Caravan
Albums

  • If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You,
  • In The Land Of Grey And Pink,
  • Waterloo Lily,
  • For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night,
  • The New Symphonia,
  • Cunning Stunts,
  • Blind Dog At St. Dunstan's








  • adriandenning.co.uk
    album reviews

    Caravan

    If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You 7 ( 1970 )
    If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It / And I Wish I Were Stoned-Don't Worry / As I Feel I Die / With an Ear to the Ground You Can Make It... / Hello Hello / Asforteri / Can't Be Long Now-Francoise-For Richard... / Limits

    An amazingly long titled album from Caravan! I apologise for the general shabbiness and crap-ness of this review in advance, but I'm sick and tired of living. But, that's no concern of yours! Suffice to say, the first song here is groovy, move-ey, and other ungrammatical and incorrect words! I really dig the organ sound, everything is tight and the vocals are high and lots of fun. The second song continues with the lovely organ sounds and works it into an eight minute long ballad that rises in the middle and ends jam-like ( not the group, The Jam, you understand! oh, no! ) with lots of great loose playing, and a drum solo to finish. 'As I Feel I Die' is a title I can associate with right now. It opens with quiet, very quiet vocals and then it turns into a sub-sixties mess interspersed with beautiful vocals and grin-inducing lyrics and a completely ludicrously enjoyable organ solo! It's good stuff on the whole, although no work of art, this isn't 'smooth' - but it does show ambition and an idea of glancing forwards to find progression, which is to be applauded, really.

    'With An Ear To The Ground....' is very progressive, multi-section, pretty interesting but nothing to get your heart yearning, your mind reaching. 'Hello Hello' is a shorter song, almost a pop song and points the way forward to the groups 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink'. 'Asforteri' is a very strange one minute experimental atmospheric piece, that sounds lovely with it's interweaving vocal effects. 'Can't Be Long Now' explodes with a very Jazzy section, and is pretty darn good, very well executed if a little lacking in tight structure. The closing 'Limits' is another brief song, a little over a minute and a half long - flute enters 'the fucking fray'. Sorry, Nick Cave reference there. Nothing at all to do with Caravan. Ah, sod it all! This is a pretty good album, it's nothing special - it's lacks cohesion. Every track seems unrelated to the previous track. The organ work ties together the opening songs, some of the others songs are a little derivative. But, this is a generally enjoyable work.

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    In The Land Of Grey And Pink( 1971 )
    Golf Girl / Winter Wine / Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly) / In the Land Of Grey & Pink / Nine Feet Underground

    The colour scheme on this page is in keeping with this albums title. It's a bit harsh on the eyes, isn't it? Forgetting that for a second and assuming you haven't been turned off this page already by it's hideous colour scheme, let's talk about this little record here! The opening 'Golf Girl' is so very English, it's rather sweet. Golf, drinking tea. A girl. A Sunday afternoon lazing in leafy countryside. A five minute long pop song that's deceptively simple. It does have a very nice relaxing atmosphere, it's all rather pleasant, but dig deeper and you find more. Some great no foot out of step playing from all involved. A rather storming flute part to close the song, for example. Second song 'Winter Wine' is even better. This stretches out over a seven minute length. We get a nice folksy introduction, accomplished bass parts notable musically. The same sharing of fantasy and niceness that characterised 'Golf Girl' although with far more emphasis on the fantasy. There is nothing real here, mentions of colours, dreams and stardust. Bells chime in the lyric, and in the song too! It takes you on a little trip across the oceans of your brain. That's if you have any of course. Maybe you'd rather listen to lyrics that actually mean something, tell a real life story? Lyrics that are political? Well, if that's the case, Caravan may not be for you. Again, attention to detail in terms of concentrated listening reaps it's own rewards. Lots of little impressive musical parts that threaten to pass you by upon first listen.

    'Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)' again mentions dreams and magic. It's that kind of record. It's a relaxing record that still contains musical chops. It's an album that fully creates it's own atmosphere. When some guitar comes in through 'Love To Love You' that sounds like bells chiming, your ears prick up. The lyrics continue - like going on holiday in a fantasy novel rather than in Spain, if you get my meaning. And relaxing the whole time, waking up in the morning and breathing deep the clear fresh air. With a flute player annoying you in the background!! The title song is an impressive five minute display, the closing 'Nine Feet Underground' an extended, twenty two minute side long exercise in changing styles and showcasing ambition and chops. That it IS this ambitious but remains an stunningly lazy relaxing listen says something for the otherworldly atmosphere this entire album creates. I've not quite heard anything like this before. If it didn't contain so much melody, you could dismiss it as terminally dull. Thing is, it DOES contain melody. Lots of it, all the way through. The playing is exemplary. It's all rather sweetly strange.

