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Caravan - Waterloo Lily CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.77 | 584 ratings

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4 stars 4.7 stars Somethings disasterous and yet wonderful happened to Caravan after they weathered disappointing commercial reaction to their much-vaunted "Land of Grey and Pink" - they lost their most accomplished composer, and the only member of the band that appeared to have any 'solo' chops. That was David Sinclair, author of side-long epic "Nine Feet Underground" who had said, rather dismissively that his musical devlopment had out-stripped the band, and greener pastures awaited him (Matching Mole). That's the preamble to "Waterloo Lily". Pye Hastings, Richard Sinclair and Richard Coughlan had to shift things around quickly to get another album out, so they enlisted jazz pianist Steve Miller and did what they could to fill maestro David's shoes. The incredible results were missed by critics and the public alike, but I urge you all to explore the crude delights of "Lily", savour the ugly bass and the long jams with an open mind, and not lament the more polite structured groove of either "Grey and Pink" or the album that followed "Lily" - "For Girls that Grow Plump in the Night".

"Lily" kicks off with the title track penned and voiced by Richard Sinclair. There's a liberating feeling present at once, risque lyrics and their standard long groovy middle sections fill-out a clever, singable song. Guitar, never a terribly recognizable voice in Caravan starts to proclaim itself. But everything here is at once more exciting, more collegial, and better executed. Coughlan's drumming is thick and inventive - full of double-taps and cymbal work and locked-in meter - never better. The sound is ballsier, louder, more boisterous and for the first time you get a bead on everyone's distinctive style. Pye Hasting's guitar work, though not virtuosic, is lively and exploratory and swings like hell. But it's the astonishing bass-work of Richard Sinclair as we move into the long jam/suite that follows, and the deft, highly creative work of keyboardist Miller that quickens the heart. That suite - " Nothing at all /It's coming soon / Songs and signs / Nothing at all (reprise) " is often been criticized as unfocussed and distended and sinks the album for many people but to me it's ragged glory and very atmospheric, Miller's composition "Songs and Signs" is another great song, with excellent paring of Sinclair's baritone, and Hastings penetrating high voice; the music is well developed and Miller's riffing on the electric paino create sparks.

Hasting's song "Aristocracy", a hold-over from the "Grey and Pink" sessions gets better and (ballsier) treatment here as we move toward the album's magnum opus. Hasting's best-ever composition "Love in Your Eye". The production on this track (again by David Hitchcock) is excellent and the bar is raised as everyone delivers their best performance on the album. Of particular note is the exultant flute solo from Jimmie Hastings over Sinclairs rolling bass, the slyly worked out development, and Pye's strident guitar. The action gets so exciting at one point that an involuntary "yelp" is heard coming over someone's head-set from the control room. It is bravura progressive music that grooves and grooves darkly.

This is the album where Caravan really pulled together, hit it's stride and took musical risks (forays into jazz) as they wouldn't again. The album that followed, despite having many fine moments, lacks the rough excitement of "Lily", and with the departure - this time of Richard Sinclair for Hatfield and the North, their classic period started to morph into lush pop. The erstwhile David Sinclair returned to the band for their follow-up "Girls" and distinguishes himself on synth throughout - (particulalry on "Backwards") but after "Lily" the anti-pop play between Miller, and Richard Sinclair is sorely missed. It's a shame they didn't follow this path. They would be better remembered today.

kuipe | 4/5 |


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