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Caravan - Blind Dog At St. Dunstans CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.30 | 302 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Cunning Stunts was a Caravan album which took a long time to grow on me, and now I've finally gotten around to visiting Caravan's Blind Dog At St. Dunstans I think I understand why. You see, Cunning Stunts was a transitional album - marking more or less the mid-point of the band's shift from the more resolutely prog-oriented style of their early albums to a more progressive pop style. (Early echoes of this can be heard on For Girls Who Grow Plump In the Night.) In retrospect, it's no surprise Cunning Stunts ends up being a little awkward.

If you only care about the Canterbury prog side of Caravan and find their prog-pop dimension undesirable, you'll find this album a bit of a dog's breakfast... but I actually like it more than Cunning Stunts. Having more firmly committed to the new direction, the band have a decent stab at it, and whilst I found that the pop aspects of Cunning Stunts have dated a little poorly, there's a charm to Blind Dog which I find quite endearing.

The jazzier side of Caravan isn't wholly absent, but is largely turned to coming up with engaging hooks, and as far as longer pieces go the "Grubby Little Oik" suite is rather fun. Really, I think the album's biggest problem - and the aspect which probably turns off more listeners than any other aspect of the package here - is the production.

Don't get me wrong - David Hitchcock, the band's long-running producer since In the Land of Grey and Pink, does a perfectly technically competent job here. That said, I think - in keeping with the general goals of the album - he ended up turning in a rather plasticy, over-polished, slightly cold production job, which doesn't tease out the warmth of the material as well as his work on earlier albums. (Come to think of it, this slightly plastic production also affects Cunning Stunts.)

In retrospect it's no surprise that this was a bit of a commercial and critical flop at the time - come 1976 the nation was primed for something rawer and angrier, with the punk wave just about to break. Nonetheless, I don't think it's any sort of cataclysmic career misstep so much as it represents the full flowering of the style which Caravan were workshopping on Cunning Stunts. I think it ends up being the better album of the two as a result - but at the same time, the style that they're going for here isn't for everyone, even if you're a fan of their earlier stuff.

Warthur | 4/5 |


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