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Caravan - Caravan & The New Symphonia CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.96 | 232 ratings

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4 stars A time capsule of brilliant live Canterbury.

The live Caravan is definitely a different beast than the studio Caravan. On the live stage the band tend to have fun with the audience and involve them in their tom foolery. The album really is quite humorous and the band are at the peak of their powers, with virtuoso musicianship and they play all of their best tracks up to this point. In this sense the album works as a type of best of Caravan, and in many cases the live versions here are better than the studio tracks. In any case this is a dynamic performance with energy and full on commitment.

The band are the classic lineup of Caravan, the incomparable prog hero Pye Hastings on vocals and guitar, Richard Coughlan on drums, Jimmy Hastings on flute and alto saxophone, John G. Perry on bass, Morris Pert on percussion, Geoff Richardson on electric viola and David Sinclair, a wizard on keyboards. The band are well backed up by the incredible New Symphonia orchestra. It was one of the first marriages of Canterbury and symphony orchestra. It worked well on this concert as the songs are really made for orchestra.

It begins with the unusual introduction by Alan Black who states matter of factly Caravan are about to enter. It is amusing how he says, "I'm not gonna preach to the converted because if you weren't Caravan freaks you wouldn't be here," and then he introduces the orchestra The New Symphonia and explains the band are going to perform a featurette of songs from their new album "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night." What a time capsule of music are these live performances.

As soon as the band hit the stage they power into 'Memory Lain, Hugh Headloss' for 11 minutes and it is an incredible piece of showmanship. Pye Hastings sounds so vibrant in these early days. The band are tight, the riffs are great and the keyboard work of Sinclair is exquisite. The violining of Richardson is incredible and the crowd can be heard at the end of each section cheering wildly.

Hastings introduces the next song about a dog who has a problem with his urges and so he goes to the doctor and is given "down boy pills". 'The Dog, the Dog, He's at It Again' is the song that follows the intro, which became a favourite from the new album over the years. It has a great lead break and the melody is memorable and has fun lyrics; "my mother said that I should stay out of bed but I know that I like it in there, legs and thighs, hello's and goodbyes and you're there". After this Hastings explains they had planned to do about 30 minutes of more "Plump" material but time is against them, what a tease, as that would have been priceless. It was made clear that the album was to be a live recording so this was all a concert designed for the recording and needed to fit on those pesky short vinyl records that could only have 25 minutes of material at best.

Also from the "Plump" album the band play 'A Hunting We shall Go', and the whimsical 'Hoedown' with amazing violin soloing. It is a shame they didn't play 'C'thlu Thlu' which is one of the darkest and best things they have done. The band leave the stage for a moment and then the orchestra enters and begins to strike up with a quiet melody. They add colour and drama to this as each instrument chimes in, the brass, the violins, woodwind, all are virtuosos and the sound is full and lush providing incredible music as a background to Caravan's Canterbury rock.

'The Love in Your Eye' clocks about 13 minutes and flys by quite well, with organic musicality and strong beats, very uplifting and pleasant. 'Virgin on the Ridiculous' is another highlight with sweeping violins and Pye gently storytelling. The gorgeous harp flourishes and emotional strings on this are superb. Pye introduces "the last evening of the number", (haha!) And he says it is "the usual Caravan number, but this time orchestrated". The quintessential Caravan song 'For Richard' never fails to get the crowd on their feet. They play a 14 minute version with amazing lead guitar solos and lengthy musicality.

'A Hunting We Shall Go', a 'new' track, closes the show on an encore with a 10 minute non stop barrage of virtuosity. The band exit the stage to rapturous applause. This is perhaps the best live album for the band and it really showcases all that is great about them; whimsical humour, virtuoso musicianship, infectious melodies and with an orchestra thrown in for good measure. It is an irresistible combination where everything worked perfectly making this a landmark album for the band and a prime example of Canterbury at its best.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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