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    Readers Comments

    Frederick Jerant fjaye@enter.net
    Stumbled across your page while looking for something else (so what else is new?). My only experience with Caravan is "Grey and Pink", and I pretty much agree with your review. Odd, ambitious, melodic, all that. Just a note on "Cunning Stunts": a college mate of mine pointed out that if you reverse the initial syllables, you get not Cunning Stunts, but Stunning... You must have heard this before.

    richard harris rharris1477@rogers.com
    Read your tantalizing review, tes I grew up with that album, I just uncovered it(unscratched) it sounds as balmy as it did in '71. Still sounds damnably enjoyable & melodious. Cheers


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    Waterloo Lily 7 ( 1972 )
    Waterloo Lily / Nothing at All-It's Coming Soon-Nothing At / Songs and Signs / Aristocracy / The Love in Your Eye-To Catch Me a Brother... / The World Is Yours

    David Sinclair departed Caravan and Steve Miller arrived. If that was a reason this album ditches a lot of the nice, folksy pop songs of 'In The Land Of...' to replace them with long, jam based tunes - then that was a line-up change to be regretted! The playing remains exemplary, but there are few actual songs here. The opening title track is a case in point. I'm not going to be harsh or anything, because this does still contain melody amid the many instrumental parts and solo parts that are always impressively played - but there is something a little soulless about this. The second track just really continues from the first, but is ever more jam based, sounds like it wasn't so much written as made up from hours of improvisation. It doesn't sound like a song, lacks a central theme or melody but does contain lots of great playing. It's not bad, don't get me wrong. It's actually fairly enjoyable but it lacks a certain character and distinctiveness. 'Songs And Signs' is better from a writing point of view. It's less than four minutes long, opens with very quiet, mellow vocals and a fairly bare musical backing. But, an atmosphere is created. It's not song packed with thrills or melody but it does withstand repeated listening, and actually gains from such listening.

    'Aristocracy' is a nice little piece of funky playing and in fact, would have made a great album opener! It would have indicated a change of style and/or pace but not alienated fans of the groups previous records. 'The Love In Your Eye' suite is twelve minutes long. It opens with some nice string parts around a very quiet and mellow vocal. The bass comes in, the drums - the song picks up pace whilst remaining nicely mellow. The strings add to the track rather than become an unnecessary embellishment, and this is enjoyable listening. It does descend slightly towards a mindless Jam to close, but never mind that for now. 'The World Is Yours' wraps up the album, and actually becomes a highlight of the entire record for me. This is a lot simpler in structure than much else of what's contained on the album, has a nice melody and comes across as charming within well played instrumental parts rather than relying on well played instrumental parts to carry the track alone. We need melody in this world, and 'The World Is Yours' has plenty of it! A nice enough album on the whole, this 'Waterloo Lily' - there is nothing really bad here, but equally so few genuine highlights. The quality of the playing earns it an extra half point to bring it above being disposable. It's an album worth getting, but not worth losing any sleep over not having, if that makes sense.

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    Readers Comments

    Keith Hart keith_hart@cbc.ca
    Hi Adrian. It's difficult I can imagine to follow in the footsteps of so lofty a reviewer as George Starostin - whom you emulate - but your review has all the marks of a first-time listen, and that is not the George way. This album was the most decisive departure from the light-handed, sometimes inconsequential music of their earliest days to music of depth, darkness and masterful groove. How you can dispense with "Love in Your Eye" so quickly without even a mention of Jimmy Hastings mind-shattering solo over Richard Sinclair warbling, circular fuzz/wah-wah'd bass proves you need a few more listens. Steve Miller brought a stronger musician's sense to the proceedings and gave Pye Hastings the opportunity as a guitarist and a composer that David Sinclair never could. Caravan goes from a band with one central instrumental voice(Sinclairs treated organ) to a band with several. Everyone plays better as well. Your site will become more valuable when your reviews have as much consi! deration as George's did


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    For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night 8 ( 1973 )
    Memory Lain, Hugh-Headloss / Hoedown / Surprise, Surprise / C'thulu Thulu / The Dog, the Dog, He's at It Again / Be Alright-Chance of a Lifetime / L' Auberge du Sanglier-A Hunting We Shall...

