In 1974, Van Morrison returned to his roots, and emerged with his eighth studio LP, the long underrated, Veedon Fleece. The record, though originally slammed by critics, is much alike the triumphant Astral Weeks, a boiling pot of poetry; a mystifying exploration of genre limits, with a stream of consciousness styling. Written in under three weeks after divorcing wife, Janet Planet, and returning to his hometown of Belfast in ’73, Veedon Fleece encapsulates these experiences, providing an aura of darkness whilst his renowned sense of romanticism creeps just below the surface.
At the core lies Linden Arden Stole the Highlights, a two minute and 30 second enigma. Morrison’s full-tone phrasing is eloquent, hearty, and flows fluidly with the rolling keys, as he tells the story of a mystery man through poetry and prose ‘The moon and sun and whisky ran like water through his veins’. As the song closes with ‘Now he’s living, living with a gun’ the theme lingers on into neighbouring track, Who Was That Masked Man.
Who Was That Masked Man is ambiguous, with a hauntingly high vocal execution that shoots in and out, intensifying as the string section enters at the bridge. As the chronicle unfolds, as does the best lyricism on the record ‘You’re such a rare collector’s item when they throw away what’s trash’, until eventually the two track journey through the dark districts of Morrison’s mind are brought to a halt with ‘No matter what they tell you there’s living evil in everyone’.
Cul De Sac takes the LP round a soul cleansing bend, and right through to its crux, with light licks, weighty beats, and indelible bass lines. Morrison stains the memory with strident grunts, mumbles, and screams that spew through as he repeats his phrases. Standing firmly as the albums pinnacle, the instrumentation is a seamless patchwork of Gospel, Blues, and Soul, arranged in a way that only the John Keats of Rock ‘n Roll could muster.
Despite what the critics once said, Veedon Fleece is the quintessence of Morrison’s works, each twist and turn urges you to feel something, and does so with only the slightest of arrogance. Van Morrison is at his unparalleled best, in what is one of the greatest forgotten albums in music history.
Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,