End-Of-Year Best-Of Lists

The Best Books of 2018 - The Guardian

Janet Maslin’s Top Critic Picks 2018 - New York Times

Best Music Books of 2018 - Pitchfork

Top Music Books of 2018 - Uncut Magazine

Best Music Books of 2018, #2 - Billboard

Best Music Books of the Year, #3 - Mojo Magazine

The Best Books of the Year - Popmatters

Best Books of the Year - The Independent

Best Music Books of 2018 - Minneapolis City Pages

Best Things of 2018 - Chicago Reader

Best Books of the Year - Amazon

Luna’s Dean Wareham: Favorite Things of 2018 - Brooklyn Vegan

Top 20 Rock Books of 2018 - #1, Richie Unterberger

The 25 Best Books of 2018 - Counterpunch

Best Books of the Year 2018 - Best Classic Bands

The Best Music Books of 2018 - Vinyl Me Please


“The result is a complex, inquisitive, and satisfying book that illuminates and explicates the origins of “Astral Weeks” without diminishing the album’s otherworldly aura.” - The New Yorker

"Wonderfully oddball" - "17 Refreshing Books to Read This Summer," The New York Times

"The book is rich with details on what was then an incredibly fertile time for the arts...Walsh was drawn to write this book because he was so moved, as is anyone with a soul, by what became Morrison’s masterpiece. He honors that art with his own." - Esquire 

"A book full of discoveries...a fantastic chronicle." - Rolling Stone

"Part of Walsh's book involves his own dogged pursuit of an elusive, reportedly lifechanging recording...Along the way, Walsh digs himself all the down a rabbit hole of epic, site-specific peculiarity." - The San Francisco Chronicle

"The delightful recent book Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, by Ryan Walsh, connects the dots between that critically beloved release and the time Morrison spent in Boston a half-century ago." - TIME

"The star of Walsh’s show is actually the city of Boston itself, its underground visionaries, freaks and charlatans. In this the book is a great success...The research is exemplary, the facts are well marshalled and the reader always feels safe in Walsh’s hands." - The Times Literary Supplement

"Had Astral Weeks, Ryan H. Walsh’s book on the creation of Van Morrison’s beloved album, focused on that process alone, it would have been compelling enough in and of itself. But instead, Walsh uses the fact that Morrison was living near Boston in 1968 to turn his book into a sprawling account of the city’s interconnected countercultural sects." - Pitchfork

"Let Van Morrison’s second album be your guide to the counterculture revolution in Ryan H. Walsh’s Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968" - Entertainment Weekly

"Walsh has a knack for connecting the mundanities of day-to-day history with the great and timeless moments that spring out of them." - "First Sentences" - The New York Times Magazine

"Walsh's Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 is a brilliant, beautiful tribute to a long-lost era of free-form radio, communal living, underground newspapers, burgeoning musical scenes in their pristine form before being captured by the 'star making machinery'" - 10/10, PopMatters

"The result is one of the finest books written about Boston (and it has nothing to do with sports, politics, or crime)." - Boston Magazine 

"The story he has unearthed is so mind-boggling, so full of extraordinary detail and coincidence...this is a wonderful book, I think, funny and interesting and absorbing." - Nick Hornby in The Believer

“Must be read to be believed.” - Billboard

"There’s a huge amount there about all of the subjects Walsh takes on that I didn’t know, and I think most people didn’t know, or never thought about." - Greil Marcus

"Walsh's story continually connects disparate events, creating a Day-Glo Venn diagram of '60's countercultural history...[he] unearths a lot of revelatory rock lore, but ultimately the story functions as map of how organic culture worked in that place and time, the weird kids and their weird ideas that eventually codified into industries and institutions...another right-on-time reminder of how crucial participation is in keeping art and music alive." - Jessica Hopper, Bookforum Magazine, Summer Issue

"Excellent...Walsh's larger story makes it clear that many in 60's Boston took the collision of reverence and rock n roll seriously. Some formed bands the behaved a bit like cults..." - Damon Krukowski, ArtForum September Issue

"With his magnetic new book Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, the author Ryan H. Walsh connects dots and leaves others untied...Such is life in the slipstream, and such is Walsh’s book. Something is ventured, much is gained." - The Globe and Mail

