Van Morrison – It’s Too Late To Stop Now (1973)

FrontCover1It’s Too Late to Stop Now is a 1974 live double album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It features performances that were recorded in concerts at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, California; the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and the Rainbow in London, during Morrison’s three-month tour with his eleven-piece band, the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, from May to July 1973. Frequently named as one of the best live albums ever, It’s Too Late to Stop Now was recorded during what has often been said to be the singer’s greatest phase as a live performer.It’s Too Late to Stop Now is a 1974 live double album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It features performances that were recorded in concerts at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, California; the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and the Rainbow in London, during Morrison’s three-month tour with his eleven-piece band, the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, from May to July 1973. Frequently named as one of the best live albums ever, It’s Too Late to Stop Now was recorded during what has often been said to be the singer’s greatest phase as a live performer.

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Noted for being a mercurial and temperamental live performer, during this short period of time in 1973, Morrison went on one of his most diligent tours in years. With his eleven-piece band, The Caledonia Soul Orchestra, which included a horn and string section, he has often been said to have been at his live performing peak.

Morrison said about touring during this period:
I am getting more into performing. It’s incredible. When I played Carnegie Hall in the fall something just happened. All of a sudden I felt like ‘you’re back into performing’ and it just happened like that…A lot of times in the past I’ve done gigs and it was rough to get through them. But now the combination seems to be right and it’s been clicking a lot.[9]
It’s like watching a tiger. The tiger isn’t thinking about where he’s going to put his paws or how he’s going to kill… and [it’s the] same thing with Van. He’s just so there that you’re completely drawn to it.“”-Jim Rothernel

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Evidence of his newly invigorated joy in performing was on display during the ending of the over-ten-minute-long dynamic performance of “Cyprus Avenue”. When an audience member shouts out, “Turn it on!”, Morrison good-naturedly replies, “It’s turned on already.” At the very end he finished the concert with a final heartfelt, “It’s too late to stop now!” giving the album its title (this line first appeared on the song “Into the Mystic”).
The concert performances were described by Erik Hage as “sequences of a young soul lion whipping the crowd into a frenzy and then stopping on a dime—teasing out anticipation, rushing, receding, and coaxing every drop out of his band.”

Guitarist John Platania says “He had a funeral for a lot of his old songs on stage. With Caledonia, he really got off on performing. There was definitely joy getting onstage at that point. That was a wonderful time for everybody. It was really like a family. Ordinarily, with rock ‘n’ rollers, jazzers and classical musicians in the band, you’d think it was a three-headed serpent but everybody got along famously.”

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The performances on the live album were from tapes made at the beginning of the tour in Los Angeles and also in Santa Monica and London. Marco Bario, who attended the opening night concert at The Troubadour, said in Playgirl: “he was exceptional. The mood was right, the audience was receptive, and the music left no comparisons to be made. It was the finest opening night performance by a consummate musician that I have ever witnessed.”A large cream-coloured and tiled building stands at the intersection of two roads. Dark grey clouds dominate an overcast sky. Two flags are flying from the fascia of the building, which is covered mostly by a large advertising hoarding.The Rainbow Theatre in London
The London concerts were the first time he had appeared in that city since performing with Them, six years earlier. The two concerts at the Rainbow Theatre in London were referred to as “the rock event of the year” by critics according to Ritchie Yorke in his biography. The 24 July 1973 London Rainbow concert was the first BBC simulcast broadcast simultaneously on BBC 2 television and Radio 2 stereo so that viewers with strategically sited loudspeakers could enjoy “stereo TV”. The broadcast took place on 27 May 1974.

VanMorrison03A mixture of songs that inspired his own musical development, together with some of his own compositions, allied to a backing band and orchestra (The Caledonia Soul Orchestra) and several performances (as noted in the album’s liner notes) that were recorded in concerts at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, California (24–27 May 1973), the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (29 June 1973) and The Rainbow (23–24 July 1973) in London.

These performance result in what Myles Palmer of the Times reviewed as demolishing “all barriers between the soul, blues, jazz and rock genres”. The songs chosen went back to his days with Them with versions of “Gloria” and “Here Comes the Night”. His first solo hit “Brown Eyed Girl” was performed but not included on the album until the reissue in 2008. M. Mark called the album “an intelligent selection of songs that draws on six of Morrison’s records and five of the musicians he learned from.” These musicians were Bobby Bland, (“Ain’t Nothing You Can Do”), Ray Charles, (“I Believe to My Soul”), Sam Cooke (“Bring It On Home to Me”), two songs by Sonny Boy Williamson II (“Help Me” and “Take Your Hands Out of My Pocket”) and a cover of a Willie Dixon song, “I Just Want to Make Love to You” that was popularized by Muddy Waters.

