If ever there was an album custom-made to be listened to in a warm coffee shop on a cold, grey winter day, it is “Astral Weeks” by Irish folk-rock singer Van Morrison. Rated as the #60 album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of all time, this cohesive and consistent record was a big departure from his pop single “Brown Eyed Girl”, but to most audiences, a highly meritorious release that he had to fight with management and record executives in order to record and deliver.
Exuding a sense of warmth and comfort, “Astral Weeks” is eight songs of blissful peace, blending 7-minute songs with shorter tracks. The album opens with the title track, one of the very best on the album, and has a great blend of folk, jazz, rock and roll with a classical background. The strings in the background lift the tone, and add depth and substance to much of the album. Van Morrison wrote and performed all of these songs on vocal and acoustic guitar, accompanied by a variety of musicians on guitars, horns and percussion. The more I listen to this, the more I appreciate how good this record is, another intentional and unintentional discovery beyond his catalog of well-known hits. I can honestly say that I really enjoy this album from beginning to end, and don’t necessarily appreciate any song more or less than the others. The peaceful harmony carries from beginning to end, a perfect mood setter for a relaxing morning, afternoon or night.
Van Morrison ultimately stepped back a bit from this album, and did not necessarily concur with the extensive praise it was ultimately accorded, but to this one individual, it is worthy of all the praise and hype it has garnered over the years and will become a definite background for future happy days.