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Caravan Cunning Stunts album cover
3.22 | 420 ratings | 30 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Show of Our Lives (5:47)
2. Stuck in a Hole (3:09)
3. Lover (5:08)
4. No Backstage Pass (4:35)
5. Welcome the Day (4:03)
6. Dabsong Conshirto (18:01) :
- a) The Mad Dabsong
- b) Ben Karratt Rides Again
- c) Pro's and Con's
- d) Wraiks and Ladders
- e) Sneaking Out the Bare Quare
- f) All Sorts of Unmentionable Things
7. The Fear and Loathing in Tollington Park (1:09)

Total Time 41:52

Bonus tracks on Decca remaster (2001):
8. Stuck in a Hole (single version) (3:10)
9. Keeping Back My Love (5:14) *
10. For Richard (live) (18:34) #

* previously unreleased
# Recorded at The Fairfield Hall, Croydon 1974

Line-up / Musicians

- Pye Hastings / electric & acoustic guitars, vocals
- David Sinclair / piano, Fender electric piano, organs, Mini Moog, Freeman String Symphonizer, arranger (4,6c,6e)
- Geoff Richardson / viola, acoustic (6a) & electric (1,6e) guitars, flutes
- Mike Wedgwood / bass & fretless bass, congas, Moog (2), arranger (3,4), vocals
- Richard Coughlan / drums, percussion

- Jimmy Hastings / brass arranger & conductor (6c,6e)

Releases information

Artwork: Hipgnosis with Richard Evans

LP Decca - SKLR5210 (1975,UK)

CD Deram ‎- 844 126-2 (1992, UK) Remastered by Anthony Hawkins
CD Decca - 8829812 (2001, Europe) Remastered by Paschal Byrne w/ 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy CARAVAN Cunning Stunts Music

CARAVAN Cunning Stunts ratings distribution

(420 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (39%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

CARAVAN Cunning Stunts reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

The beginning of the end although they might argue that this was the end of the begionning. This should have been a great Lp but the sound is completely different (more Americanized) and one wonder what a master piece the suite might have been if it had been recorded one year earlier. Actually, the BBC sessions make some of these tracks better and more-Caravan sounding.

Another Stunning play on words on the title of the album, you Cĩnts??? ;-)

Review by loserboy
4 stars "Cunning Stunts" is another superb Canterbury prog release from CARAVAN mixing all the right elements throughout. Songs range from more pop orientated (side A) to the side long epic "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" which shows a more progressive side of CARAVAN ( a six part movement). "Cunning Stunts" in many ways is actually my fav of CARAVAN's output with some great gentle CAMEL-like canterbury keyboards and songs. Vocals are picture perfect with great harmonies and thoughtful backing vocals. The reason why I love this album is that although "Cunning Stunts" carries all the trademarks of classic CARAVAN they involve more CAMEL imagery than say SOFT MACHINE influences. A beautiful album worthy of your collection...
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The worst caravan album! Man! This album is really awful! The album is often full of accoustic rhythmic guitar and pseudo sentimental background string or minimal keyboards arrangements! We are far from "In the Land of Grey and Pink"! The melodies are quite not catchy at all. The music is simple, the songs seems accessible but the addiction never comes!

What happened to those guys? It is even BEATLES-esque!

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Caravan put on the show of their lives, gery vood!

The last of the great Caravan albums. The school playground humour of the title, and the rather nondescript sleeve disguise an excellent work which features many fine moments. The jazz influence which came to the fore on "Waterloo Lily" is seldom in evidence here, the album being among the band's most accessible releases, while retaining a significant depth of Canterbury prog.

"The show of our lives" is a majestic opener, complete with chiming bells contributing to a veritable wall of sound. The stately pace and choral vocals give an almost stage show feel to the track. "Lover" and "No backstage pass" combine well to form a beautiful 10 minute piece which was to become a regular feature of their live set.

The "Dabsong concerto" occupies virtually all of side 2 of the LP. It carries many of the Caravan trademarks, with some fine instrumental work. It does tend to drift a bit midway through, but is brought back together by a reprisal of "The show of our lives" to end the track.

Overall, a slightly more commercial album than their previous offerings, but another classic Caravan release nonetheless.

The 2001 remastered CD version has 3 extra tracks including the rare "Keeping back my love" and an 18 minute live version of the classic "For Richard".

