A fine debut
William M. Feagin | Upstate New York, USA | 01/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was Caravan's first album, recorded and released in 1968, and to this reviewer's mind and ears, it was one of the first real progressive rock albums along with Soft Machine's debut, released that same year. You've really got to hand it to the Canterbury proggers--they balanced seriousness and facetiousness extraordinarily well in their music; just listen to any album by Gong, Soft Machine, Caravan, Hatfield and the North, Egg, etc., and you'll never again think of prog as "grim-faced philosopher" music. (In fact, most prog bands, with the possibly exception of King Crimson--due to R. Fripp's overbearing studiousness--have a dry, subtle sense of humour that the uninitiated will miss on the first trip, but most others will pick up on easily, and laugh out loud at the underlying goofiness.) After all, how else could you approach a song with a title like "Where But for Caravan Would I?" And of course, "Love Song With Flute" sounds like a starving artist's first painting (think "Lawn Chair With Fruit" and you're in the ballpark).
Yet for all that underlying levity, this is a seriously good album throughout. The sonic differences between the mono and stereo versions are obvious--mono is a bit flatter and two-dimensional, whereas stereo has actual depth--but this is a minor complaint...not even really a complaint, just an observation. The addition of the single version of "Hello, Hello" is nice, as this reissue was put together somewhat after the reissue of the band's sophomore release, If I Could Do it All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You (1970), on which "Hello, Hello" first appeared as an album track. The liner notes give a nice account from Pye Hastings of the band's beginnings and their struggles to find a label (Island's Chris Blackwell hated Pye's singing voice and declined to sign them on that basis), especially after the UK branch of Verve/Forecast folded within a year of its establishment; luckily, Decca, who were distributing Verve in England, picked them up and they were able to continue forward.
Favourite tracks on here include "A Place of My Own," "Cecil Rons" (with its gonzo chorus) and "Where But for Caravan Would I?" Pick this one up; I did, and haven't regretted it for a moment. Neither will you."
Mostly average, before they really figured it all out.
Abe | Columbus, Ohio | 08/15/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I searched all over for this cd after I had heard "Grey and Pink" and "If I could do it all again....", and I was in denial for a while about it being as good. Being released the same year as the first Soft Machine album, I was expecting "Caravan" to be an equally creatively explosive affair. However, after time I realized that this was a band that had not yet figured out what they were doing (much like the first two yes albums). I burned a copy before selling the original just for "Magic Man" and "Place of my own", for me the two shining spots on this disc. I'm not a sound engineer, so I don't get off on the stero and mono versions included on the album. Why listen to mono? Why? "In the land of Grey and Pink" and "If I could do it all over again, I'd do it all over you" are the only Caravan albums you need, in my opinion. Overall, my score is average at best."