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Caravan - Caravan & The New Symphonia CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.96 | 232 ratings

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4 stars An essential live album from Caravan. Not only does it contain two great non-studio songs in their best forms but features a whole new side of Caravan that only reared it's proverbial head during live shows. I have never heard jamming this decisive or powerful done on any of Caravan's studio albums and these extremely tight but consistently impressive jams definitely match Yes's instrumental workouts. I don't even think it's the added orchestration that makes these songs so damn powerful; I think the band was simply a lot more talented than even I originally gave them credit for. I had simply written them off as "second rate" prog ('first rate" pop, however) in my head until I tuned into this album.

"The Love in your Eye" jam is significantly improved over the studio version on "Waterloo Lily". Now all of the subsequent parts after the incredible vocal melody (Now adorned with actually good female back-up singers who add to it's glorious splendor) are equally flooring. The main theme of "To Catch Me a Brother" (the section right after the vocal part) has now metamorphosised from what was a single note electric piano riff to a brass theme that would make Richard Wagner gape. This part also has a really compelling fast flute solo (but no where near Ian Anderson "fast".) by Pye's bro, Jimmy Hastings followed by some furious fuzz box organ. The following "Subsultus" and "Debouchement" sections have also been changed from stagnated mucks to stunning peaks and climaxes with Pye and Richardson playing their hearts out on guitar and violin. However, the most astonishing part is saved for the end. Right after another amazing vocal performance by Pye, he starts riffing like a madman on "Tilbury Kecks". I seriously have never heard Pye play with this much ballsy fury on any other Caravan release. The first time I heard this, yours truly was endlessly amazed. It's like they quickly swapped Pye out for Richie Blackmore or someone. Well, either that or Pye had quick backstage lessons from Eric Clapton. Heck, either of those are probable.

Prog fans should also be pleased with the great classical orchestration done on the new songs. "Virgins of the Ridiculous" is a luvly love song set to Bach like arrangements and "Mirror for a Day" is a happy short song with it's love related lyrics covering up an utterly complex arrangement. My favorite of the pair is the latter because of the moody opening and the couple of violin riffs this song possesses are dangerously infectious. Still, "Virgins" despite being the least energetic song on the album also contains some more fast, fuzzy fun courtesy of David Sinclair and his organ.

The closing number is "For Richard" which now also has a much tighter set of arrangement buttocks, massively improves over the original. The original suite simply had me bored right from the start but now the various memorable parts of it have been picked out and massively emphasized by the orchestra. Even the dull melody-less singing part has now been spruced up a notch with small 'lil harp pluckings, violin strummings, and a melodic bass solo as well as audible vocals. (Unlike the original's) However, the rest of the song can be completely mind blowing if you perchance enjoy masterfully played thirteen minute jams like I do.

Oh and the reissue gives us the other songs from the concert Caravan did with the Symphonia. That's kinda nice. None of the non-orchestra tracks are much different from their original forms on "Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night", however, (In fact, "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again" loses it's glorious vocal coda. Why? That part was so heavenly!) but the brand new orchestra track "A Hunting We Shall Go" also gains some more energy over its studio version. With the help of the orchestra the "Backwards" section is achingly pretty too.

Oddly enough, this album may just be Caravan's best and most consistently entertaining for me. This is definitely one of the first Caravan albums you should try in this guy's humble, inessential opinion. The jams on here have more direction and power than anything else by Caravan even "In the Land of Grey and Pink" and the energetic arrangements almost always guarantee you'll never be bored. Hot damn, if only they had this much enthusiasm in the studio...

Album grade: A-

Best Songs: Love in Your Eye, For Richard, Mirror for a Day (Reissue: A Hunting We Shall Go)

Worst Songs: None

LionRocker | 4/5 |


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