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Caravan - The Unauthorised Breakfast Item CD (album) cover



Canterbury Scene

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Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It was great to have this released last year after all the delays and nonsense about band member dischord etc. I think it is a well rounded album and has some very powerful typical Caravan numbers like Nowhere to Hide, Smoking Gun and the best one in my opinion, It's getting a whole Lot Better. There is some nice bonus material on the second CD and the autographed sleeve was a plus. Three and a half stars would be an accurate assesment.
Report this review (#26362)
Posted Monday, July 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really. Eight years after Battle Of Hastings, Pye's band comes back for a stronger effort. I am a huge Caravan fan (I go see them in concert anywhere they play in Benelux and up to Paris) and hold in highest esteem their first six albums . However , if they are a delight live, the studio records have been relatively tedious , but things are looking up. Breakfast is probably their finer effort since Blind Dog At St Dunstan but still a far cry from the fabulous six early (I include the New Symphonia album ) vinyls.

Pye is of course Caravan almost by himself and his songwriting is still the same (very pop with delightful melodies and witty lyrics ) and he accaparates most of the songs on this album. This may be why Caravan will not make better albums unless others are to make their influences better felt other than by their impeccable playing but to enlighten these tunes. This is what made their early albums great - the Sinclair cousins had a lot to say and got very involved in the writing. Most of the tunes on here are typical Caravan numbers but the more interesting times in them are the spaces where the instruments are doing the talking and then one can see those slots alloted were "glued on" at the end of a song or "stuck/fitted" in the middle of one. This was done by Dave sinclair's arrangements. This is not applicable to all numbers as Nowhere to Hide is excellent. Caravan is feeling much better than in the early 90's , but is still not back to their heydays.

Just one more thing: Caravan are known for the superb or humorous art cover sleeves and titles. The title comes from Richardson's near brush with New Jersey's police , as he had taken one more croissant for the road and the 250 lbs female cashier wanted to make him pay for that Unauthorized Breakfast Item and Geoff had no cash on him. He was saved fron life imprisonement in NJ's best cells by Pye's Visa card to pay for another full breakfast. Imagine the headlines : Caravan's Croissant Demise Scandal. The incident was immortalized in a song , album title and , if humorous , one of the the worse art sleeve work they made. Too bad.... This might have gotten them to a fourth star.

Report this review (#26364)
Posted Tuesday, November 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have only this year caught up with this 2003 release of Caravan's but am very pleased that I did so as it is a splendid record! In fact, I would go so far as to say that "The Unauthorised Breakfast Item" is on a par with their best records from those halcyon days of the 70s, "If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You", "In the Land of Grey and Pink" and "For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night".

The sound and feel of this record are very much of Caravan at their best. It is perhaps a bit poppier than those early masterpieces but when that is only an element of the sound in a pop-rock-jazz-progressive mix then it is no bad thing to have. Compared with the landmark "Canterbury Sound" of those early albums, Caravan have added an extra aural texture in the form of Doug Boyle's lead guitar playing: it is added so skilfully that it merges in seamlessly and enhances the band's hallmark soundscape. Many of the musicians responsible for creating Caravan's soundscape feature on this fine record: Pye Hastings, in such wonderful voice; Geoffrey Richardson's viola; Jimmy Hastings's sax and flute; Jan Schelhaas and Dave Sinclair's keyboards; Richard Coughlan's drumming. As such, it should be a very enjoyable record for anyone who enjoyed the band in the 70s.

Of the 10 songs on the album, two are instrumentals and both are gorgeous - Doug Boyle's "Linders Field" closes the album in fine style whilst Geoffrey Richardson's "Wild West Street" acts as a very natural prelude to Dave Sinclair's "Nowhere to Hide", one of the album's highlights (sung beautifully by Jim Leverton, the only time that Pye relinquishes the lead vocal spotlight).