Unlike most live rock albums, there was no studio overdubbing allowed by Morrison, which resulted in the exclusion of “Moondance” from the album due to one wrong guitar note. Morrison strictly adhered to his concept of authenticity in presenting the live performance but his musical perfectionism prevented him from including “Moondance”.[15] “It’s common practice to go back and fix things, but not with Van,” bass player David Hayes said, “I think that’s what makes it one of the best ever.” It is thought to be one of the first live albums with no overdubs and the first live album to have string players.

Fellow biographer Johnny Rogan said that “Morrison was in the midst of what was arguably his greatest phase as a performer.”

It’s Too Late to Stop Now has been on lists of greatest live albums of all time. (by wikipedia)

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Named for the mighty Belfast singer’s exhortation at the close of his song, Into The Mystic, It’s Too Late…is oft-referred to as one of the greatest live albums ever recorded. Included in the first batch of remasters of the ‘Man”s back catalogue, now’s your chance to argue the toss again.

When Morrison hit the road in the Summer of 1973 -ITLTSN collects material from gigs in LA, Santa Monic and London – he’d not only notched up a run of six absolutely flawless collections of what would probably now be referred to as ‘soul jazz’, but he’d also assembled a team of players that were the equal of his own perfectionism. Such was this perfectionism that the original running order was shorn of his most widely-known tune, Moondance, due to one bum guitar note. In other words this is one of the few live albums you’ll ever hear with NO overdubs.

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When you hear ITLTSN you realise why this had to be the case: Morrison’s blend of his own classics along with a fair smattering of tracks that influenced him is delivered with such passion, and belief that any studio tinkering would be like throwing a tin of paint over the Mona Lisa. In a live setting all the hyperbole about Morrison’s blend of genres into one Celtic, mystic vision makes perfect sense. This is soul music in a very real sense.

It was also a sign of how Van had matured that he can deliver classics like Ray Charles’ I Believe To My Soul or Sonny Boy Williamson’s Help Me and make them his own. Not only this he improves on his own compositions. Cypress Avenue, complete with the strings of the Caledonian Soul orchestra may even be better than the original on Astral Weeks. Quite a feat. And just listen to how playful Morrison is on the improvised breaks (”You say in France!”): grunting, wailing, going beyond mere words in his striving to convey the heart of this music. This is a master live performer at work. And enjoying it.

With just one bonus track (a version of Brown Eyed Girl) this polished edition gives you the chance to hear one of the best bands and their genius of a singer deliver the goods one more time, 35 years on. It’s never too late… (Chris Jones, BBC, 2008)

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Personnel:
Teressa Adams (cello)
Bill Atwood (trumpet, background vocals)
Nancy Ellis (viola)
Tom Halpin (vocals)
David Hayes (bass, background vocals)
Tim Kovatch (violin)
Jef Labes (keyboards)
Van Morrison (vocals)
John Platania (guitar, background vocals)
Nathan Rubin (violin)
Dahaud Shaar (David Shaw) (drums, background vocals)
Jack Schroer (saxophone, tambourine, background vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do (MaloneScott) 3.48
02. Warm Love (Morrison) 3.05
03. Into The Mystic (Morrison) 4.31
04. These Dreams Of You (Morrison) 3.37
05. I Believe To My Soul (Charles) 4.09
06. I’ve Been Working (Morrison) 3.55
07. Help Me (Williamson/Bass/Dixon) 3.25
08. Wild Children (Morrison) 5.04
09. Domino (Morrison) 4.48
10. I Just Want To Make Love To You (Dixon) 5.16
11. Bring It On Home To Me (Cooke)4.43
12. Saint Dominic’s Preview (Morrison) 6.18
13. Take Your Hand Out Of My Pocket (Williamson) 4.05
14. Listen To The Lion (Morrison) 8.44
15. Here Comes The Night (Berns) 3.14
16. Gloria (Morrison) 4.15
17. Caravan (Morrison) 9.21
18. Cyprus Avenue (Morrison) 10.28
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19. Brown Eyed Girl (Morrison) 3.26

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Strange Fruit – Still Crazy (OST) (1998)

FrontCover1Still Crazy is a 1998 British comedy film about a fictional 1970s rock band named “Strange Fruit”, who, after being split up for two decades, are persuaded to get back together to perform at a reunion of the same concert venue where they played their last gig. The film focuses on the personal lives of the band members and those closest to them, and their individual experiences with approaching middle-age and the success that eluded them.

It was nominated for two Golden Globes in 1999.

 

The band Strange Fruit performs at the 1977 Wisbech Rock Festival. Hughie Case tells how, due to the pursuit of “fame, fortune and fornication” – and the drug overdose of their original singer, Keith Lovell – this is their last performance. After various issues, the band prematurely ends their performance, frustrated over competing egos and various members’ lack of self-control.

