Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

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Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Ayler le 02.11.08 14:39

Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)



In the Beginning

1. Astral Weeks - 7:00
2. Beside You - 5:10
3. Sweet Thing - 4:10
4. Cyprus Avenue - 6:50

Afterwards

1. The Way Young Lovers Do - 3:10
2. Madame George - 9:25
3. Ballerina - 7:00
4. Slim Slow Slider - 3:20


What combination of opportunity and motivation was behind the decision to revisit "Astral Weeks" in a live setting now?

I am not “revisiting” it, as this is a totally different project. I had always wanted to do these songs fully orchestrated and live. I never got around to it -- then I thought, well, we have lost the great [drummer] Connie Kay already and Larry Fallon the original arranger –- so I thought I should probably get to it now. Jay [Berliner] and Richard [Davis] have never done it fully orchestrated and live before either so I see it as a new project.

Update: In the paragraph above, we originally identified Connie Kay as the bassist. He was the drummer on "Astral Weeks."

What's your thought at this stage of your career about the boldness of a 22-year-old Belfast musician with some rock hits to his credit going into a New York studio with the likes of Downbeat's jazz bassist of the year [Richard Davis], the Modern Jazz Quartet's drummer [Connie Kay] and one of Charles Mingus' collaborators [guitarist Jay Berliner]?

Well, first, I think I have probably always been more advanced in my head, in my thinking, than the calendar age of 22. My thinking musically has always been more advanced -- it is difficult to get it down onto paper sometimes, even now. And the Music on “Astral Weeks” required these great musicians because no one else could have pulled it off like they did. There is another reason, too, and that is the fact I did not settle for anyone other than these guys -- they were the ones I insisted on.

What, if any, contact has there been with Richard Davis and Jay Berliner (or Kay before his death in 1994) over the years?

Connie Kay called me a lot over the years, on a regular basis. He was the drummer on “Tupelo Honey” and “Listen to the Lion.” He is also on several recordings I did in the '80s, numbers I have not released yet. Connie was the best drummer I have run across yet. The original arranger, Larry Fallon, kept in touch with me over the years, but we had lost contact with him, unfortunately. I actually called him for this project, but I found out he had passed away not too long ago. That was a shame -- he was a great arranger. He seemed to understand this music -- which is rare and is not easy to do. I was in touch with Richard a few times over the years.

The circumstances that brought you to the East Coast of the U.S. at the time [in 1968]?

I had been with Bert Berns’ Bang Records label, and I didn’t get paid, so I was living on a shoestring -- a very hand-to-mouth existence at that time -- in Boston and for a long time after that too. I went down to New York and this is when I got the offer from Warner Brothers. They had told me they had to buy out the Bang deal. Then I got involved with [producer Lewis] Merenstein, et al. The real reason I made Astral Weeks Recordings in New York is because I was literally broke and they kept me stranded there.

Did these songs emerge more or less fully formed lyrically and melodically, or did you spend considerable time reworking, shaping and editing them during the live performances that led up to the recording session?

Well, I had already written “Ballerina,” in 1966!, if this tells you anything, and the poetry written on the backside of the “Astral Weeks” album [cover] was an excerpt from something else I had written prior to that! Matter of fact, thinking back, I had previously recorded “Madame George” and “Beside You” well before the '68 Warner release, for Bang Records. But the arrangements were nothing like what I had in mind for those songs. I had also previously played versions of a few of the songs Live at the Catacombs [club] in Boston well before going in and making what became the “Astral Weeks” recordings that ended up as the record. We made that record straight through finally like I wanted them, without stopping. We did it my way in the studio that day.

So, yes it took a very long time and a lot of thinking and arranging and hard work to structure these songs like I wanted them, like I envisioned them in my head. That was the hardest work, but then I found out I then had to work through the people in the music business, and then the people that come around as a result that you are in the music business, and that was even harder, but in a different way. All for the sake of making my music, my song.

What were you reading, listening to, experiencing, feeling after "Brown Eyed Girl" and all the Bert Berns sessions that sent you in this direction musically and philosophically?

“Brown Eyed Girl” is misunderstood. I already had that song down -- so I did not turn anywhere or change direction -- it was already done, just not released. If you listen closely you can hear there is depth to that song; there are layers of arrangement in my original version. Thing is, Bert required a “hit” record. He thought “Brown Eyed Girl” was the hit single. The song sounds catchy and pop, but [it] is really multi-dimensional. I was not happy with it, as the music in my mind is much more sophisticated than that.

I call that 'The Money Song' -- because they got all the money and I got none. What happened after that is I ended up with zero money. I was broke and depressed and remained that way for many years after that, and I just decided to make a stand for myself and do things my way, not theirs, like I was already doing in songs like “TB Sheets” and “Who Drove The Red Sports Car?”— which I guess were over the heads of those who were so-called “in the know.”

