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Van Morrison

Date: November, 1968
Release: Warner Brothers WS-1768
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When Astral Weeks was released in 1969, very few people got it. When I bought the record from a friend 13 years ago, I didn’t really get it either. In fact I wanted my money back. My friend promised that the album would grow on me if I’d just give it a few more spins. By the third listen, Astral Weeks had completely overwhelmed me with its raw emotional beauty. It has since ingrained itself deeply into my musical identity.

There really isn’t anything else quite like Astral Weeks — it was unprecedented when it came out and nothing has compared to it since. Even Van Morrison, for all his creative powers, never topped this early peak (although 1974’s Veedon Fleece comes close). Nothing written on Astral Weeks can ever truly capture its essence — the music speaks for itself. That said, writing about the album feels like one of the hardest things I could possibly do. Rather than try to rally my best adjectives and sing the album’s praises, I will avoid the standard drivel and, as Van sings, “venture in the slipstream.”

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Date: 1974
Release: POLYDOR
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Veedon Fleece is a deeply personal album that marked Morrison’s return to the stream of consciousness and raw soul power of 1968’s Astral Weeks. It was recorded around the time of his divorce from Janet Planet, the same woman to whom he had dedicated the passionate love songs of 1971’s “Tupelo Honey.” This album is emotionally wrenching, a powerful statement on love gone bad. The melancholy mood of Veedon Fleece compels the listener to enter the singer’s world of heartbreak. Though occasionally verging on the depressing, there is such immediacy and honesty in the music that you can’t help but feel alive after a listen. Spare and subtle moments abound, such as “Fair Play,” “Streets of Arklow,” and “Country Fair.”

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