Pilgrim’s Playlist: Van Morrison, Japan

Recommended New Album

Van Morrison — Too Late To Stop Us Now Volumes I, II, III & IV

vanmorrison-toolateI often talk about 1973 being a watershed year in Rock, the point when the Rock Revolution of the 1960s reached a cultural pinnacle of sorts, a final blaze of glory before devolving into the endless cycle of fragmentation and revival that has characterized the music ever since. In 1973, there was still a little bit of magic left in the air, cynicism hadn’t yet hit critical mass, and no artistic indulgence went unexplored.

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Van Morrison was one of the Rock artists at the very height of his creative powers in 1973. He was coming off one of the best five-album runs in Rock history – Astral Weeks, Moondance, His Band and the Street Choir, Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic’s Preview. That year he recorded a live album called It’s Too Late To Stop Now, which was released in 1974.

Well aren’t we the lucky ones. Van The Man has not only just re-released that album, but has added three more discs of material recorded at the same time, plus a video DVD, in a package that’s as warm and satisfying as a shot or three of single malt whiskey in the coziest wood-panelled establishment you can think of.

The set includes all the hits, as well as most of the important album tracks from those five albums, plus a sprinkling of the R&B and Blues classics that Morrison covered live those days, songs like “I Just Want To Make Love To You” and “Bring It On Home To Me”.

There is some overlap of songs over the four discs, but Volumes II, III and IV are separated into distinct concerts — at the Troubadour in L.A., the Santa Monica Civic Center, and the Rainbow in London, respectively. And being the mercurial artist that he is, the different versions of the songs can sometimes be quite different from one another. You get a different vibe from each disc.

And what a band he played with. Man these cats could deliver driving blues, sweet and salty jazz, soulful R&B, gospel and folk, but more than anything they perfectly complemented Morrison’s brilliant songwriting and vocal qualities. On some of the classic slow burn numbers like “Cypress Avenue” and “Listen To The Lion”, when Van sounds like he’s trancing out and speaking in tongues, the band is right there with every long pause, every stutter stop, every big return. They are like an extension of his voice, and his soul, it is fantastic.

I can’t recommend this album enough. Listening to it reminds you that there has never been another artist who has sounded remotely like Van Morrison, his contributions to Rock are so untouchably original and distinctive. And it also feels like a window on a really special moment in time, the twilight of an era when anything was possible and there was still a little magic in the air.


One From The Vaults

Japan – “Television” (1978)

While I’m on the subject of the fragmentation of Rock in the 1970s, I thought I’d resurrect this little jewel for those who haven’t heard it before. The mid-seventies in England saw hybrid bands like Japan and Cockney Rebel who seemed to have one foot in the old Rock world and one in the new Punk era. Japan’s lead singer David Sylvian takes on the punk style of vocals, but the band still relies on old school guitar shredding solos and power chords. Throw in a funk-influenced bassline and synthesizer sweeps and you got a real anomaly on your hands, but man does it Rock in the end.


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One comment to “Pilgrim’s Playlist: Van Morrison, Japan”
  1. Pingback: Watch Van Morrison Perform His New Single, “Too Late” | Rocknuts

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