Last Christmas I received one of the best gifts that I ever remember receiving.
A record player.
It was an unexpected and thrilling surprise.
For a music lover like me it meant several things.
My love of vinyl records was reignited.
The music buying experience that I once knew and have missed was about to be a part of my life again.
I was going to start my music collection anew with vinyl records, the way it is supposed to be.
I’ve gone on a record buying binge since receiving the record player.
New vinyl and used.
All kinds of music. Miles Davis, The Beatles, Ray Barretto, Odetta, Roberta Flack, Jimi Hendrix, Bessie Smith, and others.
About a week after Christmas I went, with much excitement and anticipation, to a local record store where I live.
There were so many records to choose from and I wanted them all.
I totally lost track of time while I was there record shopping.
Just like it used to be.
And after so many years I purchased a vinyl record again.
There were so many choices but I did not hesitate.
Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.
I’ve listened to Astral Weeks more times than I can count, over many years, on vinyl, cassette, and cd.
The record has always been a kind of mystery to me in which I always discover new things after every listen.
I think that’s been one of the reasons for its enduring appeal.
Mysterious musically and lyrically.
The blending of different musical styles is part of it. There’s the beauty of Van’s acoustic guitar playing, the vibraphone and violin sounds, the pulse of the bass playing, and the phrasing in the singing, done for different effects throughout the album.
Though on the surface the songs are about Van’s childhood days in Belfast it is much more than that.
Isolation and longing for different things in life and out of life are themes that I always take from the record.
However, I don’t think I will ever get to the bottom of songs like Astral Weeks, Cypress Avenue, and Slim Slow Slider.
Forever a mystery to me.
But there is nothing mysterious about the undeniable beauty of other songs like Sweet Thing, The Way Young Lovers Do, Madame George and Ballerina.
Taken as a whole, Astral Weeks is one long song cycle that incorporates folk, blues, and jazz with Van Morison’s passionate and lyrical singing to tell stories that are heartfelt, profound, and universal.
It’s astounding to think that this magnificent work of art was created by a 23 year old kid.
And it was and I will enjoy it forever and ever.
In glorious vinyl sound.