I did not ever want to be on a pop label -- I thought Bert was musically beyond that, but it turned out he was more interested in money than musical ability, song craft and poetic artistry. Despite all that, if Bert were not in with a bad crowd, I think he may have been interested in having the ears that hear. He probably did.

How did you settle on Lewis Merenstein to produce “Astral Weeks”?

Merenstein came about when my back was against the wall. I did not have a choice at the time. I was all the way on the ground. People only have a choice when they have money -- I did not have either, they made sure of that. Then I found out when you have success, then come the sharks in disguise -- and those [were] quite obvious. I did most of the [production] work myself, though, if the truth be told. I wrote it all, put it all where it needed to be.

What was the immediate aftermath for you? Was it a natural evolution, or a sharp turn toward the more easily accessible verse-chorus song structures you used in many of the songs on the "Moondance" album?

First of all “Moondance” was written by me in 1965, as an instrumental, so I did not turn toward anything other than what I had already written and done. I have always played what I feel like playing whenever I feel like playing it.

I put out records to this day that are not necessarily in a sequence of anything. Some could be written a while back, some not. There is no set pattern. I just put things out when I decide to put it out; [that] does not mean that it’s what I was thinking or doing or writing in any time frame. It usually comes down to what goes with what else, or what needs to go out whenever. It would be a mistake to think such and such because something comes out or came out when it did. My records do not require a lot of thought of ‘What is this?’ and ‘What is that?’ That would be too contrived for me.

Do you connect differently now with the "Astral Weeks" material, and what is it about these songs that make them feel like they exist outside of time? I've talked to some musicians who say they didn't understand the real meaning of some of their songs until years later; that their music reached beyond their intellectual understanding of themselves at the time.

“Astral Weeks” songs were written over a period of time -– some early 1966 -- and evolved musically. They are timeless works that were from another sort of place -- not what is at all obvious. They are poetry and mythical musings channeled from my imagination.

The songs are poetic stories, so the meaning is the same as always -- timeless and unchanging. The songs are works of fiction that will inherently have a different meaning for different people. People take from it whatever their disposition to take from it is. It is like Tolkien’s “Hobbit” -- the hobbit is what it is. I doubt he would change what the stories [are] just because time went by.

“Astral Weeks” are little poetic stories I made up and set to music. The album is about song craft for me -- making things up and making them fit to a tune I have arranged. The songs were somewhat channeled works -- that is why I called it “Astral Weeks.” As my songwriting has gone on I tend to do the same channeling, so it’s sort of like “Astral Decades,” I guess.

I am about the arrangements and the layers of depth in the music. So, no, I do not see it any differently than it is -- it just is whatever it is.

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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Ayler le 02.11.08 14:39

Did you know what you wanted and what you'd achieved right away?

It is all poetry I made up anyway. It’s like asking "What is art?" It is whatever the beholder decides it is. To this day most all of my music comes from a similar place. I am not exactly sure where the location it comes to me from is located, but it always comes from the realm of the imagination. It is all fiction, and like all art, listeners can take from it what they want from it -- or not.

Like the song “The Way Young Lovers Do.” What is it? I do not know -- I made it up. Anyway, what 90-year-old does not want to feel like young lovers do? Most probably would -- it is as simple as that.

It’s a funny feeling that you actually have the courtesy of asking me about my songs. Did you know there have been numerous books written about my music where none of the authors were interested in my take on my music? None of the authors have ever had the courtesy of asking me to elaborate on my own music -- 500-page books and not one word did they want from me -- on anything, ever. I have tried to offer up help and am refused. They have flat out refused all insight from me. :-)

I guess they all want to make it into something it’s not or was not intended to be by me. Anyway, it’s bizarre to me.

Does it mean anything to you that "Astral Weeks" is so highly regarded -- No. 2 on the Mojo list of all-time greatest works -- yet it took 33 years to go gold?

The music on “Astral Weeks” is sophisticated poetry that is multi-layered in sounds that I do not think the majority take the time to wrap their head around. It’s subjective. I think it would be reductive for me to try to answer why.

I’d guess there are many reasons why it took so long, but yet it is recognized. It’s different than anything then and different still than anything that is obtainable now. Maybe there is not a big market for thoughtful deep music, I do not know. It speaks different things to different people. Maybe it spoke “Don’t buy me” to some –- not sure. I have always been quite sure it is not Top 40 material.

Does "Astral Weeks" represent to you something unique and extraordinary within your own body of work, more than any other album you've made?

