Van Morrison, Astral Weeks - album review: An album so timeless it re-casts its spell each time you hear it

Download: Astral Weeks; Sweet Thing; Cyprus Avenue; Madame George; Ballerina

Andy Gill
Friday 23 October 2015 13:10

If we’re talking baroque pop, Van Morrison’s folk-jazz classic, originally released in 1968, is the landmark work, an album so timeless it re-casts its spell each time you hear it.

It’s been sustained in this position partly through his reluctance to issue session material – concerns overridden for this remastered reissue, whose four outtakes reveal how precisely the songs were designed, despite their extemporised feel (some were improvised on the first take by jazz players who’d never met Morrison).

The most interesting outtake is an earlier version of “Madame George” yet to be given angelic wings by overdubbed strings; but although they offer a glimpse into works in progress, all lack the thrilling intrigue of the final takes.

None of which diminishes the original album, in which romantic reminiscence and spiritual yearning combine for one of music’s cornerstone works.

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