Trying to find a distinct definition of what has come to be known as "The Canterbury Sound" is as elusive as attempting to describe what, in the jazz world, has become an overused epithet for the German ECM Records label and "The ECM Sound." Attempts to do so usually fail short because, rather than being actual truths, their broad brushstrokes invariably miss the mark, even if they are sometimes not entirely incorrect.
That said, Caravan has long been considered the quintessential Canterbury scene band, and certain comparisons with other groups and artists considered part of the scene certainly make some sense. Still, beyond some of its key members coming from that small British town situated about 90km south southeast of London, musical comparisons with other Canterbury bands beyond The Wilde Flowers, from which Caravan emerged along with Soft Machine
, are generally only superficially accurate at best. Indeed, Soft Machine's sadly deceased bassist Hugh Hopper
, who actually lived in Whitstable (near Canterbury) and was Soft Machine's roadie before joining the band for its second album, is quoted in Aymeric Leroy's exhaustive and comprehensive Calyx, "the authority on all things Canterbury
website, as saying:
"I think it's a rather artificial label, a journalistic thing... I don't mind it, but people like Robert [Wyatt], he in fact hates that idea, because he was born somewhere else and just happened to go to school here. In the time when the Wilde Flowers started we hardly ever worked in Canterbury. It wasn't until Robert and Daevid [Allen] went to London to start Soft Machine that anything happened at all. They weren't really a Canterbury band [...] if it helps people understand or listen to more music then it is fine."
Caravan's first bassist and co-lead vocalist, Richard Sinclair
, who also went on to work with other Canterbury bands including Hatfield and the North
and Camel, counters:
"I think you have to come to Canterbury and see it and hear it ! I think Kent has got a particular sound. We've sung it in our schools here, we were all at school in this sort of area. I was part of the Church of England choir : up to the age of sixteen I was singing tonalities that are very English. Over the last three or four hundred years, and even earlier than that, some of the tonalities go back...it's quite cosmopolitan, Canterbury, to a degree... But that's because of the tourists, not from the people who actually live here : they are very conservative, not cosmopolitan at all, not particularly worldly, I don't think. The music happens outside, gets written here and taken out. This is the Canterbury scene for me. It doesn't really exist here, but it forms here. Musicians, friends join together and play music together, and then they head off around Europe and play their music and get noted for this type of sound."
Founding Soft Machine drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt
provides, perhaps, the most lucid argument:
..."I don't remember any particular movement happening there. I was at school there, I got married there and I lived there for a while. The school I went to had nothing special, there wasn't any particular interest for art, and I grew bored because I wasn't really good at school... If there ever was a Canterbury scene, it was when the Wilde Flowers became Caravan: they were Canterbury people..."
And so, an entire mythos has developed concerning the Canterbury scene, beginning in the mid-'60s and moving forward with primary groups including, in addition to Caravan, Soft Machine
, Hatfield and the North
and National Health
, secondary bands like Egg
, Matching Mole
, Henry Cow
, Khan and Phil Miller - In Cahoots
, and more peripheral artists such as Bruford
, Camel, Delivery and others. There are some shared traits but, more often than not, they fail the "smell test." That said, for those who ardently follow this scene, considered a subset of the larger progressive rock scene emerging at the time in the U.K., many would tell you that it's hard to define the Canterbury Sound, but they know it when they hear it.
Gong saxophonist/flautist Didier Malherbe
has gone the farthest to suggest certain actual musical traits that might be used to describe the Canterbury Sound. Again, from the Calyx site:
..."certain chord changes, in particular the use of minor second chords, certain harmonic combinations, and a great clarity in the aesthetics, and a way of improvising that is very different to what is done in jazz."
If there is a band that slots most easily into being responsible for birthing the Canterbury Scene and Sound, however, it's The Wilde Flowers. The Wilde Flowers may not have typified what's come to be known as the Canterbury Sound, being largely a cover band for music ranging from the The Rolling Stones
to American soul and R&B. Still, it did perform and record some original music, from which a nascent sound would surface. But because both Caravan and Soft Machine emerged from its ashes, The Wilde Flowers would, from 1962-1966, come to be known as the birthplace, the little "Big Bang" if you will, of the Canterbury Sound.
There are certain specific aesthetics that link Caravan with early Soft Machine, which ran from 1966-1969 and was responsible for The Soft Machine Volume One
(Probe, 1968) and Volume Two
(Probe, 1969) before turning more decidedly towards a very distinct brand of jazz, minimalist and experimental tape loop-infused rock music with Third
Specifically, early Soft Machine and Caravan shared a unique kind of lyricism, self-effacing sense of humour in its song titles and lyrics, words that were sometimes drawn directly from life at its most dryly banal and, at times, a most particularly British pastoral sensibility. Despite some fairly complex music, both bands also demonstrated a complete lack of the kind of self-importance and gravitas that would come to define other emergent U.K. progressive rock bands like Yes
, Gentle Giant
and, in particular, Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Caravan, in its early days and periodically throughout its long career, has shared another trait with Soft Machine. Organ, and not the typical guitar, has often been the solo instrument of choice, especially, in the case of Caravan, when its original keyboardist and cousin to Richard, Dave Sinclair, was in the band, though subsequent keyboardists would also assume a dominant role. That would change, to some extent, with the recruitment of violist/multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Richardson for For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
(Deram, 1974) and during the relatively brief period, years later, when Doug Boyle, former lead guitarist for Robert Plant
, joined the group. Still, whenever Sinclair was playing keys and, to a slightly lesser extent, with subsequent on-again/off-again keyboardist Jan Schelhaas, organ occupied a large place in Caravan's music.
In their earliest days, Caravan and Soft Machine also shared a certain psychedelic influence that could be compared with Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd
, though both would desert it by 1970. Following a two-decade hiatus, today's Soft Machine is a more fusion-centric jazz/rock outfit. Caravan, on the other hand, remains an on-again/off-again band which has continued right through to today and maintained many of its initial definers, despite largely focusing on shorter, more pop-centric material. There's even a new Caravan album in the works, appropriately titled, with tongue firmly in cheek, It's None of Your Business
(Madfish Music), due out in November, 2021.
Needless to say, Caravan has evolved, grown and changed over the years, in part due to personnel changes but also simply reflecting the obvious: most bands which last cannot keep mining the same territory over and over again. Instead, as is true of life, most of the best longstanding bands have managed to shift gears over the years while, at the same time, maintaining those certain qualities that still render them instantly recognizable.
Caravan's "salad days" are considered, by most committed fans, to span its first eight years, from the group's 1968 Verve Forecast debut, Caravan
, through to the last of its six albums for the Deram/Decca label, Cunning Stunts
(1975). It may be true that, beginning with its 1976 Arista debut Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
, the band began to move away, at least on its studio albums, from some of the more progressive-leaning qualities that defined its earlier years. If the ratings at the popular ProgArchives
website are anything to go by, the band's subsequent studio albums have garnered largely lukewarm receptions. Still, whenever Caravan dusts itself off to play live dates, it has been far more enthusiastically received and continues to play material from its heyday, even as it mixes in newer material.
Sometimes, with the passage of time, music that was less-than well-received in its day fares better now because it's possible to become more distanced, assessing a band's overall arc and seeing it for what it is rather than in direct comparison to its "classic" albums. That certainly appears to be the case with Madfish's massive, career-spanning Caravan box set, Who Do You Think We Are?
, a play on the opening lyrics from the title track to the band's second album, If I Could Do It Again, I'd Do It All Over You
Madfish has, over the past several years, created a particular name for itself in the arena of career or period-spanning mega box sets, most recently including British bluesman John Mayall
's The First Generation 1965-1974
(2021), unfairly overlooked progressive rock band Gentle Giant
's Unburied Treasure
(2019) and the twin guitar salvo of Wishbone Ash
's The Vintage Years 1970-1991
Madfish has once again hit it out of the park with Who Do You Think We Are?
, including definitive remasters of existing material, a wealth of previously unreleased live music, and a whole lot more.
So, What's in the Box? Who Do You Think We Are?
contains a whopping 35 CDs, all housed in gatefold mini-LP sleeves. Remasters of the band's 14 studio albums, five commercially released live albums and two compilation records of re-imagined earlier music, All Over You
and Over You, Too
, add up to a healthy 24 discs.
Bonus material from previous reissues are largely retained. Of particular note, Caravan
still contains both mono and stereo mixes, while all of the bonus material added to the 2011 two-CD/DVD-V Deluxe Edition
of the band's third album, In the Land of Grey and Pink
(Deram, 1971), considered by most to be Caravan's studio apex, is also included. The band's second most beloved release, For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
(Derham, 1974), has over 30 minutes of alternate mixes and previously unreleased songs. A much later album, The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
(Eclectic, 2003), is also the then-limited deluxe version, with a second CD of live material recorded in Tokyo, 2003, and Quebec City, 2002.
Beyond its characteristically superb remastering of the commercial releases, an additional 11 CDs document seven previously (in one case, officially) unreleased live shows from 1972 right through to 2018. Unlike some of Madfish's other box sets, the live material is all medium fidelity at worst but, in most cases, reaches even better sound, with none of the shows sounding like audience bootlegs. The sound does vary from show to show, to be sure, but every one of them, from 1972, 1974, 1975, 1983, 1990, 1999 and 2018, is of a quality that would support many, many spins. When collected with the commercial live material from 1973, 1974, 1976, 1997, 2002/03 and 2011, the total of 13 live sets of varying lengths provides a wonderful opportunity to experience Caravan as a live act across more than four decades.
The included DVD contains a rare 1971 BBC TV broadcast, along with recordings for French TV from 1973 and 1981. Last, fleshing out the audio/video content of Who Do You Think We Are?
, a Blu Ray disc not only contains Steven Wilson
's 2011 stereo and 5.1 surround sound remixes of In the Land of Grey and Pink
. Taken from the 2011 Deluxe Edition
and at the same [24/48] resolution, it is also expanded to include an additional four bonus tracks, all mixed by Wilson but in high res stereo only.
There's also a wealth of printed material. A 144-page, coffee-table sized hardcover includes intros from Canterbury-related guitarist Steve Hillage (Uriel, Khan) and Steve Davis, along with Malcolm Dome's revealing liner notes, with plenty of input from band members past and present. The book also sports a wealth of photos, poster reproductions and newspaper clippings. A recent interview with the band's only remaining co-founder and leader, guitarist/vocalist, Pye Hastings, and full-sized reproductions of all the commercial studio albums cover art, be it early 12" vinyl or subsequent CD-only releases, round out the hardcover book.
A special A4 sized, 24-page "Fanzine" edition of Where But For Caravan Would I?
(named after Caravan
's closing track) includes additional images, in addition to largely archival interviews/profiles with Hastings (also recent), Dave Sinclair and Geoffrey Richardson. Additional features include current drummer Mark Walker, longtime keyboardist Jan Schelhaas and bassist Jim Leverton, along with 2006 Isle of Wight's festival promoter, John Giddings. This collection of articles, largely first published in the periodic Where But For Caravan Would I?
newsletter compiled by editor Eric Gray, also includes Martin Davenport's live review from a 2001 show and Ralph Cross' review of The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
A reproduction of the 16-page A4 programme from the Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
tour is also included. 26 pages of publicity files from the mid-'70s feature an equipment list, a press pack to go along with For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
, and a Melody Maker
band file, all including a variety of handwritten additions and corrections.
Two full-sized poster reproductions, from the late '60s/early '70s, include a triple bill poster where Caravan topped the bill over a young Black Sabbath and Mobius, while the other comes from another Caravan-topped double bill, this time with Tīr Na Nõg.
There are two additional fold-outs. "Caravan's Trip Down Memory Lain," a wonderfully stylized map of Canterbury named after For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
's opening track, "Memory Lain, Hugh," is in the colour and style of In the Land of Gray and Pink
and notes a variety of Caravan-relevant locations. "Caravan Family Tree" lists all the members of Caravan from 1968 to 2021, also detailing the various lineups that formed, reformed and reinvented the band across its 53-year history.
Finally, an individually signed photo by the three original Caravan members still with us (Pye Hastings, along with Dave and Richard Sinclair) rounds out a box that may not be the complete
Caravan recordings but, with 37 discs occupying over 33 hours of music, is certainly as comprehensive a document of this seminal Canterbury band as is likely to ever be released.
All of this housed, as always, in a very stiff cardboard box with a simple cover of a multicolour fingerprint, courtesy of Pye Hastings.
Where But for Caravan Would I? 1968-1974
Caravan first emerged, in early 1968, from the ashes of The Wilde Flowers, a group that originally included brothers Brian (lead guitar, saxophone) and Hugh Hopper (bass), drummer/singer Robert Wyatt, and guitarists Kevin Ayers and Richard Sinclair. When Sinclair went back to art school, he recruited his friend, Pye Hastings, to replace him, while drummer Richard Coughlin was enlisted when the band was entering a "battle of the bands" contest and Wyatt decided to become the band's frontman. Sinclair's cousin Dave also found his way into The Wilde Flowers, a band that was, at the time, largely covering Tamla soul and R&B, rather than its earlier Chuck Berry/The Rolling Stones
All of the building blocks were in place.
