The influential rock journalist Lester Bangs wrote in 1979 "It sounded like the man who made Astral Weeks was in terrible pain, pain most of Van Morrison's previous works had only suggested; but like the later albums by the Velvet Underground, there was a redemptive element in the blackness, ultimate compassion for the suffering of others, and a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cut right through the heart of the work."
Rolling Stone magazine once reported that a man claimed to see God while listening to this album under the influence of nitrous oxide.
With varied rhythms and frenzied vocals, mixed with bizarre lyrics that evoke images instead of coherent ideas and narratives, Astral Weeks has been compared to the school of Impressionism in painting, which similarly seeks to evoke emotions associated with an image. While few would argue that Astral Weeks is a concept album, the songs do seem to link together and form an extremely loose narrative.
The musician John Cale was recording next to Van Morrison's studio, and reported "Morrison couldn't work with anybody, so finally they just shut him in the studio by himself. He did all the songs with just an acoustic guitar, and later they overdubbed the rest of it around his tapes."
"Astral Weeks" uses a form of symbolism that would eventually become a stape of his songs, equating earthly love and heaven, or the closest a living being can get to it. Morrison's guitar and Richard Davis' bass guitar can be seen as the earth opposing the tuneful horns and Connie Kay's percussion.
Morrison has denied that "Madame George" is about a transvestite, as many have believed. An earlier recording with slightly altered lyrics and a much swifter tempo changes the tone considerably from the Astral Weeks recording, which is downbeat and nostalgic; the earlier recording is joyous, and seems to be from the point-of-view of a partygoer who sees the titular character.
The blues song "Cyprus Avenue" is a live favorite of Van Morrison's fans.