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars People say it was the beginning of the end for Caravan. I couldn't disagree more. This and Blind Dogs are very well produced albums continuing in the jazzy mix of WL but obviously not as prog influenced. The Dabsong Conshirtoe is an epic as is ' Stuck in a Hole', ' No backstage Pass' and the soft rocker ' Welcome the Day'. Highly recommended particularly for those who enjoy the jazz side of Caravan.
Review by Proghead
2 stars I hate to come down hard on CARAVAN, after releasing a handful of good to great albums, they came up with this over-orchestrated disaster known as "Cunning Stunts". The lineup at this point was Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Geoff Richardson, Richard Coughlin, and Mike Wedgwood. Wedgwood was previously CURVED AIR and appeared on the wonderful "Phantasmagoria" and its followup, "Air Cut" (which I hadn't heard yet, but had a lineup change for that album). While Mike Wedgwood's appearance in CURVED AIR didn't hurt the band any (after all, the songwriting there was confined to Sonja Kristina, Darryl Way, and Francis Monkman, keeping the CURVED AIR sound), his appearance in CARAVAN really hurt the band, as he seemed to take over here and hogged the spotlight. And most of the stuff he came up with is mush, like "The Show of Our Lives" and "Lover". The orchestrations don't help. What's really lacking here is the whimsy, and the charm of earlier albums, concentrating too much on orchestration. Pye Hasting's rare vocal show, "Stuck in a Hole" is a bit of an improvement. And where's David Sinclair? Mostly it's just him on piano, I start missing his organ, like on "In the Land of Grey & Pink". "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" is the side-length cut, which actually has some excellent moments, starts off rather mushy, but still prevents the album from being a complete disaster. Not the first place to start if you're new to CARAVAN.
Review by NetsNJFan
3 stars 3.5 really.

This album was Caravan's most commercially succesful, driven by the (relative) single sucess of the songs "Stuck in a Hole" and "The Show of Our Lives". Despite this, it earns a lot of derision on the part of die-hard fans, some unwarranted. This is the last good release from Caravan, and has many reasons to recommend it. (It sports a great cover, and Caravan had not lost their trademark Canterbury humour, with the title pun, "Cunning Stunts"). By this point the lineup consisted of band leader and guitarist Pye Hastings, the canterbury legend (and recently returned) David Sinclair on keys, Richard Coughlan on Drums, Geoff Richardson on Violin and Mike Wedgewood on Bass. A strong lineup, but the addition of Wedgewood does push them into much more conventional, rock-pop mould. The album opens with the stately Sinclair composition "The Show of Our Lives", which is the closest Caravan comes to symphonic prog. This slow and majestic track is a real gem, Pye's voice and guitar are both spot on, as well as Richardson as always fantastic violin/viola work. The next track, Pye Hasting's "Stuck in a Hole" was Caravan's biggest hit, and while it lacks the power and grandeur of "Show of our Lives" and their earlier work, it is nonetheless enjoyable and fun, (although not the sound Caravan fans had come to expect). The next three tracks are rather mediocre bordering on insufferable. Mike Wedgewood's "Lover" is one of the most hated tracks ever by Caravan fans, with good reason. It is syrupy trash with little substance. "Welcome the Day" and "no Backstage Pass" are a bit better, though instantly forgettable. With the eighteen minute "Dabsong Concerto", another Sinclair composition, Caravan return to their strong canterbury jazz roots, and they do it well. This is the last epic in the bands repertoire, and its memorable. It has a poppy begginning, similar to many of their songs, which fades into a great Jazz-Prog workout. While Caravan had no doubt drifted towards a more commercial sound of late, they showed they could still play, and play well on this track. Interestingly, this track not only draws its inspiration from folk, jazz and prog like many Caravan tracks, but their is a great deal of Funk in it as well! Overall a very enjoyable and lively track (minus the repetitive and annoying ending with random sound effects). The album closes with a short (1 minute) and pleasant piece called "the Fear and Loathing in Tollington Park Rag", a nice little acoustic guitarpiece and a great way to end the album. Overall a pleasant and enjoyable album, and the last of any importance from Caravan. Despite three weak middle tracks, it is a strong album, and any fan of the lighter, more structured side of Canterbury will love it - 3.5 stars.

