Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Veedon Fleece - Some More Fan Opinion

Veedon Fleece is a great album.  Here's a sampling of listener opinion: 

Lester Bangs   -   Veedon Fleece is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralysed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend.

Matt Domino   -   There is a lot on Veedon Fleece to waste your time with. You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River is the centrepiece of the album because it is the most dramatic, the most moody and it contains the title within its lyrics.  Critics and listeners have called Veedon Fleece Van Morrison’s tribute to Ireland, whether by feel or by lyrics.  

Anonymous   -   Veedon Fleece is among my all time favourite records, alternately revelatory and enigmatic, and definitely best savoured late at night or early in the morning, with no distractions. The only other artists that affect me in a similar way are Gene Clark and Townes Van Zandt, putting This record in rarefied company.

David   -   I listened to Linden Arden several times today . . . and the first two times tears came to my eyes. I don't know why. I'm a 52 year old lawyer and crying is not what I do (last time was when my mother died on Christmas day 2006). I've heard the song described, I think accurately, as "ferociously mournful."

Anonymous   -   There is a lot to reveal about the lyrics on Veedon Fleece, but I don't get any pleasure out of bursting bubbles. They are usually a lot less "mystical" than folks want to believe. For example, on Fair Play,Van sings "And there's only one Meadows Way to go, and you say Geronimo." He was asking his fiancee where they should move to begin their lives together, and she said San Geronimo - a bucolic town in W. Marin County, where they lived happily on Meadow Way.
Pinup Nights   -   I am crazy about Van Morrison, and Linden Arden Stole The Highlights must be one of his best ever songs. Its a very mysterious tune but in a few sentences Van conjures the sunlight and slopes of San Francisco. 

Charlie   -   The work that's most successful at enchanting me endlessly is Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece from 1974. No matter how closely I listen to it, or what I read about it, it only seems to take on more folds. The more I admire its simplicity, the more complex it paradoxically grows. Closest stylistically to his classic Astral Weeks, the album also relies on a stream-of-consciousness and is largely acoustic. 

On Veedon Fleece, his voice sounds weirder and more idiosyncratic. It’s hard to forget his anguished howl at the end of Cul de Sac, his guttural, throat-clearing guffaws on Bulbs. His tendency vocally to adapt and elongate at will fit the lyrics perfectly, which also tend to meander and drift like a back country river. Every song, even the largely straightforward Comfort You bends and twists on repeated listens, stripped-down and cryptic and multifaceted all at once.

The Sanity Inspector   -   I read Van's interview in Rolling Stone in the late 80s, wherein he said that fans asked him if he still had the dogs from that photo. "Listen, an album cover is not real life!" he said.

Anonymous   -   I remember acquiring my 2nd copy Veedon Fleece back in the mid-70's out of the cut-out bin. Already I was sure that the album was by far the best Van had ever produced. And now years later I am glad someone has the same attachment to this truly excellent album that still sounds new today.

Anonymous   -   I find Fair Play To You particularly affecting and I can't explain why. This album takes several listens to get into for the first time listener but once you do this you can be hooked!

Plush   -   Pulled out my original copy of Veedon Fleece today after more than 10 years and listened-- stunned again. Linden Arden is surely a masterpiece. The poetry and expression is far beyond what I remembered and the depth of emotion is mind blowing.

Richard   -   I always seem to come across people telling me that Astral Weeks is the greatest album by Van Morrison. Not for me. Veedon Fleece is like taking a seat in an old Irish tavern with the fire roaring in the corner, and listening as a wise old travelling man sings you the story of his life; all the people he's met, all the adventures he's had, all the questions he's pondered and all the places he's gone. Astral Weeks is very good but, it's not like this.

David Garfinkel   -   I love this record and it makes me emotional as well. Aside from the lyrics, the looseness of the music and the airiness of the production feel so live. It feels like you're right there in the studio and I think what it speaks to is a way of recording that may not exist anymore as well. Not only are Van's lyrics dreamy, but so is the flute and the piano and the whole thing, but it's also a combination of sad and wistful. Country Fair always makes me long for youth and innocence. Veedon Fleece has real soul to it and that's rare.

