November Album: Van Morrison – Astral Works

 

So it’s my kick at the can as we continue delving into classic albums that have a special place in our music libraries. 

Like everyone else I have been racking my brain to bring an album to the table that isn’t already in your record collections but also deserves to sit next to two great albums from the Talking Heads and Bob Marley respectively. 

I have chosen Van Morrison’s first solo album: Astral Works. 

My history with this album to be honest with you is fairly young. You will often find it in top 50 ‘Greatest Albums of All Time’. That said, I have traditionally avoided it as it always was put across as Van Morrison’s less successful album. I find other albums painted with the same brush are placed in lists to be ‘controversial’ or show off a writer’s music knowladge. When I fell across this album a few years ago I was proven wrong. 

Van Morrison is known largely for the music he made whilst fronting the band “Them’ who were responsible for classic tracks ‘Gloria’ and ‘Here Comes The Night’. After ‘Them’ separated, Van Morrison moved to New York to work on a solo career. Sadly the music he wanted to do wasn’t what his label wanted him to do (the oh so familiar story). Subsequently Van Morrison was blacklisted from doing gigs and releasing music for a few years. This album was written in that time. The result is a very raw honesty from Van Morrison that set a standard for many artists of his generation. 

I’m going to avoid pointing out my favourite tracks as I think the whole album is amazing. I say that knowing that it look me a few listens to get into it at first. Personally I think you should start the album on ‘Sweet Thing’ (which is the third track) and listen to the first two tracks last. 

I hope you enjoy this album as much as I do. 

12 comments

  1. David Allison

    Just to say that the album’s finally arrived and I’m just giving it its 3rd spin. Could well be a cracker.

  2. Guy Hornsby

    Hmmm, I’ve had a few listens now and I’m really not sure how I appraise this. I’ve always been aware of the reputation of this album, but never been a huge fan of VM, and his voice has never really done it for me. And while I like the songs, it just hasn’t connected. I think that’s for all the (missing) reasons that I love Neil Young. I can just see and hear the feeling of those songs, and there’s a wonderfully human element to them, world-weariness or anger, that I just don’t get with this. But… but…. I’ll persevere.

  3. misterstory

    Hi. Firstly, I apologise for being a bad brother (not in a Blaxploitation kind of way). I’ve had a pretty horrible month or so and have had no time to blog and shockingly barely any time to listen to any music at all. Sorry Nolan. I’ve literally not listened to this yet. I am doing now. I will write more when I am more familiar with it. I am off to London soon so plenty of train / walking time to listen to it and let it seep in.

  4. misterstory

    Ok. I am working with this now. I am growing with it … around it … but not quite into it yet. I’ve found it initially difficult to listen to if I am totally honest. My efforts are starting to reward me though. At first I thought ‘he’s banging on a bit isn’t he?’. Yes, this is not the most eloquent review ever but that is where I was. As with most albums you tend to get caught up in one song that has a door opening effect for the rest of the tracks. For me, this is ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’. This is a beautifully crafted track. It does stand out from the others in terms of accessibility, length and stylistically but is has allowed me to get into the other tracks more. This is not an instant love … but neither was The Talking Heads album and that is on constant rotation now. Cheers Nolan. I will keep working with this and expect to get much more from it over time.

  5. Guy Hornsby

    I’m struggling a bit with this one to be honest. I kniow it’s a ‘classic’ but it’s not really making my insides rumble. He’s a great songwriter, but I can’t help comparing him against the likes of Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel and find it coming up short. It’s just personal preference I guess. But I’m going to keep persevering. It’s not a dislike, it’s a ‘that’s good’ but not ‘that’s great’.

  6. David Allison

    I’m sort of half way there with it. It’s obviously steeped in great songwriting and he’s got a very soulful voice and it all reeks of classic album in the best possible way. But I’m not sure it hangs together as an album for me – or at least, not yet. That could well change. I already like it a lot more than when I first listened.I do like Brother Joey’s description of ‘he’s banging on a bit, isn’t he?’ There is a bit of a feeling of that, especially on the first track. And I think you’ve got to have a very good reason to have 9 min long songs and I’m not quite sure I feel that involved in the longer numbers though.But hey, it’s still working its thing on me, so who knows what I’ll feel in the end?Incidentally, the Marley/Wailers album has become an absolute fave. LOVE it.

  7. Nolan Kane

    To be honest I fully agree about him banging on a bit and some of the songs being too long…. that was my impression as well at first. It took a while to grow on me, but got there eventutally. It’s a really good album for the car when you can get stuck into it without having to start and stop it.

  8. Guy Hornsby

    I just think it’s a bit noodly for me. Which is odd, as I like loose song structure in a lot of ways, but this just seems to have the opposite effect on me. But I’m going to perservere. Though are you saying I have to buy a car to listen to it? I thin that’s a bit beyond me.

  9. misterstory

    I am finding myself reaching for this one. I will admit to be fully into this album. Thank you Brother Nolan. What I saw as a bit self important, noodly and ‘banging on’ has matured into full on liking!

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