Home Geek LifeCulture Vinyl Me, Please February Edition: Van Morrison ‘Veedon Fleece’

Vinyl Me, Please February Edition: Van Morrison ‘Veedon Fleece’

by Patrick Phillips

Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club, it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month … in their living room.

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The Skinny

Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (plans start at $27/month) and they send you one meticulously selected album worthy of your time and attention. Easy, right? Each custom pressing (often on colored vinyl!) also comes with special features like original artwork and even a recipe for a companion cocktail. You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP shop too, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including January’s stellar reissue of Flying Lotus’ genre-smashing classic Cosmogramma – not to mention a bevy of rare and exclusive releases. The store is now open. It’s chock full of sexy new discs that need a loving home. And Team VMP are dropping fresh new selections to their stock every single week. Do not miss out.

Whatever styles or artists or limited edition pressings you’re looking for, you’re bound to find something worth your time and money in the VMP Store. While that store is open to the public, many of the more covet-worthy selections are only available to members, so you’ve gotta sign up to get your mitts on them. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection over to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you don’t like for a past AOM (or other VMP Exclusive pressings) that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.

So, what’s in the box for February? Get ready to wrap yourself up in the warm, flowing goodness of Van Morrison’s unheralded classic Veedon Fleece.

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Yes, I doubled up on the VMP delight this month, because that Classics edition of Blossom Dearie’s self-titled release is more than a little bit covet-worthy, and was also certain to sell out in the VMP store (for a second time) this month. Just a quick word to those of you already basking in the joys of a Vinyl Me, Please membership – you can add an additional VMP release to your monthly delivery by choosing “add track” in your account page … and you can do so at friend prices ($23 instead of the store retail price of $29). Just another reason to adore all the amazing things the folks at Vinyl Me, Please do for their members.

For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND (or, how I learned that the Veedon Fleece is the surest way to melt your wintery blues away)

Alright, before I get too deep into my examination of Veedon Fleece, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that the name Van Morrison may well carry a particular sort of baggage for many of you. The sort of baggage that comes with overexposure to the same three to five songs that tend to get rampant airplay on classic rock radio stations throughout the land … or even worse, seeing your Mom and Dad rocking out to those very songs they’ve been hearing on repeat since Morrison burst onto the rock scene with Them back in the late ’60s.

So, in acknowledging the baggage that often accompanies Van Morrison’s name, I just want to point out that those three to five songs (despite being tragically overplayed over the years) are in fact stone cold classics. Also, if your parents have been incessantly jamming to Van Morrison since your youth (and theirs), they probably have better taste in music than you think. ‘Cause Van Morrison’s early albums (through the mid to late ’70s) are an absolute treasure trove of jazzy, immaculately penned, R&B-tinged, metaphysical folk-rock classics that happened to be accompanied by one of the most unique/dynamic voices in the history of rock & roll. And they’re rife to be discovered and rediscovered for generations to come.

For those of you who don’t already know that – or have yet to venture beyond Mom & Dad approved, radio friendly standards like “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Wild Night,” or “Moondance” – Vinyl Me, Please is here to help you discover Van Morrison like you’ve never heard with an oft-overlooked album that presents a portrait of the artist at once in transition, and patently comfortable in his own sonic skin.

That album is Veedon Fleece. It’s Morrison’s eighth studio effort. It found the artist fully enmeshed in the jazz/blues/folk rock fusion that would become his signature sound. And it’s about as comfortable and obvious a Van Morrison album as the artist ever produced. So yeah, when I say that Veedon Fleece is Van Morrison like you’ve never heard, that’s not entirely true. But the album is suffused with a poetically staid romanticism and improvisational energy absent in much of his prior work (save for his flawless Astral Weeks), and driven by flourishes of Celtic folk stylings rediscovered on a timely sojourn to his motherland.

Now, of the album’s Celtic energy, it should be noted that Morrison wrote every song on Veedon Fleece over a three-week vacation in southern Ireland. Of the album’s staid romanticism, it should be noted that Morrison took that vacation in the wake of his own divorce, and that he took it with his soon to be new bride. And of the album’s improvisational feel, it should be noted that Morrison and Co. recorded Veedon Fleece just weeks after in a series of late night jam sessions that saw several album cuts resulting from first and only takes of a song. While the resulting album has the feel of classic Van Morrison, that combination of elements leave his signature sound feeling as fresh and vital as anything he’d recorded since Astral Weeks.

