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Caravan - Cunning Stunts CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.12 | 312 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars This is what I consider the last good thing made by Caravan. This quite underrated album (IMO of course) is similar in its structure to Grey and Pink: 5 songs on the A side and a suite on the B side, even if there's a short closer at the end.

But let's go step by step: the album's opener is one of the most famous Caravan's tracks, at least by the mainstream public. It was also the title of the compilation that represented my first Caravan purchase. It's not on PA but I have to retrieve the vinyl in a box... "The Show Of Our Lives" is a major-chords-mellow-tempo song, nothing special apart the cello in the background and I really dislike its final.

Things are little better with "Stick In A Hole", another of the Caravan's pop-oriented songs. It's a piece of British Glam as we have found several times in the previous albums. Not properly prog. Good but non-essential let's say.

"Lover" seems to have been written to give Geoff Richardson the opportunity to place some strings here and there. This song can be skipped both for the trivial pop music and for the poor lyrics.

At this point somebody could wonder why I call this album "the last good thing"...let's proceed.

Strings and flute open "No Backstage Pass". It's the first true Caravan song. The vocals are not too dissimilar from Richard Sinclair's and the music is finally fully enjoyable. There's some pop in the chorus but it's not so bad to jeopardize the rest of the song.

"Welcome the Day" is a surprise. I don't understand why a band like this tried to make a Disco-Funky song. The attempt was unsuccessful , specially because the chorus is too typical Caravan's stuff and this partially saves this song. Not that it's bad, but surely is not what one looks for in a Caravan's album. If I want this kind of things I can buy Bee Gees or at least the late 70s output of Wishbone Ash (a little better for me).

Ok, the A side is no more than two stars, but "The Dashboard Conshirtoe" is about to come. Put the vinyl upside down and listen to one of the best songs ever released by this band. A slow melodic beginning with some jazzy accents, the only thing that appears misplaced is the bongos in the background. After a couple of minutes it goes uptime and it's not dissimilar from what is found in epics like Nine Feet Underground. The initial theme is then back just to introduce a glam part that's very enjoyable and contains the brasses arranged by Jimmy Hastings who reveals to be a genius. Also the guitar solo which follows is reminding of the acid sounds of the first albums. To be honest I like the Slade, so how could I dislike this? However it suddenly stops to leave room to a symphonic instrumental part which later turns into jazz. And it's really better than the first jazzy attempts of Waterloo Lily. The bass is so good that you wouldn't suspect that Richard Sinclair is not here. As often happens in jazz and in prog there's room for riffs from all the instruments, in particular guitar and electric piano which alternate several times. When the jazzy part stops one could expect a thunder like on For Richard. It turns into funky instead. This is a five minutes coda or better the final movement of the symphony which ends in chaos as also None Feet Underground does. Please forgive the last minute...

The album is closed by "Tollington Park Rag". As the title says it's a ragtime and even if totally disconnected from the rest, I like it. One funny trivial is that I was unable to listen to it on vinyl without passing by the suite first, because moving the pick-up so close to the centre of the disk was causing the pick-up to go back to the standby position...

I know that I shouldn't rate half of an album, but the B side is very good and at the level of the best things released by Caravan so missing it because of some poor things on the A side would be a pity. The A side is for fans only but the B side is an excellent addition. I will go for the average but with the temptation of rating it 4 stars.

octopus-4 | 3/5 |


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