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Caravan - The Album CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

2.30 | 135 ratings

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4 stars After Better By Far was at best ignored, at worst reviled, Caravan took a nap for the rest of the 1970s and woke up again to star a brief 1980s run with The Album. On the plus side, it does seem to be a logical continuation of the approach of Better By Far - on the down side, that's an approach which will turn off many fans of classic Caravan.

Simply put, if you're into Caravan for the prog epics... well, they aren't here, the band having apparently decided that the Grubby Little Oik suite on Blind Dog At St. Dunstans' was the last hurrah for that side of their songwriting. That isn't to say there's nothing here with a touch of prog about it - Piano Player, in particular, is a nice bit of prog- pop - but Caravan seem to be splitting their time between lighthearted soft rock (usually in a laid-back mode, though uptempo album closer Keepin' Up De Fences is a real banger) and Caravan-style novelty songs (the latter represented by the jaunty Make Yourself At Home.

They even break out into a bit of reggae on Clear Blue Sky, but I actually found that song more impressive than I was expecting it to be. Yes, it's a stylistic left turn, but I'd been dreading listening to it for the first time, fearing it would be a badly-dated parody number (possibly delivered with a somewhat racist-sounding parody of a Jamaican accent). Luckily, it was nothing of the sort - indeed, it seemed to be a serious-minded stab at the style, the sort of thing which I don't think you could really pull off unless you had a sincere respect for the source material, with Pye's guitar solos making me think the idea of a prog-reggae crossover isn't necessarily a recipe for disaster.

So really, the isn't bad - yes, this is Caravan doing 10CC (with perhaps a pinch of Supertramp, or a nod to what Camel were doing around this era), but it turns out they're alright at it - but it certainly won't scratch the itch if you were more in the mood for In the Land of Grey and Pink or If I Could Do it All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You.

One begins to suspect that Caravan at this point weren't feeling all that inspired in the studio, but needed to knock out a studio album to bankroll their live endeavours - but this album isn't horribly incompetent, and in fact I can see myself deliberately putting it on if I were in the right mood. But it wouldn't be a "Caravan" or Canterbury prog mood - it'd be a prog-pop mood, because this is the sort of thing which is only fun if you like mixing both, but awful if you dislike getting pop in your prog (or prog in your pop).

However, if you do like your prog-pop mashups, Caravan are damn good at it. I'd even put this head and shoulders above Better By Far - taking a bit of time off seems to have recharged the group's batteries, to the benefit of the music.

Warthur | 4/5 |


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