THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS (1995/1999)
1 It's A Sad, Sad, Affair (3:24)
2 Somewhere In Your Heart (5:43)
3 Cold As Ice (4:10)
4 Liar (6:08)
5 Don't Want Love (6:49)
6 Travelling Ways (3:52)
7 This Time (5:19)
8 If It Wasn't For Your Ego (3:36)
9 It's Not Real (5:30)
10 Wendy Wants Another 6" Mole (2:26)
11 I Know Why You're Laughing (5:30)
Richard Coughlan (drums)
Pye Hastings (guitar, lead and backing vocals)
Jim Leverton (bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on track 6)
Geoffrey Richardson (viola, violin, clarinet, guitar, mandoline, backing vocals)
Dave Sinclair (keyboards, backing vocals)
Jimmy Hastings (flute, sax, piccolo, clarinet, flute)
1997/CD/First Town Records/FTCD5575/Russia
REVIEWS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
The Battle of Hastings, fought on October 14, 1066, is generally considered a key event in the political, social, and cultural history of England, leading to a decisive victory on the part of Norman forces led by William the Conqueror and initiating a major period of transformation for the entire English society. Precisely one year later, in 1067, the old cathedral of Canterbury was completely destroyed by fire, and starting in 1070, rebuilt under the supervision of the first Norman archbishop; the new marvels of Norman architecture, along with the subsequent murder of Thomas Becket on the steps of the cathedral, led to a major increase in its popularity and, consequently, the popularity of Canterbury as such, directly reflected in such artistic highs as the works of Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales), Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (A Canterbury Tale), and English progressive rock bands such as The Soft Machine, Gong, National Health, and, of course, Caravan. In addition, the Norman conquest led to major changes in the English musical tradition, with new styles of court, sacred, and even folk music complementing and sometimes replacing older Saxon traditions — echoes of which still survived in English popular music in the 20th century, and were merged by progressive and experimental artists with African and American elements to form the basis for progressive rock music, including the Canterbury school, in the late Sixties and early Seventies. All of these connections are brought back to us with the front cover of the album, a partial reproduction of the monumental Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the key elements of the Ba... ...wait a minute, what? You're telling me it is all just a lame pun on the last name of Pye Hastings, the de-facto leader of Caravan since at least 1973? Oh. Bummer. Could we please get Mr. Hastings on the phone here, to confirm this? What's that? He's got no memory of making this album, so he can neither confirm nor deny? Double bummer. Admittedly, it is true that The Battle Of Hastings, released 929 years after the epochal event and 13 years after the last attempt at a Caravan reunion, sank to the bottom even quicker than Back To Front, and continues to be largely ignored by prog and pop fans alike: in 1995, it was hard to imagine a style less out of touch with the times than Pye Hastings' brand of «soft prog», and good luck to anybody wishing to find a comprehensive and serious review of the record. And yet, it was a serious record. Most of the songs were indeed composed by Hastings, but the band also included Coughlan on drums, Dave Sinclair on keyboards (he is also credited for at least one song, 'Travelling Ways'), a returning Geoff Richardson on viola and 50,000 other instruments, and even brother and long-time sideman companion Jimmy Hastings on the usual flutes and saxes. The only new member is bassist Jim Leverton, and even that guy is a true veteran (of Noel Redding's Fat Mattress, Juicy Lucy, Hemlock, Savoy Brown, and whoever else's fame). Naturally, the lineup alone does not matter: what matters is whether the songs, the production, and the level of energy/inspiration makes the record any better than the lackluster works by the 1977–1982 versions of the band. According to a few disappointed fans whose opinions may be gathered from various prog review sites, the answer seems to be a firm «no». The Battle Of Hastings is, indeed, a collection of acoustic-based pop songs, with very little by way of «listening challenges», very low-key in execution, rather monotonous in atmosphere, and sort of embarrassing when it comes to the occasional quirk such as that 'Wendy' song. So it would seem that if you were bored stiff by Better By Far and The Album, the same should be expected of this record. And yet, this is not how it works for me. Two things in particular make enough of a difference to make me want to embrace and recommend the album. The first and lesser one is the