Matt Domino   -   When it comes to music, I don’t usually pay attention to lyrics, I pay attention to feel.  That is what much of Veedon Fleece is about.  It’s the feel.  It’s the feel of the songs and the delivery that should tell you what they’re about, not necessarily the lyrics.  Linden Arden Stole The Highlights does the best job of matching lyrics to feel.  It’s a simple tune about a simple man who likes to drink and there is something about that that makes him an outlaw, that makes him murder and regret it.  Murder is a strong metaphor but who doesn’t end up screwing the simple things up.  It all makes sense to drink and enjoy whiskey in the sun, just like it makes sense to go out west and look for the real soul, but we all mess that up and end up living with a gun.

Anonymous   -   This album was recommended to me by a friend too, back in 1976 and it has remained with me in various formats ever since. I regard it as his best, as did my friend, but according to Wiki, Van disowned it quickly. There may be some truth in this as I have never heard him play any tracks from it. But Wiki also refers to it as his forgotten masterpiece. It is certainly that. The photo was taken in the grounds of a hotel in Howth, just up the road from my friend's family home and so has personal meaning for us both.

Pip   -   So…unlike Coleridge’s Xanadu that is traceable in history and…on a map- Mongolia…Van’s Veedon Fleece is …like maybe the abide in Buddhism or nirvana or xanadu…but completely van-created phrase…going west for soul? Going west for Veedon? Clarity? So I can say to my friend Jack…hey man, got to get away from all this green and root-life…let’s go to the Nuyorican nyc…we need to head toward some Veedon Fleece. Do I need to capitalise her? I need some Veedon Fleece…we all need to run toward Veedon eventually…sometime… But you are right…it is the feel. And, of course, that is the essence of any transcendental journey…the meter and pulse of the going west…not the getting, right. 

Johnny Bacardion   -   It's difficult to describe this wonderful record in a few sentences. It's very much in the English Nick Drake/Pentangle tradition, which is not to say that it's traditional folk music. It's got strains of R & B, jazz, and even country running through it, and was a logical, if unexpected progression of Van's music at the time. It's closest in feel, in the Morrison catalogue, to Astral Weeks; it shares the mostly acoustic, jazzy feel of his Warner's debut but is a more mature and introspective work. Morrison had, after the relative aesthetic failure of his otherwise fine Hard Nose The Highway album, begun to get a bit restless artistically...if I recall correctly, he took a trip to Ireland to get back to his roots (so to speak) after spending many years here in the States, and when he returned this is where his muse led him. He receives stellar backing from his road band on this album, especially the underrated pianist Jeff Labes.

I especially love the moody Streets of Arklow, with magnificent recorder accompaniment by Jim Rothermel; the breezy opener Fair Play in which he begins his penchant for name dropping his favourite writers, clever at first but eventually run into the ground later in his career... "You Don't Pull No Punches...", in which he sings about a quest for spiritual enlightenment, known here as the Veedon Fleece; the jazzy "Cul De Sac" with a fearless, amazing vocal, "Who Was That Masked Man", in which Van does his best Smokey Robinson impersonation, and the closer, the gorgeous "Country Fair" which evokes a late summer evening vividly. It's a haunting tune you won't soon forget.

Larry the Lawyer   -   What is there about this guy? He can't sing, his material can only loosely be called "songs", and the overall effect is boredom. The dogs on the album cover are all this thing has to recommend it.

Le Capitaineon   -   One of my favourite Van Morrison albums. It's not for everyone. It's not for everyday listening. But when the mood is right, it is pure magic. If you open yourself to it, this album carries a raw emotional punch of beautiful sadness and soulful desire that can easily choke you up and cause watery eyes.

