Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Tropes in Astral Weeks (1968)


A literary trope is the use of figurative language, through a word, phrase or image, for artistic effect. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clich├ęs in creative works. Here's a list some identified in the great Astral Weeks: 

Alliterative Title: Slim Slow Slider

All Love Is Unrequited: Cyprus Avenue

Call-Back: Cyprus Avenue is mentioned again in Madame George.

Drag Queen: Madame George. Morrison has evidently denied this, but most people think he's full of it.   In the corner, playing dominoes in drag,
                                        The one and only Madame George."

Epic Rocking: Astral Weeks, Cyprus Avenue, Ballerina and especially Madame George.

Happy Rain: Both Sweet Thing and The Way Young Lovers Do use the lines "Fields all wet with rain". Something of a recurring theme for Van.

Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Astral Weeks introduced Van's unique blend of R&B, Blues, Jazz, and Irish Folk Music. Critics sometimes call it Celtic Soul, though others contend that its genre is essentially unclassifiable. It resembles nothing that had preceded it and little that followed.

New Sound Album: Followed the Pop-Soul Blowin' Your Mind. It set the tone for the rest of Van's career.

Ode to Youth: Most of the album concerns Van's youthful memories of an idealised Belfast.

Rearrange the Song: One of the conditions of getting released from his Bang Records contract was that Morrison had to include two songs published under his old contract on his first Warner Brothers album, so he re-recorded Beside You and Madame George, which were first recorded at Bang, but didn't get released until years later. In both cases, the songs were mid tempo rock/soul pieces in their Bang incarnation, but he turned them into slower acoustic ballads on this album, vastly improving them in the process.

Scatting: Frequent, most obviously throughout Astral Weeks and the bridge of The Way Young Lovers Do.

Shout-Out: "Talkin' to Huddie Ledbetter/Showin' pictures on the wall..." The latter line is reference to the fact that Van claims to have always hung a poster of Lead Belly on his wall in the 1960s.

Spiritual Successor: Veedon Fleece (1974) is usually considered one to this album, with Morrison going back to mixing contemplative lyrics with an Irish-infused folk-jazz mix, after a few albums of more uptempo Soul-inspired work.

Sudden Downer Ending: At the end of Slim Slow Slider, and therefore the album.

Titled After the Song: Though, oddly, Astral Weeks is a Non-Appearing Title, meaning the album lacks an Album Title Drop.

12-Bar Blues: The structure of Cyprus Avenue uses this, but it's not very obvious.

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