Now that I really think about it, this, like all of my work, comes from the collective unconscious, I suppose. That is why it speaks different things to different people. All of my records are unique unto themselves and this one is no different. It is just part of what I do as a songwriter. These are just another set of stories and poetry, like all of them.

Over time has it gotten easier or harder to make your records the way you want to make them, and why?

Harder to find musicians that understand the depth of the arrangements as I originally write them, and harder because my style is a mixture of many elements. But easier because I am my own producer and I make them myself. I have the freedom to create, rather than to be stifled by someone else’s notions or far off-the-mark ideas.

Your albums continue to sell impressive quantities of physical CDs -- nearly 2 million in the last year, I understand -- in an era when the music industry has shifted its attention to downloads and sometimes can't give music away. How do you interpret the continuing success of your music when it's not being played heavily on commercial radio or promoted intensively by record companies?

Yes, I am lucky I have an audience that is not into the fad of the download. I am very grateful for that. My fans must intrinsically understand the value of having a record in their hand. With so much standing to kill the record business and make it extinct, I think it is great there are still people who appreciate the beauty of a record -- a real record, not a purchase of bad quality air through a wire that can erase with a punch of a button :-)

People must really want to save the records -- in spite of the record business that cannot seem to see the forest for the wood.

People in the record business have always been concerned about making money, but when you were a young fan and then started out as a recording artist, there were label owners like Sam Phillips, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler who actually had ears -- people who knew music inside and out, rather than treating it strictly like a commodity to be marketed for maximum profit. You've made no secret of your disdain for many aspects of the music business -– did you start your own record label at least in part to show what's still possible when music itself is the driving force?

Let’s put it this way: When these men started selling off and moving on it was the beginning of what is now becoming the end of the record business. For the record business to win and win big it has to have people within it that have ears for music and who understand the old greats and respect [them]. With the way things have gone, it looks more and more like there is not much of a chance for new men with ears to emerge in the music business. It’s too money driven and no one seems to know how to really do simple mathematics.

Ahmet knew the value of respecting true ability and those who were there for the long haul. Today record companies are run by 30-year-olds who are more into who “famous” came in the building. They don’t care about selling hard copy CDs, where their real long-term money is. If they did, they would stop shooting themselves in the foot by ignoring the tried and true, and stop betting on so many losing horses. And they would learn how to use a calculator.

I have been independent with my own label since late '70s early '80s. I am really not trying to set any example for anything. It is the only way I can do what I do. It is the only way I can operate.

You've written some of the catchiest pop songs in the history of rock music ("Jackie Wilson Said," "Wild Night," "Bright Side of the Road"), as well as some of the most deeply spiritual ("Listen to the Lion," "In the Garden," "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God"). Do those come from two different places inside?

No, I think everything comes from the same place in the imagination, just a different topic du jour, so to speak. I have worked with my art of song craft, and the result of that is somewhat of an across-the-board variety. I have experimented with many types of singing and use of voice as well as many types of songs, most ending up a mixture of a lot of different styles. But I prefer writing and crafting the spiritual-leaning songs the most.

Is there a legitimate place for music that simply entertains rather than music like yours that seeks to touch the heart and soul? Conversely, is it inherently destructive to commercialize music, which is fundamentally a sacred form of human expression?

Well, I myself will start playing entertainment-type songs if the audience is not understanding, or if I get a vibe they are not really listening, or if they seem to need to go somewhere else, or if I need to go somewhere else.

When music is commercialized, others tend to copy the formula. Then we end up with the drone of the constant loop of the same old thing over and over.

When music is contrived to the nth degree I do not think it can be sacred in that form. It loses its soul its heartbeat; its freedom to be.

Were you always a spiritual seeker?

Of course. How could I be a musician or write poetry if I am not?

Has all the inner work you've obviously done led you to a deeper understanding or knowledge of your role in life? Is that a never-ending process for you?

I do therefore I am. I do not assume that I have any “role” -- I do not think I do. That word does not feel right to me. I do not wear it well.

Perhaps the better word would be “purpose,” or “mission”?

My spiritual understanding has grown only to the extent [of my knowledge] about myself. But there is no role. That is illusion placed upon me by other people. I have no illusions about who I am. As a writer interested in wordsmith, what I gain spiritually can only help me and my writing or topics of my writing. But I have no role, no role at all. I am on no mission. I am what I am, and I write what I write.

I've always admired your sax playing, because it truly seems to express something you can't get out any other way. So even though you could probably hire whatever session great you wanted --and many times you have -- those where you choose to play sax yourself seem very special. What outlet opens for you when you pick up your horn?