With Dave Sinclair taking on a construction job in order to earn the money to buy a Hammond organ, and with the dissolution of The Wilde Flowers, the keyboardist, along with Hastings and Coughlin, began to rehearse as Caravan. Richard Sinclair soon joined as bassist, after leaving Canterbury Art College. Out of these humble beginnings, it's remarkable how Caravan quickly revealed such a clearly formed direction and singular voice.
Hastings, a competent but initially indistinctive lead guitarist but a fine rhythm player, possessed a singular, breathy alto voice that contrasted with Richard Sinclair's rich tenor. He would emerge as a fine songwriter as well, easily distinguishable from the two Sinclairs, even if, as was often customary with collective bands, songwriting credits were attributed to all four members: Hastings, Sinclair, Sinclair and Coughlin.
Pye Hastings' role as (initially) rhythm guitarist and co-lead singer left Dave Sinclair as the band's primary soloist, alongside occasional appearances by Hastings' older brother, woodwind and reed multi-instrumentalist Jimmy.
The keyboardist proved himself a fine and unusually sophisticated player as early as Caravan's first album, though he'd improve in leaps and bounds with each successive release. Already an accomplished player who would often appear (and was, occasionally, a full-fledged band member) on Caravan albums beginning with Caravan
's "Love Song With Flute," Jimmy Hastings would also go on to regularly guest with other Canterbury bands including Hatfield and the North, Soft Machine and National Health. He was already a full-time professional, working musician. He was rarely a full-on band member because he was also occupied with sessions and orchestral work. He would, however, become an important player whose sophisticated yet ever-lyrical approach was an inimitable part of Caravan's contribution to the emerging Canterbury Sound.
Early Soft Machine was a formative influence on the younger Caravan, and there are some comparisons that can be made between Caravan
and The Soft Machine Volume One
. But the two bands diverged considerably, in particular with respect to the production of their first albums. Recorded and released while on a 1968 North American tour with Jimi Hendrix
, Hendrix's British producer Chas Chandler and American producer Tom Wilson seemed to leave Soft Machine completely to its own musical devices. Signing with Verve Forecast for its first album, Caravan was forced to work with singer/songwriter Tony Cox as producer.
Cox, who helped the band secure its record contract, also afforded Caravan considerable freedom when it came to laying down its music. Because the booth at London's Advision studio was too small to allow the band to attend, however, Cox mixed the album in collaboration with engineer Gerald Chevin, and the pair doused the music with copious (excessive) amounts of reverb. This is especially noticeable with the mono version of Caravan
. That said, both mono and stereo versions sound much clearer with this box set's remaster when compared to the previously muddy Deram CD reissue, though there's only so much that could be done about the reverb.
Still, it's a valiant first album, even if it failed to chart. Amongst the better tracks? The opening "Place of My Own," which was, coincidentally, Hastings' very first song and has continued to occupy a place in Caravan set lists as recently as the 1990 Old Buckenham, Norfolk
show included as one of Who Do You Think We Are?
's previously unreleased sets. Starting with Coughlin's powerful tom tom rolls and Dave Sinclair's slightly dissonant organ work, it soon turns effortlessly melodic, with Hastings' upper register voice occupying a space somewhere between high tenor and alto. The chorus remains catchy and, characteristically for Caravan, inviting:
I've got this place of my own
Where I can go when I feel I'm coming down
We'll do our best to ensure
You'll feel secure if you come.
The song also features an organ solo from Sinclair that immediately positions him as a well-rounded and stylistically broad player, but one that also possesses a decidedly unique sense of lyricism that has become synonymous with both Caravan and the Canterbury Sound.
"Ride," another Hastings tune, possesses a modal Indian vibe, with Sinclair's wah wah-driven organ and Sinclair's fuzz bass creating a more psychedelic ambience, with Hastings scatting on the fadeout. Richard Sinclair's first vocal appearance, the buoyant "Policeman," continues the psychedelic vibe, likely in no small part due to the band's regular infusions of hashish to create lyrics that reflect a self-reflecting humour and quirkily banal reflection of life that would come to define the bassist's songwriting in particular:
We can see you creeping, Mr.Policeman
Looking through the keyhole in our door
Taking notes of all that floats
With the beat your marching feet
Shiny shoes, looking for clues
Do come in, we'll offer you a rissole
If you will only blow your whistle for me
And then we'll be good, I know we should
Take the time to change our minds
We will pay our parking fines soon!
The bossa-informed "Love Song With Flute," another Hastings song, is notable for his brother's lengthy and memorable flute solo, which takes up the last 90 seconds of the song, through to a,rather abrupt fadeout that was common at the time. By contrast, "Cecil Ron's" is a bit of psychedelic fun, with plenty of dissonance," while "Magic Man" is a lovely ballad that would be all the better without being drowned in reverb.
But it's the album closer, "Where But For Caravan Would I," the eight-song debut's closer, that hints at the Caravan to come. Just shy of nine minutes in length, it's an unmistakably British
piece of writing, as is true of the entire album. But, in its alternating of two bars of 3/4 followed by another of 2/4, it's already leaning towards greater complexities that unfold further in the middle section, where bars of 6/4 and 5/4 alternate beneath Dave Sinclair's best and most extended solo of the set, propelled by Coughlan's powerful yet nuanced kit work. The closing, waltz time vocal section is shared by Hastings and Sinclair, before the song returns to the alternating 6/4 and 5/4 pattern and a surprisingly oblique conclusion.
While not a classic, Caravan
is a solid enough debut, filled with plenty of building blocks and promise. With the UK arm of Verve Forecast going out of business within the year, Caravan was left without a label, but this turned out to be a blessing. While the band continued to gig, it also spent a large part of the next year rehearsing, which led to the band honing its sound and becoming far more impressive players and songwriters, all while looking for new management and a record label interested in signing the band up.
The group was ultimately introduced to Terry King, who would become the group's manager. Despite weak sales of its first album, with King's business acumen resulting in a number of BBC appearances and the group emerging as a much in-demand live act on the then-all important college circuit, Caravan's star was rising in the U.K. The band was, then, ready for the all-important sophomore effort and, with the hubris of youth, decided to self-produce (in collaboration with King). The difference between Carvan's first two records is palpable.
Now signed to the Decca label subsidiary, Deram, from the opening chord of If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
's opening title track it's clear that Caravan had come a long way in the two years between releases.
Stripped of the excess reverb, If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
leaps out out of the speakers with an instantly more immediate and direct sound, while also largely shedding the psychedelia of the band's first record. A clear double entendre, the "I'd Do It All Over You" actually means "I'd Do It All Because of You."
By this time, Caravan had begun to write longer suites, more often than not stitching multiple songs or fragments together. While possessing the same total number of tracks as Caravan
, If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
includes a full three tracks that run more than eight minutes, including the fourteen-minute "For Richard," a medley of "Can't Be Long Now," "Françoise," For Richard" and "Warlocks" that would become a band staple on the concert stage, appearing on all but two of the live shows included in Who Do You Think We Are?
This lengthy track, pieced together from ideas written by the two Sinclair cousins, also includes the most definitive of Caravan's early and formidable excursions into jazz/rock territory. Caravan was already proving itself a collection of strong songwriters, but everyone's confidence as players was in clearer evidence. Caravan was also a band capable of surprising improvisational excursions, between Hastings' surprising growth as a lead guitarist, his brother's acumen on tenor saxophone, the increasingly locked-in rhythm team of Coughlin and Richard Sinclair, and its keyboardist's growing talent. The album also introduces Sinclair's use of a fuzz box with his Hammond, a sound likely first introduced by Soft Machine's Mike Ratledge but subsequently adopted, not just by Sinclair, but by Egg/future Hatfield and the North keyboardist Dave Stewart
The back-to-back "And I Wish I Were Stoned > Don't Worry" brings together songs by Richard Sinclair and Hastings respectively, and demonstrates both the different approaches each took to songwriting while, at the same time, coming together as a unified whole that could only be described as Caravan, even as it fades out, quite oddly, with a drum solo.
Hastings' initially elegiac but ultimately ambling "With an Ear to the Ground You Can Make It" is sewn together with "Martinian" and "Only Cox," a gentle ballad featuring plenty of inventive flute work and drawn from life lyrics that speak directly, no doubt, to former producer Terry Cox, while "Reprise" brings the 10-minute medley to an atmospheric organ/piano instrumental outro and fadeout.
As much as its longer pieces reflect Caravan's increasing penchant for experimentation, the shorter pieces remain definitive pieces of appealing and sometimes pastoral pop. The amiable opening title track is balanced by the more schizophrenic "As I Feel I Die," which alternates between gentle balladry and a swinging 6/8 section that provides the context for an impressive organ solo, bolstered by Richard Sinclair's increasingly fat bass tone and increasing sophistication. While the bassist's "Hello Hello" is irregularly metered, with Hastings' arpeggiated electric guitar creating the song's foundation in 7/8, and a chorus that alternates between three bars of 3/8 and one bar of 2/8, it was If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
's first single, with the title track on the b-side.
While If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
's title track and "Why Why Why (I Wish I Were Stoned)" would show up occasionally in later live sets, it's the "For Richard" suite that became Caravan's first bona fide classic. Who Do You Think We Are?
's If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
remaster also includes four bonus tracks, including demos of "Why (And I Wished I Were Stoned)," Clipping the 8th (Hello Hello)" and "As I Feel I Die." Most significant, however, is a song that has appeared nowhere else, "A Day in the Life of Maurice Haylett," with its lengthy overdriven organ solo, might have been included on the album proper, were it not for the limitations of vinyl.
Still, neither If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
nor it's single charted, nor did either sell in any appreciable numbers. But all of that was about to change, and quickly. Just ten days after the September 4, 1970 release of If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
, Caravan was back in the studio to record what many consider to be its finest album. Having emerged as the group's primary songwriter, Hastings was largely tapped out, having contributed most of his songs to Caravan's first two albums, and with little else available. In the Land of Gray and Pink
, then, would be dominated by songs from the Sinclair cousins. Still, Richard, who wrote just two songs on Caravan
, gives Hastings credit in his comments from Who Do You Think We Are?
"I owe a lot to Pye for encouraging me to become a writer on the third album, and it's due to his influence that I ended up developing in the way I did," In the Land of Gray and Pink
represented Richard Sinclair's coming out party as a songwriter, with the first side occupied entirely by his songwriting with the exception of Hastings' catchy, cowbell-driven but curiously titled "Love to Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)." And what a coming out party, with his three contributions amongst Caravan's finest to date. While he'd contributed to earlier albums as well, In the Land of Gray and Pink
was also a major emergence for Dave Sinclair, largely responsible for the record's second side-long suite, "Nine Feet Underground."
But the album also represented a near-paradigm shift for the group, as it leaned into extended instrumentals like the organ-dominated opening to "Nine Feet Underground," Dave Sinclair's "Nigel Blows a Tune." Initially upbeat and buoyant, it also includes an impressive tenor solo, before handing the baton back to Sinclair. When compared with future Canterbury bands like Hatfield and the North, if there's a quintessential Canterbury track, "Nine Feet Underground" may be it, also appearing on six of the box set's live shows, from 1983 through to 2018.
But it's more than Dave Sinclair and Jimmy Hastings' performances that make "Nine Feet Underground" such a groundbreaker for the band. The largely witty track titles would become a Canterbury staple, especially with Hatfield and the North, with titles like "Lobster in Cleavage Probe! ANd "Big John Aayne Socks Psychology in the Jaw."
The nearly 23-minute "Nine Feet Underground" also features two vocal segments. The first, the Pye Hastings-sung, four-on-the-floor rock song "Love's a Friend" follows "Nigel Blows a Tune." A mid-section organ solo pushes the dynamics up even further before Hastings returns to sing the final lyrics before "Make It 76" drops the tempo for another extended organ feature that skirts the line between form and freedom. An atmospheric "Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies" turns more propulsive for "Hold Grandad By the Nose," both also impressive features for Sinclair, as is the slower tempo of "Honest I Did!," where Sinclair's fuzz-toned and, at times wah wah-infused playing continues to define a lengthy piece driven by the increasingly connected rhythm section of Richard Sinclair and Richard Coughlin.
The bassist sings the other vocal track in the "Nine Feet Underground" suite, the more melancholic "Disassociation," with a chorus that is typical Sinclair:
Will the day be warm
And bright, or will it snow?
There are people waiting
Here who really want to know.
An uncharacteristically reverse-attack guitar solo from Hastings leads to the ballad's final verses and chorus, before it segues, with an accelerating tempo, to the three-minute instrumental closer, "100% Proof." It's an epic piece of writing, playing, improvising and connecting of disparate musical pieces that may be Caravan's absolute finest moment or, at the very least, ranks highly amongst them.
The four songs on side one are worthy of equal attention. While never reproduced live with the same opening melody on an uncredited trombone, "Golf Girl" would also become a popular live staple, appearing in the same live shows as "Nine Feet Underground." A semi-autobiographical tune, "Golf Girl" may be relatively simple but it's eminently catchy, with Sinclair musing about meeting the woman he'd eventually marry in real life, Pat. Driven by Coughlin's almost funky playing, the song also features Dave Sinclair stretching out on mellotron and electric piano, both relatively rare instruments for the keyboardist.
