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

AllMusic Review: While Van Morrison is, to be kind, an erratic and temperamental live performer, he’s in stellar form throughout the double album It’s Too Late to Stop Now, a superb concert set that neatly summarizes his career from his days with Them (represented by scorching renditions of “Gloria” and “Here Comes the Night”) through 1973’s Hard Nose the Highway (“Warm Love,” “Wild Children”). In addition to the hits, including “Caravan,” “Domino,” and “Into the Mystic” (the final line of which gives the album its title), Morrison even pulls out a handful of R&B chestnuts (“Bring It on Home to Me,” “Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do”) before capping off the collection with a show-stopping rendition of Astral Weeks’ “Cyprus Avenue.” An engaging, warm portrait of the man at the peak of his powers. — Jason Ankeny

Track Listing

Side one

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do” Joseph Scott 3:44
2. “Warm Love” Van Morrison 3:04
3. “Into the Mystic” Van Morrison 4:33
4. “These Dreams of You” Van Morrison 3:37
5. “I Believe to My Soul” Ray Charles 4:09

Side two

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “I’ve Been Working” Van Morrison 3:56
2. “Help Me” Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ralph Bass, Willie Dixon 3:25
3. “Wild Children” Van Morrison 5:04
4. “Domino” Van Morrison 4:48
5. “I Just Want to Make Love to You” Willie Dixon 5:16

Side three

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Bring It On Home to Me” Sam Cooke 4:42
2. “Saint Dominic’s Preview” Van Morrison 6:18
3. “Take Your Hand Out of My Pocket” Sonny Boy Williamson II 4:04
4. “Listen to the Lion” Van Morrison 8:43

Side four

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Here Comes the Night” Bert Berns 3:14
2. “Gloria” Van Morrison 4:16
3. “Caravan” Van Morrison 9:20
4. “Cyprus Avenue” Van Morrison 10:20

 

Schill Score:  9/10

 

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Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)

AllMusic Review: The yang to Astral Weeks’ yin, the brilliant Moondance is every bit as much a classic as its predecessor; Van Morrison’s first commercially successful solo effort, it retains the previous album’s deeply spiritual thrust but transcends its bleak, cathartic intensity to instead explore themes of renewal and redemption. Light, soulful, and jazzy, Moondance opens with the sweetly nostalgic “And It Stoned Me,” the song’s pastoral imagery establishing the dominant lyrical motif recurring throughout the album — virtually every track exults in natural wonder, whether it’s the nocturnal magic celebrated by the title cut or the unlimited promise offered in “Brand New Day.” At the heart of the record is “Caravan,” an incantatory ode to the power of radio; equally stirring is the majestic “Into the Mystic,” a song of such elemental beauty and grace as to stand as arguably the quintessential Morrison moment. — Jason Ankeny

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “And It Stoned Me” 4:30
2. “Moondance” 4:35
3. “Crazy Love” 2:34
4. “Caravan” 4:57
5. “Into the Mystic” 3:25
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Come Running” 2:30
2. “These Dreams of You” 3:50
3. “Brand New Day” 5:09
4. “Everyone” 3:31
5. “Glad Tidings” 3:13

 

Schill Score: 8/10

 

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Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1969)

AllMusic Review: Astral Weeks is generally considered one of the best albums in pop music history, but for all that renown, it is anything but an archetypal rock & roll album. It it isn’t a rock & roll album at all. Van Morrison plays acoustic guitar and sings in his elastic, bluesy, soulful voice, accompanied by crack group of jazz studio players: guitarist Jay Berliner, upright bassist Richard Davis, Modern Jazz Quartet drummer Connie Kay, vibraphonist Warren Smith and soprano saxophonist John Payne (also credited on flute, though that’s debatable — some claim an anonymous flutist provided those parts). Producer Lewis Merenstein added chamber orchestrations later and divided the album into halves: “In The Beginning” and “Afterwards” with four tunes under each heading. Morrison’s songs are an instinctive, organic mixture of Celtic folk, blues, and jazz. He fully enters the mystic here, more in the moment than he ever would be again in a recording studio. If his pop hit “Brown-Eyed Girl” was the first place he explored the “previous” — i.e., the depths of his memory — for inspiration and direction, he immerses himself in it here. The freewheeling, loose feel adds to the intimacy and immediacy in the songs. They are, for the most part, extended, incantatory, loosely narrative, and poetic ruminations on his Belfast upbringing: its characters, shops, streets, alleys, and sidewalks, all framed by the innocence and passage of that era. Morrison seems hypnotized by his subjects; they comfort and haunt a present filled with inexhaustible longing and loneliness. He confesses as much in the title track: “If I ventured in the slipstream/Between the viaducts of your dream/Where immobile steel rims crack/And the ditch in the back roads stop/ Could you find me?/Would you kiss-a my eyes/…To be born again….” Morrison doesn’t reach out to the listener, but goes deep inside himself to excavate and explore. The album’s centerpiece is “Madame George,” a stream-of-consciousness narrative of personal psychological and spiritual archetypes deeply influenced by the road novels of Jack Kerouac. The climactic epiphany experienced on “Cyprus Avenue” paints a portrait of place and time so vividly, it fools listeners into the experience of shared — but mythical — memory. “The Way Young Lovers Do” is the most fully formed tune here. Its swinging jazz verses and tight rhythmic choruses underscore a simmering, passionate eroticism in Morrison’s lyric and delivery. Astral Weeks is a justified entry in pop music’s pantheon. It is unlike any record before or since; it mixes together the very best of postwar popular music in an emotional outpouring cast in delicate, subtle musical structures. — William Ruhlmann

Track Listing:

Part One: In The Beginning
No. Title Length
1. “Astral Weeks” 7:06
2. “Beside You” 5:16
3. “Sweet Thing” 4:25
4. “Cyprus Avenue” 7:00
Part Two: Afterwards
No. Title Length
1. “The Way Young Lovers Do” 3:18
2. “Madame George” 9:45
3. “Ballerina” 7:03
4. “Slim Slow Slider” 3:17

 

 

Schill Score: 8/10

 

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