Thank you for the compliment. I really enjoy the sax and [in] fact, I sometimes throw in an ‘entertainment’-type of kick-up song just so I can play it. On the other hand, I like playing very spirit-driven songs like ‘St. James Infirmary’ live on the sax. Can’t beat that feeling of just taking it where it wants to go. There is a freedom in that -- a good feeling, for sure.

I've been told by record execs at Warner Bros. and Rhino that the reason there has never been a Van Morrison CD box set is that you never wanted to stop looking ahead long enough to do it. Is that true, and given this decision to return to "Astral Weeks" now, is that still the case?

Well, Warner Bros. and Rhino don’t speak for me. They do not know me. I have always been forward-thinking, but other than that I have not really thought much about it. Putting “Astral Weeks” live to orchestration is my idea of being forward-thinking.

For all B.B. King has accomplished as a guitarist and a singer, when I talked to him recently, he said "If I could sing like Bobby Bland I'd be a happy man." Do you ever have a similar view of your own abilities as a songwriter, a singer or instrumentalist?

No, I only am what I am. But I sure do like the timbre of John Lee and I wouldn’t mind if I sounded like Leadbelly.

What musicians haven't you worked with that you'd still like to?

I would have loved for Miles Davis to have played on a record of mine. Actually, he said he would, but I didn’t get to him in time. I would have loved to have played with Howlin’ Wolf, Leadbelly, Lightnin’, Mahalia Jackson, Ella, Billie Holiday, so many.

Source : http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2008/10/van-morrisons-f.html

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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Electric Thing le 02.11.08 22:44

Un album très sympa... pas plus ! pirat
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Purple Jim le 02.11.08 23:23

Excellent album et incroyable quand on pense que c'était fait en 1968 !!
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Rising Sun le 03.11.08 3:20

Un album exceptionnel, il faudrait que je me penche sur une chronique un de ces jours. A coup sur, un monument de l'histoire de la musique. Insurpassable. Beaucoup (tels Jeff Buckley qui en a repris plusieurs titres) ne s'y sont pas trompés.
Le meilleur album de Van Morrison dont pourtant la discographie ne manque pas de moments forts. Une musique d'une maturité incroyable, sans doute trop exigeante pour une partie non initiée du public rock à laquelle elle ne s'adresse pas...
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Ayler le 03.11.08 3:23

Rising Sun a écrit:tels Jeff Buckley qui en a repris plusieurs titres
Et de quelle manière ! Sa version de "The Way Young Lovers Do" est à tomber par terre.

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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Rising Sun le 03.11.08 3:28

C'est vrai : plus encore, le moment où il l'a entonnée lorsque je l'ai vu en concert est inoubliable. Il faut dire que la version originale est elle-même insurpassable. Van Morrison totalement libre dans son interprétation, à l'image de ses merveilleux musiciens... le hurleur sublime.
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Electric Thing le 03.11.08 3:37

Rising Sun a écrit:Une musique sans doute trop exigeante pour une partie non initiée du public rock à laquelle elle ne s'adresse pas...
Et selon toi elle s'adresse à qui ? Suspect
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Rising Sun le 03.11.08 3:44

A un public plus adulte certainement, et en tous cas qui a pris l'habitude d'écouter autre chose. C'était le cas de Morrison. C'était aussi le cas d'une bonne partie du public "rock" en 1968. Plus précisément, un tel album tient autant du jazz que d'un certain folk, voire du blues. Il est clair que sans un minimum de parcours au sein de ces musiques, la musique d'ASTRAL WEEKS est moins lisible. L'exemple de Jeff Buckley est à ce titre édifiant, lui dont les influences pouvaient aller de Led Zeppelin, CSN ou Joni Mitchell à Nina Simone ou Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn... Il était un fan de Morrison et de cet album en particulier.
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Ayler le 03.11.08 15:16

Sean O'Hagan se demande dans The Observer si ce n'est pas tout simplement le meilleur disque jamais publié :
Is this the best album ever made?On its release in 1968 Van Morrison's second album, Astral Weeks, baffled both the public and his record company. Now, 40 years later, it's regarded as unique - a mystical, dream-like blend of spontaneous blues, jazz and folk. And Van himself is finally ready to play it live...

In the early Sixties the young George Ivan Morrison briefly played saxophone in a Belfast showband called the Olympics. Once, before a gig in Derry, the band's minibus pulled up outside his house on Hyndford Street, east Belfast and lead singer Alfie Walsh knocked on the door. Van's mother, Violet, answered, and after a few seconds of banter Walsh returned to the minibus alone. 'Yer man can't play,' he told the other band members. 'His ma says he's not coming out... He's upstairs in his room writing poetry.'

