14. astral weeks

“When it comes to Van Morrison, it seems there’s three types of people. The first have no opinion really. They just like it when Brown Eyed Girl gets played at weddings, and maybe Moondance, too. The second tend to argue that Van peaked with Them, howling out the Ulster punk blues circa 1965-66, and everything since has been self indulgent whatever. And then there are those who hear the poetry of the opening lines from Astral Weeks (the song) and let’s just say, they get chills, the good kind, the transformative kind. The music humbles them, you might even say it saves them (at least in some small way) from narrow belief in a narrow universe in which everything is known, and that which isn’t will be soon enough, and thus defined by sober application of scientific data. Or nothing matters anyway, we’re all just over-evolved monkeys doing our worst to stay alive. Or it’s all fate, preordained by some all powerful, all terrible blind idiot God (and his minions). So either way – who f***ing cares?

I do actually. Which I suppose makes me a type three, the third kind, with nine Van Morrison albums on my shelf never far from reach, because you never know, nobody knows, but still we reach. And the one album that’s gotten grabbed the most over the years is Astral Weeks, the 1968 miracle that apparently just seemed to just come out of nowhere, and even today nobody’s really sure. The mystery continues, beautiful and profoundly necessary, or as Lester Bangs put it a few years after the fact: ‘In the condition I was in, it assumed at the time the quality of a beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk; what’s more, it was proof that there was something left to express artistically besides nihilism and destruction.’ In other words, yeah, what can I say? It sends me.” (Philip Random)

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298. I can only give you everything

“I hear a Them track and I honestly can’t hear much difference from what the Rolling Stones were up to at the same time. Mid-60s, putting serious electricity to the blues, kicking great and necessary holes in the reality barrier. The weird part is that it’s Van Morrison doing the howling, offering nothing short of everything, which is clearly not enough. Some things never change.” (Philip Random)

Them-promo

474. here comes the night

Pin-Ups, the last of the Ziggy-era Bowie albums, was an all covers affair, in which the thin, strange alien paid tribute to the musical heroes of his youth. As a whole, the album’s not his greatest, feeling pretty tossed off overall. But the take on Here Comes The Night is superb. Loud and brash, a full-on show-stopper that at least matches the original. Which is pretty amazing when you consider Van Morrison sang that. How often has he been equaled?

DavidBowie-73-pinups