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Is Astral Weeks uniquely unique?

Discussion in 'music' started by Woodface, Apr 12, 2019.

  1. Vinniemac

    Vinniemac pfm Member

    I’m the opposite. I love Van, but just can’t get on with Astral Weeks. I keep trying, but it remains a blind (deaf?) spot to me.
  2. wacko

    wacko pfm Member

    It's weird. I have 17 VM albums and at least 7 would be in my Top 50.
    Astral Weeks is my favourite but Astral Weeks Live my least favourite. Some things you just don't f around with.
    Unfathomable how you can like VM but not AW.
    carruthersesq and Weekender like this.
  3. boneman

    boneman pfm Member

    Funny one of my very fave tracks on that is with Wynton Kelly! Love Evans too but Kelly is SO swinging on that one.
  4. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    It's probably the most perfect album, every track is great & the sequencing is spot on.
  5. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    The odd thing to me is that despite being a pretty cool 'head' back in the 60s, I didn't hear Astral Weeks then. I'd also probably have hated it if I did. I didn't really hear it properly until the 80s. but when I did.. It stuck.

    I really do believe it's an unclassifiable album.

    Some radio prog years ago Van was quoted as saying something along the lines of 'I don't know what it is. but it defiinitely is not Rock'. That's true. It's not folk or jazz either.

    Van himself is an oddity. He's been basically churning out multiple versions of around 3 ideas since the dawn of time.. yet he remains interesting. He's still a great vocalist, without being a great singer.

    And because I can..I'm posting this again. One of his best ever vids.. with the bonus of the lovely Kate St John on sax..

    flapland, narabdela and Weekender like this.
  6. johnhunt

    johnhunt pfm Member

    Love veedon fleece.And think astral weeks is overrated
    Mullardman likes this.
  7. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    We have a dissenting voice & I was just thinking, 'surprised no one has had a pop yet' ;) I am actually think it is about right in it veneration with the downside being that it has allowed him to record some right crap later in his career.
  8. Weekender

    Weekender pfm Member

  9. Mal45

    Mal45 pfm Member

    I was in my late teens/early twenties in the latter half of the 60s. There was a lot of very original music around then from the Beatles, Dylan, Beach Boys, Jimi and many others. However, although superficially different from each other, they all appeared to me and probably most other people at the time, to be part of and fit in to the prevailing zeitgeist. There were two great albums though that seemed to be a world apart from everything else. One was Astral Weeks, the other was Love's Forever Changes. Astral Weeks had then and still has a mystical quality about it - it seemed to be music from a different planet - "in another time in another place". Forever Changes was beautiful on the surface - all lovely melodies and rhythms enhanced by strings and baroque brass. The lyrics though were a very dark counterpoint to the beautiful music such that it was hard to get your head round how they co-existed together. I never tire of playing either - neither seem to have dated in any way since neither really fitted into the prevailing late 60s "mood" in the first place. So I guess both are "uniquely unique"!

    gassor, Mullardman and Weekender like this.
  10. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    Of course I'm fully in support of your right to be wrong!

    I too love Veedon Fleece and sometimes, mood depending. I'll listen to it over AW. But Astral Weeks is better.
    carruthersesq and Snufkin like this.
  11. gassor

    gassor There may be more posts after this.

    Yep, that's the two records that are top of my pile of most wonderful albums, would need a long hard think to work out what comes next.
    Mal45 likes this.
  12. Mal45

    Mal45 pfm Member

    Difficult too, but I'd probably go for Blonde On Blonde purely for Visions Of Joanna which has that same otherworldly quality that a lot of Astral Weeks has - and Sad Eyed Lady isn't too far away either.
    Charlie_1 and Mullardman like this.
  13. gassor

    gassor There may be more posts after this.

    Boom, it has just come to me (and seems obvious to my way of thinking) it is Highway 61. Three from the 60s, I must be old.
  14. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    Might I suggest Song For A Seagull or Clouds, or Blue, by Joni. Or CSN..by CSN?

