Astral Weeks by Van Morrison is the kind of record that demands close attention like this. The playing and imagery on the album capture the feeling of that pinnacle moment we've all experienced at times in life -- of love, of hope, of desire. There's a tinge of loss to the record as well.
The album sounds miraculous to me, and when the circumstances surrounding its recording are revealed, it becomes only more so. It was recorded over a mere 3 days in 1968, when Morrison was, incredibly, only 23 years old. He used jazz musicians he had never met before to record, and a great deal of each song was improvised. It's one of the only records I find almost impossible to sing along to-- the phrasing is incredible! As for the musicianship on the album, the bassline in "The Way Young Lovers Do" alone is like nothing else on any rock record I've ever heard. It's insane. Each musician's work elevates the sound to a place of complexity and also cohesion. Together they create a sense of otherworldliness, and that is what makes the album so special.
I can easily bring myself back to a very particular time in my life when I hear this record, and it's funny but even now, the more I listen to it, the more I hear, and the more I can sink my teeth into. I guess what I am trying to say is that the album brings more pleasure with each listen, even over a period of many years! When I hear the first few bars of the starting track, "Astral Weeks," I can't help but grin and sink down into the couch or wherever I happen to be sitting. It's like revisiting an old friend. The tracks gracefully amble along and I recapture things old and discover things new as I listen. This record has the ability to gut you on first as well as each subsequent listening experience.