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Caravan - Blind Dog At St. Dunstans CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.30 | 301 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars I've got a soft spot for BETTER BY FAR (1977) and I feel BLIND DOG (1976) is on almost the same level, but not quite.

Most of BLIND DOG is "Caravan Lite". Jolly pop songs like "Here Am I", "A Very Smelly, Grubby Little Oik" and "Jack and Jill" are very, very similar to the material that would emerge on BETTER BY FAR one year later, but BETTER BY FAR sounds much glossier, courtesy of producer Tony Visconti. BETTER BY FAR also benefits from one of the most beautiful Caravan instrumentals ever ("The Last Unicorn") and one of their most haunting ballads ("Nightmare"). There's nothing quite as amazing on BLIND DOG, although the (nearly) nine minute "All the Way" is the sort of torchsong only Pye Hastings can write: not too dissimilar from "The Show of Our Lives" (on CUNNING STUNTS), but one helluva album closer!

To be sure, BLIND DOG has its moments: there's some exciting soloing on guitar (Pye Hastings and Geoffrey Richardson), viola (Richardson again), ultra-fat sounding bass (Mike Wedgwood), keyboards (Jan Schelhaas) and various wind instruments (mainly played by the inimitable Jimmy Hastings), but all solos are kept within bounds. Mike Wedgwood's vocal on "Chiefs and Indians" is a delight. Everyone who's even remotely interested in Caravan's history should get a copy of this album, but I can't help thinking that, after the first four tracks or so, most of the remainder (i.e. "Come on Back", "Oik (Reprise)", "Jack and Jill" and "Can You Hear Me?") sounds like filler.

As previous reviewers have pointed out, St. Dunstan is associated with the blind. The full meaning of "BLIND DOG AT ST DUNSTANS" is explained in the wikipedia entry devoted to the album. It's a fascinating story (involving Noel Coward and a pair of dogs) which I never knew until today, so take a look when you can!

And so on to the album cover. St Dunstan was archbishop of Canterbury, and an entire neighbourhood (just west of the town centre) was named after him. On the front cover you see the most exciting part of this neighbourhood (called St Dunstan's, of course), with Canterbury's West Gate at the top. Apparently, this is the oldest surviving city gate in England, and it's well-known for the fact that double-decker buses only just manage to squeeze through.

I don't know what the street here depicted looks like nowadays, but when I was a student at Kent University (1983-84), most of the shops in the picture were still there, including that pub with the curving roof on the left. (Needless to say the names of shops and pubs on the sleeve are full of dog-related puns, e.g. "Barkley's Bank" for "Barclay's Bank".) I used to find it delightful to walk or ride through an actual album cover... (And doesn't the cover suggest Caravan were the most "Canterbury" of all Canterbury bands?) Unfortunately, back then there were no further traces of the entire "scene". The local record shops didn't even stock Canterbury albums anymore. Sic transit gloria mundi...

fuxi | 2/5 |


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