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Caravan - For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.16 | 665 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars The last really great album by the legendary Canterbury band is a definite improvement over the somewhat directionless "Waterloo Lily", which hovered between Pye Hastings' poppier sensibilities and Richard Sinclair and Steve Miller's jazzier leanings. Even though I am a big fan of Richard S.'s velvet-smooth voice and skillful bass playing, I have to admit that Caravan managed to weather his departure admirably, replacing him with the excellent John G. Perry, and adding a secret weapon to their already rich, multilayered sound, in the shape of violist Geoff Richardson. The return of keyboardist David Sinclair to the fold didn't hurt either, especially since his replacement with Steve Miller had been a rather ill-advised choice.

Left to his own devices, Pye Hastings displays his skills as a lyricist with all sorts of innuendo, starting with the title and album cover, which shows a heavily pregnant woman fast asleep. The lyrics to "The Dog, The Dog, He's at It Again" are based around a rather explicit double entendre, which climaxes (no pun intended) with the chorus of it's coming on strong /it's coming on and on and on. However, it would be wrong to depict "For Girls..." as a sort of smut-fest in the lyrical sense. With the sole exception of the rather disturbing "C'thlu Thlu" (probably inspired by HP Lovecraft's malignant deity, Great Cthulhu), most of the songs on the album have distinctly upbeat, optimistic lyrics that match the musical content perfectly.

As a matter of fact, "For Girls..." sounds for the most part like the ultimate feelgood album. The rich, well-rounded, uplifting music strikes the right balance between melodic potential and musical intricacy, avoiding the meanderings of some parts of "Waterloo Lily", though somehow lacking the intriguing wistfulness of Richard Sinclair's compositions. The song that probably best represents the nature of the album is opener "Memory Lain Hugh/Headloss", a 9-minute-plus composition featuring a catchy-as-hell refrain, and enough instrumental complexity to keep the most demanding prog fan happy. The already mentioned "C'thlu Thlu" briefly interrupts the cheerfulness of the mood with his dark, doomy pace and heavy, plodding bass lines.

The naughtily amusing "The Dog, The Dog..." is then followed by the schizophrenic "Be Alright/Chance of A Lifetime", divided in two sharply contrasting sections. The first, an unusually rocky, hard-edged offering for the band, features bassist John G. Perry on vocals, who sounds distinctly like a singer very few would associate with the likes of Caravan - the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. The second part is instead airy and romantic, with an almost Latin groove and Geoff Richardson's beautiful viola playing. Richardson is the undisputed protagonist of what, in my opinion, is the album's best track, and one of my favourite instrumentals ever - "A Hunting We Shall Go" (L'Auberge du Sanglier), a five-part suite with a crescendo structure, bolstered by a sumptuous orchestral arrangement, overall a very exhilarating listening experience. <

The remastered edition features unreleased versions of "Memory Lain Hugh/Headloss", "Surprise Surprise" and "Be Alright/Chance of a Lifetime", plus the 11-minute instrumental "Derek's Long Thing" (named after a former band member, and referring to the track's length, not something else's...), which is interesting in parts, but not on a par with other Caravan compositions of the same kind.

All in all, a highly recommended album, even if Richard Sinclair's absence is sometimes felt in the vocal department - Hastings' voice being pleasant and melodic, but slightly annoying after a while. Nevertheless, the superb musical quality of the compositions more than makes up for any such shortcomings - and it will put a smile on your face as well, which is never a bad thing.

Raff | 4/5 |


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