Caravan has bn 1 of my fave rock bands since 1978, when the guys in my fave record store (which I later worked at) slapped on a copy of the single-disc BEST OF CARAVAN (on London Records) -- & by the time I got 2 the slammin finale of the "live" version of "For Richard," I was hooked. I bot it & took it home, & was back 4 more the next day.
That single-disc BEST OF wasn't even that good. It was sorta a cross-section of the Canterbury group's best ("For Richard," "Memory Lain/Hugh/Headloss") & silliest work ("Golf Girl," "If I Could Do it All Over Again I'd Do it All Over You," "Love to Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)"), with maybe the bouncy & charming "Aristocracy" covering the middle ground.
But I went back 4 more NEway, stumbling over an 8-track(!) copy of the amazing FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT in the cutout bin 4 $3.99. That album proved perfect 4 screaming along with later as I rolled down the freeway on the way to work at the record store. Crank-up "Memory Lain" or "The Dog, the Dog, He's at it Again" or "Be All Right" or "A Hunting We Shall Go" & just screech along as the car rolled past the Idaho cornfields....
Tho FOR GIRLS was at times a pretty big production job, what grabbed me -- along with the nice vocal harmonies & the silly lyrics -- was the jazzy, swinging big-band sound that Caravan had, & that they seemed to be able to get even when there were only 4 instrumentalists playing.
I found more later -- the nearly-as-good BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN'S, the jazzy WATERLOO LILY, the seriously disappointing CUNNING STUNTS & the even-worse BETTER BY FAR & THE ALBUM -- & a 2-record best-of called CANTERBURY TALES that really did seem 2 include mosta their best stuff.
There R at least 4 Caravan best-of's by now, but the recent THE WORLD IS YOURS (2010) seems 2 get it right, pretty much, & covers a LOT of ground -- 4 CDs tracing the group's work from their 1st album in 1968 thru the end of their classic period in 1976, closing with BLIND DOG's "All the Way With John Wayne's Single-Handed Liberation of Paris" -- 1 of the prettiest lovesongs you'll ever hear. The set includes halfadozen trax from their very 1st album, & all of what was apparently their most popular release, 1971's IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK.
The set ain't perfect -- there R some trax that Rn't here that I think otta B, but it all sounds great & Caravan fans should love the handful of previously-unreleased trax, BBC sessions, live versions, etc. I'm gonna split this review in2 2 parts since the set is 2 huge 2 tackle all at 1nce. Here's what I listened 2 offa the 1st 2 discs onna recent Friday:
Place of My Own/Love Song with Flute/Where But for Caravan Would I?/A Day in the Life of Maurice Haylett/And I Wish I Were Stoned/Asforteri/With an Ear to the Ground You Can Make It/Golf Girl/In the Land of Grey and Pink/Winter Wine/I Don't Know its Name (The Word)/Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'/The Love in Your Eye (original version without overdubs)/The World is Yours/Aristocracy.
"Place of My Own" sounds a little "bassier" than the version previously released on the 2-CD CANTERBURY TALES best-of, but it's still a great song with terrific singalong choruses & the 1st of many great organ solos by Dave Sinclair -- who group leader Pye Hastings rightly points out in the liner notes was right up there with Keith Emerson & Rick Wakeman among the great keyboardists of '70s prog. Sinclair took the Soft Machine organ sound & made it more melodic on Caravan's 1st few albums, & later on he sounds like no1 else on his own "Davoli" synthesizer.
"Love Song with Flute" has some nice overlapping vocals in the middle -- a trick these guys would use often later. In fact the middle section sounds a lot like "And I Wish I Were Stoned".... "Where But for Caravan" rocks a bit more than their stuff usually does, & makes 4 a rather short 9 mins. Clearly these guys needed more room.... "A Day in the Life" is a previously-unreleased 5-min Nothing, but with some nice keyboards.
"And I Wish I Were Stoned" perhaps has a slightly diffrent mix than earlier versions -- U can hear Pye's backing vocals more clearly here. But the main attraction is another Xcellent organ solo, & some nice guitar work later on.... "Asforteri" is a brief, trancelike vocal round, something they'd master on the later "The Dog, The Dog".... "Ear to the Ground" is a 9-min medley that I wish rocked a bit more. The Nding would B stronger if it rocked out like the middle of the piece.
"Golf Girl" is silly & charming, & there's some nice flute by Pye's brother Jimmy Hastings at the Nd. "Grey and Pink" has more of bassist Richard Sinclair's silly, charming lyrics. The middle section of his "Winter Wine" has melancholy lyrics reminiscent of the "Disassociation" section of Caravan's epic "Nine Feet Underground": "Life's too short to be sad/Dreaming of things that you'll never have...." The previously-unreleased "I Don't Know it's Name/The Word" has another nice flute solo by Jimmy Hastings & summa the jazzy feel the band would follow on WATERLOO LILY.
From that album, the version of "The Love in Your Eye" included here is "unsweetened" -- there R no strings or horn overdubs. It sounds pretty stark compared 2 the version on the album, but there R good vocals by Pye & some nice keybs by the British Steve Miller. The mix of "The World is Yours" included here moves Pye's vocals in2 the background, as they were on the original album. The version released previously on the CANTERBURY TALES package moved Pye's vocals up-front with the gtr & keybs. It's still a great song -- I always thot the problem w/ the original was Pye seemed 2 far away.... "Aristocracy" is still bouncy & charming.
I have saved the best 4 last. Included on the 2nd disc here is a May 1971 BBC session that features a 9-min cover of Kevin Ayers' old Soft Machine tune "Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'," which is probly the loudest, most obnoxious thing these guys have ever done. It's rockin, screeching, noisy, hilarious -- a nod 2 their roots, I assume. (The members of Caravan & Soft Machine all started out in the same R&B/soul/jazz ensemble, Canterbury's legendary '60s band Wilde Flowers.) Pye sounds like himself 4 about 30 seconds -- the rest of the time he & Richard Sinclair R busy channeling the original Soft Machine lineup. I swear it sounds like Ayers is singing mosta this -- & then somebody apparently starts making fun of the manic out-of-control muttering that Daevid Allen(?) contributed 2 the original Softs' recording. It's all a scream. I'll havta compare the 2 some more, but talk about a suprise -- Caravan was NEVER this loud & obnoxious NEwhere else in their recording career. They were always pretty smooth. I don't think U could play this track 4 Njoyment, Xactly ... but 4 clearing your house of unwanted guests it'd B unbeatable. EZily their most SCREAMINGLY LOUD track ever....
Coming Soon: Part 2, & Camel's RAINBOW'S END best-of....