Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Paddy's Day from Rock O'Turtleneck & Van Morrison

If Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is not in your collection, you should rectify the situation immediately, and St. Patrick's Day would be a fine time to do so.

Growing up as a budding music geek, I keep seeing Astral Weeks on many "Best of All Time" type of lists in Rolling Stone and elsewhere, and would see it name-checked as an influence by idols like Peter Buck of R.E.M., but I never heard it until I was around 40, when I bought it on a whim on iTunes.

Unlike some records that are regulars on lists like that but I find a little overrated, such as The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica or anything by Patti Smith, Astral Weeks' lofty reputation is 100% well deserved. It is the sound of a burst of creative genius by a 23 year-old romantic Irish poet that was thankfully and miraculously caught on tape. The songs don't sound written so much as pulled from our musical collective unconsciousness.

"Cyprus Avenue" is my favorite track on the 1968 record, seen here in a phenomenal performance recorded at the Filmore East in 1970.

A few years ago Van the Man did some shows at the Hollywood Bowl and elsewhere where he played Astral Weeks in full - wish I'd gone. Van is a legendarily erratic performer (I saw him open for Bob Dylan in 1998 and he wandered around the stage like he was looking for his bus at the Port Authority), but he looks like he delivered the goods at these shows.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to Van the Man and my fellow Irishmen, both genuine and otherwise.

Buy Astral Weeks on iTunes here.


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