Even on the non-instrumental numbers there are lengthy passages of instrumental music, beautifully conceived in the best Caravan style. Whilst the whole of the album is excellent the highlights that I would pick out (in addition to the three above) would be the pacey opener "Smoking Gun (Right for Me)", the slower tempo "Tell Me Why" with Jim Hastings's sweet sax contribution, another Jimmy Hastings influenced song, "It's Getting a Whole Lot Better" and "Head Above the Clouds" which picks up the pace nicely from the preceding two.

I can see myself playing this album often!

Report this review (#140065)
Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars To consider "Caravan" as one of the most popular band of the original prog explosion is just not correct IMHO. This band has had an immense esteem success, but no more.

They have of course produced some fine albums, but during the last twenty years of their career, these were non-existing. I am not a huge fan from the band and IMO, their last good album was "Blind Dogs" released in . 1976. Almost thirty years prior to this one. To be complete, the band has only released four albums in the meantime.

This release is rather pleasant, I must say. As usual there will be some conflict with one of the Sinclair cousins who will leave during the first recording sessions. But we are used to this by now (being one or the other cousin.).

Song writing is pretty much decent. One of my fave is the rocking "Revenge". Premonitory ? Several songs are on the rocking edge, but it is not to dissatisfy me. My favourite album from the band "For Girls." was already heading this direction, so.

The inspiration is probably not on par, but this album holds plenty of enjoyable numbers (as the title track). And some are fully respectful of the original "Caravan" sound ("It's Getting A Whole Lot Better"). It is a pleasure to listen to this good album after so much average work (at best).

Another joyful song as they have produced a lot is best experience while you listen to "Head Above The Clouds". This undeniable great flavour is fully available. Such a pleasure, to be honest. I was reviewing "Innuendo" yesterday and the same feeling prevailed. How good it is to listen to a band that reverts to good music! As one very well known commercial would say, this is "priceless".

The melancholic "Straight Through The Heart" features a great and emotional guitar solo. Rhythm is upbeat and, again it communicates such joy that one can only be please while listening to such a piece.

The brilliance of the early days might not be on the rendez-vous, but this is a good and unexpected come back. Three stars for this good album. As Hughes have said, it is their best effort since "Blind Dog". And I fully agree with this statement.

Report this review (#161116)
Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars When a band grows old and doesn't have any ambition of escalating the charts two things can happen: retirement or an album of this kind. The Caravan sound was dated and their attempts to make some pop music during the punk age were quite pathetic. I mean things like "The Album" or "Back To Front", but in the new century, after the little rebirth of prog, has a new flavor, maybe nostalgic.

The album starts with a pop tune, or better, it would have been a pop tune 30 years before. "Smoking Gun" it's just a nice easy song. It's good hearing Pye's vocals again which are still a band's trademark. "Revenge" is another typical Caravan easy song with some Jimmy Hastings in the background and just a bit more rock than usual. It has made me remember "Stuck In A Hole", but the coda features an excellent solo by Jan Schelhaas.

The title track sounds like it was from the Waterloo Lily age. Up to now it's a pleasant album, not even comparable with the rubbish releases of the 80s, but honestly not special. What I think is remarkable is that even using "modern" keyboards and guitar effects their sound is still unmistakable.

"Tell Me Why" is another typical easy song. Catchy enough to have the possibility of a radio passage also in those days, but it's "It's Getting A whole Lot Better" which makes me cry to the masterpiece. It's a slow jazzy and atmospheric track which values the price for the whole album. It recalls some of the atmospheres of the early albums, I think to"If I Can Do...". The very hot voice of Pye Hastings fits perfectly into the jazzy mood and the guitar riff,for the sound used, seems belonging more to Camel than to Caravan. This is Pye Hastings at his best, but also brother Jimmy plays a very good sax on it. This track is so good that makes "Head Above The Clouds" appear as just a pop song (and it's not). This song has a low volume instrumental intro before becoming a typical Caravan song, belonging more to the "Plump in the Night" period.

