Monday, March 16, 2015

A horse in this race

When musicians pay homage to Astral Weeks—with an original song, a cover, or in this case, the actual name of their band—it's, you know, just part of the natural order of things. But what about when a beer takes its moniker from the album? Or a racehorse? Maybe it's more evidence of the LP's ever-growing allure.

So about that racehorse ... I was recently introduced to Astral Weeks, a four-year-old philly who has competed just three times. However, despite the lack of experience, she has already tasted victory: Back in January, she won at Lingfield Park Racecourse in Surrey, England. The horse is trained by Michael Bell, who, according to his web site, has amassed over £18 million worth of prize money during his 26-year career.

Astral Weeks' owner is listed as Christopher Wright, which appears to be the Christopher Wright who co-founded Chrysalis Record and once owned Queens Park Rangers. Wright has been a longtime breeder in the thoroughbred racing industry through his company Stratford Place Stud.

Those familiar with Astral Weeks' lyrics will point out that Van Morrison makes two references to white horses: one is in "Slim Slow Slider"; the other in "Cyprus Avenue." However, since thoroughbreds are not typically white, Astral Weeks the philly probably bears little resemblance to Morrison's horses.

(Not-so-quick aside: Those familiar with Celtic mythology will point out that Rhiannon rode a white horse. According to one web site, Rhiannon is the goddess of "the moon, fertility, rebirth, wisdom, magic, transformation, beauty, artistic inspiration, and is the patroness of poets." I seriously doubt Morrison had the Celtic goddess in mind when penning these lines. Nonetheless, when you consider some of Astral Weeks' overarching themes—rebirth, mysticism, personal growth, the relationship between man and nature—any subtle connections to Rhiannon, even if they are accidental, do seem fitting.)

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