Naturally I own Astral Weeks. Thanks to friendly generosity I own Veedon Fleece, and I even own Polydor’s 1990 compilation The Best of Van Morrison. Brown Eyed Girl was one of the songs that nostalgia-fuelled memories tell me soundtracked my childhood, and I think I might have even seen Van the Man play at The Fleadh in Finsbury Park one year. There was a time I listened to Van Morrison, but those days seem far gone now.
Astral Weeks, or at least the parts I remember, is something of a masterpiece. The title track and Sweet Thing along ought to be enough to win that accolade. And, of course, The Way Young Lovers Do, which sweeps me up in its infectious joy every single time. Only afterwards do I stop to wonder what it’s doing here, barging in with its ballsy brass like a drunk uncle at the wedding, interrupting the flow of folksy poeticism that the rest of the album works so hard at achieving.
Sweet Thing is a stroll in gardens wet with rain, a reverie of love yet to come. Like any good dream it makes sense at the time, but it’s hard to piece together an accurate picture after the event: the bass runs off ahead only to be reeled in by acoustic guitar; lines are begun with no more than half an eye on which direction they might go and where they might end; a flute flutters by now and again, chased by oddly insistent strings.
It is quite magnificent, and an important part of my early music collection. Like many of its peers in that regard it doesn’t get much of a look in these days.