Thursday, 2 July 2015

"It’s Too Late To Stop Now" by VAN MORRISON (2008 Polydor/Exile 2CD Expanded Remaster Of His 1973 2LP Live Masterpiece) - A Review By Mark Barry...



"…Let Me Tell You About My Baby... Makes Me Feel Alright…"

Taking its title from a lyric at the end of "Into The Mystic" on “Moondance" (1970) - Van Morrison's live set "It's Too Late To Stop Now" was released in February 1974 as a double-album on Warner Brothers K 86007 in he UK and WS 2760 in the USA. It's always been a fan favourite and was equally championed by critics the world over at the time - muted by some as even being one of the best live albums ever made.

Well - on hearing it again after all these years on this superb-sounding January 2008 2CD remaster on Polydor/Exile 530 545-5 (Barcode 600753054550) - it's easy to see why everyone went nuts for it. “It’s Too Late To Stop Now” is a magical body of work and with this latest sonic upgrade (including a Previously Unreleased bonus track) - it’s never sounded better. Here are the jelly-rolls and mystical caravans:

Disc 1:
1. Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do
2. Warm Love
3. Into The Mystic
4. These Dreams Of You
5. I Believe To My Soul
6. I’ve Been Working
7. Help Me
8. Wild Children
9. Domino
10. I Just Wanna Make Love To You

Disc 2:
1. Bring It On Home To Me
2. Saint Dominic’s Preview
3. Take Your Hand Out Of Your Pocket
4. Listen To The Lion
5. Here Comes The Night
6. Gloria
7. Caravan
8. Cypress Avenue
9. Brown Eyed Girl [BONUS TRACK]

Produced by Van and Warner Brothers resident production genius Ted Templeman – “It’s Too Late To Stop Now” 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 JEF 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 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 compositions making it a far more varied listen. There's a slick version of "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 like that - the James Brown funky tightness of "I've Been Working" with the brass, piano and guitar all playing up an absolute storm - the beautiful otherworldly 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".

The supposedly upgraded booklet is very disappointing. The few colour shots of Van and the band that adorned the original triple gatefold sleeve are here but 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. And speaking of short change - while all the other 6 releases in this reissue batch have had two bonus tracks each - here we get only one bonus cut - a previously unreleased version of "Brown Eyed Girl" (admittedly its excellent though). Could have done better lads...

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. Tracks like “I Believe To My Soul” (a Ray Charles cover) with its delicate piano and strings and stop-start vocals sounds awesome.

To sum up - a bona fide 5-star masterpiece then - given a superb remaster - and I for one am loving every second of it…

PS: Remasters Released and CANCELLED
Including "It's Too Late To Stop Now" - 29 Van Morrison albums were to be re-issued in remastered form throughout 2008 and into early 2009. However the last two batches of the four listed below (September 2008 and January 2009) never appeared. These lists are by way of info…

January 2008 (7 titles)
Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974),
Wavelenght (1978), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985),
Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)

June 2008 (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)

September 2008 (7 titles) - CANCELLED
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), Tell Me Something: The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)

January 2009 (8 titles) - CANCELLED
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)

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