Why ‘Astral Weeks’ Is Van Morrison’s Best Album of All Time

Every once in a while, an album will be released that surprises not only the artist’s fans, but the record company it was released on. This was the case with Van Morrison’s 1968 album Astral Weeks, and the stellar blues-jazz-folk record that became an unexpected hit. And it still has major listening power today.

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Morrison had always been a poet, even during his adolescence. It takes a poetic mind like that to write something like Astral Weeks. Musicality aside, the lyricism of the album is profound, namely because of its stream-of-consciousness style. It’s a deeply introspective album that explores love, longing, and existential hope/dread in a way that nobody was really expecting from Morrison.

The Unexpected Power of ‘Astral Weeks’

Lyricism was the gold of the album, but the sound of the album was also notably different from Morrison’s previous work. Fans were expecting something similar to “Brown Eyed Girl” and instead experienced a notable deviation from that pop sound. The album fused together everything from jazz to blues to folk to even classical music.

It’s obvious why the sound was so on par. Morrison recorded the album with some of the best jazz musicians of the time. A few names include Richard Davis, Connie Kay, and Jay Berliner. When instrumentalists like these are put in a room and told to experiment and be spontaneous, you get something like Astral Weeks.

So, Astral Weeks is a phenomenal album; but what makes it Van Morrison’s best album? When it comes down to it, it’s a highly relatable album lyrically. Whether you grew up in Belfast, Ireland or not, Morrison paints a picture of his childhood that is nostalgic and heartbreakingly vivid.

Astral Weeks also has a very unedited feel to it, which lends it a very raw and authentic sound that you don’t really hear much anymore. Even at the time it was released, it was a unique piece of work.

Astral Weeks is best experienced from beginning to end. However, we’d say tracks like “Cyprus Avenue” and “Ballerina” are essential tracks to listen to. We recommend listening to the 1999 remaster of the record for the best experience.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

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