Review by Tony Fisher
2 stars I dug this out for this review after not having listened to it for over 20 years and the reasons I didn't like it then apply more than ever now. Caravan had gone through several line up changes since their masterpiece (In the Land of Grey and Pink), the charismatic and excellent bass/vocalist Richard Sinclair having left to be replaced by Mike Wedgewood and Geoff Richardson having come in to take the load off Dave Sinclair in the lead instrument role. He provides viola and electric guitar solos, largely because Pye Hastings seems unwilling or unable to solo. However, the problem does not lie with the musicians, all of whom play very competently.

Caravan are noted for quirky, very English songs with a distinct sense of humour. The material here is generally completely average and most of it is forgettable. The Show of our Lives is the best track on side 1 and escapes criticism, being a fine song in the true Caravan mould with some great choral singing. Stuck in a Hole was released as a single but flopped deservedly; the title describes the band's predicament well. Lover is horrible, slushy and slow with dreadful string arrangements and the last 2 tracks are entirely forgettable, Welcome the Day being decidely poppy and fairly horrible.

Side 2 is almost all taken up by The Dabsong Concerto which sounds like an attempt to revisit Nine Feet Underground. It is pretty good overall and has its moments of brilliance, but it's a bit self indulgent in parts and does not ignite in the way the earlier piece did.

So how to rate this mixed bag? Bearing in mind that I have owned this LP for 31 years and have probably played it less than 10 times (it's in pristine condition!), that must say something. It falls between 2 and 3* but, like the curate's egg, good in parts only merits 2*.

Review by Heptade
2 stars This is Caravan's first sort-of dud, ironic considering that it was their most commercially successful album at the time (and ever, I think). I think they really missed Richard Sinclair's talents as a singer and composer and his sense of humour. The genius of In the Land of Grey and Pink is not present here. For Girls Who Grow Plump... was a pleasant album with some memorable, inventive tunes, but this one passes by without much to remember. That's not to say it's not pleasant- the strings, piano, flute and viola are quite elegant and Pye Hastings remains a good singer and a decent songwriter, but it's all rather inconsequential and a bit bland, sort of like a Peter Frampton album. The songs are pretty much soft-rock with an occasional stab at a kind of white funk groove. The 18 minute Dabsong Conshirtoe is basically a bunch of songs like the rest of the album tied together, not a real epic. I don't mean to come down so hard on the album, but by Caravan's high standards, this slice of competent 70s rock doesn't really measure up. Having said that, if you are building a core collection of Caravan albums, this is certainly pleasant enough to add to your purchases. Just don't expect anything too mind-blowing.
Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This will probably sound heretical for die-hard CARAVAN fans, but I enjoy this album much more than heavily overrated "The Land of Grey and Pink"! It's soft and easy to listen, true, but it is not simply "soft-rock" or "easy-listening" music. The music flows perfectly from start to finish and seems like well-constructed and composed theme. This LP is far from groundbreaking or avant-garde innovations. It is far from masterpiece. But it is simply very nice album to listen to and enjoy. I don't see a reason why "Cunning Stunts" shouldn't be included in any decent prog collection.
Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars While you listen to the opening song, you will pass through several experiences : some dull acoustic start, a sumptuous guitar break and finally a gospel oriented finale. Quite an indigestible mix.

"Stuck In A Whole" is more in the style of their previous (and more rocking) album. An easy listening and upbeat rock song. Not bad, but not really good either!

It is true to say that this album is not a great one. The syrupy and well titled "Lover" is an ultra mellowish song which collapses under heavy orchestrations. Press next.

My favourite song from this album is "No Backstage Day". Smooth vocals are combined with a beautiful melody and when the band group its forces and perform the upbeat middle part, we are not far away of the best "Caravan" which is of course not the case during the funky "Welcome The Day". Press next.

The epic of this album is another pleasant song. It combines quiet musical moments and rock passages with a special mention to the very good violin play (but these brass are too invading). It should please any "Caravan" fan. It saves a bit this album I must say.

Some jazzy flavours and good fluting almost fully occupies the second half of this long piece (eighteen minutes, sharp). I admit that the last five funky minutes are repetitive and useless. It really ends up nowhere. A pity because without those brass and this finale it could have been a good epic.

This is an aaverage album even if the remastered edition features a good version of For Richard. Two stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Cunning Stunts is the sixth studio album from Caravan. After the brilliant For Girls Who Grow Plumb in the Night, I expected an equally stunning album, but I guess Caravanīs great era ended with For Girls Who Grow Plumb in the Night because Cunning Stunts is a disappointment compared to the previous album. Itīs not all bad though and there are hints to the Caravan we love.

