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




Canterbury Scene

4.30 | 1818 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The great albums all possess a charm of their own, and for Caravan's excellent In The Land Of Grey And Pink, charm is definitely the word. Bright, light-hearted and whimsical, but nonetheless moving and often profound, In The Land Of Grey And Lousy Acronyms is great fun and pretty much obligatory listening. The musicians aren't perhaps the most mind-bending of characters, but they can hold their own, create a coordinated piece effortlessly, and have, collectively, a distinct and individual sound coming from the light acoustic kitsch, bubbly organ tones and piano and a fun, curious rhythm section. Helped along by the winning voice of Richard Sinclair (and Pye Hastings on one track),Caravan produce a clear benchmark for the cheery side of early English prog.

Golf Girl brings the album off to a bouncy start with a memorable bass groove, neat little interludes, a bundle of fun packed in the lyrics and vocals and an absolutely gorgeous flute part from Jimmy Hastings. Dave Sinclair's mellotron and organ buzzing, complete with morse-code-imitation is in a curiously non-committal style of his own... it comes off great here, though I tend to prefer more defined organ tones.

The seven or eight minute (Richard) Sinclair-written beauty, Winter Wine, follows this warmly. Its dreaming and reminiscent lyrics are as much a highlight as the sophisticated and memorable melodies. From a pretty acoustic-and-voice intro, through more dramatic, jaunty bass-and-organ-driven parts and its whole romantic dream feel, the emotion stays (and there is one really pretty piano melody there). A strong jam based around the fuzzed organ of Dave Sinclair, moving backing harmonies and a dreamy ending keep a firm grip on the emotions... a triumph.

The parody Love To Love You is simply hilarious, and wanders on smoothly in some quirky time signature, with a load of great fills from the consistently excellent Richard Coughlan, mock-serious verse interludes, another very nice flute part and Pye Hastings' well-suited vocals and sharp, acerbic, but ultimately carefree lyrics. A personal favourite.

The title track is another pop song albeit with some odd delay in the rhythm or double-beat or something I can't quite pinpoint. Richard Coughlan provides another particularly neat and individual-sounding drum performance, and Pye Hastings somewhat broadens/expands/fattens out/whatever the term is his light guitar parts to good effect. The stoner lyrics, careful, limited organ climaxes, pretty little piano interlude and truly wibble vocal deliveries all add character, and Richard Sinclair's more prominent bass part is great.

The lengthy Nine Feet Underground, at its best, is brilliant and spine-tingling, at its worst... it's perhaps the least focussed thing on the album, and the prominence of Dave Sinclair's more light organ as the obvious lead, though neatly complimented by sax parts and a superb rhythm section, does get on the nerves during the opening bits just a little, and it's only when the jam descends into this very neat distorted guitar groove (you'll know it when you hear it) that the atmosphere takes hold, and Richard Sinclair's surreal (excellent, though) lyrics and great voice bring in the song's mood and ideas... death and being underground, and from this point the song really doesn't let up, with a number of unforgettable little jabbing rhythms as well as more focussed soloing. A few cold, menacing piano chords take us onto the most mystical, secretive and haunting section of the piece... which has, from the moment I heard it, brought this to mind

(Hesiod's Theogony... Trans. Hugh Evelyn White, 1914, ll. 295-305) And in a hollow cave she bare another monster, irresistible, in no wise like either to mortal men or to the undying gods, even the goddess fierce Echidna who is half a nymph with glancing eyes and fair cheeks, and half again a huge snake, great and awful, with speckled skin, eating raw flesh beneath the secret parts of the holy earth. And there she has a cave deep down under a hollow rock far from the deathless gods and mortal men. There, then, did the gods appoint her a glorious house to dwell in: and she keeps guard in Arima beneath the earth, grim Echidna, a nymph who dies not nor grows old all her days.

Certainly not the immediate intent of the artists, but the music is strong enough to create such reactions and associations. The menace and chaos that comes out of this is melded together by simple piano chords from Dave Sinclair and in the Dissassociation section, featuring a lush Sinclair vocal, a tragic-hero vibe (can you feel it in the air? I wonder what it's meant to be... it's the thought that can despair, and it brings it all back to me) and some of the most tasteful playing by any of the bands in the 70s prog scene. The band leap out from this resigned, but powerful, soliloquy into a jumpy rock moment with soloing from Pye Hastings and Dave Sinclair occasionally returning to a more central riff... I sort of view this as the upbeat and somewhat manic message of the various souls buried underground... light-hearted, somewhat satirical, and ending with a bang.

The CD reissue includes a few extra goodies as well as a neat attempt to show some of the stages which went into a finished Caravan song - Winter Wine as an instrumental, Golf Girl with its original set of lyrics, and a couple of excellent songs, as well as a particularly poignant mix of Dissassociation/100% Proof bit of Nine Feet Underground... worth getting if you're a Caravan fan... and nice even if you're only casually interested in their music.

So, all in all, I'd love to give this a masterpiece rating, but there's six odd minutes of jamming where not a lot happens at the start of Nine Feet Underground, and much as Dave Sinclair's organ tone is interesting, it can annoy me if I'm not in the mood for it. So, we're down to four, but with a high recommendation... great album for a bright Spring morning when you just want to enjoy a good life and good music.

Rating: Four stars Favourite Track: eh, Love To Love You... I'm such a pop fan ;)

Cutting to a three in light of the surrounding albums... not sure the pop songs, fun though they are, are quite as durable as some of their brothers from If I Could, and I'm certain the suite has nothing on L'Auberge Du Sanglier etc. other than nice vocals/lyrics. Still, emphatically, a good album but it's grown cold on me a bit faster than the surrounding ones.

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |


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