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




Canterbury Scene

4.30 | 1819 ratings

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5 stars The 'Canterbury Scene' was a loose collection of progressively-inclined outfits whose music was linked by strong jazz and psychedelic influences, complex lyrical content and an undercurrent of sometimes surreal, sometimes silly, humour. At the forefront of this 'movement' were groups such as Kevin Ayer's Soft Machine, the Anglo-French group Gong, jazz-prog trio Egg and Caravan, who were undoubtedly one of the most creative and versatile groups of the period. Caravan would form after the short-lived pop-psych group 'The Wilde Flowers' split into two factions, with members Pye Hastings(guitar, vocals), Richard Sinclair(guitar, vocals), his brother Dave Sinclair(keyboards) and Richard Coughlan(drums) setting up their new outfit during 1968. They would quickly sign a deal with the American imprint Verve Records and their self-titled debut was released the same year to moderate commercial-and-critical acclaim. Within a year, however, the group were one the move, leaving Verve and signing for Decca, a sub-division of the international Universal company. Their first Decca album would be the critically-acclaimed and brilliantly-titled 'If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You' from 1970, an album which found the group expanding their once-simplistic psychedelic sound into progressive rock territory, adding a strong jazz element and writing longer, more complex compositions. It would prove to be a great album, yet Caravan would pull out all the stops during the next stay at Decca's North London Studio's, creating their landmark 1971 release 'In The Land Of The Grey & Pink', an album many regard as the pinnacle of this most peculiar of sub-genre's. The line-up for 'In The Land Of The Grey & Pink' was the same as the previous two albums, only this time guest musicians Jimmy Hastings(flute, saxophone, piccolo), Paul Beecham(trombone) and Dave Grinstead(woodwinds) were brought in to add an extra dimension to the group's overall sound, whilst recording was overseen by prolific prog-producer David Hitchcock, the group's third producer in three albums, who had just completed work on Genesis's highly-rated 1970 debut 'Trespass'. Despite the lack of continuity behind the mixing desk ,the mixture of offbeat humour, psychedelic influences and complex instrumental passages would be a feature running through all of Caravan's classic-era albums, though it is perhaps on 'In The Land Of Grey & Pink' that these elements combine most effectively, something that may well explain why the album is often mistaken as a concept piece. The album certainly builds like one, beginning with a prime example of Caravan's extremely-English, whimsical psych-pop style on the amusing 'Golf Girl', a typically-droll, loping track stuffed with some not-so-sly LSD references and featuring Richard Sinclair's charmingly jocular vocals recounting a romantic encounter set on the rolling green hills of a countryside golf course. Paul Beecham's piping trombone medley adds a touch of Beatles-esque invention to proceedings yet it is the wonderfully absurd, barely-concealed lyrics that are so memorable, spinning a short, lucid and very enjoyable little yarn that pokes harmless fun at both the hippie generation and the simplistic conventions of boy-meets-girl love stories. The other side of the Caravan coin, however, finds the group exploring the full extent of their musical ability with the twenty-two- minute-long mainly-instrumental closing track 'Nine Feet Underground', one of those wonderful progressive tracks that runs through multiple sections, styles and moods and features the intricate organ solos that are such a feature of Caravan's music. Filled with overt jazz touches, moments of cinematic grandeur and a genuinely-experimental curiosity, 'Nine Feet Underground' is very much one of Caravan's defining musical moments, a lengthy and atmospheric opus that sums up nicely the quirky, free-flowing character of the Canterbury sound. From beginning to end 'In The Land Of The Grey & Pink' envelopes the listener within the vibrant, semi-mystical confines of Caravan's singular sound. The striking artwork suggests themes of sub-Tolkien-style fantasia yet the lyrics seem more concerned with parodying the conventions and routines of everyday life, a factor that surely dispels the oft-spun myth that the bulk of progressive rock music is indulgent, serious and humourless stuff created by egocentric musicians who have little regard for their own audiences. With a welcome comic tone and more than a dash of subversive 'substance' humour colouring the group's odd musings, Caravan's third album is one of the prime examples of the quintessentially- English Canterbury-style progressive rock scene, a type of music that could only have been created during the heady days of the early 1970's that sounds as fresh today as it did all those years ago.
stefro | 5/5 |


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