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Caravan - The Unauthorised Breakfast Item (limited edition)

Caravan - The Unauthorised Breakfast Item (limited edition)The music of Canterbury proggerís Caravan and I go back a long long way.  Their whimsical gentleness combined with aggressive jazziness were in tune with my metabolism in the early 70ís so I was very disappointed when they called time in the late 70ís.  A first attempt in the early 80ís produced a couple of albums followed by a lengthy silence until 1990 when Central Television asked them to perform a one-off gig for broadcast.  A couple of gigs arranged by long time fan, Ralph Cross (who, incidentally, is credited with additional percussion on the title track of this new album), resulted in fans from all over descending on a small village on the outskirts of Norwich and Caravan were suddenly in demand again.  As in the 70ís, changes in personnel in the last decade have been rife but they have emerged in 2003 with Pye Hastings (guitar, vocals) still at the helm, Richard Coughlan (drums), Geoffrey Richardson (viola, banjo, ukulele, acoustic guitar, vocals), Jan Schelhaas (keyboards, vocals), Jim Leverton (bass, vocals) and Doug Boyle (lead guitar).

The band has released a couple of studio albums in recent years but Iím sorry to say that I found these to be on the bland side compared with those of their heyday.  It has taken a while for them to find the feet again, but find them they have with this, The Unauthorised Breakfast Album.

Not only have they captured some of the old magic but they have also gone a step or two further and come up with a new complex Caravan sound for the 21st century and itís top notch.

The first three tracks are indicative of the whole album; Smoking Gun is one of those typical Caravan songs with a fairly gentle vocal start and underlying instrumental aggressiveness and some guitar work later in the track akin to that of Andy Latimer.  The second track, Revenge, is one of the highlights of the album and destined to become a Caravan favourite thanks to a cracking riff and distinctive Caravan keyboard sound and special guests Dave Sinclair (keys) and Jimmy Hastings (sax).  The title track is a fast moving amusing story about a typical conflict over a hotel bill, or to be more precise a minor item supposedly included in the breakfast with some great viola courtesy of Geoffrey Richardson and an overall Steely Dan feel.  By this stage, three tracks in, it becomes obvious how much fuller the bandís sound has become giving it the authority it has lacked in recent years.

And then there is the atmospheric Wild West Street instrumental.  Written by Geoffrey Richardson, it again is somewhat of a departure from what is expected on a Caravan album.  Nowhere to Hide (written by Dave Sinclair) has an intro akin to Tull or Fairport, a sort of lull before the storm, leading to a great guitar solo of the type associated with Tullís Martin Barre, finishing with a complex jazzy keyboard and guitar section.  The final track, Linders Field (written by Doug Boyle) is a rolling instrumental with flute to start later to be replaced with an almost psychedelic guitar and keyboard section.

This limited edition, only available via the Caravan website, comes with a bonus disc featuring live versions (recorded in Japan in May this year) of the first four tracks from the album plus an old favourite, For Richard, recorded in Quebec in 2002 with full orchestra.  All are good recordings although Pyeís vocals are a little weak so I expect he was suffering from a cold at the time.

The official release of The Unauthorised Breakfast Album is due September 2003, but if you hurry, you may be able to snap up a copy of the limited edition (see link below).  These seasoned musicians do not disappoint and in conjunction with the quality of the new material, Caravan, Iím delighted to say, are back on form.

Jem Jedrzejewski

Caravan Information Service

 

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