Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Astral Weeks Live At the Hollywood Bowl
Genres: Folk, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
Recorded in 1968 when the Belfast-bred, blues-rock music legend Van Morrison was just 22 years old, Astral Weeks immediately received critical acclaim and continues to be cited as one of the greatest albums of the rock era... more »
Recorded in 1968 when the Belfast-bred, blues-rock music legend Van Morrison was just 22 years old, Astral Weeks immediately received critical acclaim and continues to be cited as one of the greatest albums of the rock era. Subsequently the album has been ranked on numerous Best Albums of All Time lists, including #19 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and the 40th Greatest Album Ever on VH-1's list in 2003. Both Astral Weeks and Moondance (Morrison's next album) were inducted into the Grammy® Hall of Fame. Astral Weeks became a cult favorite and was seen almost as a religion to many artists. On November 7 and 8, 2008, four decades later, at the age 63, Van Morrison revisited Astral Weeks live in its entirety at the Hollywood Bowl, and delivered a jawdropping, awe-inspiring performance. The first half of the show featured Morrison playing timeless classics that have made him a legend, while the second half was the breathtaking performance of the Astral Weeks album.Van Morrison did not simply re-create what he did 40 years ago in a NY studio, but instead took the songs to a dramatically higher contemporary level. The jazz-rooted compositions of Astral Weeks are poetic stories of young love and the quest to find one's place in life. They were, and remain, ideal source material for musical improvisation that gives way to the sense of wonder for which Morrison has always striven. ". . . transcendence is what Morrison has been after with his music from the beginning, and it's what he achieved frequently on Friday, when he played his watershed 1968 album Astral Weeks live in its entirety for the first time. The wondrous, youthful timbre of his voice then has evolved over the years into a richer, fuller instrument, with every bit of its remarkable elasticity very much intact." (L. A. Times)
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What a wonderful world, with two astral weeks in it
Jesse Kornbluth | New York | 02/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many who profess to love the music of Van Morrison have no idea that he made a CD called 'Astral Weeks'.
I can understand that. 'Astral Weeks' was released in 1968, to zero fanfare and indifferent sales. Over the years, those who heard it became evangelists for it: Elvis Costello called it "the most adventurous record made in the rock medium," and Steven Van Zandt, of Bruce Springsteen's band, said that "'Astral Weeks' was like a religion to us." Soon enough, it achieved cult status --- one of the most inventive and satisfying CDs ever recorded, known only to the in-crowd.
I'm not a music critic --- I don't even pretend to play one on the Internet --- but it bothers me that junk sells in the zillions while quality sits alone in the corner. In 2004, it seemed to me that a web site about The Best could bring overlooked gems like 'Astral Weeks' to a larger audience. So when I launched HeadButler.com, 'Astral Weeks' was one of my first reviews --- and, soon enough, the CD became the site's poster child, its 25-words-or-less creation myth.
And now it's back.
'Astral Weeks Live At the Hollywood Bowl' was recorded in November of 2008 before a predictably rabid audience. Morrison did not attempt to replicate the CD. That would have been impossible, for in concert he makes Dylan seem predictable. He will suddenly change words and tempo, abandon himself to a groove, call an abrupt halt --- and expect the band to read his mind.
I have seen Morrison several times over the years, and each time I walk away blinking at the mystery. He looks like a squat, stout, Irish postman and acts like an ill-tempered dictator. He may not hate the audience; maybe he just likes to show us his back. But when he opens his mouth, none of that matters.
If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where the mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch and the back roads stop
Could you find me
Would you kiss my eyes
And lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
That's how the opening song begins, a love song set in urban decay. But the genius of Morrison --- the reason I see a line of connection from Blake to Wordsworth to Morrison --- is how quickly he reaches the exalted. In just a few verses, he's here:
Going up that Mountainside
Where the water runs crystal clear
And then, 40 years after the original, he adds this:
I believe I've transcended.
The rest of the performance is a demonstration of spiritual transcendence. This is not of great interest to many people who listen to music. They want a bouncy beat and a catchy lyric. So, a lot of the time, do I. But then I come to this:
Then you're high, on your high-flying cloud
Wrapped up in your magic shroud
As ecstasy surrounds you
This time it's found you.
