Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

HOT STAMPERS DISCOVERED for a mostly forgotten gem from Van Morrison’s early catalog! We managed to pull together enough reasonably clean copies for this shootout, which took us YEARS. Most of the copies we played weren’t even in the arena with this one, which earned grades better than A+ on both sides. The All Music Guide calls this album “brilliant” as well as “every bit the creative equal of its more famous predecessors”.

Both sides of this original Warner Brothers pressing have excellent energy and presence with nice extension up top. There’s plenty of weight to the bottom end and the piano sounds just right. Most copies weren’t nearly this rich, warm and sweet.

This vintage Warner Brothers pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Veedon Fleece from 1974 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1974
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on Veedon Fleece

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Fair Play
Linden Arden Stole the Highlights
Who Was That Masked Man
Streets of Arklow
You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River

Side Two

Bulbs
Cul de Sac
Comfort You
Come Here My Love
Country Fair

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Veedon Fleece is every bit the creative equal of its more famous predecessors. With its elegiac tone and deeply autobiographical lyrics, this was a Morrison who didn’t so readily associate himself with the feel-good, peace, love, and rhythm & blues sound American audiences were used to. If any album reflects a real period of transition for an artist, it’s this one. It’s brilliant.