These gutsy live sessions capture Van in California and London in 1973, with a 50-minute concert DVD from The Rainbow included as extra enticement. His was an unapologetic soul sensibility, against the grain of everything in the charts that summer.
Years ago, the first of these It’s Too Late to Stop Now recordings was a much-coveted thing to have, being a kind of Holy Grail of Morrisonabilia. Not many, bar the most devout of worshippers, kept it in their vinyl collection, wedged between Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure and, oh, something like Deep Purple’s Machine Head. The live cut still seems like it might be a rarity, certainly so on vinyl, perhaps the only decent format on which to listen to it.
To be going on with anyway, late last year arrived the further three volumes from those California 'n Rainbow nights, featuring versions of things like Sam Cooke’s Bring it all Home to Me, Sonny Boy Williamson’s Take Your Hand Out of My Pocket and Ray Charles’ I Believe to My Soul. Also included here is an unlikely reading of the Sigman/De Rose classic, Buona Sera, and the Scottish ballad, Purple Heather. . From his own recent catalogue, you get a truly underrated Morrison tune from the time, Snow in San Anselmo, in all its forlorn majesty.
In the filmed Rainbow Theatre performance, Van walks out on to a stage which is blissfully crowded with the personnel of the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. Caravan is on the DVD track listing, but it's a relatively restrained version. Three years later, it would morph into a veritable showstopper in the Martin Scorsese-directed concert movie, The Last Waltz, The Band's last gig - with illustrious guests - to feature the departing Robbie Robertson.
His Domino and Moonshine Whiskey are vibrant yet curiously unshowy exercises, featuring Jeff Labes on piano and organ, John Platania on guitar, David Hayes on bass and David Shaw on drums. What became of these guys whose names we read eagerly on the sleeves of albums like Tupelo Honey and Hard Nose the Highway? What do you do after you have worked with Van? Dine out on the experience for years, one suspects.
Willie Dixon’s I Just Want to Make Love with You and the Dixon/Williamson/Bass number, Help Me lend unforced heritage, while Cypress Avenue is the encore which doesn’t in this writer’s opinion sustain the attempts to rock it up. Too much mucking about really. There you go, that’s how it was on the night, for better or worse.