Though this anecdote may have grown in the telling, it illustrates the adolescent Van Morrison's otherness. A working-class boy from a Protestant neighbourhood, he had left Orangefield school with no academic credentials, and seems to have been an aloof-to-the-point-of-arrogant teenager; an only child who never quite shed his sense of aloneness. Years later, when his Belfast peers recalled the young Morrison, they stressed his solitary nature as well as his eccentricity. 'Van was his own master,' his boyhood friend George Jones told biographer Johnny Rogan. 'People didn't understand him.' Another friend, Billy McAllen, remembered him as being 'a bit strange, a bit weird'.

Fast forward to 25 September 1968. Morrison, 23, and already in retreat from pop stardom, stands in the centre of Century Sound Studios in midtown Manhattan. In the past few years he had tasted fame as lead singer of Them (dubbed 'Belfast's answer to the Rolling Stones' in the music press), singing on two hit singles, 'Here Comes the Night' and the proto-punk 'Gloria'. His first solo album - released in 1967, and entitled, in the spirit of the time, Blowin' Your Mind - had yielded another hit, the buoyant 'Brown-Eyed Girl'. Now, though, newly signed to Warner Brothers, he was intent on reinvention .

Strumming gently on an acoustic guitar, he begins to sing the first of several strange, stark songs he has been recently performing in small venues on the east coast to general disinterest. Around him, listening intently, are gathered three jazz musicians of the highest calibre: bassist Richard Davis, who had played with the likes of Miles Davis and Sarah Vaughan, guitarist Jay Berliner, best known for his work with Charles Mingus, and drummer Connie Kay, a member of the esteemed Modern Jazz Quartet. They had been assembled, alongside arranger Larry Fallon, by producer Lewis Merenstein, who on first hearing the songs had immediately sensed that they would not work in a rock setting.

If the young Van Morrison felt awed in such exalted company, he did not show it. In fact, he betrayed little emotion at all, and throughout the session, spoke only to the technicians. 'There wasn't much communication,' recalls Richard Davis, who now teaches music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 'As far as I can recall, I don't think I exchanged one word with the guy. We just listened to his songs one time, and then we started playing.'

Brooks Arthur was the sound engineer on that same session, though, inexplicably, his name would be left off the subsequent album credits. When he talks about it today, 40 years later, regret soon turns to excitement in his voice. 'From the moment Van hit the first note I knew we were involved in something special,' he recalls. 'You have to understand, everything was live. There were no music charts. He ran it down once for the players and went into the vocal booth. Then we got the sound levels right and I hit the red light and he started singing.'

That first working day comprised two three-and-a-half-hour studio sessions, during which three extended songs were recorded. 'There wasn't too much stopping and starting,' says Arthur. 'Van took off and the musicians went with him. They were serious players, they didn't have to think about it, they just did it instinctively, and it caught fire. We were working at the speed of sound. I tell you, we were breathing rarefied air in there.'

On 15 October the musicians and sound men reconvened. In another two short sessions, according to Merenstein, they produced 'six or seven songs, two of which just didn't fit the mood of the album'. Larry Fallon then spent another day overdubbing strings and horns on certain tracks. Throughout Morrison remained uncommunicative, self-absorbed. 'People told me later that he was shy,' says Davis, 'but to me he seemed aloof, maybe a bit moody. He was caught up in his own thing. He communicated through his singing.'

It still seems scarcely credible that, under such strained conditions, an album was created that has since come to be regarded as perhaps the greatest work of art to emerge out of the pop tradition. Released in November 1968, Astral Weeks is a work of such singular beauty, such sustained emotional intensity, that nothing recorded before or since sounds even remotely similar - or, indeed, comparable. Elvis Costello would later describe it as 'still the most adventurous record made in the rock medium', adding that 'there hasn't been a record with that amount of daring made since'. When I spoke to Nick Cave about it a few years ago, he spoke enviously of 'its power to mesmerise and disturb', and wondered 'at the sheer nerve of this young guy to attempt something so obsessive and uncompromising, and then actually pull it off'.

Initially, though, Astral Weeks was greeted by both the critics and the public with utter bemusement. The NME compared Morrison's extraordinary voice to the mannered Latin stylings of José Feliciano. Initial sales were disappointing and it received little support from Warner Brothers. 'They just didn't know what to do with it so they did nothing,' says Merenstein, scathingly. 'They were expecting "Brown Eyed Girl", and the first thing I played them was a seven-minute song about rebirth with no electric guitars and an acoustic bass. They just shook their heads.'

Since then though Astral Weeks has gone from a cult album to an acknowledged classic and has been celebrated, alongside the likes of Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's, in countless best albums of all-time lists. It was voted No 2 in a Mojo magazine critics' poll of 1995 and at No 19 in Rolling Stone's selection of the 500 Greatest Albums Ever Made in 2003. More surprisingly, it was also voted ninth greatest album of all time in the more populist Music of the Millennium poll conducted by Channel 4, the Guardian, HMV and Classic FM in 1997.

