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Caravan - Waterloo Lily CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.76 | 520 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars I'm a bit in two minds about this album. It is undeniably different from its glorious predecessor, "In the Land of Grey and Pink", and the first listen was (to put it mildly) a disappointment. Then, after repeated listens, it's beginning to grow on me, though it will probably never become a real favourite in the way Caravan's second and third albums are.

Keyboardist David Sinclair had left the band after ITLOGP to join Robert Wyatt's Matching Mole, and was replaced by the more jazz-oriented Steve Miller (brother of guitarist Phil Miller, of Hatfield and the North and National Health fame). Miller's influence shows very clearly, especially in compositions such as the three-part instrumental suite "Nothing at All". However, most of the tracks of the album bear the imprint of guitarist Pye Hastings, who is also responsible for the bulk of the vocal duties. This is probably the aspect of "Waterloo Lily" I like the least: Hastings is far from being a bad vocalist, but I find his Robert-Wyatt- lite vocal style somehow irritating, especially when he reaches for the higher notes. The golden voice of Richard Sinclair has way too little space here; the title-track, while a good song, is not as representative of his considerable skills as, say, "Winter Wine" or even "Hello Hello". Sinclair's presence as a bassist, however, can be felt quite keenly on this album: the above-mentioned "Nothing at All" is based on a pulsating bass riff, and his intricate bass lines are to be heard quite distinctly throughout the album.

The presence of wind instruments (particularly Lol Coxhill's saxophone) is much stronger here than on the previous albums, reinforcing the record's more pronounced jazzy feel. Some passages of "Nothing at All", for instance, can remind listeners of Soft Machine rather than of Caravan's earlier output - which is no bad thing at all, though I understand it might be somewhat disappointing for those who had loved "If I Could Do.." or "In the Land...". Besides the jazzier numbers, however, there are the usual (for Caravan) catchier, poppier offerings, like the excellent "Aristocracy" and the closing "The World Is Yours"; while the Miller-penned "Songs and Signs" occupies a sort of middle ground between these two kinds of tracks. The album's second suite,Pye Hastings' "The Love in Your Eye", is more typically prog than the first, complete with string arrangements and great flute playing by brother Jimmy. The bonus tracks included in the remastered edition are all Pye Hastings compositions, all more than competent but, in my opinion, nothing to write home about.

After this album, Richard Sinclair left to form Hatfield and the North - unfortunately never to reach the success he would have amply deserved - and Pye Hastings became the leader of the band, which he remains to this day. This album shows quite clearly the transition between these two different periods, and like most transition albums it has its moments - though I can't really bring myself to consider it essential. A solid three stars, possibly three and a half.

Raff | 3/5 |


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