The Show of Our Lives starts the album. Itīs a semi-ballad song with lots of orchestration. I canīt say I enjoy this song very much. Itīs definitely not to my taste. Stuck in a Hole is the next song and here the quality is considerably higher. This is how Caravan should sound like IMO. Itīs an energetic song that reminds me a bit about some of the songs from For Girls Who Grow Plumb in the Night. One of the best songs here without a doubt. Lover is a terrible cheesy ballad type song with lots of orchestration. Really not my taste at all. Around this time of listening I was seriously worried if Cunning Stunts would continue in this way but fortunately the next song No Backstage Pass is a pretty good subtle Caravan song. But then we go again with a terrible song. Welcome the Day has beat that is almost in the vein of disco. This song is so cheesy I canīt stand it. The keyboard solo by David Sinclair is a bit redeeming though. Itīs a very bad song though.

Dabsong Conshirto is an 18 minute long song which is the definite highlight of Cunning Stunts. This is actually one of the greatest compositions I have heard so far from Caravan. Lots of soloing by violin, keyboards and flute but there are also some of the most demanding vocal parts Pye Hastings ever did. Really high pitched without sounding forced. What a great song. The last song is The Fear and Loathing in Tollington Park which is a short almost bluegrass inspired guitar led song but then flute kicks in and gives it a folky touch. Ok but nothing special.

The musicianship is very good even though itīs hard to understand that brilliant musicians like these wantīs to play some of the things played on Cunning Stunts.

The production is very good. I really enjoy this production and I wish that the music had been better so it could have profited from the good sound quality.

Cunning Stunts have good moments and terrible moments and itīt definitely not my favorite Caravan album but the good moments does mean that I will rate Cunning Stunts 3 stars. Two songs stand out as the best and saves the album and that is Stuck in a Hole and Dabsong Conshirto. This is partially recommendable. I would buy this if I fell over it in a record store but itīs not the kind of album I would seek out.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Neither cunning nor stunning

This is one of Caravan's better albums, but it is far away from the previous For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night. Cunning Stunts consists mainly of rather lightweight songs with a distinct Pop flavour. Perhaps, not that they are particularly commercial or very memorable, but they are quite accessible and cathcy they somehow lack an edge.

The opening song, The Show Of Our Lives, is more grandiose and symphonic than what we are used to from Caravan. It is a lovely song though, but hardly progressive. The misguided Jazz-Rock/Fusion direction of Waterloo Lily is thankfully not resurrected on this album. Instead they chose here to be a bit more accessible and melodic which benefits their sound much more than Jazz-Rock in my opinion. However, they often sound rather anonymous here and a bit too lighthearted for my taste. The Disco flavoured Welcome The Day would have fitted perfectly, both musically and lyrically, on an Alan Parsons Project album like I Robot or Eve!

The centrepiece of the album is the 18 minute, multipart The Dabsong Conshirtoe. This is clearly the most interesting song on the album and is quite nice. However, it does not compare favourably to the For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night material or the classic Five Feet Underground from The Land Of Gray And Pink.

The conclusion is that Cunning Stunts, while neither particularly cunning nor particularly stunning, is still a good album. However, it is hardly essential listening.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Caravan turned on US market with this album. They always were pop-folk wing of Canterbury scene, but on their previous albums they quite successfully balanced between catchy melodies, soft multi layered sound and light smell of jazzy psychedelia to stay one of most respectable Canterbury scene band.

With Cunning Stunts they left their usual field of activities. Songs there are a bit faster,less dreamy, missed almost all folksy moments, but became much more funky and a bit more jazzy. Still big part of great melodies stayed on this release, and they are great material for almost groovy compositions a-la Steely Dan or Chicago (even more some compositions sound close to ELO prog-boogie ,or are influenced by American folk music)

I believe for Canterbury scene fans this album is a total disaster, but with my love to jazzy/funky grooves I can easily find an interesting side of the band's music there. For sure, a bit simplistic and some openly radio-friendly compositions didn't help much for band's progressive fame, but open ears listener will find really many interesting moments in the music of this album.

Interesting release for funky jazz rock fans, not recommended for Canterbury or prog folk lovers.

Really 3+!

