“Old soldiers never die”. The fact that a significant numbers of bands that were responsible for the birth and development of the Symphonic Rock genre is still or again active definitely pleases a lot of fans of the genre. One of the great names from the past is the English band Caravan. They originated from the band The Wild Flowers in the late sixties, which was active in the Canterbury area of the English city Kent. The band mentioned was also the breeding place for other famous bands and artists such as Soft Machine and Mike Oldfield. The “poppy” but on the other hand jazz and classical music influenced and sometimes even psychedelic music that the bands and artists from this area produced was so much unique, that it was given its own name: “Canterbury”.
Caravan is definitely one of the great names from the Canterbury scene and as already mentioned they are still active and even celebrate their 35th anniversary in 2003. This year will also give us a new album, which is being preceded by CD (re-) releases of much of their known and unknown older material. One that fits in the latter category is a live recording for a radio broadcast as part of their 1975 UK tour.
This album contains six predominantly long tracks that give a good impression of the essential Caravan. During the period of this recording Geoff Richardson was a member of the band and his viola largely dominates the performances of the classic Caravan songs on this album. Next to Geoff, who also plays flute and guitar, the line up of the band was as follows: Richard Coughlin: drums and percussion, Pye Hastings: guitar and vocals, Jan Schelhaas: keyboards and vocals and Mike Wedgwood: bass and vocals.
The concert opens with the very suitable “The show of our lives” (4:42) and although I can not confirm that this is indeed THE (best) show Caravan ever gave, it certainly is a good one and the recording that is made of it is also of good quality. The opening track is a more pop and vocal oriented song that has a beautiful melody. Track 2 “Memory Lain, Hugh Headloss” (9:52) is a Caravan classic, as is track 3 “The Dabsong Conshirtoe” (12:30). Both pieces are very representative for the repertoire of this band: long epic works, with pleasant vocals, a variation of (instrumental) themes and much room for solos on guitar and keyboard and, on this performance, also on viola. Sometimes, especially on their more early works, these solos tend to become a bit freaky. “The Dabsong Conshirtoe” features up tempo parts with more heavy, rock and roll like guitar riffs as a basis for viola and keyboard solos. The third part of this piece contains a short flue part that is reminiscent of Focus. The finale of this “concerto” is also typical Caravan: a repeating (guitar) theme guides the rest of the band to a more or less bombastic eruption of sounds. In spite of these sometimes heavy parts by and large the music radiates a rather relaxing atmosphere, mainly because of the easy vocal parts with nice harmonies, as in track 4. This is a compilation of three songs, “Virgin on the ridiculous”, “Be alright” and “Chance of a lifetime” (14:23). Beautiful melodies and typical instrumental parts with long organ solos based on classical patterns (could this be Procol Harum?).The second part of this medley gives us an intro with percussion that shifts to a “driving” rhythm. It finishes easy with nice guitar and viola solos that build up as a sort of bolero. The electric piano, which we hear more on the other songs during this concert, really contribute to the relaxing atmosphere. “The love in your eye” lasts more than 18 minutes (18:22) and has the same pattern as the previous songs. A few solo parts on this song are in the vein of Camel, especially where the keyboard solos are accompanied by rhythm guitar. Especially in this song the solos tend to become freaky and might get you lose your attention; at least it does to me. But let’s not forget that this is a recording from 1975, a period in which these sort of instrumental explorations were common property in the progressive rock scene. The last track on the album “For Richard” (16:50) is announced by the band as “a more dynamic and traditional Caravan piece”, although I think it doesn’t differ much from the other pieces, apart from the fact that this one is fully instrumental. It opens quite easy, but builds up right from the start with nice percussion and much pleasant viola play. Again the typical instrumental finale with it’s repeating basic theme, this time starting with a long synthesizer solo that sounds like an organ, supported by rhythm guitar that evolves into a fuzzed guitar and organ duet.
A nice closing to a good concert, which gives a good overall impression of the music of this band and the music that, was produced during the mid seventies in the Canterbury scene. Perhaps not too interesting for those that have not much knowledge and affinity with the progressive bands of the past, but certainly for those that have.
CD available direct from MLP LTD email: email@example.com