Now comes the news that the ever-contrary Morrison, having continually shrugged off Astral Weeks' legendary status in interviews over the years, will be performing the album in its entirety at two shows at the Hollywood Bowl on November 7-8. The concerts are an intriguing prospect but it turns out that I am not alone in wondering at the wisdom of such a risky undertaking. 'How does that old Buddhist saying go?' says Merenstein. 'Something like, "You can't bathe in the same river twice." I hear he is going to record the concerts for a live album, too. Man, I have mixed feelings about that. Part of me thinks, just leave it alone. It's a moment in time that has become timeless. It's just too unique, too magical to try and recreate.'

Astral Weeks is that rare thing in pop music, an album that lives up to its own legend. Its singularity lies, as Costello points out, in its vaulting ambition. It is neither folk nor jazz nor blues, though there are traces of all three in the music and in Morrison's raw and emotionally charged singing. There are no solos save for the ethereal flute and soprano saxophone improvisations that are woven through the last, and shortest, song, 'Slim Slow Slider', the album's elegaic coda. Throughout, there are interludes of breathtaking beauty when the music surges and subsides, rises and falls, around Morrison's voice.

And it is that voice, by turns flinty and tender, beseeching and plaintive, that is the most extraordinary instrument of all. It is the sound of someone singing to himself, utterly immersed in the words that are pouring out of his mouth. This is that adolescent aloofness transmuted into a kind of enraptured self-assurance. 'His voice has so much integrity and conviction,' says the singer Beth Orton. 'It's as if he has sung the whole album into being just by his conviction, his absolute self-belief.'

At times Morrison seems overwhelmed by the intensity of the feelings he is attempting to express. 'His voice is a thing of quite extreme beauty,' says the psychologist and author Adam Phillips, a longtime fan of the album. 'What is extraordinary is the emotional atmosphere he creates in the songs and the sense that he is not even remotely concerned about communicating with an audience or a listener. He's just singing out his songs, and we are, in a sense, listening in.'

It has long been my contention that Astral Weeks is an album rooted in adolescence; its confusions and frustrations, its often volcanic emotional turbulence. On 'Cyprus Avenue' he is 'caught' and 'captured' by adolescent sexual desire, and 'conquered in a car seat'. On 'Beside You', the most dense and tortured song on the album, he sounds traumatised - though by what one never knows.

'On Astral Weeks I think he is haunted by something,' says Phillips, 'and I am not even sure he knows what it is. He sounds confounded, literally confounded. I don't think he has a clue what this music is about, other than it comes from somewhere deep inside him. As a psychologist, one often encounters people who harbour these sort of confused feelings but what you don't very often encounter is someone who has found a form for them. That is what is startling here, and almost unique in the medium of popular music.'

For all that, there is a mood of exultancy and, in places, abandonment, on Astral Weeks: words break down or are repeated until they lose their literal meaning and become mantras of desire and loss. 'I always think Astral Weeks sounds somehow victorious,' says Beth Orton. 'It's as if he has won a great victory but lost so much too. He sounds altered.'

There are few moments in popular music as affecting as the repeated refrain on 'Madame George' of the line, 'dry your eye, your eye, your eye...' as the strings swell around his voice then fall away, leaving just his acoustic strumming and Davis's wonderfully insistent bass pulse. It is the sound of someone trying to retrieve the irretrievable: lost youth, lost innocence, lost love; and at the same time realising the impossibility of ever experiencing those heightened moments again.

Astral Weeks is also a long goodbye, both to his younger self and to the city of his youth, a prelapsarian Belfast untouched by bomb or bullet. It was recorded just as the Troubles began, and remains, alongside Derek Mahon's poetry and Gerald Dawe's memoir, My Mother-City, one of the most tender...#65279; evocations of a straight-laced and hard-edged city, whose more progressive youth were embracing the creeping bohemianism of the times. On his brief return to Belfast after Them split, Morrison hung out for a time with an arty student crowd, but he was an outsider there too.

The two songs on Astral Weeks that are most infused with a sense of place - 'Cyprus Avenue' and 'Madame George' - are also undercut with the deepest sense of melancholy and longing. 'What he is tapping into on those songs is a collective experience,' says Dawe, a Belfast-born poet who knew the young Van Morrison. 'It's about describing the familiar in extraordinary detail, even as you are leaving that familiarity behind once and for all. Van grew up in an intense, tight-knit community, and knew early on that he did not fit into that community, that he was, as artists often are, an outsider. That feeling was really brought home to him when he returned to Belfast after his brief pop stardom. He didn't fit, and knew he would have to leave again, this time for good. All those complex emotions echo through Astral Weeks. That's why it resonates so deeply with people from home, many of whom have left there with the same anxieties of belonging.'

