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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 6 February 2009
So, you record an album in a couple of days when you're nothing more than a wet-behind-the-ears scallywag from Belfast. Paraphrasing Dylan, channeling Robert Johnson, Van had stuff bustin' from his head. It didn't match up with what he did with Them, there were no pop songs there, it was all a bit over the place and no one quite knew what to do with it. From the early 70s on, however, "Astral Weeks" began to appear on best of lists from here to there. Never a big seller, it has nonetheless become one of the touchstone albums of the past few decades. Morrison never revisited that type of sound in the studio, though he obviously still had a great love for the album. For whatever reason, because he found the sound in his head from 1968, because he doesn't own "Astral Weeks" (notice that it isn't included in the recent remastered album series), he took it out, gave it a shake, dusted it down, assembled a great band and took the whole thing to Hollywood. Though his voice doesn't have the range it did all those years ago it works a treat. This could have been a polished, clean and sharp performance; instead there's a real sense that Morrison is pushing the songs and the performers and, whisper it, enjoying the arse off himself. This could have been a disaster (the cover certainly is!) but it isn't; it's a powerful, moving, hugely enjoyable performance. The songs skip and skittle from Van and the band and there's a real sense of performance - this isn't an exhibition of a work of art from the past, it's a vital, dynamic revisiting of a weird, odd, moving and beguiling collection of songs. Van lobs in a couple of bonus tracks too - the fabulous Listen To The Lion and the much underrated Common One (which is essentially a vocal sparring match between him and Richie Buckley). A treat. Now, Van what the hell is going on with those teeth?
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on 9 February 2009
As the saying goes "back in a former life" I was a huge Van Morrison fan. It was fair to say that Van's music was my religion and that "I was healed on a daily basis". To "practice" the religion I had seen Van in concert, way over 50 times, and had bought or swapped as many bootleg albums. I had everything the man ever released commercially.

The religion stopped for me about a decade ago; I stopped being a major fan--I thought I would never see the day but it happened. Why? Well, painful as it was, I had to accept that the albums that Van was releasing were so beneath the great man's talents that it was sad to see and hear.

I could no longer support the man on his journey; a journey that had taken the shape of releasing an album a year for the sake of it. Each album was identical to the last - the music never changed, either did the voice .Even when he experimented with Skiffle and Country, well the end result was even sadder. So I stopped buying the albums and stopped going to concerts. I still practiced the religion but it was on a diet of previous albums ,former glories.

Today I was in my local record store and I saw this album. Considering that I believe that "Astral Weeks "is the greatest album ever released and "Sweet Thing" the greatest song I had to see if the religion could be re-ignited. Well the answer is a definitive yes. I have just finished listening to the CD and I have goose bumps on my skin and hairs are standing on the back on my neck. Van is back.

Musically, Van has reached heights here I did not believe were ever possible again. Sure his voice is no longer the same but he has got it to levels he hasn't got it to in twenty years. He has put together a band that are as good as the Caledonia Soul Orchestra were thirty odd years ago. Ritchie Buckley, Paul Moran, the string section, everyone, reach levels of musical brilliance to match the genius of Van.

This is the reworking of a masterpiece, different to the original but every bit as good . Is it better - that is impossible but I repeat it is as good . I can't pick highlights - the whole album is so superb. As you can read I am running out of superlatives.

As for the cover , I can only remember one other album cover that Van smiled and that was where a photographer tricked him and the record company released it much to Van's displeasure . In this case I would bet that the image was caught live during the performance and that Van gave his blessing to the photo to be used as an indication that he too was totally surprised to revisit, to be transcended back into the garden, all misty wet with rain, to be healed again. Or best perhaps to leave it to Van's words reproduced on the back insert " Get on the train....I believe I've transcended ....I do believe ....I've transcended...to be born again - I have transcended ....I've transcended .......I've transcended TIME."

Welcome back Van. I thought I would not live to see the day I got my religion back. I had hoped, never expected. A grateful fan.
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on 9 February 2009
I've sat and listened to the original release of this album more times than I could possibly remember, since I first came across it in 1973.
To have Van revisit this masterpiece, himself, all in one go , is a dream come true.
Van approaches his interpretation of these songs anew, from a perspective of 40 years on, looking back at that time in his life when anything was possible. The voice has changed since then, but the artistry has not diminished.
On the Friday night in November in the Hollywood Bowl, when Van performed Slim Slow Slider,
I was conscious of being present in a moment of artistic beauty at the instant of great art being created.
It lifted me right up and took me way beyond where ever I'd been in terms of my relationship with, and my understanding of,
that song prior to that performance.
The whole trip to L.A. had already proved to be socially worthwhile, and that performance of that song on that night made it musically and artistically worthwhile.
And it stayed that way for the rest of the show , with Madame George laying me out completely.

And when I just listened to Slider on the new release , it totally re enforced my feelings about that moment.
Any critic who rates this album anything less than 11 on the ten scale, has missed the point altogether - pretty
much like the first time round!
As Mr T once said " I pity the fool!"

