Caravan this weekend. One of the bands cited most as a major influence in the Prog-Rock movement of the late 60s/early 1970s. They were also one of the bands largely credited as being a catalyst for The Canterbury Sound as it was the stopping off an landing place for so many influential figures in that movement.
This gig comes during their first American tour in 1974. Hard to imagine it took them so long to get here – being a staple in the FM underground diet ever since the release of their self-titled debut album in 1969 and their milestone follow up If I Could Do It Again, I’d DO It All Over You in 1970. But this first U.S. tour comes between the releases of For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night in 1973, Caravan And The New Symfonia (1974) and Cunning Stunts from 1975. If memory serves, they played The Starwood in West Hollywood around this time and had a small but very loyal following. This was also during a time when they were working on Poppier material and were undergoing some personnel changes.
Sadly, they would go into an extended hiatus in 1978, leaving a blank in the 1980s, but staged a reunion in 1990 and have been off-and-on together since then, even with the loss of founding member Richard Coughlin.
Caravan are considered a key example of the Canterbury scene genre. Their records generally indicate a jazz influence, and the group’s lyrics have been described as whimsical and very “English”, particularly during Richard Sinclair‘s tenure in the band. Following Sinclair’s departure, the musical direction has been predominantly led by Pye Hastings, who preferred a softer pop rock approach. Though the group share a common history with Soft Machine, they have been considered more melodic and closer to folk music and frequently displaying a sense of humor. The group were predominantly album-oriented, but Hastings believes the group recorded enough straightforward pop that could have been hit singles if the record company had taken sufficient interest.
Instrumentally, David Sinclair’s fuzztone Hammond organ sound is a key ingredient of the early Caravan albums, and his playing is the dominant instrument on them. His musical palette subsequently expanded to include synthesizers. Jimmy Hastings‘ woodwind playing and orchestral arrangements have also been a regular feature in the band’s music since its inception.
If you weren’t able to catch them the first time around, or heard about them but not actually heard them, here is a taste of what you missed.