production: everything here sounds a ton better than the muffled, hollow production of the 1977–1982 albums. This is obvious from the opening lively acoustic guitar chords and old-fashioned background organ hum on 'It's A Sad, Sad, Affair' — a good sign that even if the songwriting will not be up to par, at least the overall sound will remind you more of classic Caravan than of the late-period plastic Caravan. It is not always like that (occasionally, the ugly synth tones and the silkbox-enclosed guitar echoes will come back to haunt you), but it is the rule rather than the exception. The major difference, however, is that, apparently, Pye Hastings had grown himself a few demons to exorcise in the 13 years that we hadn't heard from him. Most of the songs here do not sound like commercially-oriented sentimental pop songs: this is more of a gloomy, melancholic, nostalgic singer-songwriter record, formally dressed up as a collection of pop tunes. There is indeed a «battle» fought here, and I do not know how personal it was (information on Pye's personal life is quite scarce to come by), but most songs are about cheating, rejection, bitterness, reproaches — I mean, just look at the titles: 'It's A Sad, Sad Affair', 'Cold As Ice' (no, not Foreigner!), 'Liar' (no, not Argent!), 'If It Wasn't For Your Ego', etc. It might not necessarily be about one's love life as such — might be a general allegory for the bitterness at feeling forgotten and rejected, which had pretty much been Caravan's ordeal for the past 15 years. Regardless, it feels very sincere when you really get into it, and, oddly enough, I find myself returning to some of these songs far more often than I'd expect myself to, usually in times of trouble. Describing the individual songs is hard, though, because they are really all unified in terms of style and substance. Some are a little slower, some a little faster, most float by on a double-layer bed of acoustic guitars and keyboards with whatever additional instrumentation Richardson and Jimmy Hastings decide to throw in for fullness' effect (flutes, mandolins, accordions, etc.). Probably worth singling out is that opener, 'Sad, Sad Affair', slightly more upbeat and precisely shaped than the rest (what with Pye playing and singing the exact same catchy folk-pop melody); the sax-embellished waltz of 'Cold As Ice'; and the squint-eyed, stop-and-start menace of 'Liar' (which was probably influenced by the old Argent song after all — at least, the stop-and-start trick, followed by the massive eruption of "LIAR!", follows the same formula, and I do not believe this is a coincidence). The only «objective» standouts, however, are the last two tracks. 'Wendy Wants Another 6" Mole' is the specially incubated ugly duckling — a song that sounds more 10cc than Caravan with its vaudeville-pop rhythmics and caricaturesque vocals, not to mention grotesque (though not very funny) lyrics, although even 10cc would probably have never dared to end any of their tracks with a bunch of raspberries (literally!). Apparently, Pye remembered at the last moment that he had neglected to imbue enough of his sick humor into the songs, and synthesized it all within a single short track. It's okay to feel offended, though I'd guess that for some people, it would at least be a nice breakup of the overall monotonousness. The real kicker, however, is the last song, 'I Know Why You're Laughing'. It begins by skilfully deceiving you into thinking of it as a lazy adult contemporary ballad of a conclusion, then quickly kicks into high gear and becomes the fastest, catchiest, and most grim-faced pop-rocker that Pye had ever written up to that point. I really mean it — the song rocks, and at 3:36 it goes into genuine hard rock mode, with a fluent, furious, and perfectly constructed guitar solo that may remind one of Lindsey Buckingham (think 'Go Your Own Way' and suchlike). It is the kind of song that I would never in a million years expect out of Caravan, and it's been one of my favorites of theirs ever since I heard it — a criminally underrated pop-rock masterpiece that could have gotten its due were it released in 1975 rather than 1995... but it is never too late to make amends. So, is this really the «comeback» we'd been hoping for? Certainly not for those who expected long-winded progressive structures, and probably not even for those who hoped for the bright, shining fun of Blind Dog. It is a monotonous, morose, autumnal record, good for the mood on one of those days where the rain just won't stop, but it is authentically atmospheric and perhaps even subtly allegorical, so much so that I could easily see it becoming the favorite album of the defeated King Harold Godwinson, had he had the (mis)fortune to survive the battle of Hastings and live into his late 920s. Thumbs up.