Twenty years later, a stranger who turns out to be the son of the founder of The Wisbech Rock Festival recognises keyboardist Tony Costello and convinces him to reunite the band for a special anniversary of the event. Tony quickly tracks down Karen Knowles, the band’s original runaround-girl. Initially reluctant, she is inspired to return to the band after finding memorabilia. She insists on being the band’s manager, and Tony Roadieagrees. Gradually, Karen and Tony track down the original members: bassist Les Wickes, who has a family and works as a roofer; drummer David “Beano” Baggot, who is working at a nursery and is on the run from the Inland Revenue; and lead singer Ray Simms, who, after years of drug and alcohol abuse, is now completely sober. Though he claims to be working on a solo album, Simms has not released anything in almost ten years.

The band meets up at the Red Lion pub to discuss the reunion. Everyone expects Brian Lovell, the band’s lead guitarist, to be there. Karen says she was unable to find him but learned he donated away all his royalties to charity; everyone assumes he is dead. Their roadie, Hughie, turns up during their first rehearsal to resume his original role. Ray insists on playing guitar but is convinced to concentrate on singing. They find a replacement for Brian in young Luke Shand, a talented guitarist who remains blissfully unaware of the band’s internal tensions.

Following a warm up tour of Europe, Karen negotiates for the rights to their back catalogue. Their initial performances are poorly received. Les, Beano, and Hughie hold little hope for the band, believing Keith and Brian the main talent. Tony makes advances on Karen, but she resists due to her attachment to Brian. At one of their gigs, Ray’s over-the-top ideas backfire, and Les and Ray walk off the stage. Following a confrontation with Les, Ray has a nervous breakdown, exacerbated by turning 50. Ray leaves the gig, buys drugs, and falls into a canal. Karen’s daughter rescues him, and Ray’s wife blames Karen for his troubles. Following an angry reaction from the townspeople over the volume levels, the band escape to their bus and flee the town.

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Les and Ray make up, and Ray says he “received a positive message” from Brian’s ghost. The bus breaks down, and Karen confronts the band about their lack of confidence. When the band meet a girl wearing a Strange Fruit tour T-shirt that belonged to her father, they take it as another positive omen. The next few shows go without incident and are well-received; the band becomes slightly more optimistic. Following a record deal, the band records a new song written and sung by Les, which Ray had never previously allowed. However, after watching a previously-taped drunken TV interview in which Les and Beano imply that the band was much better with Keith and Brian, Ray breaks down again and quits.

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As the band members return to their former lives, Karen and Claire visit Keith’s grave to pay their respects. They find a note that quotes “The Flame Still Burns”, a tribute to Keith written by Brian. Hughie is then confronted by Karen, and reluctantly admits he knows Brian is alive. Karen and Tony find Brian in a psychiatric hospital. He explains he gave up his material possessions to sever himself from his previous life. When he agrees to rejoin the band, the others follow. However, at a pre-show press conference, hostile questions cause Brian to walk out. Everyone but Luke follows, and Luke chastises the journalists. Visibly shaken, Brian decides to back out of the show but gives his blessing.

Beano nearly misses the set when a stalker-groupie demands sex. The band starts their set with the same song with which they opened up the last Wisbech Festival. Though Ray’s confidence is shaken, Tony saves him by playing “The Flame Still Burns”. Brian is pleased to hear the band playing the song, which helps him finally overcome his demons and joins the band onstage to play an inspiring guitar solo, much to the surprise and delight of everyone. (by wikipedia)

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Twenty years after Strange Fruit’s highly publicized breakup in 1978 at the Wisbech open-air festival, the band-keyboardist Tony, who was working as a condom salesman in Ibiza; bassist Les, now a roofer in the frozen North of England; drummer Beano, leading a reclusive existence in his mother’s garden; ultra-vain lead singer Ray, living beyond his means with his second Swedish wife; and Brian, the fragile lead guitarist who is currently MIA-is persuaded to get back together for a reunion concert, Wisbech 1998. STILL CRAZY charts their increasingly desperate efforts to recapture the magic, the music, the lost opportunities and the missed performances of their prime. (by rottentomatoes.com)

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And here´s the sound of this great movie … :

The film Still Crazy is the story of the fictional ’70s British rock band Strange Fruit. After showing their breakup in the late ’70s, the movie follows the groups attempt to reunite in the late ’90s. An obvious spoof of many bands from that era currently on the oldies circuit, it gave some good insight into how difficult it is for these bands to recapture their former glory. While the film was only a modest success, this 14-track album manages to recreate the style and at the same time pay tribute to stadium rock bands like Styx, Blue Oyster Cult, Grand Funk Railroad, and even Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The opening song “Flame Still Burns” was delivered at a pivotal moment in the film when the group stood stone faced in front of a festival crowd of 50 thousand. It is a sprawling eight-minute “Free Bird”-esque rock anthem with a dazzling final guitar solo. The track, which is the films strongest, captures the essence of this genre and the rest of the album struggles to keep up. There are a few decent tracks including the gritty “Dirty Town” and the operatic “Scream Freedom,” both of which hold up rather well when disassociated from the film. Even with a few weak songs this album serves as a decent tribute to the misunderstood beauty of ’70s stadium rock. (by Curtis Zimmermann)