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars This is what I consider the last good thing made by Caravan. This quite underrated album (IMO of course) is similar in its structure to Grey and Pink: 5 songs on the A side and a suite on the B side, even if there's a short closer at the end.

But let's go step by step: the album's opener is one of the most famous Caravan's tracks, at least by the mainstream public. It was also the title of the compilation that represented my first Caravan purchase. It's not on PA but I have to retrieve the vinyl in a box... "The Show Of Our Lives" is a major-chords-mellow-tempo song, nothing special apart the cello in the background and I really dislike its final.

Things are little better with "Stick In A Hole", another of the Caravan's pop-oriented songs. It's a piece of British Glam as we have found several times in the previous albums. Not properly prog. Good but non-essential let's say.

"Lover" seems to have been written to give Geoff Richardson the opportunity to place some strings here and there. This song can be skipped both for the trivial pop music and for the poor lyrics.

At this point somebody could wonder why I call this album "the last good thing"...let's proceed.

Strings and flute open "No Backstage Pass". It's the first true Caravan song. The vocals are not too dissimilar from Richard Sinclair's and the music is finally fully enjoyable. There's some pop in the chorus but it's not so bad to jeopardize the rest of the song.

"Welcome the Day" is a surprise. I don't understand why a band like this tried to make a Disco-Funky song. The attempt was unsuccessful , specially because the chorus is too typical Caravan's stuff and this partially saves this song. Not that it's bad, but surely is not what one looks for in a Caravan's album. If I want this kind of things I can buy Bee Gees or at least the late 70s output of Wishbone Ash (a little better for me).

Ok, the A side is no more than two stars, but "The Dashboard Conshirtoe" is about to come. Put the vinyl upside down and listen to one of the best songs ever released by this band. A slow melodic beginning with some jazzy accents, the only thing that appears misplaced is the bongos in the background. After a couple of minutes it goes uptime and it's not dissimilar from what is found in epics like Nine Feet Underground. The initial theme is then back just to introduce a glam part that's very enjoyable and contains the brasses arranged by Jimmy Hastings who reveals to be a genius. Also the guitar solo which follows is reminding of the acid sounds of the first albums. To be honest I like the Slade, so how could I dislike this? However it suddenly stops to leave room to a symphonic instrumental part which later turns into jazz. And it's really better than the first jazzy attempts of Waterloo Lily. The bass is so good that you wouldn't suspect that Richard Sinclair is not here. As often happens in jazz and in prog there's room for riffs from all the instruments, in particular guitar and electric piano which alternate several times. When the jazzy part stops one could expect a thunder like on For Richard. It turns into funky instead. This is a five minutes coda or better the final movement of the symphony which ends in chaos as also None Feet Underground does. Please forgive the last minute...

The album is closed by "Tollington Park Rag". As the title says it's a ragtime and even if totally disconnected from the rest, I like it. One funny trivial is that I was unable to listen to it on vinyl without passing by the suite first, because moving the pick-up so close to the centre of the disk was causing the pick-up to go back to the standby position...

I know that I shouldn't rate half of an album, but the B side is very good and at the level of the best things released by Caravan so missing it because of some poor things on the A side would be a pity. The A side is for fans only but the B side is an excellent addition. I will go for the average but with the temptation of rating it 4 stars.

Review by Warthur
3 stars The consensus amongst most Caravan listeners seems to be that somewhere along the way they drifted a bit too far into commercialised poppy soft-rock realms, lost their distinctive personality, and churned out some really bad albums. The main point of disagreement seems to be precisely where the decline began.

Personally, I take a hardline approach: Cunning Stunts, the album which changed up Caravan's sound and swapped out the Canterbury style of For Girls Who Grow Plump In the Night in favour of cheesy strings, anonymous and generic jazz-rock blended with unconvincing stabs at hard rock, and The Dabsong Conshirtoe, Caravan's least convincing epic.

Over time this has grown on me a little, and I have to admit that some parts of it are pretty darn catchy - Stuck In a Hole, in particular, has an echo of the whimsy which ran through Caravan's work from their debut to Plump In the Night, and some of the band's attempts at funk aren't too terrible. Judged on its own merits, I'd say that this album's actually pretty good... the problem is, whilst it's a good album in its own right, it's by no means a good Caravan album - not in terms of delivering the Caravan sound, and not in terms of hitting the high standards we'd come to expect of the band.

