Van Morrison – Caravan Bonus! Live versions

Earlier today I posted my last pick in Hans Postcards song draft – Caravan by Van Morrison. In researching the post, I found 2 great live versions that I thought I would put in a separate post. I love hearing live versions of songs – obviously in person is the best but if done right, a recording of a live performance can be an entirely different listening experience than hearing the studio version – its the artist and band interpreting their work in that moment, and sometimes the energy and spirit of the song comes through much better than the studio version.

The first live version of Caravan I’d like to feature is from Van Morrison’s 1974 double live album Its Too Late To Stop Now. Recorded during Morrison’s three-month tour in May-June 1973 with his eleven-piece band, the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, its a bit faster paced than the studio version and comes toward the end of the disc. I love Van’s soulful vocal performance as well as the 4 piece string section.

The author Nick Hornby, in his book, Songbook, about his 31 favorite songs, names the live version of Caravan from this album as the song he wants played at his funeral. To quote him: “in the long, vamped passage right before the climax Morrison’s band seems to isolate a moment somewhere between life and its aftermath, a big, baroque entrance hall of a place where you can stop and think about everything that has gone before.” On a personal note, I’ve told family and friends that I’d like Caravan and Drift Away by Dobie Gray played at my funeral, as they are my two favorite all time songs.

The second live version I’d like to feature is Van Morrison’s performance as part of the Band‘s farewell concert held on November 25, 1976 (Thanksgiving Day) immortalized in the documentary The Last Waltz. I love how he builds the song into a crescendo and then just walks off the stage. According the Songfacts:

Music journalist Greil Marcus credited Morrison’s “Caravan” with turning the energy of the show around and sparking a strong second half of performances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Band, and others.

From Wikipedia: When asked about his enjoyment performing in The Last Waltz, Eric Clapton commented that “For me, Muddy [Waters] and Van [Morrison] steal the show. Van doing [“Caravan”] with the leg kicks. Some of the greatest live music you’ll ever see.” I would definitely agree about the leg kicks!

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