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Caravan - Canterbury Tales: The Best Of Caravan 1968-1975 CD (album) cover

CANTERBURY TALES: THE BEST OF CARAVAN 1968-1975

Caravan

Canterbury Scene


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jan.adamski@l
5 stars Excellent for beginners! This compilation contains the best tracks from the first seven albums of the best band's period. Next to the sweet, melody pop songs (but fascinatingly arranged), you'll find long, complicated tracks including enlarged instrumental sections and beautiful, jazzy solos.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#21462)
Posted Sunday, November 23, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars Unlike the previous compilation this a good start if one wants an overview of the band's best albums but I like better the first Canter Tales. Or better yet start with the original albums from that era as some choices here are disputable.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#21463)
Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I know this may sound heretical, but in some ways I don't really think of Caravan as a typical prog rock band. Yes, I know Caravan cut some definitive epics like Where But For Caravan Would I Be?, the whole Can't Be Long Now/Francoise/For Richard/Warlock suite and most particularly Nine Feet Underground, but I'll be damned if I don't love their shorter, whimsical folk/pop stuff every bit as much. Certainly Caravan's gift for melody and lyrics (in other words, these guys really knew how to write a "song") meant that their strengths differed from the other Canterbury groups with whom they are often lumped.

Take Place Of My Own, off the first album Caravan. What a wonderful haunting song, but it's four minutes long, generally adheres to the verse, chorus, verse format and while it does have a memorable Dave Sinclair keyboard solo, there are no complex chord patterns, radical arrangements or time signature/key changes to speak of. And it may just be my favourite Caravan song. And there's the jolly little ditty Hello Hello (off If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You), the ethereal, joyous The World Is Yours and most glaringly Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly) which could have been cut quite convincingly by the glam bands of the time. When I listen to these classic songs I'm amazed that Caravan didn't break into the pop charts in the late 60s/early 70s.

Now getting back to this double CD collection ... its material is culled from Caravan's first six studio albums (1968's Caravan through to 1975' Cunning Stunts) as well as the 1974 live album Caravan & The New Symphonia. It contains most of Caravan's best music during this era, although because there is an effort to give equal representation to most of the albums, some great songs have been left off in place of some weaker ones (I think I'd rate every song on the third album In The Land Of Grey And Pink above the best moments of Cunning Stunts). While the omission of Love Song With A Flute, Where But For Caravan Would I Be?, Winter Wine and Surprise, Surprise is probably just a little too much to take, most of the music here is top notch.

For me, the stars of Caravan were always the bustling underrated organist Dave Sinclair and the even less acknowledged frontman Pye Hastings (I don't mean to disrespect the fine work of bassist Richard Sinclair and stalwart drummer Richard Coughlan by the way). Hastings' withwrawn wisftul personality comes through the music as strongly as Dave Sinclair's strong keyboard work colours it. The dreaminess of pieces like the aching Place Of My Own and And I Wish I were Stoned/Don't Worry seem like an extension of Pye's introverted character, yet there's a fair amount of exuberant playfulness on Love To Love You, Hello Hello, Golf Girl (a Richard Sinclair tune that foreshadows Down On The Farm, the tune he cut on Camel's Breathless album) and The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again. As the only real soloist in the band for its first three albums, Sinclair's chops come to the fore at various moments during And I Wish I Were Stoned, For Richard (which also had some great flute and sax work by Pye's brother Jimmy) and the pulsating 22 minute jazz-rock epic Nine Feet Underground, which is undoubtedly Caravan's deepest stab at prog greatness.

Unfortunately for Caravan, its classic line-up split up after the first three (virtually flawless) albums when Dave Sinclair left to join Robert Wyatt's Matching Mole and was replaced by Delivery's Steve Miller. Even though Dave would return after just one album, he had sparked off a game of musical chairs that saw Richard Sinclair depart for Hatfield And The North, with first John Perry, then (former Curved Air bassist) Mike Wedgwood while multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Richardson also hopped on board.

Despite the changes the albums that followed Dave Sinclair's departure housed quite a few gems. These include The World Is Yours, which is yet another Caravan song that makes you wanna run in the street pretending its one of those three days a year in England when the sun actually shines, Memory Lain Hugh which sees Caravan actually try some guitar-dominated commercial rock (a la Bad Company and Steve Miller Band) for a while although the group's instincts eventually take over and the song ends in a dreamy flute solo and The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again, which despite featuring Dave on synth for the first time, feels like a return to the earliest days of classic Caravan. Other notable moments are Be All Right/Chance Of A Lifetime and the A Hunting We Will Go suite.

