‘Astral Weeks’ audiobook gets a Boston all-star soundtrack



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When Ryan H. Walsh appeared at Brookline Booksmith earlier this month to discuss his acclaimed effort Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, a few interesting tidbits emerged from the Q&A. One question in particular involved Walsh’s longtime band, Hallelujah The Hills, and if they’d join in on Boston’s Halloween tradition of cover show performances and play Van Morrison’s iconic LP in its entirety.

Walsh admitted that plan wasn’t in the cards, but he did reveal something perhaps just as cool: Jah Hills, as fans and caption writers like to call ’em, actually recorded the soundtrack to Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968’s audiobook. The songs are described by Walsh as “trippy, wordless little mood pieces,” and are used as snippets in between chapters.

Included in the recordings are contributions from Belly’s Tanya Donelly, Marissa Nadler, Dana Colley of Morphine and Vapors of Morphine, and Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor.

“I grew up seeing Belly and Morphine in the ’90s, and thought it would be wild if this project touched as many decades of Boston music as possible,” Walsh says. “So, that they agreed to be on these was pretty exciting for me.”

Walsh says he asked his publisher, Penguin Random House, what music is used for the audiobooks. And when they told him they traditionally use licensed orchestral pieces, he asked if he could record some original compositions. The result was an hour of improvised instrumental music, laid down at Rhode Island’s Machines With Magnets and engineered by Seth Manchester.

“I described the story of the chapter to the fellas and/or the vibe and then we worked on music that would support that feel,” Walsh says. “It was like scoring a movie, but it was an audiobook.”

Listen to a few previews below, including “Scenes From The Real World,” “Against Electricity,” and an audiobook snippet to hear how the collaborative Jah Hills tunes were incorporated into the audiobook.

Featured photo by Suzanne Ouellette.