“One of the year’s best books.” - Aquarium Drunkard

"Walsh fleshes out his case with such wit, reportorial depth and conviction, you won't be able to put it down." ★★★★ - MOJO

"But before Morrison could record any new music for Warner Bros., there was the obstacle of his old recording contract and the mob-connected folks who controlled it. A passage on resolving the problem shows how much fun Walsh’s history can be." - The Atlantic

"Walsh writes with the enthusiasm of a fan and the precision and depth of an expert. A first-rate book about a piece of music and the time in which it was created." - Booklist

4 Great Music Books To Read Right Now - Rolling Stone

“Walsh’s book recaptures much that might otherwise fade away. . . . The mini-histories embedded throughout are often entertaining.”—The New York Times Book Review

"Walsh describes Boston as 'the true birthplace of American hallucinogenic culture.' By the end of his colorful, highly illuminating history of the city's late-60's freak scene, it's hard to argue...Astral Weeks is a book worthy of the name." - 8/10, Uncut Magazine

"Ryan H. Walsh's excellent book Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 – a meta-narrative involving Morrison's greatest album" - Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

"Walsh's strategy pays out like broken slot machine, dispensing fascinating new details about a fascinating, if otherwise over-reported, era in dire need of new perspectives." - Amazon Book Review, "Best Books of the Month: Non-Fiction."

"Nobody has delved into its untold secrets and its Boston roots from 1968 like this. Walsh, best known as the genius behind indie rock staple Hallelujah the Hills, pens his first book as if he’s been churning them out for years, tracking down Tufts English professors and WBCN radio owners for a story that will keep you turning pages so quickly that you’ll miss your stop on the T." - Dig Boston

"But the most compelling reason to read Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 is not to learn about Van Morrison or his vaunted record. This is a book about the hub of a very weird universe, a city where an act called the Van Morrison Controversy played intense sets at a club called the Boston Tea Party, which Mel Lyman’s Family had investments in. This is a dark tale of Boston in the late 1960s and early 1970s when, to quote another Irish Protestant mystic, it seemed as if 'mere anarchy' had been 'loosed upon the world.'” - Los Angeles Review of Books

"A superlative read...through meticulous research, personal interviews, an understanding that belies his age and a captivating writing style, Mr. Walsh has written a text that stands with the best of the histories of the period." - Counterpunch

"One of the most engrossing and enjoyable looks at an album, a man and the times that shaped them you’ll ever find." - The Big Takeover

"You don’t have to be a fan of Van Morrison’s staggeringly unique, near-perfect album to appreciate Walsh’s strange, engaging history of a time and place in America...If you do happen to like Astral Weeks, this book is definitely for you." - LitHub, One of LitHub’s 15 Books You Should Read This March

"A fascinating account...Walsh, a glorious obsessive with a gift for interweaving threads apparently clashing but ultimately complementary, slaloms merrily topic to topic, shifting years and scenes and subjects but always hitting his marks and making clear his linkages." - American History Magazine

A "rich evocation...The music book of the moment." - The Philadelphia Inquirer

"What Ryan Walsh does so beautifully in his book about this period in Morrison’s life as an artist is not only paint a vivid portrait of where Morrison wrote his history-making sophomore album, but also and especially what else was going on at the time that gave Astral Weeks its context...[The book] does a magnificent job of giving us a portrait of Boston that puts it back on the map, as it were—an emotional cartography of individual and collective freedom as its new forms were being discovered, invented and fought over." - ★★★★ Spectrum Culture

"[Walsh] has written a splendidly half-cracked cultural history, free of theoretical frottage and vivid with psychedelic colour." - Spectator

"For me, Walsh’s book is important because it highlights the fact that all history is ultimately local history in that we also experience the facts of history in the most intensely personal ways...Context is so important, and that’s what makes Walsh’s book so essential."  - The Loafer

"With great story telling and well researched rock journalism this is the music book of the summer." -  Interrobang

"A top read...In the hands of a lesser writer, it could have been an unwieldy story indeed. Walsh maintains his focus, returning regularly to the album at the center of the story. The result is a snapshot of an American city in one of the most turbulent years in recent history, along with an entirely credible back-story to an album that is never far from the top on any list of essentials." - On Books On Music

