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Caravan - Cunning Stunts CD (album) cover

CUNNING STUNTS

Caravan

 

Canterbury Scene

3.04 | 232 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Sometimes, an album can come with a bad omen before the first listen. Take Caravan's sixth studio album, CUNNING STUNTS. When I first put on the record after I get home, I find that my copy got the pressing all screwed up and switched the two side labels around.

That's just my bad experience with one item. The actual musical content of the record is about as head-scratching. From the band that had delighted fans with a unique concoction of jazz, prog, pop and psychedelia, and the band that really rebounded its career with FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT, to begin the album with something that wouldn't sound too out of place on a Billy Joel or Elton John record is frightening. ''The Show of Our Lives'' has extremely little of Caravan's usual pizzazz; instead, it opts to crack open in an American market that I assume never heard it.

I hate to sound harsh, but if there is a good reason why CUNNING STUNTS has been obscured in comparison to other Caravan records, it's that most of the album sounds like very lightweight, generic '70s soft rock. What made Caravan Caravan is nearly nonexistent on the first side, save for a little Pye Hastings dry humour. New bassist (the third bassist in three albums) Mike Wedgewood isn't helping any as his two tracks (''Lover'', ''Welcome the Day'') sound awkward and never really fit Caravan's style. They sound like they're trying to be ''Caravan, the band, the musical'', and for this band it doesn't work. Also, on the previous album, I enjoyed the fresh sound Geoff Richardson's viola brought to the band; here, I forget he's in the band until about the fifth song.

The only song that at least has somewhat of a lasting impression is ''The Dabsong Conshirto'', another attempt by David Sinclair to bring the band back into epic status. For CUNNING STUNTS, it's decent enough, but it's too clustered to be in ''Nine Feet Underground'' territory. For some reason, Hastings actually goes for the highest notes in his range early in the epic with mixed results. And ending with a reprise of ''The Show of Our Lives'' isn't a welcome conclusion in my book.

For whatever reasons, CUNNING STUNTS is a huge disappointment of an album that Caravan hasn't quite rebounded from. The songs sound like clockwork and the band doesn't seem to gel like they have before. Speaking of unable to gel, Dave Sinclair exited the band again after this record.

Sinusoid | 2/5 |

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