flow effortlessly like one long hymn, creating a sense of mood and atmosphere that is as sensuous as it is timeless. Van Morrison visits and revisits places from his memories like long lost friends, delivering us a panoramic performance of thoughts and dreams drenched in a haze of uncompromising music. The stream of consciousness that lies underneath the entire record is almost reminiscent of another Irishman's masterpiece, James Joyce's Ulysses. Both recall familiar places in Ireland, and both seem at times, almost innocent and childlike. What Van Morrison has managed to do is to take this same haphazard collection of thoughts, and put it to music that is at once passionate and intense. The music on the album is the kind that is almost impossible to categorise. Is it folk? Sounds like it. But listen closely, and you will discover the magnificent bass playing by Richard Davis pointing towards jazz. Drummer Connie Kay's accompaniment is hardly standard rock and roll fare. Then there is also the classical strings and swirling flutes punctuating the songs on the album that rises above everything the Beatles ever attempted on their own records. As for Van's voice, let's just say it is feverish blues at its most supreme. It brings the same chills to my bones as when I first heard Robert Johnson singing "A Kindhearted Woman's Blues". The opening guitar strums to the title track is so deceptively simple and folksy, that it doesn't really prepare the first time listener for what is to follow. And what follows is simply breathtaking. In fact, it is so dense and sophisticated that on first listen, it is actually inaccessible. Yet, it is this inaccessibility that somehow stirs our curiosity during our initiation into this sonic journey. The mystical poetry reaches a state of surrealism, mixed with references to real life persons and places. "Astral Weeks" speaks of being reborn, as if the opening song is just a beginning. But of what, no one really knows. And that includes Van the Man himself. But the stunning words and phrases are fascinating, almost infectious. "If I travel in the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dreams..." is almost as thrilling as the opening words of Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone". The entire song seems to move endlessly like a river, taking you along for the ride, but never letting you know where you are actually heading. It is the perfect start to a perfect album of songs. Listen to the songs again, and you might just wonder if some of the songs are songs at all. "Beside You" hardly seems to have the traditional verse and bridge structure. In fact, he seems to be like improvising all the time. And the way his vocals whisper and soar throughout the whole song, it seems like he is capable of every muscular vocal trick in the book. "You breathe in, you breathe out, you breathe in, you breathe out...." he repeats, makes us as breathless as he suggests. "Sweet Thing" is hardly sweet. The way the strings come raining down in the middle of the song, it is just as vicious as the strings employed in Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?" There, Lennon's attack at his former collaborator was mean and direct, and Phil Spector's arrangement simply heightened the sour emotions further. Here, it serves as an irony to the heartfelt longing that the singer is desperately trying to convey to his lover. It is like saying that nothing can be that wonderful without a taste of bitterness. Yet, despite this, it is beautiful. Especially when he suggests taking a walk in "the gardens all wet with rain". The start and stop nature of "Cyprus Avenue" seems perfectly suited to Van's stream of consciousness. Recalling in his mind his recollections of his childhood, Van spits out the words to a bed of musical dreamscape. A mixture of Celtic mysticism and soulful rock and roll that seems unlikely, but ultimately, natural bedfellows. The build-up of the song, from an acoustic softness to an eventual climatic burst, is as fragmented as it is seamless. In concerts, he would end this song with the catchphrase from a later song, "It's too late to stop now...". With this kind of powerful and passionate performance, you almost wish he would never stop. The conclusion of "Cyprus Avenue" ends the optimistic first half of the journey in clouded uncertainty. Just like the Beach Boys' seminal Pet Sounds, Astral Weeks also treads on an emotional arc from start to finish. What seems like the first flush of love or perhaps, the enthusiasm of a new and bright relationship is at this point turning to self-doubt. The rest of the record will then gradually document the descent of this ambiguous relationship. What this relationship is about does not really matter in the end. Maybe a lover, maybe a kin or maybe a friend. All we know is Van is singing to an entity that he cherishes at the beginning. With "The Way That Young Lovers Do", he is questioning this entity about the virtues of their relationship. If not lyrically, at least he is doing it musically. Horns flourish amidst a big band jazzy backdrop, haunting yet hurried. Doubt is now slowly evolving into frustration. "Madame George" is simply the album's most brilliant moment. Much debate over the title character's gender has been made and it is almost pointless to ponder over it. Whether "Madame George" is based on a real person or not, I guess we will never know. And Van doesn't care. If anything, she or he sounds like a character that has walked out from Victorian London into late 60s Ireland. Cyprus Avenue is revisited again as Van recites a "childlike vision" creeping into him and us as well. Strangely enough, when Marianne Faithfull covers this song, it sounds as it is almost autobiographical. Yet in Van Morrison's third person narrative, it seems like an epic tale being recalled in a haze of smoky psychedelia that defines logic and reality. Is "Madame George" really a transvestite? Van probably didn't think about it when he wrote it, and for some reason, he sang it as "Madame Joy" instead. It is precisely this sub-consciousness that we are supposed to experience, not factual details or logic. The album's penultimate track, "Ballerina" is another exercise in vocal dynamics and musical finesse. As the xylophone makes its way stealthily around the song, Van's voice swoops up and down like a preying eagle, waiting to devour the song's protagonist. We don't so much as try to understand but experience the music and the words on display. And what a vibrant and aggressive vocal display it is, always interesting and vivid throughout the seven minutes of soulful deliverance. "Slim Slow Slider" seems almost inappropriate at first to close this masterwork. Bluesy and simplistic in structure, Davis' bass just seem to suspend in mid-air, then bounce with an eerie-like tone. The song is darkly sinister in nature as Van recalls yet another place from his memories, this time being Ladbroke Grove. Just hearing Van singing these two words is almost worth the price of admission alone. That anguished passion in his voice, it is almost unearthly. Towards the end of the track and the record as a whole, the drums suddenly come crashing down like a deranged madman. It is almost the relationship that was promised in the opening track and reaffirmed in "Beside You" is now beyond repair. Utter insanity has taken over and Van has lost all sense of self-control and time. It is like this abrupt ending is just beginning a new adventure elsewhere. Are we supposed to resolve the destiny of Astral Weeks ourselves, after Van has taken us so far on this musical ride? Perhaps the answer is not really that important. What is more significant is that the music, words and voice of Astral Weeks are forever embedded in our minds and souls. At least, to those of us who have chosen to treasure it. It is not an easy record to listen to, as it is not meant to be. But there lies within this strange hypnotic album, a sense of time and place that is beyond our normal realms and reach. Astral Weeks may not sound like rock music, but its place in rock history cannot be ignored or denied. Like Van said, it belongs to "another time, another place". And most definitely, a better place than where all of us are living now. A place that is as mythical as it is timeless. Van Morrison would probably call that place Avalon. Close your eyes now and listen for it. Listen for that Avalon Music. Ian Low 18th November 1998
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Astral Weeks
Astral Weeks by Van Morrison (Audio CD - 1990)
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