    In fact.. most of the 'also rans' of that period knock the living s**t out of most subsequent stuff..
    Arkless Electronics, Mal45 and gassor like this.
  15. Sean K

    Sean K pfm Member

    I read somewhere that Warner's gave him a choice of how to spend the budget for the album, some thing along the lines of, with the band you used for the the Bert Burns sessions we can afford two weeks in the studio, or two days with the best session musicians we can get. I presume he chose the latter, with a later date for overdubs.
    I'm sure someone bettter informed than me will shed some light on this.

    On a different note, for most of the last 30 years, it's been or been close to, my favourite album. I had endless nights during the nineties ( decent income but few responsibilities) when I would wake up on the sofa after a few toots, with the run out groove clicking, knowing I should go to bed but having to listen to ballerina one more time. Sweet thing is just joyous. Some times I think I've played it so many times I won't enjoy it much, until I put it on, and then just disappear into the music...

    I love quite a lot of his other stuff, especially the Them stuff, which is great, but I think AS is his highest point. That's hugely due to the jazz background of the band; no one is just playing a bass line or a drum pattern, they're improvising, which gives it so much depth and richness but van was really channelling something on this album, too; it's on another plane to anything else he recorded. When discussing the music I want at my funeral ( hypothetical, I should say; nothing pending I know about), after suggesting the bushes scream while my daddy prunes and Mr Slater's parrot. I usually settle on sweet thing.

    As a bass player, I just marvel at Richard Davis' playing on this whole album; I just don't have the words...
    saturn9, foxwelljsly and Weekender like this.
  16. Charlie_1

    Charlie_1 pfm Member

    I love Veedon Fleece too, side A in particular - one of my top 3 or 4 Van favourites. But I just don't hear the same special quality that is there in Astral Weeks, except maybe 'You don't Pull No Punches, but...' . Veedon seems more crafted to me, less improvisational - not sure if AW is improvised at all but it sounds like it some times.

    Like others have said, I feel some jazz albums come closest in spirit.

    It's still the album that has hit me hardest in the past 30 years. I was gonna say 'resonated with me' but that always sounds a bit shite.

    A bit off topic and not the same league but been enjoying his live album in Belfast Grand Opera House a lot lately. I never thought much of it first time around and left it on the shelf, but it's got some great moments and fab playing. Especially love some of the drumming.

    Common One is another of his that fell flat with me but years later I really started to enjoy it.
    Mullardman and Weekender like this.
  17. Charlie_1

    Charlie_1 pfm Member

    Anyone compared the UK orange label W7 first press it to the US olive label W7 first press? I think the US copy is supposed to be better but not sure if it's worth the effort/cost.

    The UK first press is quite a lot better (more lifelike) than the UK second press (olive).

    Anyone getting pressing envy then don't worry. I fell in love with this LP on a crappy 80s reissue. Getting better pressings just brings back more of the magic for a little while - but it becomes the norm again after a while. Doesn't stop me occassionally splashing out though - I rarely chase better pressings so has to be a very special album.
  18. Charlie_1

    Charlie_1 pfm Member

    That's a good shout actually. I get that feeling too.
  19. foxwelljsly

    foxwelljsly Keep Music Vile

    I'd also say that Tim Buckley is possibly the only artist to plough a similar furrow.

    I read the Lester Bangs piece on the album long before I bought it. Its one of the best record reviews ever written and the album didn't disappoint either. Cypress Avenue and Madam George, in particular, are astonishingly moving and emotionally dynamic.
    Mal45 and Weekender like this.
  20. Mal45

    Mal45 pfm Member

    The recent/current Warner releases (EU and US) of Astral Weeks mastered by Acoustech/Kevin Gray are sonically superb. In a strange way though, they don't really improve on my UK second pressing since listening to an album like AW, you maybe don't want to hear how all the cogs gears and stuff fit together - you just want it to wash over you. However, like you say "it becomes the norm again after a while", so if you ever have reason to get another copy, I wouldn't hesitate to get one of these KG ones.

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