The tracks from the live album also see Caravan in outstanding form although I'm not too sure about some of the arrangements on the earlier part of The Love In Your Eye and including a live version of For Richard (as brilliant as it is) is perhaps questionable when so many other great tracks have been left off. Still there's scarcely a weak moment on this collection although I'm not overly fond of the later rockier material like Headloss and Stuck In A Hole which were indicators that Caravan was headed for less exciting territory after the disappointing Cunning Stunts album (by the time of this release the band sounds like Wings!).

The frustrating thing about this compilation is that it probably had enough room to be an "all you'll ever need from Caravan" kind of release, but despite the numerous brilliant tracks, it still has its flaws. It will leave you wanting more, and any Caravan fan can truthfully vouch for the fact that the band has more to offer. You're better off checking out the full albums, but if you want convincing of Caravan's greatness, this collection will certainly do the trick. (Incidentally one of Asia's most fascinating groups - the 70s political psych/folk outfit from Thailand was also called Caravan). ... 75% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#21464)
Posted Monday, May 09, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Visitors to Canterbury, start here

An excellent introduction to the music of Caravan from the time of their creative peak (the Deram years, up to and including "Cunning stunts"). All the greats are here, including "For Richard", "Nine feet underground", "If I could do it all over again, I'd do it all over you" and too many others to mention.

There appear to be slightly differing versions of the collection. The cassette version I have includes "Virgin on the ridiculous" from the New Symphonia album, which is replaced on the CD version by "The love in your eye" from the same album.

An essential introduction to the band.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#74694)
Posted Wednesday, April 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This 2-CD set expands the 1976 double LP also entitled CANTERBURY TALES, which used to provide an excellent introduction to Caravan's best material. All the tunes from the original double LP are here, and in addition there's quite a bit of material from the somewhat disappointing CUNNING STUNTS (1974) and from the band's legendary debut album (CARAVAN, 1968). Surprisingly, this double CD offers two different versions of Caravan's beloved mini-epic 'For Richard': the original studio version (featuring some gorgeous playing by Jimmy Hastings) and the live performance from CARAVAN AND THE NEW SYMPHONIA, which isn't half as good as the version from LIVE AT FAIRFIELD HALLS that used to be on the CANTERBURY TALES LP.

I would recommend this collection almost without reservations, were it not for the fact that none of the music has been digitally remastered. If you want a proper introduction to Caravan, it seems a much better idea to listen to their music on Prog Archives, and if you like their style, you can then buy the remasters of their most popular albums, all of which come with highly enjoyable bonus tracks.

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#157005)
Posted Saturday, December 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars Let me start by saying that while I was an avid prog collector for most of the seventies, I somehow missed this band back then, and this is still the only recording of this band that I own. And secondly, Canterbury has never been a favorite of mine when choosing progressive music.

But here goes:

This collection covers the first six of Caravan's studio albums, released between 1968 and 1975, plus their first live album. The early recordings sound like sixties proto-prog, and are all somewhat light and airy. You can actually hear the band's sound mature through the albums to a more polished style. There are some nice songs here, but to me, the whole affair is just a bit too laid back for my tastes.

The thing I appreciate most about this band is their sense of humor (or is it humour for Brits?) when coming up with song and album titles. I especially like "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again".

3 stars for me, probably more for true Canterbury fans.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#223243)
Posted Friday, June 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Perfect big collection from best period of Caravan activity. Represents almost everything from 1968 to 1975, so you don't need from the band nothing else unless you're heavy Caravan collector.

The band itself if interesting and have many very melodic, pleasant and perfectly played songs. For me, Caravan always was a bit different from real Canterbury sound. I like Khan,Gong and ofter are waiting for almost jazz fusion sound. Caravan is different and in some moments are very folky. Even in long compositions, where jazz influence is more feelable, all sound is not jazzy relaxed, but more folky organised. It doesn't mean that the music is not good enough, just Caravan's sound is always a bit different from usual Canterbury sound.

Any way, this double album represents quite different trends in band's different albums,so you can choose, what you like more. For me in some moments songs sound as pure folk prog, in other there are a bit more improvisational freedom. But because of perfect melodies and strong musicianship, all the album is attractive for listening.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#252331)
Posted Monday, November 23, 2009 | Review Permalink

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