But it's In the Land of Gray and Pink
's two other side one songs that further clarify Caravan's genre-busting mix of folk, rock, jazz and classical forms. The nearly eight-minute, pastoral "Winter Wine" opens with a crisply finger-picked acoustic guitar, before a bright pulse emerges to more gently propel a song that's essentially about a dream but is also a somewhat oblique love song:
Sail scene, sea green-sailing forward to a new land
Treasure waits, paradise gates, for the taking, don't start waking
All you need, but take heed, remember it pays to pay the sandman well
Make no fuss, for you must-in stardust, he puts all the colours in your dreams
Bells chime three times, naked dancers enter slowly
Smoky room, scented gloom, audience eating, fat men drinking
Candles burn, a dull red light illuminates the breasts of four young girls
Dancing, prancing, provoking-dreams are always ending far too soon.
An initially contrapuntal organ solo from Dave Sinclair opens up further as he kicks in the overdrive for an extended feature that, perhaps even more than "Nine Feet Underground," succinctly demonstrates his ability to remain reverent to a song's heart while finding new melodies to weave over its form.
Also beginning with finger-picked acoustic guitar, the lyrics for the side-ending title track are amongst the album's most curious:
So we'll sail away for just one day to the land where the punk weed grows Won't need any money, just fingers and your toes And when it's dark our boat will park on a land of warm and green Pick our fill of punk weed and smoke it till we bleed, that's all we'll need They've black buckets in the sky, don't leave your dad in the rain Cigarettes burn bright tonight, they'll all get washed down the drain.
Sinclair would go onto contribute similarly absurd lyrics for Hatfield and the North, not to mention adding the bubbling underwater vocal effect that appears here for the first time, and turns out to simply be Sinclair singing while wobbling his finger in his mouth.
The bonus tracks are a mix of demos with different names, like "It's Likely to Have a Name Next Week" (an instrumental version of "Winter Wine") that's significantly different to the album version, yet possesses its clear markers along with a very different organ solo. "Group Girl" is "Golf Girl" without the trombone, the introductory theme instead delivered by a combination of organ and the bassist's whistling, while Dave Sinclair solos on organ rather than mellotron and electric piano. The words are also quite different, though some of its final lyrics are already in place. A different version of "Disassociation / 100% Proof" demonstrates how Caravan would record individual segments of longer medleys, only to have them later stitched together ... and, given the time, likely done with Scotch tape and an Exacto knife, two of any self-respecting recording studio's most basic necessities back in the days before digital recording and computer software.
An early version of Hastings' "Aristocracy" is in a different key and tempo than it would posses when it appears on Caravan's next album. Richard Sinclair contributes "I Don't Know Its Name (Alias The Word)" and "It Doesn't Take a Lot," the latter a more forgettable tune that's best to not have appeared formally as part of an album. Sometimes, bonus tracks only have value as bonus tracks, as curiosities that might have been ... but were best not to be.
Produced by David Hitchcock, who would continue to produce Caravan's next few albums along with releases by Genesis, Curved Air, Camel and Marillion, In the Land of Gray and Pink
was, according to Hastings, "the right alignment of everything. We had the right music, the right line-up, the right producer...it all worked so well. And when I listen to it now, I realise how impressive it is."
Unfortunately, as extraordinary an album as it is, with its gray and pink Tolkienesque cover, it took decades for the album to go gold. Critically very well-received, the band attributes its weak sales to Deram, who invested plenty of money in the recording but then did little to promote it. Still, despite no charting to speak of and sales less than hoped for, Caravan continued to remain in high demand as a live act, especially when Jimmy Hastings was available. Released in April, 1971, where the band might have gone next is unknown as, in August of that year the group's first major blow occurred when Dave Sinclair left the band.
Hastings admits that the keyboardist had progressed, musically, much farther than his band mates. The keyboardist went on to join Robert Wyatt's Matching Mole, contributing the melancholic classic, "O Caroline," which ultimately found its way into a medley in later Caravan set lists. Matching Mole, which also featured future Hatfield and the North guitarist Phil Miller
, lasted for two albums, before the pair joined a reunion of the band Delivery, which ultimately morphed into Hatfield and the North. By the time Hatfield recorded, however, Dave Sinclair had left that group as well, largely for financial reasons, to be replaced by the great Dave Stewart, who took the band to even further heights. Sinclair's story with Caravan was, however, far from over.
In the meantime, what to do? Replacing Sinclair was a tough call, but Richard Sinclair suggested former Delivery keyboardist, Steve Miller, Phil's elder brother and yet another instance of the somewhat incestuous nature of the Canterbury scene. He was certainly more than musically capable, but largely felt more comfortable on piano rather than than organ, though he did focus more on that instrument when the new Caravan lineup entered the studio to record In the Land of Gray and Pink
's followup, 1972's Waterloo Lily
. In many ways a transitional album for Caravan that was stylistically unlike what had come before but was still, somehow, Caravan, it nevertheless contained one lengthy medley that would subsequently appear on five live performances from 1973 through to 2018: "The Love in Your Eye?," which also included "To Catch Me A Brother," Subultus, "Debouchement" and "Tilbury Kecks"
With the songs credited only to Hastings, Sinclair and Coughlin (with the exception of the Miller-penned "It's Coming Soon" and "Signs"), the new keyboardist's presence was immediately felt. He definitely changed the complexion of the band, moving it towards a jazzier disposition even if he did adopt a Dave Sinclair-inspired overdriven organ tone on songs like Richard Sinclair's appealing, album-opening title track. The bassist, too, was evolving rapidly, with an increasingly sinewy yet lithe and fluid tone and, occasionally, a move to fretless bass. His instrumental vernacular had also become considerably more refined, acting as a melodic foil even as he continued to nail down the grooves alongside Coughlin, an increasingly far-reaching drummer capable of delicate subtlety as well as muscular displays of virtuosity.
"Waterloo Lily" and the following 10-minute instrumental medley of "Nothing at All," "It's Coming Soon" and "Nothing at All (reprise)" both feature a new guest in the Caravan circle, thanks to Miller. Soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill
was, however, more closely aligned with the British jazz scene, in particular it's freer leanings.
"Nothing at All" opens with a largely pedal tone and shuffle-driven jam that, in addition to Coxhill, also features a guest spot from Phil Miller. The very fact that it's a clear studio jam distances it from the greater structures of past Caravan albums. "It's Coming Soon" begins as a gentle, more oblique yet still melodic instrumental with Miller on acoustic piano, which nevertheless unfolds into a more up-tempo section where Miller switches to electric piano. With a diminished theme that ultimately turns more propulsive still, Miller's overdriven organ, over another pedal tone jam, builds to a visceral theme and a brief reprise of "Nothing at All" that ultimately fades out. It's quite probably the loosest track that Caravan has ever recorded.
The medley, as a whole, stands alone in the Caravan discography and is an odd fit for the album. "Songs and Signs," written by Miller but sung by Hastings and Sinclair, is a more apt song for a Caravan album, even if it's still not quite typical. Still, "Aristocracy" remains, along with the title track and Hastings' acoustic guitar-driven, album-closing "The World is Yours," with its 9/4 chorus, more closely aligned with the Caravan familiar to its growing fan base.
The only track from Waterloo Lily
to continue finding itself in live set lists over the years is the 12-minute "The Love in Your Eye" medley. Beyond Hastings' ever-attractive vocals, it also represents another new direction for Caravan, featuring an orchestra and contributions from oboist Barry Robinson, trumpeter Mike Cotton and the returning Jimmy Hastings, whose soaring flute solo over the fiery "To Catch Me a Brother" is an album highlight, as is Miller's electric piano solo on the gradually building "Subultus." Still, with its jammy instrumental conclusion, "Tilbury Kecks," "The Love in Your Eye" is another track that presents Caravan at its most jazz-centric, even if it's a far cry from the American jazz tradition.
Three bonus tracks represent some formative ideas that were developed further. Hastings' "Pye's June Thing" and "Ferdinand" are simply acoustic guitar and voice."Looking Left, Looking Right," on the other hand, is a surprising blues from Hastings, but with a horn-driven theme in the middle. "Pye's Loop," the medley's second piece, is based around a loop of the acoustic guitar part that opens "Looking Left," but with Sinclair and Coughlin bolstering the pulse and trumpeter Mike Cotton taking an extended, delay-drenched solo. It feels almost like the coda to The Beatles
' "Strawberry Fields Forever," but without the acid trip.
A live show, recorded in Enschede, Holland on March 16, 1972 and included in Who Do You Think We Are?
, demonstrates that not only was Waterloo Lily
a different kind of Caravan, but was even more so in performance. Beyond Waterloo Lily
's title track, "The Love in Your Eye" and "For Richard," two atypical and lengthy jams stretch the set out to almost 70 minutes. Both represent the anomaly that was Caravan with Steve Miller. Looser and more improvisational, they aren't just jams, however; they are based on some semblance of context-defining structure. At least "Nothing at All," running over 19 minutes, most certainly is. Its knotty opening riff, written by Richard Sinclair, creates a setting for group improvisation that ultimately resurfaced on Hatfield and the North's 1974 Virgin Records debut, Hatfield and The North
, as "Rifferama." Waterloo Lily
was met with mixed critical and popular receptions. Perhaps it was too loose, too jazzy and too improv-heavy for fans, even if the opening song and the "Love in Your Eye" medley had plenty of potential. But it was not to be as, just two months after Waterloo Lily
was released, an even bigger blow came to Caravan when Hastings and Coughlin were suddenly left on their own, as Miller and Sinclair departed to join a reformed Delivery with Phil Miller and Pip Pyle, leading to Hatfield and the North.
Part of the problem was (as is so often the case) money, but it was also the amount of work Caravan was getting. Despite being in demand in colleges, on TV, radio and beyond, it just wasn't enough. Richard Sinclair wanted to work more, and so relocated to London with Miller. But sometimes adversity turns to advantage, as the next chapter in Caravan's story was to be a significant one, both in shifting the direction of the band back to something closer to what it was pre-Waterloo Lily
, but also with the recruitment of some new members ... and the return of an old one.
Whittled down to just a duo, Hastings was nevertheless committed to carrying on. With bassist Stuart Evans (Thank You) and keyboardist Derek Austin as new members, it was the arrival of violist (and, ultimately, multi-instrumentalist) Geoffrey Richardson that would prove most auspicious for this reconfigured Caravan, even as Austin returned the sound of organ back to dominance with the group. The band toured played dates in the U.K. and continental Europe, before convening at Chipping Norton Studios, with Hitchcock back in the producer's role.
While several tracks were recorded with this lineup, only the relatively brief "Surprise, Surprise" would make it onto the album largely considered Caravan's best album, next to In the Land of Grey and Pink
, the characteristically punny For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
The band worked in the studio from December 18, 1972 through January 5, 1973 before heading off, in late January, to Australia on an odd triple bill with Lindisfarne and Status Quo. By the time the band returned home, Evans and Austin were gone, and Caravan went on a brief hiatus, before recruiting bassist/vocalist John G. Perry (who'd been considered prior to Evans).
The best news, however, was the return of Dave Sinclair, who'd been working in demolition before being asked to rejoin Caravan by Hastings. The exact reasons and circumstances are reportedly somewhat differently by Hastings and Sinclair, but the bottom line was: Caravan was back, and with Richardson's enlistment meaning an expanded lineup with even more potential.
Heading back into the studio, it was also clear that Hastings' writing had gone up by more than a notch or two. More riff-driven and harder rocking than anything that had come before, while still remaining connected to the band's past, For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
largely deserted the pastoral nature of In the Land of Grey and Pink
and the jazzier proclivities of Waterloo Lily
For the first time, songs were not collectively credited to the band and, barring a small piece by Perry, the entire album was written by Hastings. In its overall assertion of Hastings' role as Caravan's primary writer there was a renewed sense of purpose and an overall more progressive-leaning sound. Sinclair, surprisingly, had even added synthesizer to his usual organ and pianos, taking an impressive solo during the riff-centric instrumental section in the middle of "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again."
"The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again" is just one of a number of pun-driven or absurd titles found on For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
, released in August, 1973, even if its lyrics had nothing to do with its name. Still, Hastings' lyrics were curiously witty and, at the same time, romantic in their own way:
You're not here if you really do believe
That the world is so full of sin
Never look back on the things that you lack
When you're in
My mother said that I should stay out of bed,
But I know that I like it in there
Legs and thighs, hellos and goodbyes
It's all there.
The album opens with the strong one-two punch of the "Memory Lain, Hugh > Headloss" medley. Beyond the driving riff for its verses, strongly supported by Perry and Coughlin, "Memory Lain, Hugh" opens up into a catchy, harmonized vocal chorus. The track also features a full-on eight-piece brass/woodwind section, its instrumental midsection first featuring a brief viola theme before the dynamics rise and Sinclair, with his distinctively overdriven and wah-driven organ, announces, in no uncertain terms, that he is back. And if anyone was concerned that this new Caravan had completely lost site of its jazz leanings, Jimmy Hastings follows with a flute solo that's as impressive as any he'd played to date.
