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Seminal masterpiece that made The Man a legend goes digital

By Claire McNeilly

Published 29/08/2015

Van Morrison’s 1968 masterpiece Astral Weeks is going online
Van Morrison’s 1968 masterpiece Astral Weeks is going online

Fans of Sir Van Morrison won't have to wait long for a new, improved version of his seminal album Astral Weeks.

There was huge disappointment earlier this week when devotees of The Man realised that the bulk release of the Morrison back catalogue on digital did not include the 1968 masterpiece that made him a worldwide star.

But now Warner Brothers, which holds the rights to Astral Weeks and another Morrison LP, His Band And The Street Choir, have announced that both albums will be expanded, remastered and reissued on October 30.

Morrison was just 22 years old and in dispute with his then record label, Bang Records, when he wrote the eight songs that make up Astral Weeks - including, of course, Cyprus Avenue.

An album once described as "heavy with yearning, with an aching for the streets of Belfast", Morrison himself described it as an opera of sorts, a story with definite characters, a song-cycle of "poetry and mythical musings channelled from my imagination".

Renowned Rolling Stone writer Lester Bangs once famously said of Astral Weeks: "Insofar as it can be pinned down, it is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralysed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. Maybe what it boiled down to is one moment's knowledge of the miracle of life."

Astral Weeks will be made available digitally and on CD, featuring previously unreleased, alternate versions of album cuts.

The expanded work will include the first take of Beside You - a stripped down version of Madame George - and longer versions of Ballerina and Slim Slow Slider.

His Band And The Street Choir has five unreleased bonus cuts, including a version of Give Me A Kiss without piano, horns or backing vocals.

The 33-album Morrison archive made available by Sony yesterday includes all the east Belfast music genius's solo works from 1971 as well as the recordings made with his legendary band Them from 1964 through 1966. Yesterday also saw the release by Legacy Recordings of The Essential Van Morrison, a 37-track career-spanning anthology, available digitally and as a 2CD album.

Most of the Van Morrison catalogue has never been available for streaming before, and much of the Ulsterman's catalogue has been out-of-print in any format, with some titles being unavailable for as long as 15 years.

Morrison released his most recent studio album, Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue, earlier this year.

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