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Caravan - Live At Fairfield Halls - 1974 CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.46 | 122 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars If LIVE AT FAIRFIELD HALLS had been freely and universally available long before 2002 (when it finally appeared complete, in CD-format) it would probably be considered one of the great 1970s live albums. It contains eighty minutes of music which sound less messy than YESSONGS, less sterile than SECONDS OUT and less routine than BURSTING OUT. But let me be careful. I don't want to annoy people. My main purpose is to explain to you how adorable this album sounds!

First of all, FAIRFIELD HALLS reveals Caravan at the absolute height of their powers. The album simply rocks, and the band play much better than on the NEW SINFONIA album. The concert recorded was apparently Mike Wedgwood's first appearance with Caravan, but you could never tell. Wedgwood's bass has a nice fat sound, his playing is incredibly tight, and with veteran Richard Coughlan he makes one hell of a rhythm section.

Secondly, although the album features neither the vaudeville "Golf Girl" nor the band's best-known epic, "Nine Feet Underground", most other essential Caravan tracks are here, and they receive performances of the utmost warmth. I'll be the first to admit that, as a vocalist, Pye Hastings has his limitations (his singing never goes beyond mezzoforte), but what a range of lovely melodies does he get to sing, and how well does his fragile voice suit them! "Virgin on the ridiculous", "The love in your eye" and, of course, the immortal "For Richard" all sound delightful.

Caravan is often considered the most conservative Canterbury band, because their compositions are more straightforward and less intricate than those by Hatfield and the North or Henry Cow. You will 'get' them from the first time, and they never grate on the ear. FAIRFIELD HALLS contains lots of solos, and while many of them are similarly structured (starting off peacefully and gradually getting more intense), none of them fail to satisfy. David Sinclair proves himself to be one of prog's greatest organists and Pye Hastings (whose clear sound I love) does a superb job on electric guitar. But the concert's true hero is undoubtedly viola player Geoffrey Richardson, who underscores each sung melody with the most delicate arrangements, and who also builds up one instrumental climax after another. I adore Richardson's warm timbre, and I'm convinced he is one of Caravan's greatest assets. The only thing I regret about FAIRFIELD HALLS is the lack of a guest spots for flautist Jimmy Hastings. With one or two appearances by him this album would have been perfect.

fuxi | 5/5 |


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