George Starostin 10.05.2017 (ONLY-SOLITAIRE.BLOGSPOT.COM)
Some of the Nineties' greatest sissy music captured here.
Best song: IT'S A SAD SAD AFFAIR or I KNOW WHY YOU'RE LAUGHING or LIAR or whatever...
I kinda have to wonder why the hell did the band have to wait with that SO GODDAMN OBVIOUS pun for an album name for twenty-seven years, only coming up with it after their classic prog period, their forgotten pop period, and almost fifteen years of disbanded status? Maybe because this time around they're actually not pulling any punches any more, and Pye Hastings stands out as the guy who means everything for this band? Whatever, I don't really have a lot of time to wonder about that issue, because the record itself is magnificent. Yes, neither Pye nor the rest of the guys, which in particular include the ever-present drummer boy Richard Coughlan and the classic keyboards guy Dave Sinclair, don't even try to make this stuff feel 'progressive' in the least. This is strict mid-tempo pop throughout, and on first listen, it might even seem bland and forgettable. There's no obvious challenge. Moreover, the album's big, BIG flaw is that it's so thoroughly unimpressive from a pure arrangement point of view. Everything sounds the same: clear ringing acoustic guitars, inobtrusive keyboards and flutes, an occasional electric solo, and the usual elfish vocal delivery from Pye. There's very little of the inventiveness that characterized their earlier pop classics like Blind Dog At St Dunstan's with its cues and squeaks and dog noises and tempo changes and funky grooves and everything. But the album's still thoroughly worthy of a 12, because essentially it is fully adequate. It's a mood piece, a collection of dreamy lush baroque-pop numbers that don't need, much less require, any kinds of unexpected experimentation or stylistic changes. Again, associations with Pet Sounds spring to mind - and the resemblance becomes even scarier when you resemble how much Hastings' falsetto sounds close to Brian Wilson's on some of the tracks. It definitely loses to PS as far as originality, complexity, or overall artistic importance goes, but might I suggest the infamous idea that the actual melodies on the songs are better than Brian's, even if the arrangements never are. The only song, in fact, I could easily live without, is new bassist Jim Leverton's only contribution, the dinky 'Travelling Ways'. The song might have eventually become a stage favourite for all I care, but Jim simply hasn't caught on the Hastings vibe - it's an unassuming slash of barely competent country-rock with a fake-soundin' Southern delivery, in the context of which the band's artsy harmonies and the romantic piano backing manage to sound silly and cheap instead of appropriately atmospheric. The rest ALL works. ALL of it, including even one silly folksy throwaway, 'Wendy Wants Another 6" Mole', which could also stick out like a sore thumb - the only piece of intentional silliness on the album - but somehow doesn't. Hastings' miraculous potential to transform even a throwaway into something gentle, kind, and cheerful, works everywhere. It's terribly hard for me to even name the highlights, because no two songs here sound completely different from each other, yet each and every song has at least one, more often more gorgeous vocal hooks that rank equal with everything Caravan did in the Seventies. Just take the album's opener, 'It's A Sad Sad Affair' and play it a couple times in succession, then see if you can get it out of your head. Heck, see if you want to get it out of your head - this song gives me personally such an enormous load of positive energy that even thinking of it acts as an "emotional purifier", if you know what I mean. And I don't really notice the lyrics. The lyrics here are mostly standard-type decent love lyrics, with maybe a couple exceptions. You'll be giving these songs your own worthy interpretations in no time. 'Liar' was the most well-known song from the album, as far as I know, whatever that means in this particular case (BoH made no impact whatsoever - hey, who needs a bunch of aging prog-rockers going pop? We have our Pearl Jam to fry our eggs to!); it's a cool little thumper with a neat guitar line and a catchy chorus, but hardly more climactic than the twisted, exciting vocal melodies of 'Cold As Ice' and 'Don't Want Love', which might seem boring and bland to anybody but the true lovers of fine quality romantic pop - although I frankly don't see how anybody who enjoys Pet Sounds for its real melodies could dislike this stuff. 