Just FYI – there’s a good reason I keep referencing Astral Weeks. That album is far and away Morrison’s most artistically ambitious. It’s also widely considered Morrison’s one legitimate masterpiece. Veedon Fleece all but matches that masterwork in terms of artistic ambition, poetic integrity, mystic orchestration, and sheer musicianship. And it often bests Astral Weeks in terms of vocal acrobatics and (more shockingly) kick ass flute solos. While Astral Weeks remains the best jumping in album for anyone looking to discover Van Morrison, I’m here to tell you that Veedon Fleece is just as strong a contender to that title, and this flawless new pressing from Vinyl Me, Please is the perfect way to jump.

Cover Matters

I don’t want to wax too poetical about that painterly cover art, but Veedon Fleece has a warm, stream-of-consciousness sort of energy that makes it feel like songs were made up on spot and recorded by a group of musicians just in from playing with their adoring dogs. Check the back cover for a full rundown of who those musicians were.

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Be sure to note that foil-stamped logo in the top corner which will forever denote this pressing of Veedon Fleece as a Vinyl Me, Please Essentials release.

Though you’re probably dying to get a look at that pressing, let’s take a few moments to ogle the all important information this little sticker offers about this release. 180g, colored vinyl? Check. Heavyweight Tip-on sleeve? Check. First vinyl reissue in 30 years of an all but impossible to find, largely unheralded classic? Sure sounds like an Essential to me.

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Now that we’ve got that plastic sleeve out-of-the-way, let’s take a minute to study the VMP-designed OBI Strip that’s cradling the spine, ’cause there’s some important information therein. Like the artist’s and album’s name, and the VMP catalogue number for this selection.

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Not to mention a few carefully chosen words about what makes this album such an essential to your collection.

And of course, for those of you like to enjoy a beverage with your spins, there’s an album inspired cocktail recipe to boot. This one’s called the “Cul De Sac.” It’s the first non-alcoholic beverage Team VMP has featured, though its coffee base and almond syrup/heavy cream additions are certain to bolster the warm, earthy vibes of Veedon Fleece.

Now, one of the cooler aspects of VMP’s Essentials releases is that – though the albums themselves are legit works of art – these releases also feature exclusive, album-inspired artwork. This little beauty comes via Studio Ashleen (aka Chicago based artist Sarah Carolan), and brings a lovely bit of the mystic to Veedon Fleece‘s original cover art.

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Now, let’s have a look inside that fancy Tip-on sleeve already, and have a look at that emerald green wax already. But first, let’s also have a gander at the fancy dust jacket it’s stored in, ’cause there’s a few intimate photos on the one side, and full lyrics sheet on the other. Trust me when I say that, even though your voice cannot do what Van Morrison’s does on Veedon Fleece, you’re still going to want to sing along with most of it.

Of that emerald green vinyl, I’ll simply say that it is truly a jewel to behold.

Vinyl Me PleaseAnd it’s likely to leave your friends green with envy as it spins round ‘n round on your deck.

Vinyl Me PleaseHow’s it sound? Like sitting by the fire on a cool, breezy evening, sipping a hot coffee with just a touch of whiskey, and gazing up at the stars as a friend or lover wraps a warm, wooly blanket around your shoulders. But, ya know, musically.

Give It a Spin

Like most Van Morrison fans of a certain age, I came to know his distinctive voice and style via classic rock radio. Though I’d later discover Morrison’s Astral Weeks and claim it as an all time favorite album, that initial exposure meant I’d mostly heard a lot of the standard classic rock radio approved Morrison fare along the way, and essentially missed out on much of the singer/songwriter’s sprawling oeuvre. That included Veedon Fleece, which I’d never even heard of before VMP tagged it as an Essential. After spinning this glorious masterwork a few times, I’m absolutely inclined to agree with that assessment, and am even now ranking Veedon Fleece as my second favorite Morrison album (just behind the immaculate Astral Weeks). Thanks to Team VMP for helping me discover this long overlooked little gem … and for making every month another musical adventure!

A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the official Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each and every month! Can’t wait to see what crunchy treat they send our way in March!

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