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Caravan - The Show Of Our Lives: Caravan At The BBC 1968-1975 CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.21 | 53 ratings

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4 stars Even though I find there is little to add to James's flawless review, I cannot resist the temptation of expressing my own opinion on this magnificent release from one of my all-time favourite bands. "The Show of Our Lives" captures some sterling performances by a band who - in spite of the frequent line-up changes - were at the peak of their creativity and musicianship, and is therefore worth every one of the 21 euros I spent on it.

CD One starts with a couple of songs from Caravan's charming debut album, and features an interesting, 9-minute-plus version of Soft Machine's hit "Feelin', Reelin', Squeelin'". All these songs clearly show how the legendary 'Canterbury Sound' took its cue from psychedelia before moving into a more complex, challenging, jazz-tinged territory. Unlike the Softs, though, Caravan never lost sight of their pop roots, and effortlessly blended ambitious compositions with melody and accessibility. This CD contains both sides of the band - the poppier gems like the delightful Hello Hello or the quirky "In the Land of Grey and Pink", and the longer, more intricate tracks, powered by David Sinclair's trademark organ sound, such as "Nine Feet Underground" or "As I Feel I Die".

Unfortunately, one of the band's best songs ever (and my personal favourite) has been omitted from this compilation, which is a great pity: I'm referring to "Winter Wine", one of Richard Sinclair's finest lyrical and vocal moments. If I had to nitpick, I'd say that there are not enough tracks featuring Richard S.'s fluid, elegant bass lines and inimitable voice - just listen to his performance on "...Grey and Pink" or at the end of "Nine Feet Underground", and swoon in delight! Caravan did weather his loss by releasing the magnificent "For Girls Who Grow Plump" in the Night (their last great album, in my humble opinion), but never did as well in the vocal department, as is rather evident in most of the tracks on CD Two.

The second CD opens with the upbeat, light-hearted "Memory Lain Hugh/Headloss", and includes songs up to 1975's "Cunning Stunts". In spite of Richard Sinclair's departure, the band's instrumental power remained intact, and the addition of Geoff Richardson's viola proved to be a definite asset to their sound, as shown by the superb version of their classic "For Richard" (recorded in 1974), as well as two later masterpieces such as "A Hunting We Shall Go" (one of my all-time favourite instrumentals, and one of the highlights of the record) and the 15-minute-plus "The Dabsong Conshirtoe", with its energetic, driving finale.

To my mind, Caravan represent the triumph of songwriting at its best as opposed to the technical brilliance for its own sake which is so widespread in 'modern' prog. As this compilations proves, they could do 15-minute epics as well as 3-minute catchy, flawlessly crafted pop songs - something not many other bands of the Seventies could pull off equally well. "The Show of Our Lives" is a must for fans of the Canterbury sound, and a great introduction to the band for those who haven't yet had the pleasure of listening to them. All in all, a more than worthy addition to any prog record collection.

Raff | 4/5 |


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