In passing along the news that Van Morrison will be performing Astral Weeks, Ezra pretty much just broke my brain.
I know in the past I've decried live album re-creations, and I'm still not totally sure this one is a good idea. But certainly it is intriguing.
Astral Weeks is one of the best albums ever, if not The Best. Usually I refrain from making lists, or trying to quantify these sorts of things--so often they change on mood and times. But Weeks is always there (along with something from Bob Dylan, and that's about all I know). It is the most ferocious, beautiful, heartfelt, metaphysical thing to enter my brain through my ears--at once hyper-real, poetic, ethereal and aurally gorgeous.
This summer I remember traveling to a close friend's funeral. He died suddenly in a freak bicycle accident. A friend and I were on the highway, returning to our home town, hopeless and confused. As the sun was setting, with the windows down, we cranked up Astral Weeks, entered the slipstream, and listened to the thing in it's entirety. Not a word was spoken. But while the album played, we were given peace and some kind of understanding impossible for me to describe here. It's a moment I'll never forget.
Indeed putting a finger on Astral Weeks is a difficult thing to do. One could go mad trying. And so I am also reminded of what I consider to be some of the best music writing ever to hit the page: Lester Bangs' treatise on Van Morrison's masterpiece. (For the record, I wonder if anyone's ever delved into the why Van never again neared Weeks' brilliance... although the thing came from such a foggy, complicated, mysterious and painfully truthful place, one can perhaps understand why--it's either step away from the existential precipice or tumble in, perhaps never to return.)
I would assert that familiarity with Weeks is crucial to understanding Bang's piece--indeed it is no primer. The fact that Bangs wrote about the album some 10 years of processing it is testament to Weeks' depth.
If you know the album, there's really nothing I can add that isn't better tackled by Bangs. But if you're not familiar with Astral Weeks, you need to be. The record stores are open. Go now.