Van Morrison - Astral Weeks Live
Music both reflected and fueled the cultural and political upheaval going on in 1968. The Beatles White Album, Electric Ladyland from Jimi Hendrix, Cream's Wheels Of Fire, Anthem Of The Sun by the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones Beggar's Banquet were just some of the more transformative albums of that year. Several albums released in 1968 got more acclaim and commercial success than Astrral Weeks, which took more than 30 years to achieve Gold sales status, but none redefined the artistic possibilities for a musician more than this release did for Van Morrison.
Anticipation stemming from the announcement Morrison would perform the eclectic album live using many of the musicians on the original recording lead to almost impossibly high expectations by the time those lucky enough to score tickets filed into the Hollywood Bowl last November. What they experienced those two nights was pure musical magic. The album captures it beautifully, thanks both to Morrison's approach to the concert itself as well as his production of the record. The fact that he and the other musicians are so spot on despite having had only one rehearsal is remarkable. Choosing players he knows can be trusted with the space he generously allows them in the arrangements pays off over and over. And his decision to resist the temptation to re-cut an instrumental solo or alter a vocal contributes to the exceptionally live feel of this recording. Some might gripe about the re-sequencing of a few of the songs - but that's hardly enough to spoil the feeling that you are right in the middle of something very special. As he says, "You get the whole thing right there, unabridged, raw and in the moment. There was a distinct alchemy happening on that stage in Hollywood. I felt it". You will too.