Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Van Morrison 8: It’s Too Late To Stop Now

This is one of those albums that gets mentioned as one of the best live albums of all time. It was certainly lavish; two records in a triptych cover loaded with photos, offering nearly 90 minutes of music from three club-sized shows in L.A. and London. For a guy who’s gained a reputation as a reclusive grump, it takes the listener back to a time when Van Morrison was an exciting, engaging performer.
While the quote marks and ellipses vary from cover to spine to the labels, “…It’s Too Late To Stop Now…” does offer up the hits, so to speak, with songs from each of his solo albums to date. There’s even a throwback to his days with the R&B group Them, demonstrated by the energetic performances of “Here Comes The Night” and “Gloria” on side four.
Van has always considered his role as a performer to be his job, so his shows have stayed in the tradition of the jazz and soul revues that he fell in love with as a boy. For him, it was never about promoting your latest record; a show was always about the music and the moment. That’s what makes his choices to cover Ray Charles, Bobby Blue Bland, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke and Sonny Boy Williamson some of the better moments on the album. In the hands of the Caledonia Soul Orchestra—the usual guitar, bass, piano and drums augmented by both horns and a string section—songs like “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do”, “I Believe To My Soul” and “Help Me” emerge as part of his own fabric.
Of his own catalog selections, it’s the longer numbers that do stand out. Already epic tracks like “Saint Dominic’s Preview”, “Listen To The Lion” and “Cyprus Avenue”, as well as a “Caravan” that goes over nine minutes, demonstrate the tightness of the band, able to stop and start at the drop of a hand, while following his scat of the moment. “Cyprus Avenue” closes the album, and it’s a particularly engrossing display of interplay between Van, band, and even the audience. At one moment of silence between burst of music, an audience member shouts “Turn it on!” (perhaps a reference to “Caravan”, which precedes it) to which Van slyly replies, “It’s turned on already.” That gets a whoop from the audience, followed by another battering of the chords and a shout of “It’s too late to stop now!” (first heard, of course, at the end of “Into The Mystic”) that brings the final chord.
So while It’s Too Late To Stop Now is a perfectly enjoyable album, is it essential? The greatest live album ever made? That’s a matter of personal taste. His shows were always unpredictable, and still are, so this is merely a snapshot of one of his phases. A single album of the highlights would certainly get it more plays around our house, but still no more than any of the studio albums.
Not only because of the cover design, for years it was rumored that the album was cut down from a triple, and whether or not that’s true is now moot. Not too long after his first three Warner albums were expanded (supposedly against Van’s will), the original 1974 release was subtitled Volume I, coinciding with the unveiling of …It’s Too Late To Stop Now…Volumes II, III, IV & DVD. This deluxe package devotes a disc each to shows from each of the original venues, with the video portion coming from London. Along with further choices from his albums, covers include “Hey Good Lookin”, “Since I Fell For You” and “Buona Sera”, plus the then-unreleased “There There Child”, “I Paid The Price” and “No Way” (written by pianist Jeff Labes). With 3½ hours of new music, it’s essential for anyone who loves the original album.

Van Morrison “…It’s Too Late To Stop Now…” (1974)—
2008 CD reissue: same as 1974, plus 1 extra track
Van Morrison …It’s Too Late To Stop Now…Volumes II, III, IV & DVD (2016)—

1 comment:

  1. I really like this album, but, oddly enough, I have several live boots from this era that I enjoy more.