Log #162 — The Veedon Fleece Brothers Undress
Some treats this week. We spin Beck’s latest (although a new album Hyperspace is out later this month) and also The Felice Brothers’ latest. Top of the magazine we have two classic albums in the smooth jazz rock form of Steely Dan and Donald Fagen (one half of Steely Dan of course and Donald’s first appearance solo at the blog). Centre midfield is taken up by one of Van Morrison’s greatest albums and the revolutionary samplefest debut from DJ Shadow.
Steely Dan Aja
Donald Fagen The Nightfly
Van Morrison Veedon Fleece
DJ Shadow Endtroducing
The Felice Brothers Undress
Compiled almost entirely from samples ‘s groundbreaking Endtroducing received critical acclaim on its release in 1996. No doubt a technical achievement the fear might be that the means trumps the end, but actually the album is very cohesive and contains excellent tracks of down tempo trip hop.
Of most interest to me the list includes artists Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and Nirvana, not that you’d be able to tell.
Veedon Fleece is a truly beautiful album. Somewhat over(dj)shadowed by the greatness of its surroundings. Released in 1974 Veedon Fleece was possibly Van Morrison ‘s last great album (for a while at least) following in the footsteps of a run of classics like Moondance, Astral Weeks of course, and St. Dominic’s Preview, plus the live double Too Late To Stop Now which came out earlier the same year. It would be another three years before the underwhelming A Period Of Transition would demonstrate a change in style.
Live, human, and dynamic. Richly atmospheric loose-limbed arrangements that parallel ‘Van the Man’s’ tenderly gentle and wildly explosive deliveries.
Veedon though is slow and easy with Van at his most soulful — I don’t think I’ve heard his voice pitched so high on any other album, possibly channelling his Al Green or Marvin Gaye. Where Astral Weeks is stringy and Moondance is brassy, this one is pianoey.
Some artists sing about individual personal feelings, some are more outward looking and will comment on the state of the world and politics for instance. Then you get the uniqueness of an artist like Dylan who tells long dense stories littered with proper nouns (for better or worse Ian Felice is similar). But I don’t think I know of an artist whose songs recall such a sense of place.
Often this is implicit,
as in Streets Of Arklow. Arklow is a town on the east coast of Ireland Morrison visited in 1973 (he was living in the US at the time):
And as we walked
Through the streets of Arklow
In a drenching beauty
Rolling back ’til the day
And I saw your eyes
They was shining, sparkling crystal clear
And our souls were clean
And the grass did grow
I’m also intrigued what Linden Arden Stole The Highlights means:
Linden Arden stole the highlights
With one hand tied behind his back
Loved the morning sun, and whiskey
Ran like water in his veins
Loved to go to church on Sunday
Even though he was a drinking man
When the boys came to San Francisco
They were looking for his life
Morrison described this made up character as “an image of an Irish American living in San Francisco — it’s really a hard man type of thing”.
I still don’t understand how he stole “highlights”.
Reviewing Van’s discography I’m frankly shocked to realise there are 2 albums up to Veedon Fleece that I don’t think I’ve actually heard in their entirety. They being Hard Nose The Highway and His Band And The Street Choir. I don’t know how this has happened and I promise to rectify immediately Ed. with a visit to ebay. Sure I’d find these for £3 or so at World of Books or Music Magpie.
Undress is the latest album from The Felice Brothers . The band, being generally media darlings, usually get great reviews for both their studio work and their live shows, and this is no exception. However on initial listens I have to admit I was slightly disappointed. Of the dozen tracks there are 4 or 5 that are up to the Brothers’ usual high standards, which ain’t bad by anyone’s measure, but also two or three that are on the weak side. The balance are literally middle of the road.
The lyrics, mostly from Ian Felice who is often compared to Dylan, are important in the Felice Brothers’ songs, and many reviews highlight a shift from introspection to a more outward looking view on the state of our political world such as in the sing-a-long Special Announcement:
I can promise more berries
On Blueberry Hill
I can promise you this
Charlie Parker on the ten dollar bill
I’ll gather up all the cash
Toss it to the birds
Burn down the Stock Exchange
The Federal Reserve (It’s going down)
I’m saving up my money
To be president
and the title track:
Smell the chrysanthemums
Republicans and Democrats
Even the evangelicals
Lighten up, undress
Shake the maracas
Everyone’s nude on Family Feud
Under the mushroom cloud
Crimes against humanity
Caesars of Wall Street
Comanche and Iroquois
Bank of America
Read me the Riot Act
Vice President and President
Many of the songs on the new album are motivated by a shift from private to public concerns. It isn’t hard to find worthwhile things to write about these days, there are a lot of storms blooming on the horizon and a lot of chaos that permeates our lives. The hard part is finding simple and direct ways to address them.
However, like Dylan, it’s the odd genius line of juxtaposition that delights in Felice’s lyrics, like exchanging pleasantries under pleasant trees.
Despite my lukewarm feelings about the album the Felices, to be fair, are a band who have rarely stood still, each release pushing new boundaries which can confuse their fans at first.
Here original brothers Ian and Felice are joined by new bassist Jesske Hume and drummer Will Lawrence (third brother Simone left in 2009 — his subsequent output as The Duke and The King and as a solo artist are due an examination at a later date). They’ve also lost long term fiddle player Greg Farley which goes some way to explaining how this record has taken a step away from their popular ramshackle brand of rootsy americana (never more ramshackle as on the previous release Life In The Dark) into a more polished mainstream rock sound.
The Brothers are touring the UK in January and I also see The Black Deer Festival have pulled off a blinder for next summer:
Originally published at http://6albumsunday.blogspot.com.