Shame we got the Saturday Madame George , which is merely stellar! :-)
As to the music on this album,Shortly after the shows in November, someone
declared that the violinist Tony Fitzgibbon won the award for MVP.
After listening to the official release, there can be little doubt that this is the case. Extra ordinary and empathetic, he is totally in the zone.
But I think, also that we must say a Big Hand for the Band.
This ensemble is as sweet as can be, and the whole thing is held together
by the glue that is David Hayes on bass
For me, Hayes is the best bass player I've heard in any Van Morrison band
and his performance on this album is the equal of the original.
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on 14 July 2009
The Godfather Trilogy (4 Disc Box Set) [DVD]
THIS LIVE ALBUM, PEHAPS WILL NOT BE FULLY APPRIECIATED UNTIL MANY YEARS AFTER IT'S RELEASE. JUST LIKE THE RELEASE OF ASTRAL WEEKS ALL THOSE YEARS AGO. IT NOW STANDS UP AS ONE OF THE MOST EARTH BREAKING ALBUMS OF ALL TIME. THIS ASTRAL WEEKS LIVE IS NO EXCEPTION. HOW MANY ARTISTS OVER THE AGE OF 60 COULD POSSIBLY DELIVER SUCH A MAGNIFICENT PEFORMANCE OF HIS OWN MASTERPIECE. EVERY TRACK IS OUTSTANDING PROVIDING THE LISTERNER WITH BREATHTAKING MOMENTS TO SAVOUR. VAM MORRISON IS PASSIONATE AND CONDUCTS THE FANTASTIC MUSICIANS AT HIS PACE AND THEY ARE WITH HIM ALL THE WAY. THE TRACK "BALLERINA" IS HEARTSTOPPING AND "MADAM GEOGE" IS A DELIGHT.EVERYONE WILL HAVE THEIR OWN FAVOURITE-MINE IS ALL OF THEM. THIS WILL BECOME ONE OF THE GREATEST LIVE ALBUMS EVER - YOU WAIT AND SEE
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on 20 March 2009
There was considerable intrepidation purchasing this live version of Astral Weeks as to the many "vannies" the original is a classic cemented in their soul and forty years on how was Morrison's distinctive Belfast voice going to sound. I was not disappointed with the longer tracks no doubt reflecting the original long recording sessions late at night in New York city recording studio. While faithful in many respects to the original Morrison brings his "caledonaia" soul to the music in a different manner yet without spoiling the mood particularly on the slower and quiter passages of music. As usual Morrison feeds of the feeling and harmonics of the backing of the live band as previously exemplified in his double live album "It's to late to stop now" in itself one of the greatest live albums ever made.
However for a real treat, turn back the clock and purchase the vinyl version. The sound is far superior with David Hayes double bass vibrating one of the high notes particularly at the start of Madame George.
I just hope that others enjoy the pleasure of both the CD and LP versions have given me.
Clifford Charlton
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on 27 March 2009
The original 'Astral Weeks' album may be considered by many Van fans to be his greatest recording achievement, and 'Madame George' to be the defining moment on that album, but how relevant are they to today's audiences? There may be some nostalgic relevance for those old enough to remember the original's release way back when, but this reworking of those classic tracks is much more relevant to today's audiences.

Not wanting to take anything away from the original (which I know is cherished by so many), but Van brings new depth to these live recordings which far exceed the originals, and for me at least, this album will be revisited far more frequently than the original. This recording is sublime, and I can't wait for the DVD release of the concert to be issued.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 October 2014
The more I play this album, the more I enjoy it, this quite simply is an amazing and beautiful recording of one of music's greatest albums ever forty years later performed at the Hollywood Bowl, just a shame no UK release for a DVD made at the show but we can but hope. This whole concert see's Van at his very best, playing and singing his music with a superb band or is that orchestra. You soon realise the richness and the tapesty has not diminished over the years in fact it's matured like the best wine into a piece of absolute classical popular music. It's so good that Van has reurned to such a groundbreaking album, and performed it so perfectly. Every song,every word,every note draws you in to immerse and enjoy this wonderful concert. Van's voice has matured so much over the years, so today he right to go back to Astral Weeks, perform it again ,after all his experience to look again at a seminal work, and introduce it afresh to both new oand older fans.
As I say the more I play this wonderful concert, the more I see the mystery and depth of the lyrics, the more you realise also this is one great album that has never aged in all the years, still one stanout set of songs, still among the best ever by one of the greatest artists to perform and record. Unmissable !
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on 21 August 2009
I listened to the album on my back way home from work, latish and as the sun was going down over the hills and fields. At first I was a bit sad as I couldn't hear the beautiful words as clearly as on the original and his voice was different, gravelley, slurred, but I began to like the orchestration and slowly I got into it. Well, the sun was setting and it was a warm night and I got to the quite fabulous version of Slim Slow Slider and I was there, on the night, in the audience mesmerised, hypnotised by the whole voice, viloin, guitar sliding magical mysterious thing. In a world of my own with the master and his music. And I couldn't stop driving I just went right past my door and on and on as it got dark the sun set and I drove til the music came to an end...and then I went home. That was quite an experience.
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on 24 March 2009
A really great live album. Astral Weeks is one of my favourite albums so I just had to get this live set. It does not disappoint. Each of the tracks is longer than the originals as lyrics from other songs are woven in. The quality of the recording is very good and the sheer musicianship shines through. The only downside is the grinning photo on the front which looks like it was photo-shopped from Alien.
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on 24 February 2013
At last we can hear the whole "Astral weeks" album sung and played live by one of the greatest singer-songwriters ever .
"Van the man" at his best though times have come and gone . Big musicians too with guitar player John Platania on bonus material only ("Listen to the lion !").
Too bad the vinyl bonus track "Gloria" isn't on the CD version .
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