'It's Not Real' is a powerful highlight as well, even if it does rather obviously borrow its introduction from 'Things We Said Today' (that's another detail that might give you something to think about). And the album closer, 'I Know Why You're Laughing', does begin with generic Spanish guitar, but the way the slow part merges with the fast rocking part, and Hastings' exciting solo towards the end make it a real stunner. Yeah, here's what I have just thought of - maybe the real true comparison one could make would not be with PS, but rather with the early Eighties stuff from the Moody Blues. That early Eighties stuff was somewhat monotonous, but utterly melodic - and spoiled exclusively by modernistic production which rendered even some of the better melodies lifeless and robotic. That's not a problem with Battle Of Hastings; I swear, this is an album that's absolutely timeless - you couldn't ever guess '1995' in your life. No drum machines, no hi-tech synths, no generic metallic riffs, no hip-hop influence, nothing whatsoever. A 'time warp', as the All Music Guide review put it (BTW, the review of BoH at AMG really amazed me - they're about the only independent Net source that actually spotted this album and congratulated it for what it was worth). A beautiful time warp it is, and easily the best ever comeback by a 'dinosaur' I've heard, at least, after such a long period of delay. Find it at all costs, it's well worth any money. Hey, it gives you a boatload of psychic health, and your psychic health sure IS worth a couple bucks, isn't it? And I've actually found it to be an amazing anti-MTV cure if you want really nice-sounding Nineties music.
George Starostin 9/12 (ONLY SOLITAIRE)
Somewhat of a return to better things but no long songs that made the legend. At the time I believed Caravan would just collapse but better things were to come . however this is a collection of songs in the typical Hastings style and Sinclair although present does not seem to get involved in the writing dept. Try to get the second edition as they improved the cover art work.
Sean Trane 2/5 02.02.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
This is pretty good prototype of a newer album by a legendary old band: you recognize it to be unarguably Caravan, but at the same it sounds fresh (ah, I don't mean old Caravan doesn't). In other words, nothing of being like an old dinosaur, but nor trying to be modern and contemporary so much that they would lose their own style. (On the other hand, often the new albums by for example Procol Harum bore me to death even if these words suit for them too. So let's just say that many songs are quite good.) Some tracks could have been in e.g. For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night. Of course Battle of Hastings (another pun in the album title, Pye!) is not in the same level as classic albums. No that famous organ sound, no long instrumental-oriented tracks, instead even some fillers, you might say. But still enjoyable.
Matti 3,5/5 12.05.2005 (PROGARCHIVES)
I know why you're laughing.
Recorded after the band's heyday, the title "The battle of Hastings" is a play on words referring to both the Norman invasion of England, and the surname of two of the band's key members. Following disagreements about the band's direction in the early 90's, Richard Sinclair is missing from the line up, and so therefore is his usually strong influence. "Battle of Hastings" is essentially a pop orientated album, with little in the way of prog sounds or structures. That does not make it a bad album, but don't expect the complex jazz tingled output of the Deram days. Caravan's shorter tracks have always tended to be rather whimsical, and serve as lighter intermissions between their more complex longer tracks. Tracks such as "Liar" (which has similarities to the Russ Ballard penned Argent song of the same name), "I know why you're laughing", and "If it wasn't for your ego" are excellent, but little more than high class pop songs. Indeed, the verses of "Liar" sound like they could have been taken from an Alan Parsons project album. One of the more interesting tracks is "Travelling ways", which features a rare appearance by Jim Leverton on lead vocals. The track sounds similar to Simon Nicol's work with Fairport Convention. Although there is some pleasant instrumentation, in particular the flute work on several tracks, there is little in the way of instrumentals and certainly none of the lengthy breaks which characterised their early output. An album full of their short tracks will probably be of less appeal to Caravan fans, and "Battle of Hastings" was clearly directed more towards the transient, pop orientated market. For those looking to explore the album at a budget price, the Mooncrest label Caravan compilation "Travelling man" contains all but three of the tracks on "Battle of Hastings".