"Many books that try to link several different stories into one work end up covering too little in their attempt to cover too much. But Walsh succeeds in blending all of these and more—none of which might have made for a 300-page book on their own—into an excellent, absorbing narrative." - RIchie Unterberger

"Equal parts Hunter S. Thompson with the exacting, humanistic eye of Ken Burns" - Chunky Glasses

"Walsh’s secret history is a wild, action-packed tale of gurus and gangsters, acid cults and art-rock weirdos...Buy a copy: We can start a book club." - Nashville Scene

"Paints a fine-grained and wide-ranging portrait of the album's gestation...offers deep insight into the creative process of this mysterious work"     - Shelf Awareness

"Goes leagues beyond extended album review fanboy territory and illustrates in full kaleidoscopic fashion a post-folk avant-garde rock scene that was expressly centered around the Greater Boston region" - DIG Boston

"A fascinating story of how the unbuttoned ‘60s came to a city that preferred to stay buttoned up." - Shepherd Express

"Just when you think there is nothing left to say or theorise about Astral Weeks, along comes Ryan H Walsh with Astral Weeks: A Secret History 1968, which approaches its subject in the same way that Sherlock Holmes might embark on a trail of investigation." - The Irish Times

"Ryan H. Walsh falls into that rarefied category of writers who are also capable of making fantastic music." - Vol 1 Brooklyn

"Boston is a character as much as Morrison or Lyman, and it is as nuanced and complex as a human character would be....Each story is deeply researched, multilayered, and erudite." - Sound of Boston

"In some ways, the ghosts of 1968 are still with us, both in Boston and in the country at large. Some are still pushing on the doors those ghosts tried to open, and Walsh’s narrative keeps their voices alive." - The Baffler

"It’s been a weekend of highlights … but the best event among them has been my first reading of Ryan H. Walsh’s Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968." - Neck Pick Up

"Walsh’s sense of humor and perspective and an incredible amount of research fill this tale (and the subtitle is correct, this stuff was waaaay underground) with vividly bizarre characters whose backgrounds and achievements would reverberate around the country and the world for decades to come." - The Aquarian

"Both Walsh and Bangs note that Morrison has, since the release of Astral Weeks, been loathe to comment much about the album—or to offer interpretations of his songs that satisfied anyone." - LitHub

"Few readers will go home empty-handed from this generous and entertaining volume" - The Times Literary Supplement

"An inventive, deeply researched account of how the music, politics, drug explorations and countercultural rebellion of the late 1960s/early 1970s combined to make Boston a 'secret' (compared to, say, New York or San Francisco) influencer on a changing America during that period." - CityPages

"At a time when we’re overdosing on memories of 1968, Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 is on ground that few other histories of that fabled year have covered." - The Hits Just Keep On Coming

"This is a hard to put down tome of information from first-time author Walsh, full of dizzying stories and wild anecdotes, which never fails to intrigue. Part detective story, part celebration of all things Bostonian, part wild ride through a wild time in America's history." - Sacred Chickens

"Especially interesting is Walsh’s account of the role played by James Brown’s concert at the Boston Garden in the aftermath of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr." - Tulsa World

"Historians and archeologists differ, but most contend that the rock ‘n’ roll Garden of Eden lies somewhere within Memphis, New York, Detroit or Chicago. However, with the publication of Ryan H. Walsh’s 'Astral Weeks'...that contention is being rewritten to include a crucial element: Boston." - Sound Advice

"An entertaining tale, with lots of juicy anecdotes, that truly gives you the feel of a major American city in a turbulent time." - What's Up Newport

"Walsh’s love for his town is infectious; he makes Boston, not exactly renowned as a hip mecca, seem like the center of a globally revolutionary year." - The Coil Magazine

"The book also shows that the Boston media of those days—more perhaps than the music— has had an enduring impact on American culture." - Rob Hochschild on Medium

"Ryan H. Walsh’s Landmark Study of the Counter Culture in Boston" - "The remarkable story of alternative culture in Boston has finally gotten the attention it deserved in a meticulously researched and enticingly written book by Ryan Walsh." - Berkshire Fine Arts

"You will also be on the edge of your seat" - ★★★★ The Guitar Cave

Astral Weeks 50th Anniversary Coverage

“Walsh doesn’t mince words: ‘They don’t sound like recordings to me. They sound like living breathing organisms. The album is a secret passcode that people pass along to each other…’” - The Washington Post