As "Memory Lain, Hugh" reaches a powerful conclusion, with guest Rupert Hine's ARP synthesizer creating a low-end segue, Hastings picks things up with a series of chords at a brighter tempo, leading to "Headloss." He may have grown in leaps and bounds as Caravan's primary songwriter, but he'd grown equally as a guitarist, even taking the occasional solo, as he does in a brief trade-off with Richardson towards the end of "Headloss."
While tracks from In the Land of Grey and Pink
would continue to appear in live set lists, it's For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
's seven tracks that would figure largest in subsequent live performances. Of the 13 live shows in the Who Do You Think We Are?
box, it's music from this album that looms largest, as some of it appeared in every show that dates beyond its release, with "Memory Lain, Hugh > Headloss" the two most common.
There's nary a single weak track to be found. The accelerating "C'thlu Thlu," the up-tempo'd, irregular-metered but eminently catchy "Hoedown" and the viola-driven "Be Alright > Chance of a Lifetime" are all exceptional tunes, but For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
is, perhaps, most significant for the closing 10-minute medley that would subsequently become known as "A Hunting We Shall Go."
The medley opens, however, with "L'Auberge Du Sanglier," a lovely, pastoral instrumental that features Richardson, accompanied solely by Hastings, on acoustic guitar. The potent "A Hunting We Shall Go" follows, an irregularly metered, riff-centered piece that provides solo space for everyone but Coughlin, who's too busy providing the forward motion. Perry's brief interlude, "Pengola," leads to "Backwards," originally written by Soft Machine keyboardist Mike Ratledge and first heard on that band's Third
. "Backwards" is particularly notable for its morphing into a much grander, more sweeping symphonic piece with the addition of a full orchestra, before the medley concludes with a brief reprise of "A Hunting We Shall Go." Along with "Nine Feet Underground," "The Love in Your Eye" and "For Richard," it's one of Caravan's most memorable long-form medleys, even if it's been less often performed.
This version of For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
includes a number of bonus tracks, including the American mix of "Memory Lain, Hugh > Headloss" and four tracks from the aborted sessions with Evans and Austin, including an edit of "Surprise, Surprise," the instrumental tracks for "Be All Right > Chance of a Lifetime," taken at a slower pace and, titled "No! > Waffle," featuring a length solo from Richardson," as well as a slower, instrumental take of "Memory Lain, Hugh," retitled "He Who Smelt It Dealt It." It's clear, from these bonus tracks, why things weren't working and changes were in order. It that they're bad, but the versions subsequently recorded with Perry and Sinclair were just that much more compelling.
Most notable, however, is the inclusion of "Derek's Long Thing," a feature for Caravan's short-lived keyboardist, Derek Austin, from its more languid piano intro to a swinging middle section that features him on organ, not to mention extended guitar and viola solos.
It may have been clear to the group that they'd hit it out of the park with For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
, but there was a problem which briefly slowed its release. The original album cover (included in the hardcover book) featured a nude, pregnant woman laying prone on a bed, to go along with the album title. Two major U.K. shops at the time, W.H. Smith and Boots, threatened not to stock the album because of the cover. This was not a completely uncommon occurrence back in the day, with albums like Jimi Hendrix
's Electric Ladyland
(Reprise, 1968) and Blind Faith's debut, Blind Faith
(Polydor, 1969) both running into similar problems for their use of nudity, though curiously only in the USA, with no issues in the U.K. (though some British dealers turned Hendrix's gatefold sleeve inside out).
In any case, with the semi-supine nude pregnant woman redone with a nightgown, For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
didn't just turn out to be Caravan's second classic album in just three years, it would ultimately achieve silver status, albeit a number of decades later.
The use of an orchestra on "Backwards," its inclusion suggested by Sinclair and the orchestrations resulting from Perry's connections, led to a single night in London on October 28, 1973, where Caravan was joined by the New Symphonia Orchestra and a collection of seven backing vocalists.
Caravan opened with a short set on its own, before the orchestra and backing vocalists joined the group for "The Love in Your Eye," "For Richard," "A Hunting We Shall Go" and two new pieces by Hastings: the relatively brief pop song "Mirror For the Day" and longer "Virgin on the Ridiculous."
The show was recorded and ultimately released as Caravan & The New Symphonia
, released in April the following year. The original album only featured the orchestral tracks, while the subsequent CD release, as here, includes the entire show in its correct sequence. While as well received as any Caravan album to date, the band's first live album is a bit of a disappointment. A somewhat lacklustre performance overall, despite the success of using an orchestra on For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
, it was seemingly another case of "rock band with orchestra" that sounded much better on paper. Not that it's bad, but compared to Live at Fairfield Halls, 1974
, it's deficiencies become much clearer, especially given an almost identical set list. Live at Fairfield Halls, 1974
is, quite simply, a much more energetic performance from the band, recorded just a few months after Caravan & The New Symphonia
was released in April, 1974. Unfortunately, other than a brief, France-only release as The Best of Caravan Live
in 1980, this crackling performance only saw widespread release as Live at Fairfield Halls, 1974
in 2002. Still, chronologically, it fits after Caravan & The New Symphonia
, and even the pieces originally written for orchestra ("Virgin on the Ridiculous" and "A Hunting We Shall Go") work much better without.
By this time, Perry had left the band, and was replaced by Mike Wedgewood (Curved Air, Kiki Dee), who had actually guested with the band on percussion in concert, before the departing bassist was actually gone. It's not likely that Live at Fairfield Halls, 1974
is better because of Wedgewood replacing Perry, more likely a possible case of nerves at the New Symphonia
show, given how little rehearsal was possible with the orchestra. This is, of course, just conjecture, but when doing a direct comparison, even of the short Caravan-only intro set to Caravan & The New Symphonia
, which consisted of "Memory Lain, Hugh > Headloss," "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again" and "Hoedown," the Fairfield Halls show is simply a more exhilarating experience.
Another live show from just two months after Live at Fairfield Halls, 1974
, and which was released as A Hunting We Shall Go
, is a short but excellent example of the new Caravan lineup at its prime. Two long medleys ("A Hunting We Shall Go" and "For Richard") are rounded out by a rousing take on "Hoedown." It may only run 33 minutes, but it's a terrific way to contrast two shows from the same band around the same time.
One problem that was emerging with Caravan as live act, however, was that, as superb as the band was musically, there wasn't a whole lot to watch. Barring, perhaps, Coughlin's energetic physicality, the rest of the band pretty much stood and played. No guitar histrionics, no grand gestures, nothing. And if this hadn't impacted the band's success as a live act to date, it was another story entirely when the band was finally on the cusp of its first North American tour. Fortunately, Richardson was an increasingly more visual player, as can be seen in the Bataclan performance on Who Do You Think We Are?
's DVD, and that's on a relatively small stage and it was early days. Later, he'd become more visual still, and largely assumed the role of band spokesperson onstage. Even in his early days, however, Richardson was the only member of Caravan that didn't look like he'd walked onstage in his street clothes.
One of the more positive aspects of Caravan that's particularly clear amongst these live recordings but, truly, can be heard across the studio albums as well, is its attention to dynamics and detail. While the band could deliver some high volume joyous noise, its control over dynamics are such that it might have been necessary, at times, for the audience to lean forward in its seats to hear the band. One good example of Caravan's terrific collective control over dynamics is during the quieter passages of "Memory Lain, Hugh," While not absolutely uncommon, amongst rock bands it remains a quality of which many lose sight with the excitement of a live performance.
With David Hitchcock introducing the band to Miles Copeland, brother of future Police drummer Stewart and a manager who'd already garnered some success with his BTM agency, the lure of touring America was too great. Consequently, the band signed with Copeland, leaving former manager Terry King in the lurch. King's contributions to Who Do You Think We Are?
's liners are worth reading on the subject, specifically:
"From my point of view, this was all such a great pity, because a lot of work had gone into taking Caravan to where they were, and things were clearly moving in the right direction. I felt the band were in a decent position. But they thought the grass was greener on the other side, and I have to say that I don't blame them. You cannot fault anyone for falling to the allure of America. We did part on amicable terms, there was no big row or anything like that, and I still retained their publishing contract. So, I had that ongoing connection to them, even though I was no longer their manager."
All Aboard: 1974-1984
The grass might well appear greener, but sometimes it just doesn't turn out to be the case. By September, 1974, Caravan was in America, sharing stages with everyone from Weather Report
and Fairport Convention to the Climax Blues Band. Before leaving for North America, however, the band began work on its next album, Cunning Stunts
, another play on words. Only one track ended up being used (the straight ahead rocker "Stuck in a Hole"), while two other songs were saved for later recordings (Better By Far
's "Behind You" and The Album
's "Piano Player").
An unexpected impounding of the band's gear upon its return to the U.K. slowed Caravan down, but it did give Sinclair, a serious-minded musician who, according to Hitchcock, thought the band should only be playing his music, the chance to do more writing. And so, by the time the album was completed in May 1976, Sinclair would end up contributing two songs to Cunning Stunts
, including one very long piece.
"The Show of Our Lives" is a solidly anthemic album opener that, in its total adherence to verse-chorus format, signalled a change for a band that continued to aspire to greater success. It's also notable for Richardson, who expands his palette on this album to include flute, and electric and acoustic guitars, even taking the opening song's guitar solo rather than Hastings. It was a surprising development, but watching the 1981 French TV performance of "Heartbreaker on DVD, from 1980's The Album
, and despite being clearly lip-synced, it's clear that now having the possibility of two simultaneous guitars was a good thing for Caravan.
Sinclair also contributes what would become Caravan's (more or less) last long-form collection of stitched-together songs, "The Dabsong Conshirto," the album's penultimate track and lasting a full 18 minutes. A six-song suite, "The Dabsong Conshirto"was co-written with John Murphy, and brought together pun-filled titles like "Wraiks and Ladders" with sheer absurdity such as the closing "All Sorts of Unmentionable Things," it differs from Sinclair songs on earlier albums in that many of the songs in the medley also include lyrics.
"The Dabsong Conshirto" demonstrates, however, a significant shift for Caravan, even in its lengthier excursions. Gone are the complex constructs and irregular meters, largest replaced by connected pop songs, though there are plenty of solo passages, including Richardson's viola spot during the rockier "Pro's and Con's." Sinclair's organ dominates the instrumental "Wraiks and Ladders" before the band turns to a more swinging pulse on "Sneaking Out the Bare Quare." In addition to guest flautist Jimmy Hastings adding a memorable melody, it's the one point on Cunning Stunts
that harkens back, stylistically, to the more Canterburyesque Caravan of old. Following an electric piano solo, Richardson takes another surprisingly solid guitar solo (who knew?), before Sinclair takes over for a Mini Moog synth feature. The suite ends with "All Sorts of Unmentionable Things," taking "The Dabsong Conshirto" to a more fiery close, bolstered by Hastings' wah wah-driven riff, and filled with all kinds of odd sounds, sung and spoken snippets and more harkening back to Caravan's early psychedelic days, as it concludes with a reprise of the theme from "The Show of Our Lives."
It may have signalled some stylistic shifts for Caravan, but "The Dabsong Conshirto" also proves to be, during the December 5, 1975 Nottingham Polytechnic show included in the box, a potent live piece that, sadly, appears nowhere else in the live sets.
Hastings only contributes two songs to Cunning Stunts
, with the string-driven, acoustic guitar-laden ballad, "No Backstage Pass," augmenting the rockier "Stuck in a Hole." Wedgwood contributes two songs as well, including the balladic "Lover" and surprisingly funky, blues-driven "Welcome the Day," both featuring the bassist on lead vocals. Hastings and Wedgewood's harmony vocals work particularly well (and better than those from Perry on For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
and New Symphonia
Richardson even contributes the closing "The Fear and Loathing in Tollington Park," an acoustic guitar-driven instrumental miniature that ultimately brings back Jimmy Hastings' flute and some solid string work before it ends, after just 71 seconds.
Hastings' "Keeping Back My Love," the album's sole bonus track, is another rocker, and another sign of Hastings' idea as to where he believed Caravan should go, even as it distinguishes itself with a fine viola solo. Still, between the instrumentation and underlying sense of lyricism, Cunning Stunts
begins to represent a less progressive-leaning Caravan. But it was still unmistakably Caravan
And this was to represent where Caravan was to go over the next several years, though there were changes aplenty in store.
First up, following a few U.K. dates, Dave Sinclair once again departed, this time to form a band, Sinclair and the South (no doubt, a pun on Hatfield and the North), also including cousin Richard and John Murphy. It was short lived, but Caravan quickly found another keyboardist, Jan Schelhaas, who would become the band's primary keyboardist from this point on, barring occasional times when Dave Sinclair would rejoin the group. Schelhaas had already made a name for himself with bands including National Head Band, Gary Moore Band and, most notably, Thin Lizzy, with whom he'd continue to work and record until its renowned leader, Phil Lynott, tragically passed away, age 36, from pneumonia and heart failure due to septicaemia.