Astral Weeks may be the moment when Van Morrison accepts that he can never truly go home again. 'Ain't nothing but a stranger in this world,' he sings towards the end of the title track, echoing the gospel hymns of his youth. 'I got a home on high...'

When I interviewed Morrison back in 1987 he did not want to talk about Astral Weeks at all. We met in the Chelsea Arts Club. He arrived very late and for the first hour was tight-lipped and combative. It was only when we moved off the subject of his music that he began to open up. 'Basically, Irish writers, and I include myself here, are writing about the same things,' he mused at one point. 'Often it's about when things felt better. Either that, or sadness... It's the story about going back and rediscovering that going back answers the question, or going back and discovering it doesn't answer the question. Going away and coming back, those are the themes of all Irish writing.'

In a way, Van Morrison has grappled with those same themes ever since. For a long time his albums were about the great quest for home, the search for a place to belong, be that a tradition or a belief system or an actual landscape. In his songs he has drawn on Romanticism and esoteric theosophy, and evoked the names of John Donne and WB Yeats, TS Eliot and Seamus Heaney. On Astral Weeks, though, there is no questing. He is simply there, transported by his words and his voicing of them. No one in popular music, including Van Morrison himself, has since come close to that exalted place .
Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/nov/02/vanmorrison-popandrock

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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Electric Thing le 03.11.08 15:34

Rising Sun a écrit:A un public plus adulte certainement, et en tous cas qui a pris l'habitude d'écouter autre chose.
Il me semble que c'est mon cas... Je n'écoute pas que du rock (d'ailleurs je n'aime pas le rock) !

Rising Sun a écrit:Plus précisément, un tel album tient autant du jazz que d'un certain folk, voire du blues. Il est clair que sans un minimum de parcours au sein de ces musiques, la musique d'ASTRAL WEEKS est moins lisible.
Il me semble que c'est ce que j'aime et écoute depuis pas mal de temps...

Rising Sun a écrit:L'exemple de Jeff Buckley est à ce titre édifiant, lui dont les influences pouvaient aller de Led Zeppelin, CSN ou Joni Mitchell à Nina Simone ou Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn...
Mes influences sont à peu près les mêmes, voire même plus larges, et peut-être même plus éclectiques...

Rising Sun a écrit:Il était un fan de Morrison et de cet album en particulier.
Ben pas moi ! Et pourtant je réponds à 100% aux critères qui tu donnes... Comme quoi les mathématiques et la logique ne tiennent pas la route face à la musique et aux émotions qu'elle procure... Tout cela est bien personnel et n'a pas toujours à voir avec des règles précises, ni à une certaine expérience (nécessaire il est vrai).
Cet album est fait pour moi, et pourtant il ne me comble pas autant que toi... Est-ce vraiment par ce qu'il me manque quelque chose dans mon "experience", dans ma culture, dans mon éducation, pour que je passe autant à côté du chef d'oeuvre (annoncé) ou n'est-ce pas une simple question de gout, de sensation, d'émotion, qui font que pour moi Astral Weeks est un album sympa sans plus...
Les gouts et les couleurs, Rising, tu sembles oublier cela...

Cet album je l'aime bien (le fait même de le posséder en est la preuve) mais je ne peux le considérer comme un chef d'oeuvre. On peut aimer ce style (et c'est mon cas...), on peut aimer cet album (et c'est encore mon cas) sans pour autant le mettre sur un pied d'estale et considérer qu'il dépasse tous les autres ! Je mesure le sens que JE donne au mot "Chef d'Oeuvre"... Tous les albums que j'aime n'en sont pas...
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par eddie le 03.11.08 15:48

Electric Thing a écrit: pour moi Astral Weeks est un album sympa sans plus...

+1

Et en plus Mr. Morrison est d'une suffisance assez imbuvable.
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Electric Thing le 03.11.08 15:53

Ayler a écrit:Sean O'Hagan se demande dans The Observer si ce n'est pas tout simplement le meilleur disque jamais publié
Un journaliste... Basketball

Et que pense Manoeuvre de tout cela ? clown
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Ayler le 03.11.08 16:08

Demande-lui !

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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Ayler le 05.11.08 17:56

Electric Thing a écrit:Cet album je l'aime bien (le fait même de le posséder en est la preuve) mais je ne peux le considérer comme un chef d'oeuvre. On peut aimer ce style (et c'est mon cas...), on peut aimer cet album (et c'est encore mon cas) sans pour autant le mettre sur un pied d'estale et considérer qu'il dépasse tous les autres ! Je mesure le sens que JE donne au mot "Chef d'Oeuvre"... Tous les albums que j'aime n'en sont pas...
Quel sens donnes-tu au concept alors ?

