Thursday, 24 July 2008

"Veedon Fleece" by VAN MORRISON. A Review Of His 1974 Album Now Reissued And Remastered Onto CD In 2008 With Bonus Tracks.




VAN MORRISON is part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:

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"Standing In Shadows When The Street Lights All Turn Blue..."

"Veedon Fleece" is part of the 2nd wave of Van Morrison remastered reissues to hit the shops in 2008 (see full list below). Released Monday 30 June 2008 in the UK and 1 July 2008 in the USA, it boasts an upgraded booklet, a new 96k/24 bit remaster and 2 bonus tracks for the first time.

Here's the layout (56:36 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 make the album originally released in October 1974 on Warner Brothers
Tracks 11 and 12 are Alternate Takes of "Twilight Zone" and "Cul De Sac" and both are previously unreleased exclusive bonus tracks

The band consisted of:
RALPH WALSH and JOHN TROPEA on Guitars
JEFF LABES and JAMES TRUMBO on Keyboards
JACK SCHROER on Soprano Sax
JIM RITHERMEL on Flute and Recorder
NATHAN RUBIN and TERRY ADAMS on Strings
DAVID HAYES and JOE MACHO on Bass
DAHOUD SHAAR and ALLEN SWARTZBURG on Drums and Percussion

Labes, Shaar, Schroer, Hayes and Nathan Rubin were all part of "The Caledonia Soul Orchestra" who toured with Van and produced the dynamite "It's Too Late To Stop Now" live double released in March of 1974. Tight and complimentary to his style, they knew what Van wanted when he went in to record "Veedon Fleece". The album is a slight return to the style of "Astral Weeks" song-writing - not verse/chorus - but more soulful meandering workouts heavy on the mystical lyrics and falsetto vocals. This style is particularly evident on the fabulous "You Don't Pull No Punches, But You Don't Push The River" which ended Side 1 of the album - an 8-minute strummer that gets its hooks into you and doesn't leave. The chipper "Bulbs" (lyrics above) was issued as 7" single on both sides of the pond ("Cul De Sac" its B-side in the US, "Who Was That Masked Man?" in the UK).

Originally released on vinyl as a single sleeve album with a green insert for the session details, that same bland green is used on the booklet and inlay beneath the see-through tray - hardly original, nor exciting. There's no new interview, no photos, no singles pictured, no history of the record and its place in his catalogue - zip. The lyrics to "Twilight Zone" are reproduced though. Wow! Push the boat out boys!!

Also, the liner notes don't mention WHERE or WHEN the tapes were 96k/24 bit remastered. Still, the sound is hugely improved over the initial CD releases, but a real downside for me is the sloppiness with which this has been remastered - there's very audible hiss on almost all of the tracks - and the hiss is at exactly the same level all the time - you can't help but feel that this was simply run through a machine without anyone trying to tweak or make better each individual track - like say you get on a HIP-O SELECT CD or a MOBILE FIDELITY disc. Effort put in - in other words.

The two bonus tracks are a mixed bag. As you've probably noticed, "Twilight Zone" wasn't on the original LP; it first appeared as an outtake from the "Veedon Fleece" sessions on the 2CD 1996 set "The Philosopher's Stone". The version on PS runs to 8:24 minutes and is presented on that set in superb sound quality; this take is shorter at 5:51 minutes and different - unfortunately it's also a lot more hissy and not as good as the PS version. "Cul De Sac" fares far better - it's very good - and more than an interesting curio. I'll be playing it again.

Overall, "Veedon Fleece" is a lovely album and a bit of a lost gem in his catalogue - and this remastered re-issue is recommended despite the slightly disappointing sound quality.

PS:
30 Van Morrison albums are re-issued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into early 2009. Each title contains an upgraded booklet; previously unreleased bonus tracks and all will be at mid-price. The releases are in 4 batches as follows:

28 January 2008 (7 titles)
Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974),
Wavelenght (1979), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985),
Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)
(see SEPARATE REVIEWS for all 7)

30 June 2008 UK/1 & 8 July 2008 USA (8 titles)
Veedon Fleece (1974), Common One (1980), Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983), Live At The Grand Opera House, Belfast (1984), No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), Enlightenment (1990), A Night In San Francisco (2CD Live Set) (1994) and The Healing Game (1997)
(see also SEPARATE REVIEWS for "Common One", "Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart", "Enlightenment", the live 2CD set "A Night In San Francisco" and "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher")

September 2008 (7 titles)
Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), A Period Of Transition (1977), Beautiful Vision (1982), Poetic Champions Compose (1987), Hymns To The Silence (2CD Studio Set) (1991), How Long Has This Been Going On (Live At Ronnie Scott's) (1995) and Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)

January 2009 (8 titles)
Hard Nose The Highway (1973), Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains) (1988),
Too Long In Exile (1993), Days Like This (1995), The Story Of Them (2CD Set) (1999), The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast (with Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber) (2000), Down The Road (2002) and What's Wrong With This Picture? (2003)

PPS:
Those hoping to see desperately needed sonic upgrades of his 1st and 2nd album masterpieces on Warner Bothers "Astral Weeks" (1968) and "Moondance" (1970) or even "His Band & The Street Choir" (late 1970) will be disappointed to hear that they're NOT in this re-issue campaign - on either side of the pond. "Astral Weeks" and "Moondance" in particular have both been languishing around on crappy-sounding non-remastered CDs for over 20 years now and they're glaringly obvious omissions in this supposedly 'extensive' re-issue campaign. These universally recognized masterpieces have long deserved 2CD DELUXE EDITION treatment (some tracks in remastered form are available across the 3 volumes of "Best Of"). However, I've recently been informed by a good source that all 3 are NOW AVAILABLE since June 2008 in JAPAN in RHINO REMASTERED form. See the excellent Japanese site CDJAPAN.CO.JP for details (worded in English).

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