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Caravan - In the Land of Grey and Pink CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.31 | 1875 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars As one half of the Wilde Flowers which was, of course, the big bang band of everything later deemed Canterbury Scene, CARAVAN couldn't have been more distant from their counterparts The Soft Machine at this point. While Soft Machine had pretty much gone full on jazz with only scant traces of rock remaining, CARAVAN on the other hand took the psychedelic pop approach and with their third album IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK which is what i surmise to be the initial goal that the Wilde Flowers strived to achieve all the way back in the mid 60s. Unfortunately they just didn't have the chops and finesse to pull it off that far back. But it seems that CARAVAN never left those ambitions behind and despite a full-on entry into the progressive rock world of "If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You" which incorporated the best psychedelic features of the 60s with fresh and fertile ideas that were brewing at the turn of the decade, on album number 3 they chose to tame down any sort of bombast and focused on tamed down melodic developments that could in many cases pass as radio friendly tunes that your grandmum could sip tea to. Well, sort of?

The truth is IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK has always been a disappointment for me. Upon first listen i could not understand what all the fuss was about with this one. Where were the classical guitar workouts? What in the world happened to the symphonic light speed keyboard bombast? The crazed time sigs? The surreptitious proggy ways of cloaking a melody in rhythmic grandiloquence? Well, not on this one. Since this was my first CARAVAN album recommended by the leagues of prog fans who touted its virtuous nature, i simply abandoned the notion of pursuing any other albums from CARAVAN. After all, this was the best! Or was it? After by happenstance hearing "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night," i was astounded that i was instantly hooked by that album and decided to revisit this album as well as check out all the earlier albums as well. Well lo and behold i had made a gargantuan booboo by simply writing this band off as wimpy wannabe progsters.

Like many prog albums, even the more accessible strain of artists require some time for the idiosyncrasies to sink in. Despite being the easiest entry point into the Canterbury Scene universe, CARAVAN is no exception. Yes, tracks like "Golf Girl" and the title track are instant accessible slices of psychedelic pop all gussied up in supplemental instrumentation such as flute, tenor sax, piccolo, bells, wind instruments and even trombone but upon further listening and comparisons to true pop songs of the era, there are indeed progressive attributes aplenty. It's just that these aren't in your face and set on fire. Yes, think of this as psychedelic pop rock but really, really goooood psychedelic pop rock. The kind Jefferson Airplane and other 60s bands just couldn't even come close to mustering up. While i do consider this a step down from the previous album, i have to admit that the compositions are well thought out and intricately spiced up with all kinds of subtle variations.

In the beginning i was a non-believer but in the end i have come around to appreciate this album as a very listenable and well respected entry point for many prog rock lovers to delve into a much more complex prog universe. I mean really. How can you resist those soulful organ and Mellotron workouts of David Sinclair, the baritone vocals of Richard Sinclair and the unmistakable rhythmic chops of Ricard Sinclair's bass with Richard Coughlan's drum contributions. However, one of the things that's really missing from this album unlike others is the guitar capabilities of Pye Hastings. Here he merely serves as a rhythmic underlord never getting to usurp the organ, piano and Mellotron dominant psychedelic world that very much coincides with the color limited Hobbit world of the album cover.

After all is said and done, this is an album i have grown to appreciate but not an album i have grown to love above all others. Even within the greater world of CARAVAN this is my least favorite of the first five essentials. It lacks the thrill and excitement of what came before and what came after and despite having so-called prog behemoth workouts like "Nine Feet Underground" which in reality are only stitched together pop hooks that are sewn together instead of creating a true wild and wooly instrumental magnum opus that delivers surprise and puts the listener in a state of awe. But in the end, IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK is a quite listenable album that does deliver in creating a nice relaxing stroll through their imaginary world. Perhaps only deserving the "sorta prog" label but whatever you want to label it, it is still a very rewarding listen if you don't have expectations of ELP meets Yes or Gentle Giant. Despite all the radio friendly potential, the record label failed to promote this album which led to abysmal album sales initially. The good news is that this album has become quite the classic of the ages and could certainly qualify as a mutant late bloomer. Unfortunately David Sinclair was so dismayed by its lack of notoriety that he would depart soon after and join Robert Wyatt in creating Matching Mole. Nevertheless, the band would sally forth and create a couple more worthy editions to any prog collection.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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