Veedon Fleece was the last album from Van Morrison’s initial run of solo records; subsequently he went into semi-retirement for three years, only emerging to appear in The Band’s The Last Waltz. In some respects, it’s almost the completion of the circle begun with Astral Weeks; returning to Ireland at the end of his marriage, Veedon Fleece is more steeped in acoustic mysticism than any of his releases since Astral Weeks, and it’s similarly loose in feel. It’s also more noticeably more Irish than anything he’d released previously; there’s little R&B here, using more folk-oriented, acoustic instrumentation, and the lyrics reference William Blake and figures from Irish mythology.
While comparisons to Astral Weeks are inevitable, it is different enough to have its own identity; there are few vestiges of jazz, and while the songs are hardly straightforward verse/chorus constructions, they’re not as meandering and free form. Despite suffering from the same front loading problem as Moondance, and despite feeling somewhat haphazard in places with several of the best songs petering out unexpectedly, Veedon Fleece still stands as one of Van Morrison’s better records, capturing an atmosphere of melancholy and mysticism.
Like Moondance, the first side is excellent. ‘Fair Play’ sets the scene with acoustic grace, while ‘Linden Arden Stole The Highlights’ introducing mystical themes and emotional poignancy. ‘Who Was That Masked Man?’ uses a devastating falsetto, and the centrepiece is the eight minute ‘You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push The River’, which provides a dramatic vocal showcase while still containing a brilliant song underneath.
On the second side, the low key closer ‘Country Fair’ is the only real disappointment, but as a whole it is one dimensional after the more diverse first half. ‘Come Here My Love’ is pretty and melodic, while ‘Cul De Sac’ and ‘Bulbs’ both have their share of angst and urgency. But despute a weaker second half, Veedon Fleece is a moody, fascinating record with its share of great moments.