I'm not usually the one to love a band's first record just because it's cooler or because other people like the later ones more. But I can't but help but wonder what horrible glitch in the universe caused people to go so ape-poop for the simple, insufferable "Brown Eyed Girl."

This is how Van Morrison is remembered by people my age? Really?

An overwhelming love for that hack single is the tragic consequence of the high-school dance, an otherwise pleasant event that I very much enjoyed.

What always goes unnoticed, unremembered, unappreciated by my peers is Astral Weeks, the Northern Irish troubadour's 1967 masterpiece. This is the sound of a master musician reconciling a rich national music heritage with his own otherworldly ability to create something wholly unique.

It's an absolute, unquestionable triumph, with the title track setting the tone for a set that was unlike anything else in pop music, before or since. The languid phrasing, the shimmering orchestral backgrounds, the China-shop arrangement -- every note was as touching as a light breeze and epic as a seaside landscape.

His goal was to be born again -- in another world, darling -- and it sounds like he was.

Lyrically, Morrison wanders from stark personal confessions to breathy, existential dreams. "Got a home on high," he sings just before the finish. "Ain't nothing but a stranger in the world." Judging what he put on wax, that was true.