    Well, this is nice isn't it? Seems to me listening to the opening track here that Caravan have recaptured a little certain sparkle! It's no kind of pop song, but it is hugely entertaining, extended music retaining a sense of fun. 'Waterloo Lily' was by no means bad, just a little, well, dull. This strangely titled album and even stranger titled opening song fails completely. To be dull, that is. 'And i've got love to keep me happy' they sing, and you believe them too. Lot's of groovy little musical parts abound through a nine minute plus song that doesn't seem nine minutes long, a good thing! Says a lot about the song. It's a fine, impressive opener! 'Hoedown' comes sauntering in next, all little shuffles and country funk boogie. Well, i never. It's good, too. As a fan of Little Feat I was impressed with this. The vocals are usual Caravan English whimsy, rather than Lowell George, but that doesn't matter too much, really. It's a song with pace about it, it's three minutes long and all of the music is great. Now, there's a deep, insightful comment! The music is great! Well, let's expand. The rhythm section keep up a fair old pace throughout, the bass is impressive, a fiddle arrives playing all sorts of things. The rhythm is the key. Over a solid, funky country, groovy rock rhythm such as this you could do almost anything. 'Surprise, Surprise' is a lot more relaxed than either of the opening two songs, and its arrival is timed exactly right in terms of this albums progress. Again, the bass guitar sounds impressive, although this time it's playing simpler stuff. It's just the sound that impresses. The vocals are wonderfully 'floaty' - seemingly coming to you blown lightly through the air.

    C'thulu Thulu' is deeply strange, slow, spooky. Not really too enjoyable. You get some deep bass notes, some drums, some noises. Some ponderous lyrics. Ah, well. Nothing is perfect, and sadly 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night' isn't perfect either. The song isn't a total disaster, it does get better as it progresses, moving into a semi-rock-funk-groove. But, not quite enough. 'The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again' has both a wonderful title and a wonderful atmosphere about it. More airy vocals, more slightly, faintly psychedelic lyrics and a few lovely harmonies to make you swoon into the bargain. 'Be Alright / Chance Of A Lifetime' switches back to some more Rock groove but with some unusual rhythms added in there. The closing song is ten minutes long. It sounds nice, some beautiful musical passages featuring string embellishments, but it doesn't mean a whole lot. It won't change your life or anything. But, it sounds nice. It goes off especially 'cinematic' towards the end, what with the strings and everything. It's ok. And, the album is OK. Damn fine, in fact, bar the one aberration. We can forgive them this time round.

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    The New Symphonia( 1974 )
    Introudction By Alan Black / Memory Lain Hugh Headloss / Dog The Dog He's At It Again / Hoedown / Introduction / Love In Your Eye / Mirror For The Day / Virgin On The Ridiculous / For Richard / Hunting We Shall Go

    Caravan reportedly liked an orchestral mix so decided to record this live album backed with orchestra. The first few songs are taken from the bands then current 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night' record. 'Memory Lain Hugh Headloss' sounds just as great live as it did in the studio, if not slightly better. The band capture the rhythm and changes well, and perform perfectly. 'The Dog He's At It Again', and 'Hoedown' are also taken from 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night' with this rendition of 'Hoedown' being particularly enjoyable. 'Introduction' is a waste of space on the CD, a jam between the group and the orchestra - rather messy. The remainder of the songs switch back to previous Caravan material, 'The Love In Your Eye' benefits greatly from the orchestra's presence, sounds real cinematic and joyous before ending with a group and orchestra jam that just about holds itself together. The ending in fact is extended beyond all tolerance, but then, so was the studio version. This version is preferable, the strings in a live setting really do add suitably dramatic atmosphere. 'Mirror For The Day' opens with strings and sounds really nice, the band come in slowly over the top - the vocals begin, little guitar parts. The vocals are very clear and as the song picks up with harmonies moves into gorgeous territory. Gospel harmonies arrives, the strings come back, the rhythm section groove away. This is GREAT stuff. 'Virgin On The Ridiculous' makes great use of the orchestra, more good vocals as the orchestra soars into the air.

    Following these two shorter 'pop' songs with added strings, the closing two tracks each top ten minutes. But then, this is Caravan and we come to expect such things. 'For Richard' is a fourteen minute long instrumental, again the orchestra and band combination sounds great, but this is a little much I suspect for all but the Caravan enthusiast. 'A Hunting We Shall Go' features more impressive sounds and playing, a great performance and a rousing closer. It's another instrumental, but slightly preferable to the rendition of 'For Richard' for me, it's a little more rocking and groovy, and back to a cinematic approach. For me personally, live albums are rarely essential unless the offer something markedly different to the studio renditions. Nearly all of these pieces here do. I would have liked a couple more shorter songs, but there you go.