I've come to the conclusion that the basic problem that Cunning Stunts had isn't necessarily that it's too pop - but it is too much of the wrong kind of pop, the sort that ages badly and seems tasteless and trite in retrospect. There was daring, interesting, whimsical, and otherwise Caravan-esque stuff happening in some corners of 1970s pop - but that's not the sort of pop they go for here. A little too often, the album becomes redolent of ugly paisley-patterned wallpaper and other aspects of the 1970s we all prefer to overlook.

Whilst it probably made sense to Caravan to pivot away from the hippy underground music of their origins to instead focus on something more suited to the way the commercial winds were blowing, this isn't that - and as the increasingly poor reception of Caravan's late-1970s/early 1980s attempts to go all-out pop shows, this would be a recurring problem. Compare to their debut album - redolent of the psychedelic pop of the time, and all the richer for it.

It's one thing to give up on your classic sound and sell out - but if you're going to do so, you should at least bring something to the table that people want to buy. Cunning Stunts is worth a listen less for its attempts at 1970s pop and more for the last flashes of old Caravan it offers; Stuck In a Hole, for instance, is notable less for sounding like something from the 1970s and more for the way it sounds like a lost song from the 1960s - you could see it being a forgotten psych-tinged pop number very easily.

Whilst some argue that Blind Dog At St. Dunstan's has its merits, I'd say that Cunning Stunts is probably the last Caravan album you really need to listen to from their classic run; if you really, truly like the poppier aspects of it, maybe Blind Dog's also worth a try, but even fans of that musical style seem to balk at later albums from the 1970s and 1980s.

It's notable that when Caravan put out their ill-advised albums of rerecorded songs in the late 1990s, All Over You and All Over You Too (never a good sign when a band resorts to such gambits!), they didn't get around to including anything from Cunning Stunts until All Over You Too, and then they only touched Stuck In a Hole. If even Pye Hastings and company themselves don't really see the album as being worth revisiting to the same extent as the albums from If I Could Do It All Over Again... to Plump In the Night, why should you?

Review by Sinusoid
2 stars Sometimes, an album can come with a bad omen before the first listen. Take Caravan's sixth studio album, CUNNING STUNTS. When I first put on the record after I get home, I find that my copy got the pressing all screwed up and switched the two side labels around.

That's just my bad experience with one item. The actual musical content of the record is about as head-scratching. From the band that had delighted fans with a unique concoction of jazz, prog, pop and psychedelia, and the band that really rebounded its career with FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT, to begin the album with something that wouldn't sound too out of place on a Billy Joel or Elton John record is frightening. ''The Show of Our Lives'' has extremely little of Caravan's usual pizzazz; instead, it opts to crack open in an American market that I assume never heard it.

I hate to sound harsh, but if there is a good reason why CUNNING STUNTS has been obscured in comparison to other Caravan records, it's that most of the album sounds like very lightweight, generic '70s soft rock. What made Caravan Caravan is nearly nonexistent on the first side, save for a little Pye Hastings dry humour. New bassist (the third bassist in three albums) Mike Wedgewood isn't helping any as his two tracks (''Lover'', ''Welcome the Day'') sound awkward and never really fit Caravan's style. They sound like they're trying to be ''Caravan, the band, the musical'', and for this band it doesn't work. Also, on the previous album, I enjoyed the fresh sound Geoff Richardson's viola brought to the band; here, I forget he's in the band until about the fifth song.

The only song that at least has somewhat of a lasting impression is ''The Dabsong Conshirto'', another attempt by David Sinclair to bring the band back into epic status. For CUNNING STUNTS, it's decent enough, but it's too clustered to be in ''Nine Feet Underground'' territory. For some reason, Hastings actually goes for the highest notes in his range early in the epic with mixed results. And ending with a reprise of ''The Show of Our Lives'' isn't a welcome conclusion in my book.

For whatever reasons, CUNNING STUNTS is a huge disappointment of an album that Caravan hasn't quite rebounded from. The songs sound like clockwork and the band doesn't seem to gel like they have before. Speaking of unable to gel, Dave Sinclair exited the band again after this record.

