This was a massive departure for Van, who'se work with Them and popular solo releases with Bang records only hinted at the maturity of his later work. This album was adventurous to say the least, with songs presented in stream of consiousness form, with Van and his session musicians "venturing down the slipstream" and playing whatever they felt like with none of the traditional studio lead sheets.
Lester Bangs, famous rock critic said:
"It sounded like the man who made Astral Weeks was in terrible pain, pain most of Van Morrison's previous works had only suggested; but like the later albums by The Velvet Underground, there was a redemptive element in the blackness, ultimate compassion for the suffering of others, and a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cut right through the heart of the work." (1979)
This was to be the first of many spiritual highlights for Van, think 'Listen to the Lion" off St Dominic's Preview, 'In the Garden' off No Teacher No Guru No Method, 'Rave on John Donne' off Inarticualte Speech of the Heart or the much underrated album The Common One ("Summertime in England" is phenomenal)
Astral Weeks, however, was his first venture into this domain, safe to say it had never been done before in music and put the attempts by Psychadelic rock musicians to duplicate the LSD experience to shame. It was also his most complete, unified album, one that made you feel like what church should and never has been.
They are celebrating this anniversary in Belfast, of course, with a recent concert, Astral Weeks Revisited, played by contemporary Irish Artists.
Image: Courtesy Warner Bros