..It's Too Late To Stop Now...Vol. 2, 3, 4
Box Set, Live 3 CD + 1 DVD
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..It's Too Late to Stop Now...Volume I
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A 3CD/1DVD collection of previously unreleased live concert recordings from Morrison's mythic 1973 tour with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, ..IT'S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW...VOLUMES II, III, IV & DVD collates peak performances originally recorded at three venues: The Troubadour in Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Civic Center, and The Rainbow Theatre in London. The set's DVD features professionally-lensed live footage from the Rainbow Theatre, which originally aired on the BBC in the UK and is now available for the first time to own.
"I am getting more into performing," said Van Morrison in 1973, during his tour with his newly-formed Caledonia Soul Orchestra. "It's incredible…. All of a sudden I felt like 'you're back into performing' and it just happened like that…. A lot of times in the past I've done gigs and it was rough to get through them. But now the combination seems to be right and it's been clicking a lot."
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This material was recorded on the eve of the release of 1973’s Hard Nose The Highway and the material from this album is expanded here to include the title song, magnificent versions of Snow In San Anselmo and Purple Heather, as well as Wild Children and Bein’ Green. Similarly expanded is the material from the masterpieces Astral Weeks and Moondance, now to include Sweet Thing, Cyprus Avenue and The Way Young Lovers Do from the former and Moondance, Caravan, Into The Mystic, Come Running, These Dreams Of You and Everyone from the latter. The playing from the 11-piece Caledonia Soul Orchestra is simply sublime throughout, the mix of blues, jazz, soul, rock and pop showcasing Van’s impassioned vocals, with some particularly memorable playing from the piano of Jeff Labes, the violins of Nathan Rubin, Tim Kovatch and Tom Halpin, plus some great solos emanating from John Platania’s guitar.
As well as the solo material, we also get great versions of Them’s Gloria and Here Comes The Night, plus many covers, of which personal favourites include Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me, Buddy Johnson’s Since I Fell For You (two versions) and Ray Charles’ I Believe To My Soul (two versions). But, personally, I think the band sound and arrangements particularly suit the ballads here and there are particularly memorable versions of the aforementioned Purple Heather and Snow In San Anselmo and, best of all, Listen To The Lion and (the rare) I Paid The Price.
It’s too late to resist now!
What you get is 15 tracks per disc plus a bonus 9 track 50 minute DVD of highlights from The Rainbow concert, originally shown on the BBC. Each set list is unique, and where songs are repeated occasionally over the three CDs they are each performed in very different ways. What comes across is Morrison's supreme showmanship, with the audience in each case watching a master at work. Morrison performs an eclectic mix of Them tracks; previews Hard Nose The Highway; gives the audiences a liberal dose of well-chosen covers by the likes of Sam Cooke, Willie Dixon, Hank Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson and Ray Charles amongst others; and features two previously unreleased Morrison originals I Paid The Price and No Way. Throughout Morrison is at the peak of his powers, The Caledonia Soul Orchestra proving that their fearsome reputation was well deserved as they follow and enhance Morrison's performance. The excitement throughout is palpable, this is a band who grabbed the audience by the throat and didn't let go. Every bit as good as the original 1973 release, this is Grade A+ essential Morrison.
So, how are Vols II, II & IV? Vol II is the best. Recorded at the Troubadour, LA, It includes a couple of gems (Snow in San Anselmo & Purple Heather) which surprisingly were left out of the 1974 album. All the songs on Vol 1 to IV are original recordings with no over dubs. I read in Rolling Stone long time ago that Moondance was left out of the 1974 album because it contained a duff note. Well, it's here on Vol II and I couldn't notice any duff notes! Also included is Brown Eyed Girl, Hard Nose the Highway, Come Running, The Way Young Lovers Do, Bein' Green, Hey Good Lookin' and excellent versions of These Dreams of You, Caravan, Cypress Avenue, Bring it on Home to Me and Listen to the Lion (alternate versions of these last 5 were on Vol I).
Vol III, recorded at the Santa Monica Civic CA, is in my view not in the same league. All the songs are fine but they lack that special extra feeling that those from the other performances have. Vol IV, recorded at London's Rainbow restores the passion of the singing and tightness of the band. Although 10 out of 15 songs were included on the original Vol I, these alternate versions are sufficiently different and of a very high quality to warrant their inclusion.
To wrap up, if the original album was re-issued with a third disc containing Snow in San Anselmo, Purple Heather, Moondance, Brown Eyed Girl, Sweet Thing and a couple of other tracks, it would be hard even for non-VM fans to dispute it as the greatest live album of all time. As it is, if you are a Van Morrison fan, I still recommend buying these. You won't be disappointed. Others may elect just to buy the 1974 one, if you still haven't got iit.