"Straight To The Heart" is the song I like less. Like a pop song of the late 60s it's not bad on its own, but it's just a melodic pop song, nothing more. That bit of nostalgic flavor that it has saves it, anyway. It can't be considered really a lowlight.

Geoff Richardson's viola opens "Wild West Street". He was unlucky to join the band when it was starting its decline. This track, built for his viola, is not bad. It's just a bit "misplaced". Too different from the rest of the album, I would have put it as closer, instead.

"Nowhere to Hide" sees Dave Sinclair back with his former band. Piano and viola open it. I don't think the vocalist is Pye here. The chords are easy, everything but challenging, but the song puts me in a mood that I'm used to call "blue effect". It's not easy to explain, I mean blue as colour, not as feeling. I would have just expected a bit more effort from Dave Sinclair, but he mainly plays a solo in the three minutes coda which seems to have been tied to the normal end of the song. Three excellent jazzy minutes, anyway. The most "Canterbury" part of the album.

"Linders Field" closes probably the whole Caravan's story. Acoustic guitar, flute and congas give us some minutes of relaxing and dreaming instrumental music. After two minutes the flute is replaced by a clean electric piano and a bit of electric guitar plays long notes in the background. It's not a typical Caravan's track, probably the best way to close the career of this historical band: like saying "hey guys, we could have made more of this stuff for the next years, this is what you are going to miss".

It's honestly a non-essential album, but it's the final act of a great band which has lost itself for a long time. It's the last, and I don't think anybody would complain if I add a star for the career. It's the best Caravan's album since from the 70s.

Report this review (#956804)
Posted Friday, May 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Unauthorized Breakfast Item from 2003 is Caravan's twelfth studio album. It was released eight years after their last record "The Battle of Hastings" which I thought was a good one. So, in 2003 the band made up by Pye Hastings(vocals, guitar), Richard Coughlan(drums), Jan Schelhaas(keyboards), Doug Boyle(lead guitar), Geoffrey Richardson(viola, banjo, ukulele, guitar) and Jim Leverton(bass, vocals). This is the last Caravan record with Coughlan on the drums. He has now past away a couple of months ago and did not contribute on Caravan's 2013 record. The cover picture of The Unauthorized Breakfast Item shows the band eating on a restaurant and looking at a woman holding a big fish in her arms. It is a quite special cover. The elapsing time of the record I have heard is sixty minutes and a lot of them are good.

My over all impression of the record is though negative. This sounds all too much as any band and not particularly Caravan. Some songs seems to have preserved the right feeling but most tracks do not interest me. The best song is "Revenge", a rocky tune, with great instrumentation and especially the guitar is played in the typical Caravan style(7/10). I also like "Smoking gun" (6/10) and "Head above the clouds"(6/10) which is poppy and nice. There are a lot of fine ingredients on many of the other tracks but I can't allow myself to be especially pleased of it. The music doesn't challenge me and some of the songs do I really find boring such as "It's getting a whole lot better"(4/10), "Straight through the heart"(4/10) and "Linders field"(3/10) which is just ambient. Sometimes you hear this is Caravan but it is a pale copy of its former appearence, which is sad to say. I hope I will find glimpses of glory on their newest record anyhow. Two stars!

Report this review (#1126435)
Posted Sunday, February 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Caravan's best album in 30 years!

Exactly three decades after their peak with For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night in 1973, Caravan finally managed to make an album that was up to the standards of their best works; finally a return to form. 2003's The Unauthorised Breakfast Item has everything that that the foregoing handful of albums from the 90's, 80's, and the late 70's lacked: inspiration, energy, strong material, the right sound and the right feel.

The line-up here consists of Pye Hastings, Richard Coughlan, Jan Schelhaas, Doug Boyle, Geoffrey Richardson, and Jim Leverton, with Dave Sinclair and Jimmy Hastings appearing as guests. The album has all of the band's trademarks, yet at the same time it also has a strong Rock edge that is uncharacteristic of Caravan and that was completely missing from the previous, acoustically driven The Battle of Hastings. The opening track, for example, has an almost heavy Rock groove, but the chorus lines are still cheerful and catchy and the melodies are memorable this time around.

