From The Desk Of Rick Moody: Van Morrison’s “Slim Slow Slider” From “Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl”

RickMoodyThe name Rick Moody will be familiar to anyone who keeps current with American writing. He’s the recipient of several awards and fellowships, including the Pushcart Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir, and his lauded 1994 novel The Ice Storm was filmed by director Ang Lee. Moody is hanging around the MAGNET shop this week mostly because of his side job as one-quarter of the Wingdale Community Singers, a remarkable collection of writers, musicians and artists of varying stripes. Once pegged as an “urban folk” group that wrote old-timey songs about modern topics such as cross-dressers and funky Brooklyn culture, the Wingdales just released their second album, Spirit Duplicator, on the Scarlet Shame label. In addition to his writing and recording projects, Moody is guest editing this week. Read our Q&A with him.


Moody: I’m not always sure how I feel about the artists-reprising-an-entire-album phenomenon. It might be just another way to oppress people with their back catalogue in order to inhibit growth. If ever there were an album, though, and an artist who needs to revisit it occasionally, it’s Astral Weeks, and Van Morrison. Morrison is preternaturally productive, these days, releasing things in consecutive years without fail, more so than anyone from his era, unless you include Neil Young. Unfortunately, not all of these releases are noteworthy for their level of commitment. In fact, as a lyricist, he would only once again manage the lucidity and drama of 1968’s Astral Weeks—on 1974’s Veedon Fleece. There was every reason to believe that this live rendering would be workmanlike, and diverting, if not always inspired, as Morrison has resisted feeling cornered by expectations at every turn. I am most moved by him when he is at his least conventional (1980’s Common One, e.g., or Veedon Fleece, or 1972’s Saint Dominic’s Preview), when he’s most transcendentalist, and there are a couple of tracks on here when, indeed, he rises up from the obligation to play old songs, and accomplishes that ineffable something, “Slim Slow Slider” being the best of these. He was always an impulsive guitar player, less schooled than passionate, and on this track he bangs away on his acoustic like only it can redeem. The original “Slim Slow Slider” was one of the few tracks on the album to lean heavily on a minor chord, and it was still and sad, recalling some of the terrain of the singer’s earlier track “T.B. Sheets,” though with an even darker hue, but here “Slim Slow Slider” is made oddly redemptive, featuring a long improvised section in which the narrator tries to sing his way out of grief. He almost gets there. Video after the jump.