Schelhaas was an ideal replacement for Sinclair, as capable of evoking the earlier Caravan keyboardist's sounds as he was injecting his own personality and sonics. Joining the band right around the release of Cunning Stunts
, it's somewhat ironic that, when it came to performing music from that album live, including "The Dabsong Conshirto" and "The Show of Our Lives," it was Schelhaas who was performing them and not Sinclair. Based on the entire Nottingham Polytechnic show from 1975, however, it seemed that Caravan had truly landed on its feet. Cunning Stunts
may signal, for longtime fans, the beginning of the band's decline, at least when it came to studio recordings, but it turned out to be the band's first charting album, reaching #50 in the U.K. Top 75 chart (albeit for just one week), and a modestly respectable 124 in the USA.
Following a summer '75 festival tour as part of Miles Copeland's BTM roster, another North American tour with Frank Zappa and a fall tour of the U.K., the band headed into the studio for its next studio album, Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
. If the album's "shorter, sharper" songs were a departure from Caravan of old, there were still pastoral elements, especially courtesy of Richardson's surprisingly lovely flute work and Schelhaas' piano on the instrumental "Bobbing Wide." The group may have appeared to have deserted stitched together medleys, but the sequence beginning with the upbeat "Very Smelly Little Oik," moving to "Bobbing Wide," turning to the bossa-driven "Come on Back," and the near-gospel "Oik (reprise)," with its many vocal layers, still represents a continuous 13-minute suite of music.
Hastings wrote all the songs with the exception of Wedgewood's episodic "Chiefs and Indians," which, with its particular vocal harmonies and the bassist's lead vocals, began to resemble 10cc, albeit only slightly and in a less overtly experimental fashion. With the synth arpeggios at the start of "Here I Am," it's a perfect album opener, while the undeniably funky "Jack and Jill," the more energetic "Can You Hear Me?" and the eight-minute ballad, "All the Way," close Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
in a most appealing fashion. Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
may be the album where, with more focused writing and despite being loaded with plenty of solos, largely consisted of much shorter tracks. As a result, Caravan began to lose some of its progressive-leaning fans, and that's a shame. The benefit of time and distance now reveals it to be a different album, indeed, from what came before, but it's a strong one nevertheless. And it charted almost as highly as Cunning Stunts
, at #53 in the U.K. charts, despite also dropping off the Top 75 after just one week.
With another planned North American tour first postponed and then cancelled, and with Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
released on April 23, 1976, the band hit the road for more European dates. But before the band crossed the English Channel, a brief series of U.K. dates took place in the month following the album's release. The band's May 4 gig at London's New Victoria Theatre was recorded, though it would not see release until 1999 as Surprise Supplies
. A slightly muddy recording but eminently listenable, it's notable as a document of the band playing the first six of Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
' nine tracks, and in the same sequence, followed by what had already become a perennial set-closer, "For Richard."
Beyond its average sonics, Surprise Supplies
represents a reasonably energetic performance, though it suffers significantly from the absence of the multiple layered vocals on "Chiefs and Indians." Still, this recording means that there are representative live shows from 1972 through 1976 included in Who Do You Think We Are?
It was also the second and last recording to feature Wedgewood, who announced his departure for America, just before the end of 1976. His replacement? Dek Messecar, Canadian born but raised in the USA and whose first major gig was two years spent with British violinist Daryl Way's band, Wolf, from 1972-1974. He was recommended by former Wolf John Etheridge
, who was, by this time, the guitarist for a now more fusion-heavy Soft Machine. Caravan wasn't the only band to make many changes over the course its first decade. Both Soft Machine and Caravan were still considered Canterbury bands despite there being no Canterbury musicians left in Soft Machine with the exception of Mike Ratledge (who was soon to leave the group), while only Hastings and Coughlin remained to connect Caravan directly to the small British town.
By this time, punk rock was looming large in the U.K. (and, quickly, elsewhere as well) and, while there are plenty of arguments against the myth that this anti-music music represented the death knell for progressive-leaning bands, there's no doubt it had an impact. And so, when Caravan entered the studio in February, 1977, it's clear that change was in the air. Not that it ever dispensed with the fine musicianship that was anathema to punk, but if the writing on Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
was shorter and sharper, the band took things a step further for that year's Better By Far
, the band's first album for a new label, Arista.
Better than who? Was this a response to the anti-musical mastery that defined much of punk rock? Perhaps, but that's mere speculation. The truth about Better By Far
's title, however, was much simpler. Eschewing its usual puns and double entendres, the album was simply named, as so many groups do, after a song on the album.
It's certainly true that a band which featured viola, flute and mandolin ... even sitar on one track, courtesy of Richardson ... in addition to multiple keyboards, was hardly a band lacking in musical expertise. Still, with Hastings contributing six tracks to Richardson's two and Schelhaas' one, Better By Far
largely dispensed with lengthy excursions, with the guitarist's lyrical album closing "Nightmare" serving as Better By Far
's longest track at a little over six minutes. Three of its nine tracks didn't even crack the four-minute mark, and only two broke five.
Even if Better By Far
was Caravan's most pop-leaning album, there were still trace elements of the band's Canterbury roots and enough room left for soloing from Hastings, Richardson and Schelhaas to allow it to retain some of its progressive cred. Hastings' mid-tempo rocker, "Behind You," not only featured an impressive synth solo, it also included some sweet twin-guitar lines à la Wishbone Ash, as Schelhaas' solo made its inevitable way back to the song's verse-chorus form. Hastings' brighter "Feelin' Alright" opens the album on a bright, buoyant note, though even its relatively straightforward pop changes included a primary theme played on synth. Better By Far
is also notable as Caravan's first album since In the Land of Grey and Pink
not to be produced by David Hitchcock. Instead, at Miles Copeland's encouragement, the band looked to Thin Lizzy, David Bowie
and T. Rex producer, Tony Visconti, who also engineered the album and contributes recorders to Richardson's "The Last Unicorn," an appealing instrumental, largely driven by Coughlin's military style snare work but opening up to a more propulsive groove for Schelhaas and Hastings' extended solos. Visconti also contributes double bass to Schelaas' "Man in a Car," a surprising track for the time, given its alternating bars of 3/4 and 4/4.
If Better By Far
represents an even more pop-centric Caravan, with just traces of its progressive past, it's still largely a fine album. It also represents considerable growth for Hastings as a guitarist, most notably in his tone during solos, which is thicker and sweeter, especially during his solo in the two-chord coda to "Nightmare." The changes, Hastings' solo and the overall vibe foreshadow the final minutes of Dire Straits
' "Why Worry," released eight years later on its commercial mega hit, Brothers in Arms
(Vertigo, 1985) but, coincidentally, by a band just coming together the same year as Caravan released Better By Far
Three years would pass before Caravan released its next studio album, simply titled The Album
, but plenty had happened in the ensuing years between it, and not all of it good. With Better By Far
returning the band to its earlier non-charting status, Caravan spent the final months of 1977 on the road in the U.K. and Europe. Following 10 shows in Germany and Holland in February 1978, Messecar announced he was leaving the band. The following month saw Richard Sinclair back in place for a series of sessions that resulted in a whopping 19 songs, seven of which only saw the light of day in 1994 as part of Cool Water
's 11 tracks when they were rescued by Rob Ayling of Voiceprint Records.
And it's a shame. While still most decidedly pop-informed, its songs (all written by Hastings) have plenty of appeal. The opening title track is a lovely ballad, with a soulful organ solo from Schelhaas. "Just the Way You Are" is a more propulsive piece of pop with a short but sweet synth solo, while "Tuesday is Rock and Roll Nite" couldn't have a more appropriate title. It may be a simple rock tune, but Hastings' alto voice lifts it just a little above standard rock 'n' roll fare, though it does remain a misstep, even for a band with more commercial aspirations. Elsewhere, "Side by Side" is another wonderfully lyrical ballad, with an eminently catchy chorus.
With Richardson strangely absent throughout the album, Cool Water
's first seven tracks largely rely on Schelhaas when it comes to solos and, on tracks like the waltz-time ballad "The Crack of the Willow," the keyboardist delivering its introductory theme. With an entirely different lineup, a short-lived version of Caravan that took place many years later ultimately went nowhere. And so, Cool Water
's final four tracks demonstrate a certain inconsistent and incongruity when compared to its opening seven songs. With Jimmy Hastings contributing some compelling saxophone work, Pye was joined by keyboardist Rod Edwards (incorrectly cited as "Bob" and who'd played with Renaissance and Gordon Giltrap), bassist John Gustafson (Quatermass, Shawn Phillips, Roxy Music) and drummer Ian Moseley (Marillion, Gordon Giltrap, Daryl Way's Wolf). Like the earlier songs on Cool Water
, they're a mixed bag, with three of the songs decent enough, albeit largely less than memorable. And the rock 'n' roll of "Poor Molly" may feature some fine guitar work, but that is the only thing to recommend a song that's as much a misstep as "Tuesday is Rock and Roll Nite."
Overall, Cool Water
has enough good pop material to recommend it, but there are definitely a couple of tracks that make the skip button a good thingy to have.
With respect to Caravan's increasing move towards more pop-infused music with just trace elements of the progressive music that defined its earlier days, Who Do You Think We Are?
's liners suggest that, for reasons unknown, this directional shift seemed to work out very well for bands like Yes and Genesis in the latter part of the '70s, but not for Caravan. Why is this? Likely a multitude of factors came together to make life difficult for the band. Label, management and VAT issues certainly contributed, as did the fact that, barring Richardson, Caravan was simply not an exciting live band to watch (even if it was plenty thrilling musically), whereas bands like Yes and Genesis increasingly augmented their shows with vivid (in some cases groundbreaking) lighting and, sometimes, visually arresting staging. Also, had Caravan had even one million seller like Yes and Genesis did during their more overtly progressive years, there'd have been enough momentum to see the band through the inevitable changes of the mid-to-late '70s.
But, sadly, it was not to be.
With both Arista and Copeland dropping the band (BTM clearly shifting and aligning itself with punk and the emerging new wave movements), there was simply no place to release the songs. Worse still, the band found itself owing a significant amount of VAT (Value Added Tax) to the British government, though Terry King helped the band get through it. According to King, from the liners:
"Pye called me and said the band were in a terrible mess over VAT. Basically nothing had been paid! Pye asked me if I could help them out. For old time's sake, I agreed to get involved and sort this all out for them. I did manage to straighten out this financial problem. It was tricky because they owed quite a lot of money. BTM were supposed to pay everything but hadn't done so."
The band's renewed connection also led to an initially more positive outcome, as King continues:
"Pye said that he wanted to get back to working with me. I wasn't sure quite what my feelings were, Pye is a lovely man. I like him a lot, and really when you think about it-he IS Caravan. Since I'd parted with them, the band had changed somewhat with different musicians onboard. They were looking for a new record deal as well. I said that I would finance an album or two and release them through my own label, Kingdom Records, I'd also get the band some gigs and see where that takes it all. So we reactivated their fortunes in Europe and places like France where they were still a strong draw. This went on for a couple of years, but we reached a situation where I felt it couldn't be taken any further. I believed the BTM period had cost Caravan a lot of momentum. The band's fans are remarkably loyal and have stayed with them for life. But while they were packing out venues, it was with the same old faces. What they were not doing was attracting new, younger fans. It was the same people who had been following them since I first got involved, and when that happens you almost feel like the band are stagnating. You must be able to attract fresh fans.
"Pye then decided to take some time out. People say the bad split up, but that wasn't the case at all . They didn't do much for a few years in the latter part of the 1980s. But as long as Pye is there, then you have Caravan. He just needs to call up people to team up with him, and you have Caravan. Simple as that. It is all about what Pye wants to do."
It took a couple of years for Hastings to get the urge to reconvene Caravan, and during that time he took on work as a builder's labourer. As he recalls, in the liners:
"They gave me a hammer and a chisel and set me off to chip away at a wall. Every time that hammer struck the chisel, I thought of a manager, a label executive, anybody I could exact revenge upon! All my angst was taken out on those walls, and because of this release, my head cleared . I was once again ready to reactivate the band."
And so, Caravan returned to active duty in October 1979, with a lineup that included the Sinclair cousins, Coughlin and Richardson and plans for a new live album to be recorded at the end of a British tour at London's Rainbow Theatre. With Richard Sinclair unavailable due to a prior commitment, however, Hastings re-enlisted Messecar. The live album was canned when Hastings learned he could record in the studio for the same cost, and so, The Album
was recorded in July 1980 and released on the last day of October that year, on Terry King's Kingdom imprint.
The album represented an egalitarian approach when it came to material. From the aborted 1978 sessions, Hastings brought the shuffle-driven album opener, "Heartbreaker," back along with the anthemic ballad, "Bright Shiny Day," which features lovely solos from Richardson (on flute) and, in its intro, some equally appealing guitar work from Hastings. Sinclair"s "Piano Player," written years earlier with John Murphy, finally found a place as well. An episodic piece despite its relative brevity at just over five minutes, it's one of the keyboardist's most beautiful tunes, with a slowly building viola solo that's one of Richardson's most evocative.