Review by siLLy puPPy
3 stars Early 70s prog bands must have lived in totally cognitive dissonance knowing they were crafting some of the most cutting edge music but well beyond the ability of the public to access it given the record companies weren't exactly good at promoting rock's next best thing since sliced bread. CARAVAN, of course, is one of the fundamental pillars of the Canterbury Scene, yet even this band that was probably the most accessible of any band later thrown into that designated niche of prog rock had a difficult time making ends meet in terms of financial survival. True the band's first five albums are NOW classics in the world of prog rock but it took over four decades for the rest of the world to catch on therefore it's no wonder that as other pop rock bands were raking in millions in album sales, bands like CARAVAN were struggling just to feed themselves and therefore the temptation to hop the fence was intense!

Everybody knows the woes of the 1970s where around the middle of the decade even the few popular prog bands that DID manage to eke out a living like Yes, ELP and Jethro Tull started to tame their progressive tendencies in lieu of more accessible pop flavored music (bands like Pink Floyd were the exception since they already were crossover bands). Amazingly CARAVAN was already considered the most pop of what is now known as the Canterbury Scene yet despite critical acclaim and small loyal fanbases never managed to break into the profitable crossover world of rock music. It's no wonder by 1975 when King Crimson called it a day and other bands started caving to the pressures from their respective record labels that CARAVAN would begin to jettison most of those progressive attributes that separated them from the "mainstream" rock scene. After five albums ending with "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night," CARAVAN ventured into the next phase of its career, one that true fans despised and also one that attracted very few new followers.

CUNNING STUNTS was CARAVAN's sixth studio album and the first to feature newbie bassist Mike Wegwood. At this stage CARAVAN was trying to play both sides of the fence with insipid pop shlop like the AOR ballad "Lover" as well as still trying to refrain from alienating prog stalwarts with the 18-minute "Dabsong Conshirto." The results are clearly a step down from what had preceded but while many will write this album off as a total train wreck, after a few careful listens it does redeem itself as an album that while not in the same league as what came before, isn't nearly as bad as many make it out to be either. CARAVAN's music had always been imbued with catchy pop hooks but the problem many have here is that the band had pretty much abandoned the Canterbury jazz flavors that decorated the albums of yore.

The shock sets in immediately with the opening "The Show Of Our Lives." Wow. Is THIS really CARAVAN? If you thought "In The Land Of Grey And Pink" was too poppy, well you've been set straight after hearing this! The band also tried to adopt a Nazareth sound with "Stuck In A Hole" by going the harder rock route but unfortunately it's not hard enough to be hard rock and sounds a bit wimpy. Like many prog bands turning to the pop side of the music industry, CARAVAN threw the most accessible tracks out near the beginning but starting with "No Backstage Pass" the tunes become more orchestrated and slightly progressive until we get to the massive 18-minute "Dabsong Conshirto" which on paper sounds like a good idea but doesn't quite scratch the itch for an mega-comp of that running time. Still though it's not bad and is even catchy enough to warrant return visits.

Perhaps the backlash against CUNNING STUNTS is due to the fact that everyone wanted the same music as they had become accustomed to but at the time were unaware there was sort of a retrograde effect in the music industry where profits were becoming more and more the driving force over musical innovation. Given the knowledge of the obstacles bands like CARAVAN was facing at the time albums like CUNNING STUNTS can be appreciated a bit more but let's not mince words here. This album was and remains one of the lowest points of the band's career and although the tracks are melodic and catchy from a pop rock point of view, aren't exactly worthy of classic rock radio status either. For better or for worse CUNNING STUNTS very much signifies the point in CARAVAN's history where they transmogrified into stunning cunts and thus living up to their spoonerism title. Sad but true but despite it all this album isn't as bad as many make it out to be. The bonus tracks on the Decca remaster somewhat make up for it. OK, only marginally.

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
5 stars The Canterbury Scene is not really a genre I listen to very often. Heck the only album I listened to from the whole genre is Fourth by Soft Machine and I only thought that album was just Ok. Nothing too special. This made me feel a little discouraged too check out any more albums from the Canterbury Scene, until I decided to listen to this album, and oh boy, I was missing out on some good, funky and great tunes.

