Blind Dog at St. Dunstans'
Well, last time I said some people decided to get off the Caravan after Cunning Stunts
, and so here we are. I don't know why so many progressive rock bands had such a difficult time keeping the faith after '74 or so. I mean it's not like the kids who were buying all those punk 45s were ever prog fans, right? The two markets really didn't intersect or overlap in any way. I think a lot of these bands just had a crises of conscience at about the same time. I'd like someone far more knowledgable than me to talk about this. Why did so many prog bands start making commercial-sounding music by 1976 or so? Was it that they had merely mined the same vein for too many years and were looking for something new? Or did any band not named Pink Floyd, Yes, or Jethro Tull suddenly decide they wanted to make some real money for once and not just enough to continue touring? Whatever the reason(s), our tale now takes a turn for the worse. Caravan would never again release a great, or even particularly good album - and I say that having never heard any of them after this one. Am I missing anything? There's certainly a lot more discs in this box, and I will finish the '70s because I did that with all the other prog band threads I've started in the last few months, but I'm not expecting anything revelatory, I can tell you that. Plus, I know the reputations of these records and none of them are particularly good. With that said...
Pye Hastings – vocals (tracks 1, 3-9); electric and acoustic guitars
Geoffrey Richardson – viola, electric guitar, flute, night-shift whistle
Jan Schelhaas – keyboards
Mike Wedgwood – vocals (track 2); bass guitar, congas
Richard Coughlan – drumsAdditional personnel
Jimmy Hastings – flute, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet
Chanter Sisters – backing vocalist, backing vocals
Lead vocals on all songs by Pye Hastings, except track 2, by Mike Wedgwood.
"Here Am I": lead guitar – Pye Hastings
"A Very Smelly, Grubby Little Oik": lead guitar – Geoffrey Richardson
"Bobbing Wide": flutes – Geoffrey Richardson
"Come on Back": lead guitar & flute – Geoffrey Richardson; tenor sax and clarinet – Jimmy Hastings
"Oik (reprise)": lead guitar & flute – Geoffrey Richardson; tenor sax and clarinet – Jimmy Hastings
"Jack and Jill": lead guitar – Pye Hastings
"All the Way (with John Wayne's single-handed liberation of Paris)": flute, alto sax – Jimmy Hastings
All songs composed by Pye Hastings, except where noted.
1. "Here Am I" 6:19
New guy Jan Schelhaas plays nothing like David Sinclair, but the organ tone is similar. Pye going for another one of his commercial-sounding cuts in an attempt for radio play. It’s really too bad so many prog bands did that very thing for acceptance in the second half of the decade, but they did. This really isn’t a bad song at all and it almost seems like they’re going for some sense of grandeur that Genesis did so well at the time, but Hastings’ vocals are something else entirely. Geoffrey Richardson had been adding viola to Caravan’s music for years by this point, and it sounds great here. I don’t have to wonder if Pye is playing the guitar on this track because the liner notes say he is.
2. "Chiefs and Indians" (Mike Wedgwood) 5:13
I had issues with Wedgwood’s material on the last album, and it still doesn’t stand out here, nor does his voice. But once the band really kicks in after the one-minute mark, I don’t mind this tune. More viola, which is by now a trademark for the group. I also don’t mind Schelhaas’ solo. Actually, now that I’m used to it, I don’t mind this track at all.
3. "A Very Smelly, Grubby Little Oik" 4:15
Funky rhythm equals more concessions to commerciality, but at least since it's Hastings' voice it sounds like Caravan. Pye had almost complete dominion over the songwriting on this LP so if any of the songs aren't up to par, you know who to blame. Another one which is okay, but nothing special. Different-sounding Schelhaas solo. Wonder how Dave would have handled things on these recordings? Geoff on lead guitar. Segues right into...
4. "Bobbing Wide" 2:30
Nice intermission between major songs consisting of flute and a mellow groove. I like it!
5. "Come on Back" 4:50
Almost a lite jazz feel and it's pleasant I must admit. Shit, am I gonna end up liking side one more than I thought? It's been a while. Or maybe it's just because I've heard so much Caravan recently that I'm in the proper zone. Yeah, that's it... Goodness, a sax solo from brother Jimmy Hastings too.
6. "Oik (reprise)" 2:26
The "Oik reprise" sounds more like more of "Come on Back" to me, hmmm.... Now would be a good time for this:
"The cover art and title bring together several elements relating to Canterbury. Saint Dunstan was Archbishop of Canterbury and patron saint of the blind, after whom a home for the blind was named. The title comes from a Noël Coward explanation to a child for why one dog had mounted another: one dog was blind and the other was pushing him to St. Dunstan's. The cover notes gives special thanks to Coward. At the end of the song "Jack and Jill", amongst dogs barking, two speaking voices can be heard:
First voice: "What are those two doggies doing over there?" Second voice "Well, the doggie in front is blind and his friend behind is pushing him all the way to St Dunstan's." The album cover shows St. Dunstan's Street leading to the old West Gate in Canterbury. Members of Caravan used to frequent the pubs near the St. Dunstan area." - Wiki
7. "Jack and Jill" 6:26
Side two brings us this attempt at funk (as funky as this band gets anyway), which - surprise - is neither dull nor stellar, much like most every other song on the album. Had one never heard another Caravan record, you might be forgiven for thinking this one pretty good. I mean it's not like anything offends. But is any of it necessary?
8. "Can You Hear Me?" 6:17
All right, maybe it's just because I've been patiently waiting for something to stand out, to make me say "Yes, THIS is the Caravan of old" - that I'm getting tired of yet another decent tune in a sea of them. Maybe had I grown up with this record then I would appreciate it more. As it is, this is another fairly good but uninspired example of the band in the mid seventies striving for something
- if you get my drift.
9. "All the Way (with John Wayne's single-handed liberation of Paris)" 9:03
Would you look at the length, could this be their big prog moment at this late date on the LP? Starts off slowly with some pleasing synths and they're engaged in a sing-along chorus after the two-minute point. By the time the tune is half way over, you realize it's like the others mostly - pleasant, mildly engaging, and if you played it a lot it would no doubt grow on you.
And that describes the album, frankly. Nothing offensive, but it's not going to convert anyone not already predisposed to Caravan either.