Easy Livin 3/5 07.10.2005 (PROGARCHIVES)
Listening to this beautifully melodic, midtempo album by Caravan is a bit like stepping inside of a time-warp. The group sounds astonishingly good vocally, and Pye Hastings' songwriting skills are as fine as (and maybe finer than) ever, as though they've scarcely skipped a beat from their 1970s heyday. Released in 1995, The Battle of Hastings might have put them on the U.S. charts, at least if an edited version of the hook-laden and memorable "Liar" had been released as an accompanying single -- indeed, this is the record that might've broken the band in America. It's a little late for that now, but time shouldn't prevent anyone from taking in the sweet, folk-like melodies and the rich harmonies. The playing is a curious mix of sharp attacks on mostly acoustic instruments punctuated with lead electric guitar that manages to be both sinewy and elegant (except where it's delightfully understated, as on most of "It's Not Real"), juxtaposed with Jimmy Hastings's richly melodic sax playing. Everything on this record works well, even the editing -- not a note is wasted, as though this were 1970 or so and the band is still competing at the forefront of art-rock and progressive rock circles. One important reason why this music works so well is that there is no pretentiousness about it. The band doesn't try to be heavy or profoundly serious; nor do they try to force rock music to carry ideas it was never meant to carry. Additionally, there's no slackness here, just wonderfully inventive composition and performance, all wrapped together in a gloriously elegant sound.
Bruce Eder (ALLMUSIC)
Caravan's fine comeback album.
This album from 1995 was Caravan's first new studio-album since "Back to Front" from '82, and a great one it is. The line-up is: The Hastings brothers, Coughlan, Richardson, Dave Sinclair and new bass-player Jim Leverton, who is also the vocalist on one track. It's very much Pye Hastings album and a "song album" with no long organ-based instrumentals. Best songs are, in my opinion, the ballad "Somewhere in your Heart" and the faster tracks "This time" and "I know why you're laughing". Others may prefer the hard-hitting "Liar" or "Travelling Ways" with Jim Leverton singing. All in all the album shows Pye Hastings as a very talented songwriter and a great vocalist. I must admit I find the record a bit over-produced, but apart from that "Battle of Hastings" is nearly as good as the classic Caravan albums.
firstname.lastname@example.org 4/5 12.03.2002 (AMAZON)
I love the classic early Caravan albums but curiosity got the better of me and I decided to try some of the later albums. I'm really glad I did. This is a great album, the songs have an obvious link back to earlier Caravan material but Pye Hastings has created a really interesting and modern sounding batch of songs. The playing and singing is (as ever with Caravan) excellent but there are new textures with instruments like mandolin coming through in the mix. Repeated plays is dangerous because the songs stick firmly in the brain and you'll be humming choruses everwhere you go. Onward to the other releases!
CStoney 5/5 20.09.2011 (AMAZON)
After 'Back To The Front' recorded in 1982 'The Battle Of Hastings', released in 1995, was CARAVAN's first studio record in13 years. The band had again found a stability, that lasts up to today with the basic core of Pye Hastings, Richard Coughlan, Dave Sinclair, Geoffrey Richardson, Jimmy Hastings and newcomer Jim Leverton on bass.Another newcomer is Julian Gordon Hastings on production and engineering duties. It is always difficult to listen to new records of a band that has produced such a great number of good records, but this one does not have to fear any comparaison . All compositions are by Pye Hastings and the songs alter between medium grooves: 'It's a Sad, Sad Affair', slower bluesy songs: 'Cold as Ice', uptempo rockers: 'If It Wasn't for Your Ego' and the occasional funny tongue-in-cheek song: 'Wendy Wants Another 6" Mole' with funny lyrics, sound effects and some retro feeling. Jimmy Hastings is very present on this record and delivers some beautiful flute solos on 'Somewhere in Your Heart' and 'Don't Want Love', a nice Piccolo solo on 'Travelling Ways', and a beutiful 'Soprano Sax Solo on 'It's Not Real'. Number two on the solo list is Dave Sinclair with a great acoustic piano intro on 'Travelling Ways' a great piano solo on 'Don't Want Love' and two groovy organ solos on 'This Time' and 'If It Wasn't for Your Ego' with his typical trademark organ sound. All the songs are interesting, the band grooves as in the good ol' times (special mention for Richard Coughlan) the arrangements are well- crafted the vocals are great and the production is good. If this record would have been released 30 years earlier I would have given it 5 stars.
