Written by Musgo Del Jefe
I write about movies. That's where I feel most at home. I've always loved the great directors. The ones that put their stamp on their films. The ones that tell stories that transcend the screen - that stick with you for years. But when a director makes a great film, he doesn't get a chance to remake it forty years later. It's that fact that brought me to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks: Live At The Hollywood Bowl.
Van Morrison's 1968 release, Astral Weeks has made just about every list of Top Albums Of All-Time that I've seen. I first encountered the album in my late teens as a budding fiction writer. I found the stream of consciousness feel of the lyrics drew me in. The combination of pop, jazz, and blues influences of the music held my rapt attention. The songs did not necessarily tell a coherent story as much as all revolve symbolically around love and the relationship of our desires to greater ideals of heaven. These amazing lyrics were written and sung by a very talented 23-year-old.
The same year, 1968, Stanley Kubrick released his most important work, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also considered one of the most important films of all-time, 2001 also draws upon almost a stream of consciousness visual storytelling. Sounds and images (especially classical music) are used in telling a story in ways that were also groundbreaking at the time. The 40-year-old, Kubrick, used science fiction to symbolically discuss our humanity and our relationships with technology, Nature, and God. By 2008, Kubrick had passed away and he did not have the ability to remake his film with the knowledge he had gained in the past forty years.
In 2008, Van Morrison played for two nights at the Hollywood Bowl (November 7 and 8), working with a orchestral string section, and performed the entire Astral Weeks album. My fascination is with the interpretation of these groundbreaking songs over the forty years. Van Morrison has the luxury of looking back at the compositions and the lyrics from the perspective of a 63-year-old man. Simply singing the lyrics as written and playing the music as it is on the album would bring a different interpretation in itself. Like any crafty artist, Van Morrison used the opportunity to make 40-year-old lyrics seem like they were written this morning. The arrangements extend the jazz and blues themes of the original album.