Astral Weeks is the second solo album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, released in November 1968 on Warner Bros. Records. Widely acclaimed, it has had an enduring impact on both listeners and other musicians.
Recording took place at Century Sound Studios in New York City during three sessions in September and October 1968, although most participants and biographers agree that the eight songs were culled from the first and last early evening sessions. Except for John Payne, Morrison and the assembled jazz musicians had never played together before and the recordings commenced without rehearsals or lead sheets handed out.
The cover art, music and lyrics of the album portray the symbolism equating earthly love and heaven that would often feature in Morrison's work. With a blending of folk, blues, jazz, and classical music, it was a complete departure from his previous pop hit, Brown Eyed Girl (1967). Astral Weeks is often referred to as a song cycle or concept album with lyrics described as impressionistic, hypnotic, and stream-of-consciousness.
It received critical acclaim immediately upon its first release and subsequently has been placed on numerous widely circulated lists of best albums of all time. In 1987, as part of their 20th anniversary, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number seven on "The 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years." The 1995 Mojo list of the 100 Best Albums ranked it as number two, and it ranked nineteenth on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. Astral Weeks became and remains a cult favourite, despite the fact that it failed to achieve significant mainstream sales success for decades; after 33 years, it finally achieved gold in 2001. Music historian Andrew Ford compared its musical sophistication and commercial success to classical music - "neither instant nor evanescent: Astral Weeks will sell as many copies this year as it did in 1968 and has every year in between".
Forty years after the release, Morrison performed the songs on the album live during two concerts at the Hollywood Bowl in November 2008. Other concerts followed with a CD and DVD from the Hollywood Bowl performances released in 2009. Warner Bros. Records had not promoted the album with touring when it was released in 1968.