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Great soundtrack, brilliant movie. Bill Nighy was superb in his role as the ageing vocalist and carries off the Strange Fruit material with surprising ease, especially on the excellent ‘All Over The World’ & ‘Scream Freedom’. I would definately check out the movie first – you will enjoy this excellent soundtrack all the more. (by jez)

Chris Difford of Squeeze fame won an Ivor Novello award for his lyrics. Here´s one of the finest songs from this album:

I had friends against the war
By things they did so well yesterday
They lived their lives without fortune or thrill
With nothing very much to say
Always standing in the same old lines
Moving sideways to the march of time

What might have been
What might have been
A portrait of my life
No fool would say
You live today
Without a will to survive

Cornered now, what can I do
I’m trapped by what might have been
The great big ‘if’ that hangs around my neck
Has played its part in all my dreams
Always making the bad seem worse
Living my life reversed

Another great song is “All Over The World”:

“All over the world tonight
Feet are hittin’ the ground
The day is following night
The strong are leadin’

All over the world tonight
Clocks are spinning around
We’re putting teh world to right
The weak are dreamin’

Crossing borders of innocence
Breaking down the walls of time
All over the world
It’s a happening
It’s happening tonight

All over the world
All over the world

We’ll slay the dragon
It has to happen
Love is makin’
The future’s breakin’

All over the world
Tonight

All over the world tonight
Love is always the verb
When the moments have gone
From our creation

All over the world tonight
The young fires have burnt
And now the heat is on
With this frustration

All over the world
All over the world

We’ll slay the dragon
It has to happen
Love is makin’
The future’s breakin’

All over the world
Tonight

All over the world tonight
You’re gonna lose control
You leave by satellite
For deep devotion

Crossing borders of innocence
We’re breaking down the walls of time
All over the world
It’s happening
Tonight

 

And then the acoustic version of “Brian’s Theme” and of course “The Flame Still Burns” (written my Mick Jones from Spooky Tooth” and “Foreigner”), a monster of song ! And I guess, this is the theme of my life !

Listen and enjoy !

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Personnel:
Steve Donnelly (guitar)
Michael Lee (drums, percussion)
Jimmy Nail (vocals)
Morgan Nichols (organ)
Bill Nighy (vocals)
Guy Pratt (bass)
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Paul Carrack (organ on 05.)
Alan Dunn (accordion on 11.)
Brian Gulland (tuba on 06.)
Simon Hale (piano on 13.)
Charlie Jones (bass on 01.)
Clive Langer (guitar on 02.)
Bob Loveday (mandolin, violin on 11.)
Bernie Marsden (guitar on 11.)
Hans Matheson (guitar, vocals on 08.)
Ralph McTell (guitar on 06.)
Steve Nieve (keyboards on 01., 07.)

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Tracklist:
01. The Flame Still Burns (Jones/Frederiksen/Difford) 7.57
02. All Over The World (Jones/Frederiksen/Difford) 3.40
03. What Might Have Been (Ballard/Difford) 4.19
04. Brian’s Theme (Acoustic) (Langer) 1.32
05. Dirty Town (Lynne/La Frenais) 4.30
06. Stealin’ (Traditional) 2.25
07. Black Moon (Pratt/Vyse/Difford) 2.31
08. Live For Today (C. Langer)
09. Bird On A Wire (Jones/Frederiksen/Difford) 3.48
10. Ibiza Theme (C. Langer)2.03
11. Scream Freedom (Jones/Frederiksen/Difford) 4.17
12. A Woman Like That (Lynne/Vela/La Frenais) 3.16
13. Dangerous Things (Langer/Difford) 4.07
14. Brian’s Theme (Reprise) – Steve Donnelly – (C. Langer)

 

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I live a life that’s surreal
Where all that I feel I am learning
Oh life, has been turned on the lathe
Reshaped with a flame that’s still burning
And in time, it’s all a sweet mystery
When you shake the trees of temptation
Yeah and I, I know the fear and the cost
Of a paradise lost in frustration
And the flame still burns
It’s there in my soul for that unfinished goal
And the flame still burns
From a glimmer back then
It lights up again in my life
In my life, yeah
I, I want my thoughts to be heard
The unspoken words of my wisdom
Today, as the light starts to flow
Tomorrow who knows who will listen
But my life has no language in love
No word from above is appearing
Oh the time, in time there’s a fire that’s stoked
With a reason of hope and believing

 

And here´s a great  version of “The Flame Still Burns” by Mick Jones & Foreigner