[Around Prog #7] Caravan

In 1964 Richard Sinclair, only 16 years old, together with the brothers Brian and Hugh Hopper, formed The Wilde Flowers, the pioneers of Canterbury sound. Over the following years, musicians such as Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, David Sinclair, Pye Hastings and Richard Coughlan revolve around it. They record some songs and perform in many concerts, in 1966 Wyatt, Ayers and Hopper together with David Allen and Mike Ratledge, will form Soft Machine. The Wilde Flowers will dissolve in 1969, without ever having released any albums, and only in 1994 a posthumous collection of their songs was released. Of this formation Richard Sinclair, Pye Hastings, Dave Sinclair and Richard Coughlan, form Caravan. In the same year, he published their debut album Caravan for the American label Verve Records, showing a sketch of what their sound will be. Still, a little crude and tied to the sounds of the late 60s, it contains excellent experimental cues. Together with the album they release a single extract Peace Of My Own, which gets good success, especially on the radio, thanks to the DJ John Peel and his Top Gear program. In 1970, they changed their label to Decca, for which they released their second work If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You. The album showed their musical quality and reinforced its characteristics, unlike the jazzy and improvisation path taken by their colleagues Soft Machine. Their sound is more harmonious, leaving space for the symphonies of keyboards and wind instruments, with more moderate forays into the territories of Jazz. The band gets excellent feedback, but the real success is achieved in 1971 with In The Land Of Gray And Pink, becoming one of the most popular records in the history of progressive music. The album has the same dreamy atmospheres that marked the previous work, with Jazz nuances, never excessive and a 22-minute epic suite in Face B. Despite the great success achieved by the band, in 1972 David Sinclair left to join Matching Mole of the colleague Robert Wyatt, replaced by Steve Miller. At this point the group is led by Pye Hastings, contaminating the sound for commercial needs, including the disappointment of the fans. In the same year they published Waterloo Lily, with a remarkable performance, inserting a greater dose of jazz. Two new elements come into the band: Lol Coxhill on sax and Phil Miller on guitar. The rhythm changes are more frequent and the band denaturalize its sound. After the release of the album some members leave, Richard Sinclair and the Miller brothers to enter in Hatfield And The North, a unhappy period of Caravan will follow. With the return of David Sinclair and the entry of the violinist Geoffrey Richardson, they try to get out of the crisis and in 1973 they publish For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night. The album no longer has the brilliance of the first works, resulting more commercial, but it does get a good critical response. The following year he released the live album Caravan And The New Symphonia, with Ford orchestral arrangements and conducted by Simon Jeffes. This line with more classic influences will also be followed in the following albums, and in 1975 they release Cumming Stunts. They reach the Top 50 in the UK chart, but the success abroad is lower, it was the last work for the label Decca, opening a period of problems within the group. David Sinclair leaves, replaced by Jan Schelhaas and the sound becomes more mainstream. Changing label, becoming part of BTM Records and they recorded Blind Dog At St. Dustans in 1976, and the success was always less. The band still recorded an album in 1977 Battle By Far on Arista Records, after which the separation after the release of the album. Less and nothing happened throughout the 80s, except for two minor albums, The 1980 Album and 1982 Back To Front, both on Kingdom Records. They did not get much public or critical feedback and it was not until 1990 that they woke up. The reunion was programmed only for a few television appearances once in a while, devoting itself instead to an intense live activity. Richard Sinclair leaves the group and is replaced by Jim Loverton and with this change, they record in 1995 The Battle Of Hastings for HDT Records, the only one of the whole decade. With the support of the Stuart Maconie‘s Freak Show on BBC 6 Music, the band sees a rapprochement of the public and an increase in sales. In 2002 their performance at the NearFest should be noted, which marks the “rebirth” of the band. The following year they released The Unauthorized Breakfast Item for Ecletic Records Discs, with the addition of a live disc bonus of 5 tracks. In 2007, they are dusted off and published recordings made between 1968 and 1975 for the BBC, with the title Show Of Our Lives for Universal / Decca. In 2010 Pye Hastings announced that the band had resumed full activity and that they would record live concerts, with the addition of Mark Walker on percussion and drum. This choice was conditioned by Coughlan‘s health, and the DVD of this concert was released in May 2011 and aired on the ITV channel for the Legends series. The 40th anniversary of the album For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night sees them as protagonists in 2013 of a tour and in the United Kingdom. In the same period they announce that they are working on a new album and Paradise Filter, financed by a PledgeMusic campaign, sees the light the same year on Caravan Records. On December 1, 2013, the band announced the disappearance of founding member Coughlan, after a long struggle with a bad disease. His funeral was celebrated in Canterbury on December 20, 2013 and the band declared “His unique style of playing and wonderful character will be missed“. Caravan take part at the RosFest in Pennsylvenia, USA which was held from 2 to 4 May, offering an exceptional performance. Also in 2014 they published a re-recorded edition of songs from the 1970-73 period, entitled Back Catalog Songs, for Caravan Records, which to date is the band’s last studio album. Considered the founding fathers of the Canterbury genre, with jazz influences and eccentric lyrics, especially in the first records. In the second phase of the group, the direction of their sound moves more towards a pop rock, which is distant from the origins. Their history is often linked to that of Soft Machine, also founders of the Canterbury, although with different characteristics. Closer to Folk, Symphonic and Melodic, they have designed the most direct and soft aspect, while Soft Machines have followed the most Jazzy, Improvised and Fusion strand. The hammond fuzztone is the key instrument of the sound of the first albums, and the way David Sinclair plays it is unique in its genre. With the passage of time and the entry of the synths, it has expanded the sound possibilities. Wind instruments are another important component, as are the orchestrations of Jimmy Hastings. A key band in the British Prog scene is worldwide, which has contributed to the birth of the subgenre called Canterbury. They have been examples for many modern and contemporary bands, which thanks to them have been able to express themselves in this musical vein. A band that has made history not only of the Prog but of the music of the last century.



