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Caravan - Waterloo Lily CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.77 | 584 ratings

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4 stars I'm amazed at how such a meager change in personnel could totally remake Caravan's sound. Aside from several notable Canterbury celebs guest starring on this album, (Accomplished guitar player, Phil Miller from "National Health"! Everybody's second favorite flutist, Jimmy Hastings from umm... "Caravan"! Esteemed saxophone player, Lol Coxhill from er.. uh.. an "Esteemed Jazz Band"!) who make a few minor cameos on a couple tracks, the only real shake up in Caravan's line-up was the keyboards guy. Since David Sinclair ran off with Robert Wyatt to make beautiful music (actually, music that wasn't so beautiful or good) in the newly formed Matching Mole, Steve Miller (For the last time, NOT the guy of "Fly Like an Eagle" fame) filled in the position bringing in an influence entirely new to the likes of Caravan: J-A-Z-Z, delicious hot, disgusting cold.

Now contrary to popular belief, it wasn't just Miller who ushered in the new dreaded style of "Jazzery" that Caravan fans are supposed to hate and fear like anything, Richard Sinclair suddenly had the spontaneous desire to play in a jazz band rather than a fantasy prog band. (So now, all you angry fans know the true identity to the evil "band ruining" fiend on Waterloo Lily) However, main songwriter and guitarist, Pye Hastings and drummer, Richard Coughlan were still two starry eyed fellows who still had their "Grey and Pink" fantasies and didn't want to play in no stinking Miles Davis knockoff band. As a result, Waterloo Lily is one giant compromise between the lush prog fairyland of Hastings and some new, interesting jazz fusion motifs from Miller and Sinclair and for the most part, this approach works and occasionally approaches novel too.

So, what does this creamy mish-mash of inspirations sound like, you ask? Generally, some songs are a heterogeneous mixture of both influences. Take the lumbering title track, for instance. Not only is it the only prog epic ever to be written about a pleasingly plump call girl, (No, I do not want to know more about Mr. Pye's lewd and complex er... complexes, though) but it combines two melodies hookier than two left hooks in the kisser from Muhammed Ali with some very hard rocking electric piano playing from Miller. Eventually, (just like most jazz fusion, sadly) the instrumental sections do get boring but just when you're beginning to utter your first yawn that unbelievable catchy chorus returns to ensure your satisfaction.

If you ever wanted to hear Caravan adopt a totally unconventional, unlikely jazz fusion sound by any coincidence, please takes a gander with your ears at "Nothing at All". This song is a real treat for the fusion genre as it actually manages to keep my attention for its entire drawn out 9+ minutes. The three individual sections of this piece are all masterfully jammed and written respectively. The first part is a well played jam with Richard Sinclair's bass being the true star of the show. I've never heard such a catchy, energetic bass line take control over the whole direction of the music. It's groovy, maaaaaan. The "It's Coming Soon" section is a grand piano interlude by Miller and one of the most foreboding, ominous sounding things in the bands epoch.

The MASSIVE epic, "The Love in your Eye" is the only other song that attempts to meld together prog with fusion and it's only half successful. The outstanding and visionary opening melody is sung by Pye with powerful grandeur that is only complemented more and more by great orchestration but a lot of the instrumental sections are kind of "ehh", afterwards. When played live, this song would be transformed into an all-time monster and Caravan's most diverse and stunning long piece. In fact, I had first heard this certain song on "Caravan and the New Symphonia" and I was completely floored. The instrumental sections were completely injected with so much more energy and personality that the results were staggering.

Jazz fusion is only allowed to run amok on the longer pieces, however. The other songs are simply your typical Hastings bundles of joy with slightly jazzier playing. "Aristocracy" is even an outtake from the "Grey and Pink" sessions. With that said, "Aristocracy" is a funny, fast paced pop song with Hastings rapping out the lyrics. It's just that fun, harmless charm that most Caravan songs possess which is guaranteed to force the corners of your mouth upward. Of like kind is the goofy but cute folksy tune, "The World is Yours", who's verse melody is, for some bizarre reason, almost completely inaudible but is made up by a chorus that is so choc full of whimsy-ness it's simultaneously dorky and romantic. There's also the Miller penned "Songs and Signs" that fits into this lightweight category; featuring lovely alternating vocals between Pye and Richard Sinclair (He wouldn't sing for Caravan for a looooong time after this) and some more pleasing electric piano soloing.

Ooh, and let's extend this already lengthy review a bit more and talk about the great bonus tracks! For once, they're all completely new songs rather than annoyingly pointless "alternative version" tracks that pad out the other Caravan reissues. Yay! Three cheers for outtakes! The first two songs are two acoustic guitar demos played solely by Pye. "Pye's June Thing" and "Ferdinand" are two perfectly lovable folk ditties with great melodies to boot. Man, after hearing these, I can't stop wondering what would have happened if Pye quit Caravan and decided to record a whole album of little folkie wonders in the vein of those demos. Why he would have become the British equivalent of Al Stewart if he did, seeing as those two both have a swelling passion for lovely melodies and cutesy falsetto singing. The other song is fully finished and polished with Caravan's trademark sheen. "Looking Left, Looking Right", is an infectious, rootsy shuffle with a killer hook to die for. Why it got left off the original album is only for Pye's lewd and complex complex to know and us to not.

This album is no where near the horrifying disaster that most fans consider it. Waterloo Lily still retains most of the band's charm and I really like how the jazz fusion chops diversifys their sound. I'm going to go ahead and rate this album as an actual improvement over "The Land of Grey and Pink". (I don't really like TLoGaP as much as many proggers do and you can read my explanations in my soon-to-be-written review for that certain album.) Stealing a line from the title track, "Waterloo Lily [certainly] has enough to turn [me] on"!

Album grade (with bonus tracks): A-

Album grade (without bonus tracks): B+

Best songs: Waterloo Lily, Nothing at All, The first part of The Love in Your Eye, Aristocracy, Looking Left, Looking Right

Worst Songs: The other parts of The Love in Your Eye

LionRocker | 4/5 |


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