Another strong point about this album is that there is a good flow and a good balance between vocal and instrumental passages and between acoustic and electric instruments. There is a nice variety of tempos from upbeat to almost ambient, and the instrumental variety is here as well with tasteful uses of viola, banjo, flutes, and saxophone, among the "normal" (Prog) Rock setting of drums, bass, guitars, and keyboards. The influences include Jazz, Folk, Rock, and Pop music.

The whole album is very good, but the absolute highlight for me is the almost nine minute Nowhere To Hide which features excellent lead guitar and towards the end erupts in a synthesiser and violin dual that reminds me of Kansas! Some hardcore Caravan fans might perhaps complain that this track, as well as some of the other tracks here, don't sound enough like (classic) Caravan. But at the same time this album might appeal to people that normally are not overly keen on Caravan (like me, for example; I like the band, but am not a big fan). I actually enjoy this album more than almost any other Caravan album.

Report this review (#1130290)
Posted Tuesday, February 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars I would like to give this album a higher rating, it isn't bad. In truth it is quite pleasant and I never truly regret listening to the album. Despite this the album is ultimately dull and contained, a mere shadow of the once great Caravan. By saying that I don't imply that the album isn't nice enough, nor that Caravan (as a band) haven't aged well... Compared to many classic prog bands they've aged extraordinarily well. The issue that I have with this album (and for that matter all Caravan albums since 'For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night') is that it's safe, it's catering to a fan base and producing material that, like it or not, we've all heard before.

This isn't entirely a bad thing, and when done well can produce an album with a great deal of merit but the question is, is it done well on this album and the answer to that question is sometimes. At the album's height it can sound interesting, a softer 80s Rush to my ears... At its low points however it feels like I'm listening to a Bon Jovi album in which they forgot to write pop songs. At many points the album sounds inane and predictable such as with the opening track Smoking Gun, the title track and Tell Me Why.

There are some minor peak moments in this album the interesting and evolving It's Getting a Whole Lot Better is to me the highest point on the album, giving a fresh and expansive feel to the overall sound. Moments like this are, for me, few and far between however however and don't grant the album a strong recommendation to say the least. To collectors of Caravan (or fans of Bon Jovi) I can recommend this, it is a pleasant listen most of the time... To fans of prog or anyone looking for an album that hasn't completely sold itself into the well-written but dull soft rock category stay clear there is very little that one can take away from this album.

1.5 rounded down to 1 star because I'm not quite sure how people think this is a 4-star album... Maybe I'm missing something.

Personal rating would probably be 3 stars as it is a nice enough album.

Report this review (#1151340)
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here's a gem of subtlety, which is not surprising because Caravan is composed of musicians who have demonstrated in their heyday how much they could be inventive. What is astonishing is that they have recovered their whole creativity after 25 years of very poor albums.

We find ourselves 30 years in the past, always with this mixture of humor and virtuosity, lightness and seriousness that are the marks of the so british Canterbury style. And they have kept their admirable melodic sense. What has however changed is the purity of the sound in the many brilliant instrumental parts of the album. Even the only weak song of the disk, unfortunately placed in the second position, "Revenge", is transcended by a splendid instrumental final.

This perfect sound, from the beginning to the end of the disk, could probably be seen as a loss of the Canterbury soul. But it also removes a rough side, some kind of draft aspects that were not always relevant during the 1970's.

And modernity in the sound does not pollute or interfere with the Caravan identity which is so specific. It can greatly distinguish this album from those the band produced in the past, while still providing an undeniable continuity in the style.

This disc would deserve, in my opinion, between 4 and 4.5 stars if we could further refine the notes.

Report this review (#1299829)
Posted Sunday, November 2, 2014 | Review Permalink

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