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Van Morrison – It’s Too Late to Stop Now (1974)

August 29, 2013

[Album 230/1001]ItsTooLateToStopNow

Almost back to school, thus the end of “live” August has arrived.

The legitimacy questioning quotation marks are inappropriate here; by all accounts this live record is the genuine article.  For example, a single note, played by a single instrument, was played incorrectly on the recording of Moondance.  As Van Morrison adhered to a strict no overdubs policy, even though it may still be his most popular song, Moondance was excluded from this double live LP.

C’est la vie – and the studio recordings were certainly brought to life here.

Throughout, I was reminded of a terrific jazz band director in high school who assigned us homework one day, “Listen to Sinatra.  Not the vocals, his backup band.  That’s how to play.”

I feel the same way about The Caledonia Soul Orchestra here.

Admittedly my experience with Van Morrison is limited.  For a thorough review of his entire discography I practically insist you go to Kamertunes’ website here.

From his records included in the 1001 (Astral Weeks, Moondance, and this), for me at least, Van Morrison’s vocals are what they are: not an insurmountable stumbling block to appreciation but also not a major selling point.  The scatting works wonders for some and he certainly has no shortage of admirers.  To his credit, the smartest people in the business are the ones who surround themselves with the best musicians.  Although their time as an 11-piece orchestra was brief, Van Morrison certainly kept talented company for this record.

Overall, how is It’s Too Late to Stop Now?  Decent singer, better songs, and plenty of top drawer performances.

I find listening to live records can be a strange experience.  Not having personally attended any of these concerts, sometimes it feels like I’m listening to someone else’s memories.  From the ones I’ve explored this month, the best live records tend to have similar traits:
– The performer’s credibility is enhanced (They really can sing/play, it’s not just studio trickery!) & the sound is filled out without backing tracks/overdubs (The Who)
– The songs are either taken in a new direction (Nirvana’s About a Girl) or are even better than the studio originals (much of It’s Too Late to Stop Now)
– The listener gets a sense of the atmosphere but leaves thinking, “wow, imagine being at that show”

Although the list could change hourly, my current Top 5 live records would be:

5. Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison.  The man in black was the real deal.

4. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York.  Proved there were some great songs buried beneath all that distortion.

3. The Who – Live at Leeds.  Singers & guitarists often get the spotlight but it’s the huge sound out of the rhythm section that steals the show here.

2. Sam Cooke – Live at the Harlem Square Club.  Impossible to Not enjoy.

1. The Tragically Hip – Live Between Us.  Eminently quotable, meets & exceeds all of the above criteria!

Thanks for reading & commenting, especially this past month has been great hearing your thoughts on the original live pressings & your suggestions of which reissues/special editions are worth exploring.  I think in September, to honour back to school, I’ll look at album titles with punctuation, be it question marks, quotes, or exclamation marks.


From → 1970s

  1. First off, thanks for the shout-out to my Van Morrison series. He was the first artist I wrote about when I started my blog, and looking back on those 10 posts now I can see that I was still figuring out how much detail I wanted to discuss about each album. I was probably more interested in generating content as quickly as possible (a common occurrence for new bloggers, I assume), so even though I was spending a lot of time with every record like I still do, I wrote much shorter summaries than I eventually did for other artists. Maybe one day I’ll re-revisit his catalog & expand on my initial thoughts, but I’m pleased that you enjoyed them enough to link them in this post.

    Specifically regarding this live album, I understand your issues with Van’s voice…he’s not for everyone…but I’m glad the stellar musicianship won you over. It’s hard to not be impressed by the incredible arrangements on every song. I’m surprised it doesn’t get mentioned often when you see lists of the best double-live albums of the ’70s.

    As for your Top 5 list, I can’t dispute any of those, even though the Nirvana & Hip CDs aren’t up there in my all-time favorites. One of these days I’ll have to write about the Hip catalog. I didn’t get into them until around 2000-2001, but I’ve since gotten every official release and really like them. There are a number of other artists I plan to cover first, but they’re on the list and it’s nice to know there are some people who will be able to join in the conversation about them. They’re virtually unknown here in the US.

    I loved this live album series and wish it could’ve been extended. I’ll be out of town, and out of internet contact, until next week, so I’ll have to catch up on whatever you post after I get back.

    • Thank you sir – very much appreciated.

      I think the reason I enjoy Live Between Us so much is because some of those tracks have become the definitive versions of the song (Grace Too, Springtime in Vienna among others). I’d certainly support a full catalogue revisiting – not everyone’s a fan of their post-2000 output but I’d say 2006’s World Container is among their finest.

      I’m actually somewhat happy the hip haven’t made it big in the States – if you want to see them in a small club, it’s still possible if you’re willing to drive! I saw them in a small club in Philly years ago and it remains one of my favourite concerts.

      I find with a lot of artists, eventually a switch goes for me. I’m definitely appreciating Van Morrison more now after hearing the 3 records in the 1001 list. Perhaps one or two more will help me fully convert to a full-fledged fan!

  2. Emily permalink

    10 000 likes for Live Between Us.

    • I know the kids shorten it to lol, but the longhand version is much more accurate here – my thanks!

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