Posts Tagged ‘Astral Weeks’

Electric Dirt

July 13, 2009

Levon Helm's New CD

Levon Helm's New CD

From the ages 12 to 21, I was constantly buying new records. I couldn’t keep up with the explosion of new and good music. Nowadays, years can go by without my buying a single CD. This year I’ve bought three and I’ve loved two. They are: Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl, which I didn’t like, Lane Tietgen’s Wheel of Fortune, which I loved and wrote about here (click on the “Lane Tietgen” tag below to read my review), and now there’s Levon Helm’s fantastic new CD Electric Dirt.

I loved his previous CD, Dirt Farmer, but figured it was too much to hope for two great CDs in a row. I was wrong. If anything, I like the new one even more. Some of it sounds absolutely joyous. There’s not a bad track on the record. Every song has something special in the arrangement or in the playing or singing. At the moment, my favorites are “Tennessee Jed,” “Golden Bird,” “When I Go Away,” and “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” There’s a lot of real soul here and a lot of variety.

You can buy it here:

Highly recommended, 5 stars, A+… and all that jazz.


Progress Report #8: The Second Coming of Astral Weeks

March 4, 2009

When I was in my early twenties, I was a member of a cult—the cult of Astral Weeks. (For those who don’t know it, it’s a recording by Van Morrison.) That record had a big influence on the direction my life took. It gave me a big push toward the street. It’s interesting to me that just as I’ve started working on the section of the book that deals with my encounter with the record, Astral Weeks, and its creator are in the news almost every day. Late last year, Van did a live performance of the entire album at the Hollywood Bowl and included one of the musicians from the original recording, guitarist Jay Berliner. The recording of the concert is out now, and Morrison is promoting it heavily. I stopped following Van years ago, but I was curious to hear how the concert turned out. I know what he’s capable of doing in concert, and I’d been hearing that he really pulled it off, that it was a remarkably inspired performance. I’ve heard it now, and I don’t think so—not at all. It has bursts of energy, but not much else. He’s lost so much of his voice. That happens with age, and I’m not judging the record on that account. My biggest problem with his performance is that there’s so little conviction in his singing. His conviction, his resolute connection to the lyrics, was the quality that made the original recording so astonishing. The general enthusiasm for the Hollywood Bowl performance puzzles me. For me, the star of the show is Berliner.