“As described in Astral Weeks, Ryan H. Walsh’s beautifully elaborate 2018 book on the album’s creation and historical context, the musicians were totally unfamiliar with Van Morrison prior to the first of three recording sessions” - Rolling Stone

“As the musician and writer Ryan H. Walsh chronicles in his excellent book Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 (released earlier this year), plenty of behind-the-scenes preparation went into those sessions, too.” - The Ringer

‘Astral Weeks,’ a ground-breaking album with Cambridge roots, honored on 50th anniversary - Cambridge Chronicle


An ‘Astral Weeks’ origin story, told 50 years after Van Morrison fled to Boston - The Boston Globe

Van Morrison's Cosmic Accident - Radio Open Source

The Making of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks - Rolling Stone: Music Now Podcast

Boston's Hidden Histories: Astral Weeks - Chronicle

Astral Weeks at 50 - The Dave Fanning Show, RTE

Bibliophiles: What Are You Reading - The Boston Globe

Author Ryan Walsh On Book 'Astral Weeks' On Van Morrison Album And The Hidden Stories of 1968 Boston - WGBH TV

Boston In 1968: The Birthplace Of 'Astral Weeks,' A Musical Masterpiece - WGBH Morning Edition

In 'Astral Weeks,' A Tale Of Van Morrison's Time In The 'Weirder' Boston Of 1968 - WBUR

Story behind Van's 'Astral Weeks' to be told in new book as author visits Belfast - Belfast Telegraph

Time Out of Minds: Interview with Author Ryan Walsh on Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks' - PopMatters

Grand Ideas, Rock Wizards, And The Silent Scorn Of Van Morrison: The Inspiring Dumb Confidence Of Ryan H. Walsh - WGBH

Q&A with ‘Astral Weeks’ author Ryan H. Walsh, coming to Salem April 11 - Salem Gazette

Astral Weeks with Ryan Walsh - Improv4Humans

How Boston Brought Together Rock Legends Van Morrison and Peter Wolf - New Hampshire Public Radio

The Aquarium Drunkard Interview - Aquarium Drunkard Podcast

Episode 147: Ryan H. Walsh - Free Association WZBC with Brian Carpenter

Episode 354: Ryan Walsh - Chunky Glasses Podcast

More Like A Ghost Story - Full Stop Interview

Reading/Audience Q & A - Talks At Google

Interview with Wyndham Lewis - Brother Brother Brother podcast

Step back to the ’60s with this acclaimed book from a Boston musician - Boston.com

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

When Van Morrison Bunkered Down in Boston: A Conversation with Author Ryan Walsh - Boston Magazine

National Praise for 'Astral Weeks' - NECN

The Roots of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks - NPR's Here & Now

Interview with Brian Freeman - True Story Podcast

The extraordinary tale of a timeless classic - The Irish Echo

Iacovello’s iconic images make it into new book - MV Times

A Conversation With Author Ryan H. Walsh. Ryan And Singer/songwriter John Cate - Music Museum of New England

Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, with Ryan Walsh (Ep70) - HUB History

TV Guidance Counselor Episode 283: Ryan Walsh II - Ken Reid

Interview with Ryan H. Walsh - Unstructured Podcast

To Be Born Again In Cambridge - Scout Cambridge

Book Notes: talking about the book's rarer songs - LargeHeartedBoy

Boston's Ties to Van Morrison and 'Astral Weeks' - NECN 

Van Morrison and Boston in 1968 - The Media Narrative Podcast 

Ryan Walsh Uncovers the Mysteries Behind the Birth of Van Morrison’s Masterpiece in 1968 - Penguin Randomhouse

Book/Music Feature: “Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968” - ArtsFuse

Ryan Walsh im Gespräch mit Oliver Schwesig - Deutschlandfunk Kultur

Are there any hits on Astral Weeks or what? - Never Not Funny

Dave Wyndorf from Monster Magnet asks about Ultimate Spinach - The God Damn Dave Hill Show on WFMU

The Way Young Podcasts Do - Beast Coast Podcast 

Interview with Boston Councilor O'Malley - The O'Pod

Catacombs Tapes Coverage

Listen to a never before heard Van Morrison recording from 1968 - The Boston Globe