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    Cunning Stunts( 1975 )
    The Show Of Our Lives / Stuck In A Hole / Lover / No Backstage Pass / Welcome The Day / Dabsong Conshirto (Pt. 1 the Mad Dabsong... / The Fear And Loathing In Tollington Park

    'The Show Of Our Lives' is a nice, mellow and pleasant introduction to this record. The bass guitar is strong and melodic, the vocals and harmonies accomplished and the guitar adding just the right amount of beautiful playing over the top. 'Stuck In A Hole' gets back into the kind of funky groovy rhythm that parts of 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night' did so well. This does it equally as well, and married to a concise three minute pop song works even better for me. A fun, happy song that sticks in your brain whilst also featuring great playing and that semi-boogie rhythm. 'Lover' makes use of an orchestra, which comes as no surprise after Caravan's 'The New Symphonia' record. Piano enters, the vocals are mellow but straying towards middle of the road, as the whole song is actually. This is far less enjoyable than either of the first two songs, just sounding like a standard mid-seventies ballad and lacks much distinction, although the guitar is nice. 'No Backstage Pass' flows from 'Lover' with a string introduction, takes a good two minutes to get going though, and when it does it's only just worth the wait. Again, a guitar solo tries to rescue this, harmonies come in. It sounds good, but what is it exactly? I just get the impression that recording and performing were becoming more important than the actual writing at this stage, certainly with this song at least.

    'Welcome The Day' following two slow songs picks up the pace of the record with more funky groove music, and it's most welcome. And then, horrifically, 'Dabsong Conshirto' is eighteen minutes long!! It opens very sweetly though with acoustic guitar and pretty vocal parts. The strings come in, a couple of minutes later a keyboard part as the rhythm section gets into gear for a more up-tempo section. The song continues to twist and turn like this, until around the ten minute mark a great keyboard solo comes in with bluesy guitar added over the top. A guitar solo, violin, a quick shuffling rhythm. Things are getting better. The track rather explodes into a mess to close, which is a shame, and you do come away feeling unsatisfied with both the track and the album as a whole. The brief one minute long 'The Fear And Loathing In Tollington Park' is a jaunty little acoustic folk guitar exercise, but seems so out of place and not at all related to the rest of album! Still, a couple of fine songs are here, even if this doesn't by any means maintain the quality of the best of Caravan's work.

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    Readers Comments

    Colin Shaw Colin.shaw12@btinternet.com
    The song 'No backstage pass'has been bubbling to the surface of my mind just recently, after last hearing it in 1975-76! I could only remember the tune and a few snatches of words...'Smiles in you eyes.. etc'Tonight I keyed in Caravan cunning stunts (I remembered the group and title from all these years) and hey presto, here I am. I don't own a copy, and tantalisingly, the mp3 sampler from Google only gives out 30 seconds worth - just before the lyrics kick in, DAMN! I'll just have to buy the bloody thing.


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    Blind Dog At St. Dunstan's 5 ( 1976 )
    Here Am I / Chiefs and Indians / A Very Smelly Grubby Little Oik / Bobbing Wide / Come on Back / Oik (Reprise) / Jack and Jill / Can You Hear Me? / All the Way

    Caravan continue on, a bit of the old, nothing of the new. 'Here Am I' is perfectly nice though, all things considered. It's pleasing and pleasant and features a nice guitar solo. 'Chiefs And Indians' includes yet more decent guitar, much keyboard work, a violin? Everything seems fine, seems 'right' by Caravan standards, but the material lacks a little sparkle, a little something it's hard to actually put a finger on. 'Chiefs And Indians' includes a genuinely great mixture of sounds, but it isn't a song with an actual purpose. The keyboard solo is great though, lots of good soloing. A delight to listen to the playing even if the song sounds like a polished jam rather than an actual song, if that makes sense. The lyrics mean nothing, I doubt they were meant to. 'A Very Smelly Grubby Little Oik' opens with groovy guitar, 'Caravan' vocals reaching back to 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink' but the song fails to pack the charm of that particular Caravan high point. Was that the point of this? Let's get back to doing that? But, you can't go back, things change, people change. Again, this is by no means a bad song and it can quite easily pass it's four minute length with me failing to scowl for a single second, but equally I fail to smile.

    'Come On Back' and 'Bobbing Wide' both make me actually scowl, for what it's worth. Desperation? Lack of ideas or anything? A few moments of quietly impressive and accomplished playing remains over the course of the album, a nice flute solo pops up on some song or other, and that's your lot. This review lacks interest, so does the album. Only a couple of songs come close, really.

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    this page last updated 27/05/07


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