This album starts with the beautiful and amazing 'The Show of Our Lives'. It's like the perfect opener, filled with beautiful piano arrangements, amazing guitar playing, and a slow but groovy beat. Plus the vocal delivery of Pye Hastings are so, so very good. Afterwards, Stuck in A Hole plays, a very funky and groovy song, that sorta reminds me of those road trip jams that you bob your head too. Lover and No Backstage Pass are both very beautiful tracks in the same vain as The Show Of Our Lives, however with a love song twist, and some beautiful string arrangements. Welcome To The Day is another hit on this album, but with a more direct funkadelic sound, that reminds me of jazz artists like B.B. King. After that, we have the 18 minute suite of pure amazement that is Dabsong Conshirtoe. It's like the perfect combination of all of the songs from this album, put together into a brilliant pot of glorious proportions, plus the ending being all weird and almost like the song is overlapping with itself is so weird, interesting and satisfying. The last track, The Fear and Loathing in Tollington Park, isn't something to wright home about, but it is a little nice tune, like a bow wrapping the whole album together.

All in all, this album is an amazing piece of work that I am surprised isn't as well known as any other Prog album that is regarded as the best. I absolutely love this album.

Latest members reviews

3 stars An album with some highs and lows, averaging out to a mediocre affair. The first side of the album is definitely the weaker side with rather atrocious songs like welcome the day and stuck in a hole. Backstage pass is the strongest song on the side, although by no means a masterpiece, just a charm ... (read more)

Report this review (#2536455) | Posted by Beautiful Scarlet | Sunday, April 18, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Caravan was producing soft rock/pop albums with little risks, relying on decent vocals, good melodies and restrained instrumental legacy. Caravan with Hastings learnt well how to craft harmonic positive songs and decorate them with contemporary instruments like rhodes, moogs and brass that di ... (read more)

Report this review (#2457577) | Posted by sgtpepper | Monday, October 19, 2020 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I think this is where the magic ended. What can I say about "Cunning stunts"? First of all I have to say it was not a great impression the first time that I heard it (or the second, or the third, or the fourth...), they had created something completely different of what they used to do. ... (read more)

Report this review (#2077704) | Posted by YourJefa | Thursday, November 22, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Cunning Stunts is actually a great album. Caravan moves towards a more accessible sonund. But they always were quite catchy, even in the long epic songs. This album sounds very energetic and the band tries new territories, I can hear blues and soul-influences. The songs have a more american f ... (read more)

Report this review (#1596924) | Posted by Kingsnake | Friday, August 12, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Caravan left Canterbury and entered Crossovertown or perhaps Art Rock City but after hearing this pretty record I must confess that was not a bad development. I am happy how a band can change style and go to new dimensions but keep their excellent feeling for the art of music. Because music c ... (read more)

Report this review (#980676) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Yes, Caravan changed their style even more on this album. It's more symphonic and less psychedelic, less Canterbury - and that's why I like it so much! I understand that fans got disappointed. Fans usually don't like when their idols change their style. But you can have a different point of view. So ... (read more)

Report this review (#915399) | Posted by Boluf | Monday, February 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars An admitted step in the "commercialized" direction. Yeah? What's wrong with that? Is that your definition of a cunning stunt, sir or madam? Pye Hastings wanted to be a successful rock musician; don't we all want to succeed in what we strive at? Taking that into consideration, it is quite under ... (read more)

Report this review (#292161) | Posted by LionRocker | Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Cunning Stunts" of announcement in 1975. The last work in DERAM age. The feature of the sound is graceful British pop shown by the first two. It is a system to which the influence of THE BEATLES such as 10CC and WINGS has been received. The first half is a melodious pop like Paul McCartney. T ... (read more)

Report this review (#43514) | Posted by braindamage | Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars STUCK IN A HOLE and the brilliant DABSONG CONSHIRTOE make this album for me. HOLE sounds like NIGHT OWL-era Gerry Rafferty, while the CONSHIRTOE is simply mesmerizing. Along with GREY AND PINK and PLUMP IN THE NIGHT, this has to be one of Caravan's best. ... (read more)

Report this review (#21399) | Posted by | Saturday, March 27, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Show of Our Lives and No Backstage Pass are the best songs ever recorded by Caravan, in my humble opinion. The Dabsong Conshirtoe is a little self indulgent, but is pleasant enough for an ambient piece. This is a very under rated album. Sure it doesn't sound like their previous albums, but it wo ... (read more)

Report this review (#21397) | Posted by | Sunday, March 14, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This album has three good tracks (the long Dabsong Con-Shirt-Toe suite is the best, but the Tollington Pk Rag and No Backstage Pass are fine too), but the other four songs are awful. 'Stuck in a Hole' really sums it up here, not just for Caravan at the time, but for the mid-1970's boring commercial- ... (read more)

Report this review (#21395) | Posted by | Tuesday, February 3, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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