If you aren't familiar with Van Morrison's landmark live album It's Too Late To Stop Now, you should stop right now and get it. Like many other fans, I'm of the opinion it ranks among the great live documents, the great singer with his best band, and some amazing performances put together from a series of shows in 1973. Morrison is on fire, approaching the material as more of a jazz singer, finding new melodies and different places in the rhythm to inject the lyrics, or scat into the proceedings, an equal instrument in the proceedings. Anyway, go get it, listen, love.
This is not that original album. Instead, it's more and more of it, with no duplication from the original. They've gone back to the original shows, and found a further three CD's worth, over three hours of material from four separate nights. Plus, there's a DVD of 50 minutes of the shows at London's Rainbow Theatre, so we now get to see the magic of that band in action, a very exciting addition indeed.
The band was named the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, a huge band featuring 11 members, including four string players and two horns. They had the groove and energy of one of those great soul revue bands of the past, with everything being played just a bit faster than normal, with a sense of urgency. This wasn't just a show, it was potentially the most important sound in the world that night, and in case it was, they weren't going to let anybody down.
Oh, and there's something else of note. Unlike almost every other live album released, there's no doctoring after the fact. The original album, and these other shows are just as they were played, no overdubs or edits. That makes it all even better, because you know, for sure, this is how it went down, it was that good.
The only problem is that since Morrison cherry-picked the best performances for the original album, some of the songs aren't quite up to those standards. We've heard the very best, now we get the rest. Don't get me wrong, it's still pretty awesome, but there are now some sloppy moments, sometimes Morrison's ad-libbed vocal noises are more distracting than enjoyable, and the concert flow isn't there, since there are gaps where tracks from the original album have been removed. Anyway, it's a minor gripe. I used to have a two-album live set I thought was the best in the world, 80 minutes total, and that's now four times longer.