VAN MORRISON > It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Tupelo Honey, Wavelength, Back on Top, A Sense of Wonder, Avalon Sunset

Written by May 1st, 2008 at 4:42 pm

Label: Polydor/UME
It’s Too Late to Stop Now Rating: ★★★★★
Tupelo Honey Rating: ★★★★☆
Wavelength Rating: ★★★½☆
Back on Top Rating: ★★★☆☆
A Sense of Wonder Rating: ★★½☆☆
Avalon Sunset Rating: ★★½☆☆

Even fans as cranky as the notoriously prickly Morrison admit his prolific output sacrifices quality for quantity, although none begrudge his obvious talent and sheer determination to crank out product with Willie Nelson-styled proficiency. Few artists deserve a comprehensive, multi-label box retrospective more than Van Morrison. In lieu of that, Universal remasters, expands and reissues 29 of the Irish bard’s albums recorded from 1971-2002. This first salvo, seemingly chosen randomly, is representative of Morrison’s erratic if always professional output. The classic is 1974′s double live It’s Too Late…, rightfully on anyone’s shortlist of finest concert albums. Van typically blows hot and cold on stage, but when he ignites on the oldies and choice blues covers here, few can touch him for pure blue-eyed soul passion. From there it’s hit and miss with 1971′s Tupelo Honey a highlight if only for the sparkling title track and the rollicking “Wild Night” (an unedited “extra” nearly bests the album version). Morrison’s somewhat sappy spirituality overwhelms 1989′s string laden Avalon Sunset and 1984′s A Sense of Wonder, with Wavelength from 1978 and 1999′s Back On Top exemplifying his impressive ability to combine country, celtic, gospel, blues, jazz and r&b with inspiring if inconsistent results.

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