It was around this time that reggae was dominant, thanks to the superstardom of Bob Marley, and it can be the only reason to explain why so many bands felt the need to include at least one reggae-informed song on their albums. And so, Richardson contributes "Clear Blue Sky," and if Caravan isn't a particularly special band when it comes to reggae, it manages quite well for this one song, also sung by Richardson and with tinges of dub injected at various points.
Richardson's "Corner of Me Eye," also sung by the multi-instrumentalist, is a relatively dispensable piece of pop lite, however, that doesn't seem to know exactly what it wants to be, with some of Caravan's most forgettable lyrics:
Oh, we was dancing!
Oh, was romancing!
Oh, we was dancing!
Oh, couldn't chance it.
Sinclair's "Watcha Gonna Tell Me" fares considerably better, possessing elements of the Canterbury DNA despite its simpler form, thanks to some fine flute work from Richardson and, at the end of the song, a relatively lengthy trade-off between Hastings and Sinclair (on synth). "Golden Mile," on the other hand, is thankfully just over three minutes as its disco-infused rhythm simply doesn't deserve a place on any Caravan record. It wasn't the first time the band had ever played a song not written by a band member, with Mike Ratledge's "Backwards" owning that title, but it was
the first time Caravan drew upon an "outsider" for a new song. Written by Jim Atkinson, with whom Richardson had been playing in a band called The Purple Hipsters between 1979 and 1981, it was a complete and utter mistake, plain and simple.
This was especially true when listening to The Album
's sole bonus track. Hastings' "It's Never Too Late" is a bright, bouncy tune that would have made a far better choice for The Album
. It may have been a long way from Caravan of old, but it's still Caravan, with a punchy midsection solo from Hastings, who was continuing to improve as a soloist from one album to the next.
While some of the band's core constituents bemoan the changes Caravan underwent beginning with Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
and explored further through Cool Water
and The Album
, one thing can be said about the band: it strove to remain relevant for its times, and largely succeeded. Even when Hastings managed to bring together the original lineup, with the Sinclair Cousins and Coughlin, the resultant album, Back to Front
was hardly a return to Caravan of old.
That said, Back to Front
, recorded between November 1981 and January 1982, and released in July 1982, did bring back a good deal of what made Caravan so special in its first eight years, but especially during its first four.
"Back to Hearne Bay Front" opens the album, a memorable, slightly bossa-driven song written and sung by Richard Sinclair. Just the return of his rich tenor would be enough to send some shivers down a committed Caravan fan's spine, but its whimsical lyrics are also a welcome return to form, with the bassist's characteristic sourcing from mere slices of life:
Down here on Herne Bay Front, the weather's not too good
There's not a lot of crumpet, and the fish and chips are greasy
My mates and I are working days and sometimes nights
Sixteen-track recording, though our tiny hands are frozen
Down here on Herne Bay front, the summer season's gone
But the 'Bingo' is still open, and there's always roller-skating
But if you feel weak, a drive down to the 'Dolphin' for a wee drink
A touch of old 'Peculiar' helps me think.
Even Sinclair's lithe fretless bass playing is enough to make much of Back to Front
a memorable listen, but Dave Sinclair's reverb-drenched electric piano solo and subsequent, supple synth solo make it all the more so. There's no doubt that Schelhaas had been, and would continue to be, in future lineups, a fine addition to Caravan, and one who managed to retain the band's Canterbury roots while helping the band move forward still. But there's something about Sinclair's keyboard work that is immediately transportive.
That said, Back to Front
remains inconsistent. Hastings' medley (another return), "Bet You Wanna Take It All > Hold On" opens with another forgettable rock 'n' roll song, but its second half turns to half time and a more appealing, anthemic tune that, with Jimmy Hastings absent, featured the great Mel Collins
, Alexis Korner
, Camel) on saxophones.
Richard Sinclair's other contribution, "A. A. Man" is another of Back to Front
's stronger tracks. While still firmly entrenched in pop, its shifting meters and more complex harmonic structures harken back to Caravan's best days. The bassist also sings Dave Sinclair and John Murphy's "Videos of Hollywood." Again a pop tune, but one with plenty of things going on under the covers and featuring a mid-song trade-off between Sinclair's sinewy synth and Collins' more muscular tenor saxophone.
David Sinclair's "Sally Don't Change It" is also sung by his cousin, an anthemic ballad underscored by the keyboardist's layers of acoustic and electric piano, and certainly possessing the same commercial appeal as much of what Genesis was doing at the time. And yet, it, along with the album, the song remains sadly forgotten, even if it was the beginning (if based on Progarchives' ratings) of a return to more fan-attractive Caravan albums. Back to Front
remains an oddity in the Caravan catalogue in that Richard Sinclair sings all but three of its eight songs, the bassist even singing Hastings' "All Aboard," another superb ballad from the guitarist. With Hastings only contributing two songs, Back to Front
is really the Sinclair cousins' record, and they certainly dominate it, but in a good way. Still, released in 1982 on Kingdom Records, it's surprising that the weakest material on the album comes from Hastings' pen, including his only other contribution, "Take My Breath Away," even if its episodic nature and good use of both vocalists lift it above "Bet You Wanna Take It All > Hold On."
Sadly, the original lineup reunion didn't last long, with Dave Sinclair leaving soon after its release. While he reflects only fond memories of the reunion, as ever, money was the problem. The keyboardist would open a piano shop and, for the next quarter century, largely make his living restoring and selling pianos. He may not have been visible during the '80s, following the Caravan reunion, but Sinclair would begin to release solo albums in the '90s, beginning with Moon Over Man
, which was recorded in the '70s it remained unissued until Voiceprint rescued it in 1993.
Caravan hadn't gigged since 1980, but were invited to play at a 25th anniversary gig at London's renowned Marquee Club on July 29, 1983. The good news is that an audience recording of the show, but exceptionally well restored for Who Do You Think We Are?
, finds the band in fine form, with a lineup featuring Hastings, Richardson, Coughlin, Richard Sinclair and Jan Schelhaas enthusiastically received by the audience. The 105-minute show is also the first to really signal current lineups beginning to mine music from across its 25-year existence.
With Schelhaas more than capable of bringing his own personality to songs originally recorded with Dave Sinclair, the band runs through everything from older material like "Golf Girl," "In the Land of Grey and Pink" and a particularly strong version of "Nine Feet Underground," where Schelhaas shares thematic duty with Richardson. In addition to "Memory Lain, Hugh" and "Headloss," the band reprises much of the "A Hunting We Shall Go" medley, a vibrant "Hoedown" and, of course, a fine version of "For Richard."
But the band doesn't ignore its more recent work either, including songs from Better By Far
and The Album
. The good news is the songs chosen are amongst the better ones and, performed live, take on a much greater life of their own.
But by October 1984, Caravan had played its last gig of the '80s, and went dormant for the rest of the decade.
All This Could Be Yours: 1990-2017
Having been MIA for six years, an unexpected occurrence in 1990 began Caravan's slow return to activity. Ralph Cross, the head teacher at Old Buckenham Primary School in Norfolk, a longtime Caravan fan, was turning 40 in May 1990. A colleague, looking to do something special for his friend, found Richard Coughlin's phone number and called, asking if Caravan might consider playing a gig at the school. Coughlin passed him on to Richard Sinclair. The bassist/vocalist may not have gotten Caravan to come to Old Buckenham, but on Cross' 40th birthday, the head teacher went to the school auditorium to find Sinclair, who had rehearsed a couple of tunes with the children, singing for Cross.
Afterwards, Sinclair mentioned that the band was rehearsing again for a television appearance, and Cross pressed him about playing at the school. With the rest of the band agreeing, the gig took place on September 28, 1990, was recorded, and the full 90-minute show is included in the Who Do You Think We Are?
Reuniting the original lineup plus Jimmy Hastings, the group makes its way through what sounds like a very good soundboard recording, spanning its full career but with particular emphasis on its first three albums, from Caravan
's "A Place of My Own" and If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
's "For Richard" to almost all of In the Land of Grey and Pink
, barring only "Love to Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)." For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
's "Headloss" was also included, along with more (relatively) recent fare, including Better By Far
's set-opening "Behind You," and "Nightmare," along with Back to Front
's "Videos of Hollywood."
The closest thing to hearing the original lineup touring In the Land of Grey and Pink
, Caravan may have been MIA for more than half a decade, but the years quickly fell away and the band sounded as fresh and innovative as it did back in the day,
This could have represented a reinvigorated reunion of Caravan's original lineup, but it wasn't to be, though it did signal Caravan's gradual return to playing ... and recording. With Cool Water
finally released in 1994, following some additional work partly helmed by Hastings' son Julian, a new Caravan lineup convened, with Hastings joined by his brother alongside Coughlin, Dave Sinclair and new bassist/vocalist Jim Leverton. This new edition of Caravan entered the studio in April, 1995 and, by September the same year, The Battle of Hastings
Hastings contributed all but one of its 11 tunes, with Sinclair penning "Travelling Ways" the only song not sung by Hastings (Leverton assumed lead vocalist duty). Again, Hastings was in pursuit of shorter, punchier songs, though with the advent of compact discs ( Cool Water
being the band's first CD-only release), the album was able to extend beyond 52 minutes. Still, most songs remained in the two to five minute range, with only two extending a little beyond six. Still, as pop-leaning as The Battle of Hastings
is, it's a step in the right direction for Caravan. By no means a return to its former glory days, it's still an album with plenty to recommend.
There were traces of the more pastoral Caravan on songs like "I Know Why You're Laughing," which opens with a blend of atmospheric, reverb-soaked acoustic and electric guitars, only to turn more energetic when the full band enters, with a memorable chorus and a strong synth solo from Sinclair as the song nears its conclusion.
So named for the inevitable disagreements that occasionally arose between Hastings and his son Julian, who engineered and produced the album, The Battle of Hastings
represents some of Hastings' most consistent writing in years, with not a weak track to be found. As the elder Hastings recounts in the liners:
"It was taken from the fact that you had this father and son combination in the studio, and sometimes we would argue about different approaches to a song. It shouldn't be taken seriously, though. For the most part we got on well."
Those looking for a Caravan of old will have to go back to the band's early recordings, but The Battle of Hastings
remains a complete success for a band aiming to rein in its more extended progressive tendencies in favour of catchier, shorter songs. "Cold As Ice" is a compelling, largely anthemic Hastings ballad, with plenty of atmosphere courtesy of Sinclair and the kind of chord changes and melody that couldn't have done from anyone else's pen. "Liar" is a more up-tempo tune that nevertheless retains Hastings' innate sense of lyricism and, running just over six minutes, possesses a memorable chorus and, barring some wailing eclectic guitar over the closing chorus, no real soloing to speak of. "Don't Want Love," another ballad that, at nearly seven minutes, is The Battle of Hastings
' longest track, features a relatively brief but perfect piano solo from Sinclair, while Jimmy Hastings contributes a soft flute solo later in the tune, which helps connect it to Caravan's Canterbury roots.
The band may have been aiming for more concise, pop-informed and, yes, radio-friendly material, and it may have deserted more extended instrumental workouts, but of any of the bands considered to be part of the Canterbury scene, The Battle of Hastings
, released on September 28, 1995, makes clear that Caravan has never truly deserted its roots. It may have made the occasional misstep or three, but even its most inconsistent albums were unmistakably Caravan. And live? The band's touchstones couldn't be more clear.
Canterbury followed up The Battle of Hastings
with the first of two albums that shed new light on its earliest material. With recording beginning the same year that The Battle of Hastings
was released and completed early the following year, All Over You
was also produced by Julian Hastings,
Overall, All Over You
adopts a more acoustic approach to much of the band's legacy material. With the Hastings brothers joined by Richardson, Dave Sinclair and Richardson, All Over You
's re-imagines music from the band's first five studio releases, including Caravan
("A Place of My Own"), If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
(the title track, the rarely played "Asforteri 25" and "Hello Hello," along with "For Richard" ), In the Land of Grey and Pink
("Golf Girl," the title track, and "Disassociation," from "Nine Feet Underground"), Waterloo Lily
("The Love in Your Eye" and "To Catch Me a Brother") and, representing the album's only significantly electric tracks, "Memory Lain, Hugh" and "Headloss," from For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
, both seemingly recorded live at an undisclosed date and location.
Recorded between November 1995 and February 1996, All Over You
's acoustic tracks are eminently appealing alternatives to the more electrified originals. Whether they're just as good is up to the ear of the beholder, but there's little doubt that Hastings' acoustic guitar melds particularly well with his brother's flute work, always lyrical but in a most personal fashion. Hasting's flute playing is particularly strong on "The Love in Your Eye," where his brother's acoustic guitar replaces the orchestral parts most effectively. "In the Land of Grey and Pink" is equally effective for Richardson's uncredited contributions on mandolin, while "In the Land of Grey and Pink" becomes a much slower-tempo'd ballad, with just a tambourine to hold the pulse. Clips from the original, voices and more create a brief mid-song piece of Musique Concrète," before the Hastings brothers return with the initial theme delivered on flute, and supported by just acoustic guitar, tambourine and bass drum.