M. Cherry   -   I think that there are ultimately two types of Van Morrison fans - those who prefer Astral Weeks and those who prefer Moondance. I think both are great, but I give the edge to Moondance. Veedon Fleece is definitely more like Astral Weeks - contemplative, the whole album conveying a mood more than an importance on individual songs. 

Tom Shea   -   While Astral Weeks will always be my favourite Van Morrison album (out of the thousands in my collection, maybe favourite record of all time), the largely overlooked Veedon Fleece is a close second. I am a little ashamed to admit that, after decades of checking out Van's deep discography, I only discovered this gem a few years ago. Man, was I missing out.

Where Astral Weeks is the brilliant, mysterious improvised statement of a wide-eyed, conflicted young man looking at the world in both fear and rapture, Veedon Fleece is the same passionate but older and wiser man looking back with heartful longing and resignation (but not yet bitter, like recent works).

Fair PlayStreet Of Arklow, Bulbs, You Don't Pull No Punches and Cul De Sac rank among his very best compositions but have unfortunately been ignored on Best Ofs, but (like Astral Weeks) it's probably best to hear them in their original form anyway. 

Jeff   -   Whenever I listen to Veedon Fleece I'm carried along a gentle pathway beyond the day's troubles. It's luscious sound is like angels ministering to me. I'm partially deaf and can't hear lyrics without turning the volume up to an objectionable level so I don't concern myself with the verbal message. The mood of this album is magnificent, the artistry transcendent, the effect ethereal.

William C. Stuarton   -   From the gentle intro Fair Play through "County Fair " This is a journey that will capture your heart! It is almost criminal that so few people have heard the magnificence of the song Streets of Arklow let alone the rest of Van's catalogue. Arklow paints a picture of this Irish town captured in time. Comfort You has become a one of the great lost romantic classics. I rank this up there with Moondance, Astral Weeks, and No Guru, No method, No Teacher

Sameer Sharma   -   This is one of the most precious jewels in my music collection. Every song glitters in its own way. This is the most spiritually and emotionally moving of all of Van's albums. My favourite song on this album is Cul De Sac

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Funny Things People Say - Part 18

M.J.   -   Other wacky news includes the meteor that HIT. EARTH.  I should note that I am not, in any way, an expert on astral things other than my obsession with Van Morrison's Astral Weeks album but, knowing how big the universe allegedly is, this story scares the beejezus out of me.   Now I have to add 'meteor' to my 'things-to-watch-out-for' list when I walk out of my house every day.

Alan Bairner   -   Van said in 1986, "East Belfast was totally Protestant, there was a couple of Catholics. But… There wasn’t any problems, there wasn’t any friction or anything like that.” Again one is struck by the air of blissful ignorance that is perfectly in keeping with the impression still fondly held by many Ulster Unionists that their “wee country” was an unproblematic place until a few republicans and left-wing fellow travellers decided to create problems at the end of the 1960s."

Sal Nunziato   -   Some think Van Morrison is crap. Some think Dylan is crap. 

William Crawley   -   I think it's also true that Belfast, Morrison's home town, has not yet recognised him appropriately. But a greater writer than James Joyce? In one song, Morrison says, "Been too long in exile / Just like James Joyce, Baby". I'll grant you that: they are both exilic prophets (... ish), but a greater writer than Joyce and Yeats? Rave on.

J. W. Brewer   -   For extra credit, try diagramming "the love that loves the love that loves the love that loves the love that loves to love the love that loves to love the love that loves," which is one transcription (I haven't collated sources, but I wouldn't be surprised if not all transcribers are in complete accord on the details) of part of Van Morrison's song Madame George. Which I would rather listen to than anything Trent Reznor has recorded.

Whyskeletonwhy   -   If you can hear Van Morrison’s Blue Money in the Sesame Street theme song, and can hear the Sesame Street theme song in Wilco’s Outta Mind/Outta Sight, we might have something in common. 

Brian Kaufman   -   I am thirteen years old and I’m sitting in my South Van bedroom spinning 45s on my RCA Victor mono record player—The Who, The Animals, The Stones, The Yardbirds, Them—‘Van the Man’ belting out “G-l-o-r-i-a” before anybody knew anything about the little brown-eyed girl “down in the hollow, playin’ a new game”, or who the hell Van Morrison was—and, of course, The Beatles.

