Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

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  • This WB Green Label pressing has STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides for Van The Man’s 1968 groundbreaking, introspective classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This record lives or dies by the quality of its Tubey Magical Midrange, a sound modern records rarely begin to reproduce
  • It takes us years to find enough clean copies to do a shootout – these originals are not sitting in the bins at your local store anymore, they’re displayed behind the counter for a hundred bucks or more a pop 
  • 5 stars: “Astral Weeks is a justified entry in pop music’s pantheon. It is unlike any record before or since; it mixes together the very best of postwar popular music in an emotional outpouring cast in delicate, subtle musical structures.”

The original cover is actually in the original shrink!

I don’t think there’s too much I can tell you about Astral Weeks that’s going to convince you to buy it or not. It’s obviously one of the man’s (many) masterpieces, his most unique and original contribution to the music of his time, and one of the most beloved albums in his canon.

This original Green Label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Warner Bros. Green Label Magic

We’ve made a habit of scooping up all the Green and Gold Label Warner Brothers records we come across, albums by the likes of James Taylor, Van Morrison, America, Little Feat, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Paul and Mary, The Association, The Faces, The Grateful Dead and more.

When you get good pressings of these artist’s albums they just can’t be beat. The sound is so right in so many ways that you find yourself ignoring the sound and just getting lost in the music.

This is one of those albums. Drop the needle on any track for a taste of real ’60s Tubey Magical Warner Brothers analog and Van’s unique mostly-acoustic blend of Celtic folk, soul, blues, and jazz.

Although the early reissues from 1973 on the Burbank label can sound quite good, one has yet to win a shootout. However, the second label has beaten some Green Label original pressings that, for whatever reason, weren’t mastered or pressed properly and therefore didn’t sound as good to us when played against the best pressings we had on hand for our shootout.

What We Listen For

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Astral Weeks 
Beside You 
Sweet Thing 
Cyprus Avenue

Side Two

The Way Young Lovers Do 
Madame George 
Ballerina 
Slim Slow Slider

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Astral Weeks is generally considered one of the best albums in pop music history, but for all that renown, it is anything but an archetypal rock & roll album. It isn’t a rock & roll album at all.

Van Morrison plays acoustic guitar and sings in his elastic, bluesy, soulful voice, accompanied by crack group of jazz studio players: guitarist Jay Berliner, upright bassist Richard Davis, Modern Jazz Quartet drummer Connie Kay, vibraphonist Warren Smith and soprano saxophonist John Payne (also credited on flute, though that’s debatable — some claim an anonymous flutist provided those parts).

Producer Lewis Merenstein added chamber orchestrations later and divided the album into halves: “In The Beginning” and “Afterwards” with four tunes under each heading. Morrison’s songs are an instinctive, organic mixture of Celtic folk, blues, and jazz. He fully enters the mystic here, more in the moment than he ever would be again in a recording studio. If his pop hit “Brown-Eyed Girl” was the first place he explored the “previous” — i.e., the depths of his memory — for inspiration and direction, he immerses himself in it here.

The freewheeling, loose feel adds to the intimacy and immediacy in the songs. They are, for the most part, extended, incantatory, loosely narrative, and poetic ruminations on his Belfast upbringing: its characters, shops, streets, alleys, and sidewalks, all framed by the innocence and passage of that era. Morrison seems hypnotized by his subjects; they comfort and haunt a present filled with inexhaustible longing and loneliness.

He confesses as much in the title track: “If I ventured in the slipstream/Between the viaducts of your dream/Where immobile steel rims crack/And the ditch in the back roads stop/ Could you find me?/Would you kiss-a my eyes/…To be born again….” Morrison doesn’t reach out to the listener, but goes deep inside himself to excavate and explore.

The album’s centerpiece is “Madame George,” a stream-of-consciousness narrative of personal psychological and spiritual archetypes deeply influenced by the road novels of Jack Kerouac. The climactic epiphany experienced on “Cyprus Avenue” paints a portrait of place and time so vividly, it fools listeners into the experience of shared — but mythical — memory. “The Way Young Lovers Do” is the most fully formed tune here. Its swinging jazz verses and tight rhythmic choruses underscore a simmering, passionate eroticism in Morrison’s lyric and delivery.

Astral Weeks is a justified entry in pop music’s pantheon. It is unlike any record before or since; it mixes together the very best of postwar popular music in an emotional outpouring cast in delicate, subtle musical structures.