Taking its title from a lyric at the end of "Into The Mystic" on 1970's "Moondance", Van Morrison's 2LP live set "It's Too Late To Stop Now" was released in early 1974. It's always been a fan favourite and was equally championed by critics the world over at the time. It has even been muted by some as one of the best live albums ever made. Well, on hearing it again after all these years on this superb-sounding 2008 remaster, it's easy to see why everyone went nuts for it then and now - it's a magical body of work - and with this sonic upgrade, to my ears, it's never sounded better.
Produced by Van and Warner Brothers resident production genius Ted Templeman, it was recorded in the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the Civic in Santa Monica (both in California) and the beloved and much missed Rainbow Theatre in London. His super tight house band "The Caledonia Soul Orchestra" consisted of JEFF LABES on Piano & Organ, JOHN PLATANIA on Guitar, DAVID HAYES on Bass, JACK SCHROER and BILL ATWOOD on Sax and Trumpet with DAHAUD SHAAR pounding away on the Drums. The String section featured NATHAN RUBIN, TIM KOVATCH, TOM HALPIN, NANCY ELLIS and TERRY ADAMS.
Disc One opens the proceedings with a cracking version of Bobby Bland's "Ain't Nothin' You Can Do". There are quite a few covers on the album and they sit perfectly alongside his own compositions making it a far more varied listen. There's a slick version of "I Believe To My Soul" by Ray Charles, "Help Me" by Sonny Boy Williamson (Willie Dixon writer), "I Just Want To Make Love To You" by Muddy Waters (again Willie Dixon writer), "Bring It On Home To Me" by Sam Cooke and "Take Your Hands Out Of My Pocket" by Sonny Boy Williamson. Them classics "Here Comes The Night" and "Gloria" are superlative too - especially the barnstorming "Gloria with "it's gonna be alright..." and the crowd bashing their hands together as hard as they can! The album is full of great moments, the James Brown funky tightness of "I've Been Working" with the brass, piano and guitar all playing up an absolute storm; the beautiful other worldly Tim Buckley meandering feel to the soulful nine minutes of "Listen To The Lion" and the infectious joy of the crowd to the opening guitar flicks of "Domino".
Some reviewers have said they found the sound `thinny' - I don't. To me it's warmer and more revealing than it's ever been and I'm digging this fab set so much more for it. The original master tapes have been 96K/24 Bit digitally remastered by Tim Young at Metropolis Mastering in London and the sound is GORGEOUS - really amazing. The `upgraded' booklet isn't however - it's very disappointing. As the original album gatefold contained a few colour shots of Van and the band, then that's all we get here - nothing else - no lyrics, no history of where the album fits in, no new liner notes, no new photographs of the tour, the band, the audiences etc. Could have done better lads. And speaking of short change, while all the other 6 releases in this reissue campaign have had two bonus tracks each, here the original 16-track 2LP set is given only one bonus cut, a previously unreleased version of "Brown Eyed Girl". It's short, but it's in keeping with the sound of the other tracks and admittedly it's excellent. Nice to hear it after all these years. But across three concerts, surely there was more?? Couldn't this have been a DELUXE 3CD EDITION? Now how special would that have been!
To sum up then - despite a few presentation niggles, this is still a bona fide 5-star masterpiece given a SUPERB REMASTER and I for one am loving every second of it. Buy it with confidence.
30 Van Morrison albums are re-issued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into early 2009. Each title contains an upgraded booklet; previously unreleased bonus tracks and all will be at mid-price. The releases are in 4 batches as follows:
28 January 2008 (7 titles)
Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974),
Wavelenght (1979), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985),
Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)
(see SEPARATE REVIEWS for all 7)
30 June 2008 UK/1 & 8 July 2008 USA (8 titles)
Veedon Fleece (1974), Common One (1980), Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983), Live At The Grand Opera House, Belfast (1984), No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), Enlightenment (1990), A Night In San Francisco (2CD Live Set) (1994) and The Healing Game (1997)
(see also SEPARATE REVIEWS for "Veedon Fleece", "Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart", "Enlightenment", the live 2CD set "A Night In San Francisco", "Common One" and "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher")
November 2008 (7 titles)
Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), A Period Of Transition (1977), Beautiful Vision (1982), Poetic Champions Compose (1987), Hymns To The Silence (2CD Studio Set) (1991), How Long Has This Been Going On (Live At Ronnie Scott's) (1995) and Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)
January 2009 (8 titles)
Hard Nose The Highway (1973), Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains) (1988),
Too Long In Exile (1993), Days Like This (1995), The Story Of Them (2CD Set) (1999), The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast (with Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber) (2000), Down The Road (2002) and What's Wrong With This Picture? (2003)
Those hoping to see desperately needed sonic upgrades of his 1st and 2nd album masterpieces on Warner Bothers "Astral Weeks" (1968) and "Moondance" (1970) or even "His Band & The Street Choir" (late 1970) will be disappointed to hear that they're NOT in this re-issue campaign - on either side of the pond. "Astral Weeks" and "Moondance" in particular have both been languishing around on crappy-sounding non-remastered CDs for over 20 years now and they're glaringly obvious omissions in this supposedly 'extensive' re-issue campaign. These universally recognized masterpieces have long deserved 2CD DELUXE EDITION treatment (some tracks in remastered form are available across the 3 volumes of "Best Of"). However, I've recently been informed by a good source that all 3 are NOW AVAILABLE since June 2008 in JAPAN in RHINO REMASTERED form. See the excellent Japanese site CDJAPAN.CO.JP for details (worded in English).