Richardson's layered violas introduce "Disassociation," from "Nine Feet Underground," most effectively, and while Richard Sinclair's voice might have been missed, Hastings' delivery suggests that it could have gone either way, vocally, with the original studio recording. Barring the closing "Memory Lain, Hugh" and "Headloss," the latter played with an altered rhythmic approach to Hastings' signature electric guitar chords, the only other place where electric guitar dominates is during "For Richard," where Hastings supports Sinclair's synth solo.
Released in May, 1996, All Over You
is an impressive reworking of some of its most beloved early songs. It isn't the first time an artist or group has gone back to its early material, but it's certainly one of the more successful do-overs. Following The Battle of Hastings
, All Over You
was Caravan's second release for Barry Riddington's HTD imprint. It may not replace the originals, but it's a fine suggestion of what might have been, had Caravan been a different band with a different approach..
A 1997 live recording, Canterbury Comes to London: Live From The Astoria
, recorded on September 19, renders clear that Caravan was still an exhilarating live experience. Featuring the core quintet from The Battle of Hastings
but with Jimmy Hastings absent, Caravan took another step forward by recruiting former Robert Plant guitarist Doug Boyle, in addition to bolstering Coughlin's kit work with the addition of percussionist Simon Bentall, who would continue to gig with Caravan through to the cusp of the new millennium. Boyle would remain a member of the band, both live and in the studio, through to the group's 2003 studio album, The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
The addition of Boyle, in particular, gave Caravan a harder rock edge, even as its 1997 live performance at London's The Astoria also makes clear that the band was still connected to its earliest roots. The set list is drawn from If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
("For Richard"), In the Land of Grey and Pink
("Nine Feet Underground" and "Golf Girl") and For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
("Memory Lain, Hugh, "Headloss" and "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again"), but the band also plays four tracks from The Battle of Hastings
("Cold as Ice," "Somewhere in Your Heart," "I Know Why You're Laughing" and "Liar").
With Bentall, but especially Boyle, augmenting Caravan regulars Hastings, Richardson, Sinclair, Leverton and Coughlin, Canterbury Comes to London
is a particularly strong live set, in particular because Boyle is, quite simply, a far more visceral and virtuosic lead guitarist than Hastings. Perhaps the only weak spots in the set are "Disassociation" from "Nine Feet Underground," and "Golf Girl," which are sung by Leverton. Not that he's a bad singer, but based on Hastings' vocals for the same tunes on All Over You
, both would have been far better had the guitarist sung them.
With ongoing personnel changes, Caravan continued to gig sporadically throughout 1998 and 1999, returning to the studio with Julian Hastings producing and behind the board, in June and July 1999 to record All Over You...Too
, the band's final album for HTD. Released in June the following year, All Over You...Too
was considerably more electric than its predecessor, re-imagining material drawn from Caravan
("Ride"), For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
("Hoedown," "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again" and "C'thlu Thlu"), Cunning Stunts
("Stuck in a Hole"), Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
("A Very Smelly, Grubby Oik," "Bobbing Wide," Bobbing Wide-Reprise"), and Better By Far
While more electric than All Over You
, All Over You...Too
nevertheless has its share of acoustic guitar-driven songs, specifically a particularly compelling version of "The Dog, The Dog, He's At it Again," which nevertheless turns full-on electric for a stunning solo from Boyle. The Indian-informed "Ride," by this point a very deep cut from the band's first album, benefits from Richardson's microtonal playing on viola. Even if it begins in acoustic territory, it turns electric for its middle section, where Richardson takes another, more powerful solo, this time on electric viola. Boyle, too, is afforded a lengthy solo opportunity, and his ability to fit into virtually any context, as he does throughout All Over You...Too
, adds considerable value to the group's overall sound.
The overall song structures remain relatively faithful to the original versions, but songs like "Nightmare" and "Stuck in a Hole" actually work far than the the versions on Cunning Stunts
and Better By Far
. The expanded number of musicians involved also help elevate All Over You...Too
. specifically Boyle, who is a marvel throughout, capable of maintaining interest and excitement on extended solos, like his closing feature on "Nightmare." Former Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper
also replaces Leverton on "Ride," while Hastings deps on bass for a thumping "C'thlu Thlu."
While working on All Over You...Too
, the band accepted some gigs, specifically a June 12, 1999 date at Norfolk's Diss venue. Despite marred by some tape hiss, it's another sonically solid live recording that captures this expanded Caravan lineup. The CD info is a bit confusing, however. as the credits cite Schelhaas as the keyboardist, but the short liners inside the gatefold, suggest otherwise:
..." at this point the line-up was Pye Hastings, Geoffrey Richardson, Richard Coughlin, David Sinclair, Simon Bentall and Doug Boyle..."
Additionally, when introducing the "Medley," the first disc's penultimate 13-minute collection of "Where But For Caravan Would I," "O Caroline," "The Love in Your Eye," and the closing section from the longer "A Hunting We Shall Go" that includes "Backwards" and "A Hunting We Shall Go," Hastings says:
"We'd like to do a collection of numbers now, a little medley of some ones that we did the last time we were up here and I think we've only done it once since. It's compiled by David over here, on the keyboards, and it's various selections of tracks off of various albums..."
And it's simply unmistakable that it's Dave Sinclair on keys throughout the show. Along with Doug Boyle and Simon Bentall, this septet version of Caravan was its largest to dates (barring, of course, the orchestral collaboration of Caravan & The New Symphonia
). Overall, the band is on fire, in particular Boyle, whose every solo lifts the songs to greater heights. Hastings' vocals, however, are occasionally pitchy throughout the performance, in particular on "Memory Lain, Hugh" and, even more noticeably, on the "Medley."
Special note should be made of the inclusion of "O Caroline" in "Medley." A Dave Sinclair song that originally opened Matching Mole's eponymous April 1972 CBS debut, it would be an unexpected bonus here, but the vocals sadly leave much to be desired. The choruses, in particular, where Hastings and Leverton's vocal harmonies are significantly off-key, mar what could have beenshould have beena most welcome surprise. It's possible that the pitchy vocals throughout the Diss performance could well have been due to poor onstage monitoring though, with no documentation to support it, this is mere supposition.
Still, the two-disc, 100-minute set covers a broad swatch of Caravan's music, dating as far back as If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
and as recent as The Battle of Hastings
. It's unfortunate that this expanded live Caravan was unable to stay together, as this expanded version of Caravan largely elevated both the older and more recent material, in large part due to Boyle, Richardson and Sinclair, who play with particular aplomb throughout.
Performing at the Canterbury Sound Festival in the summers of 1999 and 2000, a very special event took place the following year. After a recording session for TotalRock Radio, a British online station that began airing in 1997, gold discs were presented to both the band and the album's producer, David Hitchcock, for In the Land of Grey and Pink
, representing sales over 100,000. For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
also received a silver record for sales over 60,000. These figures were for British sales only, but they were still welcome validations, if not more than a little overdue, for a band that by all rights should have fared better than it did commercially, and for which its international sales, having not been tabulated, would likely have pushed sales of these and other Caravan albums considerably higher.
Sadly, following this important recognition for two of Caravan's most critically and commercially well received albums, there was not only change to come, but under the most unpleasant of circumstances. Following three North American dates, the band returned to the U.K. for a scheduled third appearance at the Canterbury Sound Festival, which had been renamed Canterbury Fayre, on August 23. For reasons unknown, the band was removed from the event at the last minute and, two months later, Sinclair departed the band for the last time, though it was far from the keyboardist's choice. As Sinclair recounts, in Who Do You Think We Are?
..." I feel there were many misunderstandings, particularly after the end of 2001 when my father passed away. Looking back now, it feels like an accident waiting to happen as a certain amount of things came together that seemed to unfortunately alienate me from the band. It felt like I was going through a mid-life crisis. I was keen to do new music and had been trying to persuade the band to record new albums for a very long time and nothing was happening.
..."When at long last we got the go-ahead for recording, I think Pye was very busy and was unable to participate, but he insisted, against our wishes, we start without him and wr went to record some basic tracks to some of my material. After concerts in Italy, Greece and the US in 2002, things all came to a head in London when Pye eventually joined us and Pye's son Julian was at the recording desk. There were conflicting ideas about which tracks should be worked on, with most of my tracks only half recorded, but some of Pye's more or less completed. At this point our manager Mark Powell listened to what we'd done, was not satisfied and I guess in the end I was made the scapegoat as management suggested I leave the band forthwith. I got very depressed, caught pneumonia and pleurisy over Christmas and the New Year, managed to survive and then started my new life in 2003 when I recorded mŷ album Full Circle. I paid for everything myself during those nine months in the studio, which left me completely bankrupt. Without management of agency and no money for promotion of the album, my marriage and piano business fell apart, and that's when I decided to relocate to Japan, where it seemed I had far more support for my music."
The album the band had been working on was ultimately finished and released in 2003 on Powell's Eclectic Discs imprint. Who Do You Think We Are?
includes the two-disc, limited deluxe edition of The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
, with the second CD a collection of live recordings from Tokyo and Quebec City. With Schelhaas back in the fold, two tracks from the aborted sessions with Sinclair would remain, however, including the keyboardist's balladic "Nowhere to Hide," sung by Leverton.
Again, there's something that feels a touch like Dire Straits, though Boyle's grittily overdriven guitar is nothing like Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler. Despite largely eschewing Sinclair's tendency towards episodic writing, "Nowhere to Hide" remains a relatively simple song, even at nearly nine minutes, though there are some unusual passages that elevate it beyond the norm. What gives it its length and renders it such a compelling song beyond its melodic verses and choruses, include a lengthy intro that features both Sinclair's melancholy grand piano and Richardson's lyrical viola work. Following a series of dramatically ascending chord changes mid-song, Boyle takes a particularly exceptional solo, its sweet tone and distinctive choices including broad intervallic leaps and lithe legato lines. The song's final three minutes also represent some of The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
's most compelling moments, a combination of through composition and strong soloing from both Sinclair and Boyle.
"Nowhere to Hide"is followed by The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
's closing track, Boyle's instrumental "Linders Field," which provides guest Jimmy Hastings plenty of space to play some soaring flute, in addition to a section that features some atmospheric electric piano work from Sinclair. That this would prove to be Sinclair's final recorded appearance with Caravan is all the more bittersweet for its poignant tone.
The rest of The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
's hour-long programme is penned by Hastings, and if not a return to Caravan of old, it does represent a slightly stronger leaning towards a progressive touch. That said, the opening "Smoking Gun (Right for Me)" is a piece of sheer power pop, with a potent solo from Boyle as the song ends, suggesting that the song broke down into a full-fledged jam session. "Revenge," too, is a relatively simple song, but rocks along nicely, thanks to the increasingly connected rhythm section of Leverton and Coughlin. Contributions from Boyle and Jimmy Hastings (on soprano saxophone) also help the song, as does Schelhaas' extended organ solo at the end, over the intro's rather unusual changes, his tone harkening back to Sinclair, even if it's clearly far from imitative.
Hastings' writing is as sharp and incisive as ever, and contains plenty of surprising moments, but it's The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
's closing tracks, by Sinclair and Boyle, that lean the album more towards the progressive side of the progressive/pop equation. And songs like the nine-minute "It's Getting a Whole Lot Better," with its overall atmospheric complexion, feel more like classic Caravan, albeit in an absolutely contemporary way with its tonal and textural choices. Jimmy Hastings is afforded a lengthy tenor saxophone solo, with Boyle's chordal swells providing, alongside Schelhaas, just the right timbre for the song, as it leads to an ever so slightly punchy acoustic piano feature and a more ambiguous conclusion.
While the benefit of being in the studio means being able to work the vocals until they're just right, and thus no pitch issues, despite still comfortably reaching the higher notes, Hastings' voice is beginning the deepening that often comes with age, and which requires most singers to reevaluate and adapt their vocal approach.
Overall, The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
is one of Caravan's better latter-day efforts, comparable to '70s albums like Cunning Stunts
and Blind Dog at St. Dunstans
The inclusion of the second CD from The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
's deluxe edition provides an opportunity to hear the band perform four of the studio album's songs at a 2002 Tokyo concert, four months before the album was released. This is particularly worthwhile since only "Smoking Gun (Right for Me)" would remain in the band's live set lists beyond 2003. It also demonstrates Richardson's increasing role as the band's live spokesperson, as he introduces the first song, "Smoking Gun [Right for Me)," with a little more relaxed personality than the characteristically taciturn and to-the-point Hastings.
Two of the songs are extended, with Boyle taking a more lengthy solo at the end of "Smoking Gun (Right for Me)," while the title track is taken at a marginally slower pace, with energetic solos from Schelhaas (on synth) and, especially, Boyle, who continues to prove himself such a perfect addition to the band, song after song and night after night. Hastings voice is in better shape than on the Diss, Norfolk date, though he is still having some difficulties with pitch. The mid-tempo'd "Tell Me Why" segues directly into the higher octane "Revenge,"which also includes strong solo contributions from Boyle, Schelhaas (again on synth) and a searing closing viola solo from Richardson.