It's not just the words that transcend. The band is open, loose, inventive; this music is subtle as jazz and heart-pounding as rock. And Morrison almost seems to be having a good time --- in his phrase, "stepping lightly, just like a ballerina."
What's in it for you? First, the message of the holy power of love: "You shall take me strongly in your arms again/And I will not remember that I ever felt pain." Then the aesthetic pleasure of hearing something great becoming, perhaps, even greater. And, personally, in a darkened room, late at night, a trip to the most exalted part of yourself.
What a wonderful world, with two astral weeks in it."
Van Goes Home Again - A Triumph Coming Ever So Close to the
corneilus | WESTMINSTER, MD United States | 02/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a life long Beatles fan (born the year they disbanded), I thought that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the greatest album of all time, until I heard Astral Weeks, which I immediately thought was TWICE as good. This revelation spawned a purchasing of the entire Van collection THEM through the present and still going. I was a little skeptical about a re-doing the greatest, most intimate album ever recorded, but then the early critic reviews started to come in and I couldn't wait to pick this up. The record is different to say the least, but somehow, amazingly, nearly as good. Perhaps something changes about a person, for me 20 years after hearing the original, and Van 40 years after recording it, but I'm able to follow him through the changes. I thought Weeks was something Van knew he could never achieve again and something he had put out of his mind for good. What is most shocking for me with the Live record is that Van is still intimately familiar with these songs, like he's been listening to the disk himself for the last 40 years like we have. He even improvs some lyrics on Cyprus Avenue changing "Leaf on a Tree" to a more playful "Jelly on a Plate", but you can tell he is in complete control of his 40 year old possession. All Van's records are 3 stars or up for me, but he's only hit the 5 star mark about 4 times in 40 years, usually content to just put one or two brilliant moments on a record. At the age of 62, at least for me, Van has returned to 5 star form by being gutsy enough to try to tackle his best effort, again. If Weeks is a 100 out of 100, Weeks Live is 97 out of 100."
A DIFFERENT KIND OF MAGIC
Colin Spence | Formby, UK | 02/24/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Re-visiting 'Astral Weeks' some 40 years after it was first released could have been tempting providence, especially so close on the heels of 'Keep It Simple'. On 'Live', VM partly re-creates and partly re-interprets the songs from 'Astral Weeks' (plus 'Listen to the Lion' from 'Saint Dominic's Preview').
As might be expected, much of the youthful vibrancy of VM's singing has gone - to be replaced with vocals which have a more 'lived in' feel. Nevertheless, he still sings with a lot of edge, and his unique phrasing and improvisations still remain very much in evidence; however, he is also more inclined to slur some of his words. VM always manages to surround himself with top class musicians, and 'Live' is no exception. Compared with the original album, a wider range of instruments is played - it might be this, together with VM's mellower vocals, which gives the music a somewhat 'warmer glow'. Also, the crisp percussion and solid acoustic bass playing imbue many tracks with a sort of 'bluesy-jazz' quality and an easy groove. There is much fine playing to savour - I particularly enjoyed the sweet violin and cello playing which can be heard on most tracks. Many songs have been slightly re-structured by omitting a verse (or part of a verse); on the other hand, the music compensates by allowing more time for vocal improvisation and extended playing from the band.
I usually listen to 'Astral Weeks' on headphones to enhance its intimacy (it takes me somewhere else); instead, I would suggest that 'Live' is best listened to through speakers so that the sound can fill the room. Whilst comparisons are inevitable, 'Live' should be judged on it's own merits. The music on 'Astral Weeks' is exquisite, but the performances are 'detached'; with 'Live', there is a greater rapport between VM and his musicians - all concerned seem very much to be 'into the music', and VM sounds like he's enjoying himself. The sound/recording quality is very good and, I believe, has not been subjected to any post-recording 'tweaking'; the authenticity of the live atmosphere adds to, rather than detracts from, the listening experience.
Even allowing for some downsizing of lyrical content, the songs are amongst some of the best ever written by VM, and there is plenty of good music to be heard on 'Live' - whereas 'Astral Weeks' is ....... 'Astral Weeks' (an album which almost defies adequate description). I think 'Live' is a highly enjoyable album."