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Caravan - Caravan CD (album) cover

CARAVAN

Caravan

 

Canterbury Scene

3.67 | 358 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars It may be only a Caravan, but it's a place of my own

As with the remastered version of Hawkwind's first album, the remastered CD of Caravan's first album includes the whole album twice on a single disc. Both the mono and stereo mixes are included in full, the actual original recordings used for both being identical.

Formed in the mid-late 1960's from the Canterbury scene band The Wilde Flowers (which also included Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers in its ever changing line up), Caravan recorded this self titled debut in late 1968. Most of the songs here had been rehearsed and performed live by the band for some time before they got around to recording them and indeed some of them had been instrumental in helping to secure a recording contract. As was customary at the time, the band were forbidden from being involved in the mixing of the album, which focused primarily on the more lucrative mono version, (since stereo was still in its infancy at the time, and stereo albums were actually dearer!). The band were not entirely satisfied with the results, as they felt producer Tony Cox had not captured their sound well.

The album starts with a song which even today is a Caravan favourite. The balance between the band's whimsical interludes, strong melodies and progressive inclinations is captured perfectly in "Place of my own". The distinctive keyboards of David Sinclair, which for many represent the band's signature, are a feature of this wonderful song. The track was subsequently released as the band's first single.

In general, while many of the tracks here fall short of the standards attained by Caravan on subsequent albums, especially those recorded during their period with Decca records, they show the promising glimpses of what was to come. Tracks such as "Policeman" and "Cecil Rons" are rooted in the psychedelic sounds of the period, with strong nods to the Barrett era Pink Floyd and the likes. Tony Cox's production emphasises such leanings more strongly than perhaps was necessary.

"Love song with flute" is interesting, as it features future band member Jimmy Hastings playing the wonderful flute solo. The song is a soft reflective piece with decent vocal harmonies, which develops into a faster more pop orientated number. The latter part of this track indicates far more clearly how the band would mature.

The focus of most of the attention for prog fans is the 9 minute closing song "Where but for Caravan would I?". This mid-paced organ based number may pre-date many of the Caravan classics, but it is an early product of the same mould. In the context of the greats such as "For Richard" and "Nine foot underground" it is a little clumsy and naive, but when we bear in mind that this is a 1968 recording, it shines brightly.

In all, a fine first album from Caravan. It may sound a bit of its time now, largely due to the production; but the quality of the songs, the proficiency of the performances, and most of all the promise of what is to come, is clear for all to see.

In general, the sound quality of the mono recordings, even in remastered form, is at best adequate. The stereo mixes have brushed up far better though, and are the ones to head for on the 2002 CD. That release includes a single version of "Hello hello", a track on the following "If I could do it all over again.." album. It was originally intended that the single version be added to the remaster of that album, but the master tapes were only located after it had been released. As the remastering of the debut album was carried out later, the opportunity was taken to include it here.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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