Van Morrison does exactly what he wants, when he wants, and continually mines the past no matter the cost. It's been four years since the Celtic soulman issued a collection of new, original studio material (Born to Sing: No Plan B), but given the music, it could have been yesterday. Morrison has no interest in innovation, he's already done that. The pace here is (mostly) laid-back, the music drenched in jazz, R&B, blues, and classy pop. He revels throughout in an elegant slow burn; his lyric themes are bittersweet, melancholic, filled with emotional and symbolic memory; his longing for the previous prevalent. The first line on album-opener "Let It Rhyme" is: "Throw another coin in the wishing well/Tell everybody to go to hell…" atop skeins of country and R&B as he reveals his recalcitrance…
When musicians in the New York folk scene of the 1960s grew tired of city life, they decided to "get it together in the country." They headed for Woodstock-not the site of the infamous music festival of 1969 but to the Catskills, to Bearsville, to Woodstock proper. Counterculture revolutionaries like Janis Joplin, Richie Havens, and Paul Butterfield got "back to the land," turning the once sleepy hollow into a funky Shangri-La. Small Town Talk tells the town's musical history, from its earliest days as a bohemian arts colony to its ongoing life as a cultural satellite of New York. Woodstock, the bucolic artists' enclave, has earned its place in rock music history; Small Town Talk is a classic study of a vital music scene in a magical place during a revolutionary time.
When Van Morrison's double-length It's Too Late to Stop Now was released in 1974, it was an anomaly. Compiled from eight nights on his 1973 tour with his 11-piece Caledonia Soul Orchestra, it appeared months prior to Hard Nose the Highway. Contrary to standard industry practice of the time, its contents weren't doctored in the studio afterwards: There were no added overdubs or masked flubs. Some critics took issue with its sound – claiming the band, particularly the horns, were too thin – but there was no debate about the performances. It remains revered as one of the greatest concert recordings ever.
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. [This double-live set was re-released on CD in 2016.]
At the Movies: Soundtrack Hits (2007) is a 19-track compilation of Van Morrison songs featured in a film at one time or another. Rather than play like an odds-and-ends compilation of soundtrack rarities as one might expect, Soundtrack Hits plays like a best-of collection, including many of Morrison's greatest solo hits along with a couple Them songs ("Gloria," "Baby Please Don't Go"). There are several live versions in place of the studio cuts. The live versions of "Moondance" and "Brown Eyed Girl" are previously unreleased.