Caravan – In concert at Montreux, 1972 – recorded by RTS, Switzerland – April 29, 1972.
Caravan tonight. One of those bands who are essential in the overall assessment of the Progrock movement in the late 60s/early 70s. Part of The Canterbury Scene which brought to light a tsunami of extraordinary talent and bands who helped shape the Progressive Rock movement to international prominence. Although not as commercially successful as some of the brighter, more neo-mainstream lights, Caravan made an enormous impression on a vast number of bands and musicians and will be, as of August 21st of this year, the object of a massive 37 CD box set survey of what is an astonishing career.
In case you don’t already know (via their website – the one you can pre-order the box set from . . hint-hint):
Caravan was formed in Canterbury, England in 1968 by Pye Hastings (guitar/ vocals), Dave Sinclair (keyboards), Richard Sinclair (bass/vocals) and Richard Coughlan (drums).
The four had previously played at various times with a local band, The Wilde Flowers, which also featured Kevin Ayers and future Soft Machine members Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper.
Caravan was the first UK act to sign with American label MGM/ Verve and their debut album, entitled ‘Caravan’ was released late in 1968. It was favorably received by the critics and the debut single, Place of My Own was described as having a ‘gripping compulsion’ with ‘scintillating organ work’. John Peel played the album regularly on his radio show ‘Top Gear’.
A second album saw a move from Verve, as they had closed down their rock/pop division and Decca took up the cause. September 1970 was the release date for ‘If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You’. At this time relationships within the band were strong. They got on well and they looked on course to succeed as a band.
Still together as a unit, the band recorded ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’ which was released in September 1971. By now a loyal fan base was developing and they were playing some prestigious gigs, for example in front of 250,000 in Rotterdam. The album was described as ‘virtually faultless’ and the band looked set fair for national and international recognition. At this crucial point, Dave Sinclair decided to leave. As Pye Hastings explained, ‘Dave was developing faster than the rest of us and I think he was getting frustrated at seeing other bands of dubious talent getting greater financial reward. The management must have been beside themselves: the band were getting somewhere, a new album is released and the main player decides he is off.’
Steve Miller came in as a replacement for Dave: he had been recommended to Richard Sinclair by Phil, Steve’s guitarist brother. This line up did not go down so well with fans who saw a change to a jazzier feel based around Steve’s piano- orientated keyboards. This style dominated the next album release, Waterloo Lily, released in May 1972. No longer was Dave’s unique keyboard sound – based around his Hammond organ – in evidence. Even Pye’s older brother Jimmy Hastings appeared to be surplus to requirements, appearing only on ‘Love in Your Eye’ on sax and flute, the bulk of this work going to Lol Coxhill.
You can read the rest at their website, while you’re digging out your nickels, dimes and quarters to splurge on what is probably the must-have boxset of the decade. I know I will probably go into hock up to my eyeballs for it, but for art you can forego a few meals and a couple tanks of gas. Truth and beauty is forever – a meal is only a temporary stopgap.
In the meantime, have a listen to this somewhat rare performance from the 1972 Montreux Festival – recorded on April 29, 1972 by RTS-Radio/TV in Switzerland.
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