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Caravan - In the Land of Grey and Pink CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.30 | 1822 ratings

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5 stars 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink' was my introduction to Caravan, and indeed to the Canterbury scene as a whole. Admittedly, I was quite nonplussed at first, as the 23-minute epic on side two of this album shared very little in common with songs like The Gates of Delirium, and in general, I felt there was very little that was progressive about this record. Time went on though, and eventually my tastes broadened, and I began to fully understand how magnificent this record is.

Golf Girl is extremely British. The lyrics are the main reason for this accusation: 'I chanced upon a Golf Girl, Selling cups of tea', 'For thruppence you can buy one, Full right to the brim'. It's not just the tea that makes this song so quintessentially British, but the writing style of the lyrics themselves are unlike those you would find anywhere else in the world. This is a very fun song, with a slightly commercial sound. The surreal lyrics are very appealing indeed. You can't help but smile and sing along when you hear this track.

Winter Wine is the closest to 'straight prog' this record gets. The song tells a surreal tale with fantastical imagery. There are some proggy hooks and passages, and a 2:20 keyboard solo instrumental. It was only when I heard the demo to this song, It's Likely To Have A Name Next Week, as a bonus track, that I realised just how clever this song was, and how well I knew it. The lyrics really grab my attention, and can be a bit naughty sometimes: 'A dull red light illuminates the breasts of four young girls, dancing, prancing, provoking!'. Even though it's a tiny detail, I find the sound effect of bells ringing to coincide with the lyric 'Bells chime three times' absolutely adorable; it really helps flesh out the song.

Next up is Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly) which is one of the most deceptively clever songs I've heard. If you listen casually, the lenth and tone of the song and the chorus will have you believe this is nothing other than a simple pop song about love. However, this could not be further from the truth. First off, you probably won't have noticed that the song is entirely in 7/8, a progressive trait if there ever was one! Secondly, have a closer listen to the lyrics in the verse, and you'll realise that they are actually quite twisted and dark: 'But you just smiled and gently shook your head, And put a hole through me so I was dead'. Listen to the rest of the lyrics, and you'll realise there is nothing simple about this seemingly sweet and innocent song.

The title track, In The Land Of Grey And Pink, is similar to Winter Wine in the sense that it is telling of a surreal adventure, but out of the two, this is the weaker song. The lyrics are more surreal, but become less gripping as it seems too imaginary. The music is quite repetitive and more laid-back, and not quite as impressive as the music on the former track. However, the piano and keyboard solo in the instrumental are both quite sublime. It's funny that the title track is actually the closest this album comes to filler.

Next up is Caravan's longest track to date, Nine Feet Underground, so titled as it was composed in a basement. As a fan of symphonic epics like Close To The Edge and Tarkus, I was completely shocked when I first heard this track, as I could not believe people would call this prog. For a start, there were no recurring themes, too much emphasis on the organ, and the first 5 minutes were occupied by a dull jazzy instrumental. However, I have now accepted that one does not listen to different prog bands with similar expectations from each of them. I have come to appreciate this extended piece in a way I never thought possible when I first listened to it.

I do however feel there is still too much emphasis on the organ. When you skip to almost any point in the song, you'll hear David Sinclair soloing away, and it tends to sound a bit samey. Compared to a band like Yes, where the instrumentation was far more democratic, this is probably the heaviest criticism one can make of the piece.

The structure of this piece is both simple and complex. The track is broken up into eight parts, which are all very self-contained, but flow beautifully and effortlessly into each other, like a musical jigsaw. These parts all have silly names like Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies and Hold Grandad by the Nose. Two of these sections have lyrics, which give a greater sense of structure to the track. I particularly like the second of these lyrical sections, which has a lovely melody and memorable lyrics.

Each of the sections has a great underlying musical theme, and I think it's the way this piece naturally flows from one section to the other without ever sounding forced that makes this track so worthwhile and listenable. This is a very relaxing and breathtaking way to spend 23 minutes.

The music on this record is fun and melodic, and is an essential part of any Canterbury scene collection. The iconic gatefold artwork is also tremendous and fully complements the surreal lyrics of this album. This album doesn't lend itself to you instantly, but enamours you slowly over time. Within a few weeks of writing this review, a deluxe three disc edition of this album is going to be released, and I will have no hesitation in updating my collection to include this new version, as this album is definitely worth it.

baz91 | 5/5 |


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