The 26-minute Tokyo excerpt is fleshed out with a performance of "For Richard," from a July 2002 Quebec City collaboration with the Quebec International Festival Orchestra. It may use the same orchestral arrangement as on Caravan & The New Symphonia
, but it's a better performance overall, in part because Richardson is now being a long-standing member of the band, and playing with greater confidence. Schelhaas delivers a jazz-tinged acoustic piano solo later in the 14-minute medley of stitched-together songs, and his short electric piano feature later in the set is a set-up for Boyle, who is featured with his characteristically appealing approach and sweet tone.
While Caravan spent the next couple of years touring, another blow was to come with Richard Coughlin, whose ill health forced the band into inactivity until 2010. When a gig and recording at West London's Metropolis Studios arose in late 2010, Coughlin was too ill to play kit. The band quickly recruited drummer Mark Walker, suggested by Martin Davenport, who manages Caravan's official website. While he understood the realities and practicalities of the situation, Coughlin was nevertheless a fighter and, while he accepted that Walker had to play kit, he remained a performer with the band, but now on percussion.
The Metropolis show was ultimately released but is not included in the box, though a performance from London's Shepherd's Bush Empire on October 8, 2011 is. With Coughlin sadly absent and Boyle no longer with the band, Caravan was back to a quintet with Hastings, Richardson, Schelhaas, Leverton and Walker.
Musically it's a strong set that bristles with energy where required, and is delivered with all the dynamic subtleties, definitive of Caravan, when necessary, though it does take a little time to become accustomed to the band without Boyle. Sadly, Hastings' vocals remain problematic, especially with the upper register but, truthfully, throughout. Richardson is, in many ways, the star of the show, between his engaging between-song banter and his multi-instrumental strength on viola, flute and guitar (not to mention spoons and shears). Curiously, a cracking version of "Why Why Why? (And I Wish I Were Stoned)" fades out in the middle of a solo trade-off between violist Richardson and pianist Schelhaas.
Overall, the 90-minute set list is largely occupied by music from Caravan's heyday, with four of In the Land of Grey and Pink
's five songs, including a full-length version of "Nine Feet Underground," though that classic is marred by Hastings' pitch-challenged singing of "Love's a Friend." Leverton's singing of "Disassociation" is only marginally better when it comes to pitch, but his voice is simply not a good fit. Hastings' singing on All Over You
proves a much better alternative to the absent Richard Sinclair, though with his pitch problems in performance, who knows?
Three songs from For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
include "Memory Lain, Hugh" and "Headloss," by now longtime set staples, while Hastings' singing on "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again" is considerably better, but still starts to lose steam as the song progresses. Still, all three tracks, as with all of the Shepherd's Bush Show, find Caravan near the top of its game instrumentally. It's just a shame that the vocals cannot match the clear instrumental strength of Hastings, Richardson, Schelhaas, Leverton and Walker.
Walker, by the way, proves a fine fit for the band. A bit more "meat and potatoes" than Coughlin at times, he remains a virtuosic drummer capable of pulling plenty of tricks out of his hat when the need arises.
Along with relatively recent tracks from The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
and The Battle of Hastings
, the show includes the surprise of two new songs, including the anthemic mid-tempo rocker "Fingers in the Till" and brighter-tempo'd "I'm on My Way."
These two songs would ultimately find a home on Paradise Filter
whose recording and release in 2013 resulted from the band being on the road to celebrate the 40th anniversary of For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
The crowd-funded The Back Catalogue Songs
was released the same year as Paradise Filter
. Like the two All Over You
compilations, it found the then-current lineup reinterpreting six songs from If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
("For Richard"), In the Land of Grey and Pink
(the title track and "Nine Feet Underground") and For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
("Memory Lain," "Headloss" and "The Dog, The Dog, He'a At It Again"). The Back Catalogue Songs
is not, however, included in Who Do You Think We Are?
. Perhaps it's because the interpretations are considerably more faithful to the original studio versions, though Richardson and Schelhaas' solos are, of course, absolutely their own. Furthermore, the keyboardist is also more decidedly himself now, both harmonically and sonically, when compared to his earlier attempts to imbue the material with at least some of Dave Sinclair's approach and tone.
Which leaves Paradise Filter
as the final studio disc in the set, at least until It's None of Your Business
is released later this year. Released on December 20, 2013, the excitement of a new Caravan release was, however, deeply affected by the passing of Richard Coughlin just 19 days prior on December 1, age only 66. Paradise Filter
is as solid an album as any of Caravan's later releases, though a touch less compelling when compared to The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
. In part, it's because age has finally forced Hastings to sing in a lower register. The result is a less pitch-challenged delivery, and his voice still possesses some of its uniquely breathy quality. Still, it's simply not the same voice that has been so definitive of Caravan throughout its lengthy career. The writing is as pop-driven as anything latter day Caravan has released, though there are some particularly strong songs, with nine of Paradise Filter
's ten tracks written by Hastings, and only the closing title track, co-penned by Richardson and Schelhaas, a bit schizophrenic with its gently balladic bookending of a more propulsive middle section.
"All This Could Be Yours" is a strong opener, even with Hastings' dropped vocal range, while I'm On My Way" features a spare but lovely, clean-toned solo from the guitarist. Walker's presence is felt particularly vividly on the energetic "This Is What We Are," as is Schelhaas' pliant synth solo. "Farewell My Old Friend" is a melancholy ballad that suggests Hastings may have known that his longtime friend and musical partner Richard Coughlin was nearing the end of his life.
Fifty Years On: A Summary
With the band celebrating 50 years in 2018, Caravan hit the road for a handful of dates in the U.K. Thankfully the November 11 date at Trading Boundaries in Fletching, East Sussex. While the 110-minute, two-CD set remains largely populated by classic Caravan tunes drawn from If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
through For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night
, there are a full four tracks from Paradise Filter
as well as tracks from Better By Far
and The Unauthorised Breakfast Item
. There's even a brand new tune, "Better Days Are To Come," a slightly blues-driven song that, lyrically, seems to somehow foreshadow the current pandemic. It sports a relatively rare feature for Hastings that, gritty and overdriven, demonstrates how he remains a talented soloist
Most notably with the East Sussex show, however, is that Caravan 2018 has evolved into a considerably different beast than Caravan 1968. And not just because only one of the original members remains, with a second, in Richardson, following just five years behind the singer/guitarist.
Caravan has always aimed to remain modern, while not bowing too deeply to current fads. Instead, Caravan has, quite simply, evolved as any great band should ... as any great band must
. The group may now be forced, however, to address the inevitable impact of aging. Only Walker has yet to cross the line into his seventies, and perhaps Caravan today isn't quite as hungry as Caravan half a century ago. Still, with a new album nearing release, Hastings hasn't completely lost his urge to succeed, with the singer/guitarist/songwriter indicating, as the main liners come to a close:
"I would love to have one very successful album. If we could do that, then it might spark things off. Such an album could bring us a wave of new fans and possibly reactivate interest in our extensive back catalogue. That would be wonderful."
Wonderful it would be, indeed. And while the current landscape of the music industry certainly goes against such aspirations, hope canmustspring eternal. With anticipation for Caravan's upcoming first studio album in eight years, Who Do You Think We Are?
cannot be the absolute final
word for this seminal Canterbury group; there's simply more to be written. But with a wealth of printed material to contextualize superlative remasters of the band's commercial releases, a Blu Ray of Steven Wilson's revelatory 2011 stereo and surround sound mixes, a DVD of some choice live material from the '70s, and a series of previously unreleased live shows that help fill in gaps throughout the band's long history, it's certainly the career-spanning historical document that a band like Caravan deserves.
With superbly upgraded sound, imaginative packaging and informative and fun written/drawn content, Who Do You Think We Are?
provides the extensive, exhaustive and excellent record of one of Canterbury's last surviving bands. It's also clear evidence that Pye Hastings, as the only remaining Caravan co-founder, deserves an undeniable place (along with Coughlin and the Sinclair cousins) in any history of the British music scene, beginning in the late '60s.
If its latter day music has sometimes been dismissed by the band's longtime fans, hearing it now, in context and with the benefit of time and distance, the vast majority of Who Do You Think We Are?
's music remains eminently compelling, while remaining uniquely yet somehow undefinably Canterbury
. And that's precisely as it should be, isn't it?
Pye Hastings: vocals, guitar, bass (CD1, CD19); Richard Coughlin: drums (CD1-21, CD25-33, DVD36, Blu Ray37), percussion (CD2-6, CD8, CD12, CD14), timpani (CD6), voice (CD14); David Sinclair: organ (CD1-4, CD6-9, CD14-15), vocals (CD1, CD3-4, CD14-16), piano (CD2-4, CD6-8, CD14-15); harpsichord (CD2), mellotron (CD3-4), synthesizer (CD6-8), Mini Moog (CD8-9, CD14-15), string synthesizer (CD8), brass arrangement (CD8), keyboards (CD13, CD16-21, CD26, CD30-31, DVD36#7-9, Blu Ray37); Richard Sinclair: bass (CD1-5, CD15, CD25, CD28-31, DVD36#1-5, Blu Ray37), guitar (CD1, CD3-4, CD14), vocals (CD1, CD3-5, CD14, CD25, CD28-31, DVD36#1-5, Blu Ray37), tambourine (CD2); Jimmy Hastings: flute (CD1-6, CD10-11, CD16-17, CD20-21, CD30-31, Blu Ray37), saxophone (CD2, CD11, CD15, CD30-31), tenor saxophone (CD3-5, CD10, CD16, CD20-21, Blu Ray37), piccolo (CD3-4, CD16, Blu Ray37), woodwind & brass arrangement (CD6), brass arrangement (CD8), brass conductor (CD8), alto saxophone (CD10), clarinet (CD10-11, CD16-17), soprano saxophone (CD16, CD20-21), vocals (CD17); David Grinsted: cannon (CD3-4, Blu Ray37), bell (CD3-4, Blu Ray37), wind (CD3-4, Blu Ray37); Steve Miller: piano (CD5), harpsichord (CD5), organ (CD5), keyboards (DVD36#1-5); Lol Coxhill: soprano saxophone (CD5); Phil Miller: guitar (CD5); Barry Robinson: oboe (CD5), flute (CD6), piccolo (CD6); Mike Cotton: trumpet (CD5); John G. Perry: bass (CD6-8, DVD36#7-8), vocals (CD6-8), percussion (CD6); (Peter) Geoffrey Richardson: viola (CD6, CD8-13, CD16-24, CD26-27, CD32-35, DVD36#6-9), electric viola (CD7), guitars (CD8-10, CD12-13, CD16-17, CD20-24, CD27-29, CD32-35), flute (CD8, CD10, CD12-13, CD22-24, CD32-35), glockenspiel (CD9), whistle (CD10), sitar (CD12), mandolin (CD12, CD16-CD18, CD24), vocals (CD12-13, CD16, CD20-21, CD24), violin (CD16), spoons (CD18), cello (CD19, CD24), banjo (CD20-21), ukulele (CD20-21); Tony Coe: clarinet (CD6), tenor saxophone (CD6); Tommy Whittle: clarinet (CD6), tenor saxophone (CD6); Harry Klein: clarinet (CD6), baritone saxophone (CD6); Pete King: flute (CD6), alto saxophone (CD6); Henry Lowther: trumpet (CD6); Chris Alayne: trombone (CD6); Rupert Hine: synthesizer (CD6); Jill Pryor: voice (CD6); Paul Buckmaster: electric cello (CD6); Frank Ricotti: congas (CD6); Liza Strike: vocals (CD7); Vicki Brown: vocals (CD7, CD12); Margot Newman: vocals (CD7); Helen Chappelle: vocals (CD7); Tony Burrows: vocals (CD7); Robert Lindop: vocals (CD7); Danny Street: vocals (CD7); The New Symphonia, Conducted by Martyn Ford (CD7); Mike Wedgewood: bass (CD8-11, CD26-27), congas (CD8-10), vocals (CD8-11, CD27); Jan Schelhaas: piano (CD10), clavinet (CD10), ARP string ensemble (CD10), Mini Moog (CD10), organ (CD10), keyboards (CD11-12, CD15, CD20-24, CD27-28, CD32-35), vocals (CD12, CD20-21, CD24); Irene Chanter: vocals (CD10); Doreen Chanter: vocals (CD10); Dek Messecar: bass (CD12-13, DVD36#9), vocals (CD12-13); Fiona Hibbert: vocals (CD12); Tony Visconti: recorder (CD12), bass (CD12); Mel Collins: saxophone (CD14); Ian Moseley: drums (CD15); John Gustafson: bass (CD15); Rod Edwards: keyboards (CD15); Jim Leverton: bass (CD16, CD18-24, CD32-35), vocals (CD16, CD32-33); Doug Boyle: guitar (CD18-21, CD32-33); Simon Bentall: percussion (CD18, CD20-21, CD32-33); Randa Khamis: vocals (CD19); Ralph Cross: percussion (CD20-21); Mark Walker: drums (CD22-24, CD34-35); Michael Maher: backing vocals and tambourine (CD24#4); Mark McCormack: vibraslap (CD24#7); Marc Morgan: radiator (CD24#5); Brian Johnson: backing vocals (CD24#4); Rufus Gordon-Hastings: percussion (CD24#6); Derek Austin: keyboards (DVD36#6); Stuart Evans: bass (DVD36#6).