Monday, June 20, 2016

Van Morrison - ...It's Too Late to Stop Now...Volumes II, III, IV (Legacy Recordings, 2016)

The original It’s Too Late to Stop Now LP is not only seen as a high water mark in Van Morrison’s discography, but one of the finest live albums ever released. This boxed set represents a three album (and one DVD in the hard-copy) collection of previously unreleased live concert recordings from Van Morrison's 1973 tour with the eleven piece Caledonia Soul Orchestra which included a five piece string and two piece horn section. The first disc in this collection was recorded live at The Troubadour, Los Angeles, May 23, 1973 and comes bolting out of the gate fast with wonderful versions of Morrison classics “Come Running” and “These Dreams of You,” up-tempo songs from his classic Moondance LP. The lush strings and horns allow him to play his innately jazzy “The Way That Young Lovers Do” from the Astral Weeks album, which develops a sense of mystery as does the new song “Snow in San Anselmo” that becomes a mystic travelogue and comes from his enigmatic following studio album, Hard Nose the Highway. He also plays the title song and “Purple Heather” from that LP. The remainder of the concert is excellent, juxtaposing jaunty numbers like Hank Williams’ “Hey, Good Lookin’” and his own “Brown Eyed Girl” with longer, impressionistic versions of “Listen to the Lion,” “Cyprus Avenue” and “Caravan.” Morrison is the master of dynamics, whipping the crowd into frenzy and then cutting them off. He’s also generous to the band, giving members solo space and introducing them to the crowd. The second disc, from the Santa Monica Civic Center on June 29, 1973 has music that is much more centered and the songs are very crisply delivered beginning with an extra funky version of “I’ve Been Working.” There is a blistering back-to-back section of “Domino” and “Gloria” and the longest song is a surprising version of “Moonshine Whiskey.” This is a funk/R and B centered concert, and the band proves is by digging deep into “Take Your Hand Out Of My Pocket” and finishing with I Believe It To My Soul.” Disc three from The Rainbow, London on July 23 and 24, 1973 balances the two sides of Van Morrison, the rhythm and blues singer and the mystic seeker wonderfully, opening with a beatific “Listen to the Lion” sparked by guitar and framed by sweeping strings, which is deeply moving. The show starts in a deep emotional well, with his cutting vocals slicing through “I Paid the Price” and then the oddball “Bein’ Green.” There is a majestic “Into the Mystic” riding on a wave of strings that are never sappy, but are able to swell with the horns and Morrison’s extraordinary voice to an very powerful effect. The dynamic shifts come into play with the juxtaposition of the gentler material like a softly swinging “Sweet Thing” followed by a gritty version of Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” The end of the concert is a riot, starting with a ripe version of the Them R&B chestnut “Here Comes the Night” then Louis Prima’s “Buona Sera” appros of nothing. After that it’s all Morrison, delivering blistering versions of “Domino,” “Caravan,” and “Cyprus Avenue” with the band driving relentlessly, and able to stop on a dime and shift gears at a moments notice. This is a great set of music, capturing one of the finest musicians of the modern era at the height of his powers. This collection is a must-buy for fans of Van Morrison, and if you haven’t heard the original album (Volume I) you should definitely make its acquaintance. ..It's Too Late to Stop Now...Volumes II, III, IV & DVD -

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