En ce qui me concerne, il y a certaines oeuvres auxquelles je ne suis pas plus sensibles que ça, mais dont il ne me viendrait pas à l'esprit de dire que ce ne sont pas des chefs d'oeuvre


Pour en revenir à "Astral Week", c'est un disque que je ne connais pas assez pour affirmer si c'est un chef d'oeuvre ou non, mais le fait que c'est un album ambitieux musicalement, dont le résultat mérite une attention particulière. Le seul reproche que je pourrait lui faire tiendrait au fait qu'on navigue peut-être trop souvent dans les mêmes eaux, ce qui en même temps donne au disque une indéniable unité.

Il me semble difficile de ne pas créditer l'album de la performance vocale de Van Morrison, qui avait alors une voix assez exceptionnelle, très personnelle - et surtout particulièrement intense, sans être systématiquement dans ce registre : sa voix reste très nuancée. Si les qualités d'écriture n'ont pas plus attiré que ça mon attention, je trouve tout de même qu'il y a dans l'interprétation quelque chose de tout à fait inédit comparé à ce que les contemporains de Morrison pouvaient produire alors. Les sidemen de Morrison évoluent dans des structures très libres, notamment rythmiquement, inédites dans ce contexte. Si harmoniquement, l'album est sans surprise, l'aspect presque free de la section rythmique sur laquelle Morrison évolue sans problème est quelque chose d'unique. Dans une certaine mesure, je pense que Tim Buckley ira au bout de l'idée de Morrison en faisant sauter le carcan harmonique dont Morrison ne veut (ou ne peut) se défaire - proposant sur "Starsailor" une musique hallucinante (pour le coup, véritable chef d'oeuvre).
"Astral Week", chef d'oeuvre, je ne sais pas. Disque incontournable, historiquement, il me semble difficile de le nier.

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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Ayler le 21.04.09 10:51


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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par kjp le 21.04.09 13:09

Et une petite image (pas en rapport) avec l'évènement :




C'était le 18 avril.
Source : http://music.aol.com/picture/van-morrison/in-this-handout-image-provided-by/07-s3801742-5122
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Ayler le 21.04.09 16:35

kjp a écrit:Et une petite image (pas en rapport) avec l'évènement
Pas tout à fait : Clapton a assisté à l'une des performances.

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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par kjp le 21.04.09 17:12

Oui je sais mais pas de rapport avec Astral Weeks.
Cette photo est justement de ce soir là.
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Purple Jim le 20.05.09 18:24

En écoute en ce moment. Un chef d'œuvre…oui…mais ça m'énerve maintenant.
Prétentieux. Chiant.
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Electric Thing le 20.05.09 18:39

Purple Jim a écrit:En écoute en ce moment. Un chef d'œuvre…oui…mais ça m'énerve maintenant.
Prétentieux. Chiant.
Laughing
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Chino le 29.07.10 23:29

Un album magnifique, acheté par hasard à 2 euros chez un soldeur. J'ai acheté ensuite Moondance et It's Too Late to Stop Now, 2 superbes albums là encore.

Van Morrison est un chanteur fantastique, avec Them il était énorme, un des seuls blancs chantant du Rhythm & Blues pouvant rivaliser à l'époque (et même depuis) avec les grands chanteurs noirs-américains.

Avec les Them, il était sauvage, plus encore que Jagger à mon avis. Les Them était un superbe groupe, et VM était outre un grand chanteur un vrai showman.

Ensuite, sa voix s'est faite beaucoup plus subtile (notamment sur Astral Weeks), mais toujours aussi habitée.

Et c'est un musicien et un songwriter absolument remarquable, bref, un artiste rare.
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Bloomers le 28.09.13 9:18

http://suncoastvanfans.blogspot.be/2013/07/deluxe-moondance-box-coming.html

un coffret deluxe 5 cd, une version 2cd et l'album original remasterisé de Moondance pour bientôt.
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Wu wei le 28.09.13 12:54

ou comment s'apercevoir qu'on ne connait un artiste que de nom (un peu des titres de Them mais guère) j'vais aller creuser ça ... vous donnez envie les loulous

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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

Message par Blueleader le 28.09.13 20:00

Wu wei a écrit:ou comment s'apercevoir qu'on ne connait un artiste que de nom (un peu des titres de Them mais guère) j'vais aller creuser ça ... vous donnez envie les loulous
Creuse, je pense vraiment qu'il y a des pièces qui devraient te plaire.
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Re: Van Morrison : Astral Weeks (1968)

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