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Caravan - Caravan CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.68 | 480 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Don't expect anything resembling the classic Caravan sound on this, their debut album. What you get here is much more closely related to Pink Floyd's debut, the legendary "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", than to the monumental second and third albums of the Canterbury band. This is quite evident in the remastered version, which includes the delightful "Hello Hello" from "If I Could Do It All Over Again..." - the differences in style and sound between the latter and the rest of the album couldn't be more obvious. That said, however, Caravan's debut is much more interesting that it is usually credited for. Their take on psychedelia is highly original and entertaining, and the members of the band, in spite of their youth, are more than capable as musicians and songwriters.

The album's opener, "A Place of My Own", released as a single, attracted quite a lot of attention at the time. It's an endearing ditty, sung by Pye Hastings in a slightly more uncertain voice than usual, with great organ work by Dave Sinclair. The keyboardist is possibly the real star of this album, as his trademark organ makes the overall sound fuller and richer, as well as adding complexity and interest to the compositions. His contribution to the closing track, the 9-minute "Where but for Caravan Would I?", the album's most convincing stab at fully-fledged prog, is outstanding, the sinuous sound of the organ weaving in and out of the vocal interludes sung by Pye Hastings and Richard Sinclair. The latter's presence is more restrained than in the two following albums, which of course is a pity. He sings lead in the Beatles-flavoured "Policeman" and the distinctly Syd Barrett-ish "Grandma's Lawn", backed up by cousin Dave's haunting organ - a slightly disturbing song with weird lyrics, further enhanced by Richard's smooth delivery. His best vocal performance, though, comes towards the end of "Where but for Caravan Would I", where his voice achieves that velvety tone that I find so irresistible.

The sinister, almost discordant "Cecil Rons", another track haunted by the ghost of Syd Barrett (both vocalists, especially the usually soft, mild-mannered Hastings, are utterly unrecognizable!) is probably the most uncharacteristic of the band's output. On the other hand, the romantic "Love Song with Flute" (the latter superbly played by Jimmy Hastings) is almost classic Caravan, beautifully sung by Pye - possibly his best vocal performance on the album.

In spite of the very poor production and sound quality, "Caravan" shows quite clearly that the band had potential in spades. Things could only get better, as they did. The follow-up album was a rather giant leap forward in terms of songwriting and overall sound; but this endearingly homespun album, for all its shortcomings, deserves recognition of its own for being a gem of late '60s psychedelic prog. You could do much worse than add this to your collection.

Raff | 4/5 |


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