Astral Weeks is a deeply personal and dark album that caught the world off guard, considering the album’s release was fresh off the overwhelming success of his first single, “Brown-Eyed Girl”. Any listener expecting replication of the hit was in for a curveball loaded with advanced lyricism and a signature blend of folk, jazz, blues, Celtic music for his sophomore album. That move would catapult Van Morrison to higher popularity and earn him celebration as one of the most important songwriters in history.
Plenty of modern artists have been influenced by Morrison’s musical genius and paved their own unique paths with similar genre experimentation and songwriting. At first listen, you will catch on to songs by Michael Kiwanuka, Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys), and Counting Crows quickly— they echo Morrison’s influence in obvious but interesting detail. Counting Crows even slip a reference to “Sweet Thing” in “Round Here”, so take a listen and see if you can catch it.
Iron & Wine and Wilco take successful strides in blending numerous genres in their songs featured on this playlist. While Sam Beam blends flamenco, experimental, and folk influences to perform the haunting “Boy With a Coin”, Wilco redefine modern alt-country with “Jesus, Etc”.
Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Peckhold was enamored by Astral Weeks’ intimate qualities and wanted to transport listeners to another world, just as Morrison did, with their sophomore album, Helplessness Blues. “Bedouin Dress” is one of the most straightforward cuts from the dynamic folk album and is featured here. Father John Misty and Weezer do the same on I Love You Honeybear and Pinkerton, respectively, but bring Morrison’s sadness to the forefront with “Holy Shit” and “Butterfly”.
Van Morrison explores his delivery and vocal range extensively on Astral Weeks, making some lyrics feel more poignant and giving the album’s more sad tones some optimism. Jeff Buckley and Bon Iver experiment similarly with their gorgeous falsettos. Justin Vernon’s crystalline vocals on “Re: Stacks” lend greater impact and emotional resonance to the song’s lyrics.
Morrison is also a Irish folk forefather to Glen Hansard (also of the Swell Season) and Damien Rice, who have carried the torch to much success in modern music. Hansard performs a blistering cover of Astral Weeks, and the same intensity is achieved on “Say It to Me Now”, a major highlight from the score of Once. Damien Rice takes on a calmer demeanor on “Volcano” with vocalist Lisa Hannigan.