Sarcastro   -   Didn't Van Morrison have a song called "Klanvarn"? No?

Christopher Robley   -   Sure, Radiohead never plays Creep anymore. Van Morrison never plays Brown Eyed Girl. But you’re not them. 

Paul Zahl   -   But what is Caravan about?  I don’t understand what Caravan is about.

DZ   -   Caravan is clearly about the need to turn on our electric lights. and turn UP our radios.

Paul Klee   -   Van Morrison is a concept you sneak up on, capture it and spend the rest of your life feeding it. Am I on anyone's wavelength here? Not radio? 

Sunshineinlondon   -   I’ve learnt that when Van picks up his harmonica, he starts to play it upside-down. 

Paul Zahl   -   OK, I understand about the song now. Lights and radios.  Anyway, I think this conversation would do better to explore the fascinating link between Van Morrison and Northern Irish Anglicanism.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Van-Inspired Writings: Part 2

As I've said earlier there's a whole world of Van-Inspired writings out there.  There are sentimental poems, fake anecdotes where the author imagines being with Van, short stories with Van as a character and even manga with a character named Van Morrison.  Mike from the Unremitting Failure blog wrote the piece below based on the following comment by Van's then wife Janet Planet.  She claims Van desperately wanted to meet Bob Dylan, but was too shy to approach him.  Does this count as 'fan fiction'?

Van Morrison's Woodstock Diary

"Van fully intended to become Dylan's best friend, but the whole time we were there they never met." She winced at the memory. "Every time we'd drive past Dylan's house--Van didn't drive, I did--Van would just stare wistfully out the window at the gravel road leading to Dylan's place. He thought Dylan was the only contemporary worthy of his attention. But back then, Bob just wasn't interested in him." 

-  Janet Rigsbee, Morrison's then spouse

June 1: Didn't see Bobbo.

June 2: Spent day standing about on the road outside Bob's house.  No sign of Bobbo.

June 13: Spent day on Bobbo's shed roof.  A bleeding pigeon tried to bugger me. I would like to think my attempt to meet Bob will help me write new material. What new material?  Nobody wants to listen to a song about being sodomized by a bleeding pigeon.

June 24: Ran after Bobbo's car.  Ran like mad, I did.  I clearly saw him looking out the back window at me as his car receded into the distance.  He was smiling!

July 5: Spent the day drawing up the blueprints for a large Bob Dylan trap.

July 9: Successfully trapped Bob Dylan's dog.  I know it's his dog, because the name on the little golden dog collar was "Bob Dylan, Jr."

July 23: Your Dylan is a slippery creature.  I spent the entire night in a tree in his backyard, with a view of his bedroom window.  Unfortunately he spotted me, and proceeded to take potshots at me with a small bore rifle.  He said, "You're either a bear, or Van Morrison.  And bears don't climb trees. Or plead in an Irish accent!"

August 11: Still recovering from bullet wounds.  Why hasn't Bob come to wish me a speedy recovery?

August 20: I may as well face it, Bobbo doesn't want anything to do with me.  Is it my rolypolyness? My dank Irish soul? My de do bop, de do bop a doo dooness? Oh, domino!

August 91: I know, there is no August 91, not in a sane person's world.  But I'm drinking a quart of Irish whiskey a day.  Yesterday I hid in a convenient trench outside Bob's house.  At noon a cement mixer arrived and filled it with cement.  It would appear that I'm now part of Bob Dylan's carport. Perhaps I can write a song about that.*

*Morrison's song Brown Eyed Carport inexplicably failed to chart in November 1970.  Nor did its flipside, Astral Pigeon Sodomy.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Van Morrison Tropes: Part 2

Here's part 2 of the last post.  Tropes are figures of speech so commonly used that they can be thought of as a ." Apparently, a trope is a storytelling device or convention, a shortcut for describing situations the storyteller can reasonably assume the audience will recognise. Tropes are more about conveying a concept to the audience without needing to spell out all the details. More tropey stuff can be found at the TV Tropes site

Below are some more examples of tropes in Van's canon:

Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Uses elements of R&B, Blues, Rock, Jazz, Folk, and Classical all on the same album. Summertime In England squeezes almost all of those into a single (15 minute) song! 