“Walsh found the tape; while he wouldn’t copy it, he would play it for friends. It was a revelation…There was a new aesthetic of suspension, between experience and dream, love and death, whispering and miming, that in Boston made Morrison’s 1967 hit “Brown-Eyed Girl,” which could have been Tommy James and the Shondells, or “He Ain’t Give You None,” from Morrison’s grunge album Blowin’ Your Mind from the same year, sound — now, 50 years later — as if they were written for the next album, not the last.” - Greil Marcus on the Catacombs recording, Rolling Stone

Van Morrison abruptly releases long-sought-after ‘Catacombs Tapes’ on iTunes UK - Dangerous Minds

A Legendary Van Morrison Recording Just Hit the Internet and Quickly Disappeared Again - Spin Magazine

Live in Boston, 1968 - Aquarium Drunkard


Excerpts + Additional Writing

Moondance Classic Sunday Review - Pitchfork

Read An Excerpt From Ryan H. Walsh’s New Book On Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks - Stereogum

The Onstage Origins Of Van Morrison’s Legendary Astral Weeks - LitHub

Boston’s most radical TV show blew the minds of a stoned generation in 1967 - The Boston Globe Magazine

Advance Praise for Astral Weeks

Astral Weeks is many things: a deeply-reported illumination of the Boston underground of the late ’60s; an investigation of a mysterious cult leader; the skeleton key to a canonical album by Van Morrison. But at its heart is a journalist’s quest to understand the very air that was breathed in a single moment in time, a personal reading of the poetry of history, and a yearning to trace the invisible byways of inspiration itself.”— Joe Hagan, author of Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine

“The lost story behind a timeless album—a wandering Irish songwriter named Van Morrison, stuck in a strange town called Boston in 1968. Ryan H. Walsh digs deep into all the moment’s cultural and spiritual chaos, with a bizarre cast of characters—making the music sound even weirder and more beautiful than it already did. There’s no rock and roll story quite like Astral Weeks.”—Rob Sheffield, author of Dreaming the Beatles and Love is a Mix Tape

Astral Weeks is a veritable time machine to the folly and ferment of 1968 Boston—a time when James Brown could stop a riot, a movie star could get mixed up in bank robbery, and a high school kid could find himself backing one of rock’s great bands.”—Paul Collins, author of The Murder of the Century

“In this incredible new book, Ryan H. Walsh takes us through late ‘60s Boston in all its splendid morning glory. The forgotten hippie band Ultimate Spinach. The psychedelic TV show What’s Happening, Mr. Silver? The story of how Don Rickles’s mafia connections helped Van Morrison break a contract. Astral Weeks is filled with fascinating new information and page after page of mind-blowing, psychedelic revelations.”—Kliph Nesteroff, author of The Comedians

“A magical mystery tour into an untold chapter of countercultural history—the ivy-walled, lace-curtained city of Boston, it turns out, concealed an underground scene as offbeat as anything found on the Haight or the Lower East Side. Ryan H. Walsh takes us down all of its rabbit holes in this lushly told historical portrait.”—Mitch Horowitz, PEN Award-winning author of Occult America



"Masterfully told. Like if Altman made NASHVILLE about the Bosstown Sound. Read it!" - Tom Scharpling, host of The Best Show

"My favorite book about Boston after Common Ground. I'm not kidding, it's that great. Astonishing and revelatory." - Carly Carioli, previous Editor in Chief Boston Magazine and Boston Phoenix.

"Pure '60s mayhem. deep threads on Van Morrison, the Lyman Fam, the Velvet Underground, Boston '68, etc., by Ryan H. Walsh. out in March!" - Jesse Jarnow, author of Heads: A Biography Of Psychedelic America (2016), Big Day Coming (2012).

"An excellent book, extremely illuminating." - Patrick Stickles, Titus Andronicus


Musikk Magasinet

Musikk Magasinet

(l to r) The Times Literary Supplement, MOJO

(l to r) The Times Literary Supplement, MOJO

(l to r) La Stampa, New York Times, Dig Boston

(l to r) La Stampa, New York Times, Dig Boston

(l to r) Belfast Telegraph, Fenway News, Bookforum, Belfast Book Festival)

(l to r) Belfast Telegraph, Fenway News, Bookforum, Belfast Book Festival)