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Caravan - In the Land of Grey and Pink CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.30 | 1822 ratings

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5 stars Caravan's IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK (1971), is generally considered to be their best work, and the crowning achievement of the Canterbury Scene as a whole. The gorgeous cover extols the albums mood right from the get-go, one of calm and laid back tranquility. This album represents all that Caravan was, and all that they had been building towards since their inception in 1968. On no other album can one find such a masterful balancing of British-pop sensibilities and all out jazz-rock. The album is woven out of the aforementioned jazz and pop, as well as rock, folk and psychedelic influences. Richard Sinclair light and airy voice (a bit too twee for some) has never sounded better. David Sinclair's trademark organ is the basic driving instrument of the album, but Pye Hastings gets adequate breaks to showcase his skills on electric guitar (especially in the improvisation setting). Richard Coughlan's drums are nothing memorable, but prove more than competent, and keep the proceeds moving. On this album they are joined by collaborator Jimmy Hastings (who appears on many Caravan albums) on flute and sax, which definitely give some passages a jazz feel, while others folk.

The album is split into to sides, Side A being made of four (relatively) poppy numbers, while Side B features the promethean "Nine Feet Underground", a side-long jazz improvisation. Side A begins with the bouncy "Golf Girl", which features Richard Sinclair's trademark 'British humor' lyrics. The lyrics are a bit to silly and droll for some, but a large part of the Canterbury sound is humorous, and they work particularly well on this track. "Gold Girl" features an excellent flute and piccolo solo by Jimmy Hastings. The next piece, "Winter Wine" is the real highlight of Side A. This dreamy track features fantasy lyrics, with Richard Sinclair's voice lightly dropping over the music. This is most 'symphonic' piece on the album, and is a real treat. It features an excellent organ and guitar break before returning to the initial vocal melody, though in a faster rhythm. Pye Hasting's "Love to You" is a bit of a throwaway track. It is a very poppy (for Caravan's standards) love song, and is closer to their later work than their monumental early Canterbury sound. Pye Hastings sings vocals on this track, and has a much higher (and less distinctive) voice than Richard. Luckily the song ends with some entertaining flute work. The title track, "In the Land of Grey and Pink" musically is somewhat similar to the opener, but with much more surreal and entertaining lyrics and more adventurous arranging. Side B is filled with the 22:44 minute piece, "Nine Feet Underground". This is a slow, jazzy piece which methodically moves from theme to theme effortlessly with Richard Sinclair's vocals added for effect on occasion. Like most Canterbury-Jazz pieces, this one is built on improvisation as well as loose musical ideas which are tied together through excellent transitions. The piece shifts between organ, saxophone and electric guitar solos. At first this 22 minute track can come off as a bit underwhelming and undeserving of its length, and they do dwell on musical ideas for longer than they deserve. But with repeated listens, one can truly absorb the fluid beauty of the piece. It's the definition of smooth when it comes to Canterbury, (unlike the more jagged Soft Machine or Egg). It even ends with a not so subtle Cream tribute, quoting the riff line from "Sunshine of Your Love". "Nine Feet Underground" is a reserved piece that rewards repeated listens, and is highly recommended for fans of jazz.

All in all, this album marked the height of Caravan as a Canterbury band. After this release, Dave Sinclair would depart for Matching Mole, and the band would move in a more straightforward rock direction on later albums. But for now, IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK is an unparalleled and underappreciated masterpiece of Canterbury music - 5 STARS.

NetsNJFan | 5/5 |


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