New Sound Album: Too Long In Exile was this after the increasingly esoteric and meditative 80s albums. As the title suggests, Too Long In Exile marked the first in a series of albums taking Van back to his rhythm'n'blues roots.

Not Christian Rock: Has done many songs with spiritual themes, and the Into The Music album was widely viewed as a sign that he'd embraced Christianity. But his personal religious sentiments are actually really hard to pin down. His mother was a Jehovah's Witness and his song Kingdom Hall reflects that connection in his youth. As an adult he got involved in various New Age pursuits, and also had a very brief flirtation with the Church of Happyology, but also referred to himself in an interview as a Christian mystic.

Odd Friendship: Q magazine asked lunatic comedian Spike Milligan to interview Morrison, and had a tape recorder running in the room to see what happened. The two hit it off so well that Q ended up publishing one of the best, longest, and most detailed interviews with Van Morrison, ever achieved anywhere. Milligan and Morrison remained friends.

Ode To Youth: These are the Days

OirelandHis collaboration with trad music veterans The Chieftains, versions of Irish traditional songs performed on native instruments with Morrison performing vocals. Also the track Streets of Arklow, on the Veedon Fleece album. He also namechecks places from his native Belfast throughout the Astral Weeks album. The jolly (for Morrison) song Cleanin' Windows is all about those carefree teenage days working as a window cleaner in East Belfast.

One Man Song: Jackie Wilson Said.

Performance Anxiety: He is known to suffer from this - he stopped performing for a few years shortly after the recording of It's Too Late to Stop Now.

Rearrange the Song: He's made a habit of resurrecting songs that were recorded but rejected from earlier albums (in a few cases, as much as a decade or more afterwards) and recording new versions that finally get released. The new versions get rearranged drastically.

Scatting: Often employs this, most notably on the intro to Jackie Wilson Said.

Shout-Out: He mentions lots of singers or other musicians in his lyrics: Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, Huddie (Lead Belly) Ledbetter, Jelly Roll Morton, and on and on.

The Something Song: Autumn Song, but it does get a Title Drop in the lyrics.

Spoken Word in MusicRave On, John DonneAnd especially the A Sense of Wonder album. This is as near as he gets to rap; the title track incorporates lyrical nostalgia for a Belfast upbringing, and a later track involves Morrison reciting a William Blake poem set to his own music.

Sudden Downer Ending: Slim Slow Slider on Astral Weeks.

Take That!: Many, over the years, mostly to unnamed people in the music business, or the industry itself. Perhaps the most notable is the suite of 36 songs he recorded to fulfil his contractual obligation to Bang - they have nonsense lyrics and titles like Ring Worm, Blowin' Your Nose, Nose In Your Blow and Here Comes Dumb George. They have been released multiple times anyway, and Morrison gets little or no royalty fees for them.

Textless Album CoverHis Band and the Street Choir, in its original release.

This Is a SongWavelength opens with the line "This is a song about your wavelength and my wavelength".

Transatlantic Equivalent: In this case, Trans-Irish Sea Equivalent. His first band, Them, were billed as "Ireland's answer to The Rolling Stones". However, the legendarily introverted and retiring Morrison was no Mick Jagger.

Weather DissonanceSnow in San Anselmo, about a freak snowstorm in Marin County, California, where Morrison was living at the time.

You Can Leave Your Hat On: A crowd-pleaser in live gigs is Morrison's version of an old blues number by Sonny Boy Williamson, You Gotta Help Me. Morrison's lyrics expand on the idea that the lady to whom the song is addressed can help him by taking off her clothes.