Studio albums:
Caravan (1968)
If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You (1970)
In the Land of Grey and Pink (1971)
Waterloo Lily (1972)
For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (1973)
Cunning Stunts (1975)
Blind Dog at St. Dunstans (1976)
Better by Far (1977)
The Album (1980)
Back to Front (1982)
Cool Water (1994)
The Battle of Hastings (1995)
The Unauthorized Breakfast Item (2003)
Paradise Filter (2013)

Live albums:
Caravan and the New Symphonia (1974)
BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert (1991)
Live in Holland: Back on the Tracks (1998)
Live 1990 (1992)
Songs for Oblivion Fishermen (1998)
Ether Way (1998)
Live: Canterbury Comes to London (1999)
Surprise Supplies (1999)
Bedrock in Concert (2002)
Green Bottles for Marjorie: The Lost BBC Sessions (2002)
Live at the Fairfield Halls, 1974 (2002)
A Night’s Tale (2003)
Nowhere to Hide (2003)
With Strings Attached (2003)
The Show of Our Lives – Caravan at the BBC 1968–1975 (2007)


Current members:
Pye Hastings / Guitar, Vocals (1968–1978, 1980–1985, 1990–1992, 1995–present)
Geoffrey Richardson / Guitar, Viola, Flute, Violin (1972–1978, 1980–1981, 1995–1996, 1997–present)
Jan Schelhaas / Keyboards (1975–1978, 2002–present)
Jim Leverton / Bass (1995–present)
Mark Walker / Drums, Percussion (2010–present)

Former members:
Richard Coughlan / Drums, Percussion (1968–1978, 1980–1985, 1990–1992, 1995–2013; his death)
Richard Sinclair / Bass, Vocals (1968–1972, 1981–1985, 1990–1992)
Dave Sinclair / Keyboards (1968–1971, 1973–1975, 1980–1985, 1990–1992, 1995–2002)
Steve Miller / Keyboards (1971–1972)
Derek Austin / Keyboards (1972–1973)
Stuart Evans / Bass (1972–1973)
John G. Perry / Bass (1973–1974)
Mike Wedgwood / Bass (1974–1976)
Dek Messecar / Bass (1976–1978, 1980–1981)
Doug Boyle / Guitar (1996–2007)
Simon Bentall / Percussion (1996–1997)
Jimmy Hastings / Flute, Saxophone (1996–1997)

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Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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