Caravan: 1970-1975 The Decca/Deram Years
9 CD Box Set
Canterbury’s finest Caravan have had their Decca/Deram 70’s era material reissued via Decca Records in a mammoth 9 CD box set. Matt Mead jumps in the back seat to review for Louder Than War.
Between 1970-1975 Caravan released an interesting mix of long players mixing psychedelic lyrical tongue twisters, blissful guitar solos pinned together with mesmerising keyboard solos. Other bands of the period including Traffic, Free and Humble Pie were freely embraced enjoying much success, however, the southeast quartet was less than fortunate to even get a look in around the same period.
The 9 CD’s are wrapped in their original sleeves designs in mini replicas, with a 44-page booklet telling the story of the band which includes rarely seen memorabilia including posters, press shots all housed in a sturdy box. The sound throughout is first class, original master tapes have been sourced which only increases the joy for the listeners.
1970 long player If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You is up for scrutiny first. Original line up Pye Hastings (guitar/vocals), Richard Sinclair (bass), Dave Sinclair (keyboards), Richard Coughlan (drums) shift gear to a more folk direction, gentler listening material than the late ‘60s rock of their self-titled debut live favourite For Richard makes an appearance with subtle gear changes through moving to soft 60’s rock to a folk edge.
In The Land Of The Grey and Pink is the unheralded pinnacle for the much-lamented original outfit. The coming together of jazz and folk with improvised jams appeals with Winter Wine mixing the aforementioned musical styles. The B side is an altogether different song to the A-side, linking eight tracks into one is not for the faint-hearted but the band win effortlessly playing through a mixture of instrumentals and vocal numbers including blowing bubbles into the microphone.
The rest of the material in the set is hit and miss. With the band going through a number of changes in the line-up, as with anything that changes the direction can either work or suffer, both scenarios are found here. Waterloo Lilly sees a jazzier feel arrive with The Love In Your Eye featuring Wurlitzer wizardry. 1973’s For Girls Who Go Plump In The Night features critically acclaimed track Headloss, C’Thlu, Thlu with a shift into Steely Dan type grooves. Cunning Stunts is the last of the studio material by the time of this release an 18-minute Dabsong Conshirtoe was a step too far in the depths of experimentation.
There are live / session cuts across 4 discs, which can either showcase the band’s heightened powers on the floorboards or whimsical versions of loved compositions. Fortunately what’s on show here doesn’t fall into the latter category. A 39 piece orchestra breath epic swaths of emotions into A Hunting We Will Go and Virgin On The Ridiculous. An epic 19-minute tour-de-force of For Richard is the ultimate highlight on Live At Fairfield’s Hall, whilst Live at the BBC 1970-1975 delivers that striking blow with the bands take on Soft Machine B side Feelin’, Reelin’, Squealin’. Which leaves the lasting thought, if you wanted to discover one the great unheralded bands of the early Seventies now is your time to fill a full tank of Caravan.
All words by Matt Mead. Further articles by Matt can be found via the Louder Than War author archive pages.