Alucard 4/5 18.12.2005 (PROGARCHIVES)
I've always liked the short, whimsical "pop" songs from Caravan - Golf Girl, If I could Do It All Over Again and particularly Love to Love You. This 1995 release contains at least one of the whimsical songs in "Wendy wants another 6" mole", but the rest of the tracks are all short (by Caravan standards anyway) and are in a less Canterbury style than the original band. This is very much a Pye Hastings CD, as he wrote all the songs bar one. To be honest I wasn't expecting too much but this has come as a very pleasant surprise. The quality of recordings is good, the songs are all melodic and well played as you'd expect, but there are enough solos to keep most prog fans happy. The wind of Jimmy Hastings (if you'll pardon the expression) is very much in evidence here and "I know why you're laughing" even features what sounds like the Caravan organ sound of old. I appear to have the older edition where the cover art has a budget, almost photocopied feel to it, nevertheless this is an excellent CD and I'd recommend it to all but the most die-hard Canterbury fan.
chopper 3/5 15.08.2007 (PROGARCHIVES)
Who could still be interested in "Caravan" in 1995 ?
For those of you who would like to get an understanding of the title of this album, let me mention that "Hastings" was one of the greatest battle ever fought on English soil to defend the integrity of the territory (in 1066). But it might as well be referring to some battles fought by the Hastings brothers. Who knows... This album is far from being one of the greatest English work to have ever been recorded. "Caravan" has used us to weak albums recently starting with the poor "The Album" released in 1980 and this come back after some thirteen years can't be considered as a great one. IMHHO, if the band would have remained silent in terms of studio albums and just perform some live sets (which is basically what they will do anyway) they would have gained in credibility because this "The Battle of Hastings" doesn't hold any great numbers. Two stars, that's all.
ZowieZiggy 2/5 03.02.2008 (PROGARCHIVES)
After a longer break from the recording studio, Caravan returned in 1995 with The Battle Of Hastings. Keeping in mind that their previous albums from the early 80's and late 70's were less than impressive, it comes as no surprise that what we have here is an improvement. But even so, The Battle Of Hastings is not very impressive on its own merits, and it leaves a lot to be desired. The Battle Of Hastings presents a subtle, charming and predominantly acoustic Caravan with many Folk-influences with lots of tasteful mandolin and flutes. The melodies are rather soft and laid back, and the album is not particularly progressive. The music is pleasant, but the material is not really memorable and the album simply lacks the lasting appeal of classic Caravan albums like For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night and Cunning Stunts. As I said, this album is very acoustic in its nature, almost "naked" compared to other Caravan albums. But it is not quite an unplugged session, however, as there are some nice keyboard solos and electric guitars in addition to acoustic guitars, mandolin, flute, and violin, among other instruments. The flute work in particular is very nice. The only real embarrassment is the outrageously silly Wendy Wants Another 6" Mole is totally out of place with its silly and annoying "farting" noises! Were they trying to make children's music here? Thankfully, the rest of the songs have a rather serious tone and are not so silly. I have never liked Caravan's silly and whimsical moments. Caravan wouldn't return to form until their next album, 2003's The Unauthorised Breakfast Item.
SouthSideoftheSky 2/5 21.12.2009 (PROGARCHIVES)
Collection of bad songs.
The title is appropriate, because at this time, Caravan had become Pye Hasting's band. He wrote all the tracks on this album, except one. And the album is dominated by Hastings sound and vocals. The album consists of mostly shorter songs (around 3 to 6 minutes) and is 50 minutes long. Note that this album has been re-issued with a different cover than what is shown here. If you buy this one, I don't know what you get. This time the group includes Pye Hastings and Richard Coughlin (as always), David Sinclair, Geoff Richardson and Jimmy Hastings. But, Sinclair and Richardson have very little impact on this album. There is none Richardson's viola and the rest of his playing is relegated to the background. Sinclair's one composition, Traveling Ways, is one of the worst things he has ever written. Only Jimmy Hastings's flute and saxophone are featured beyond Pye Hastings's guitar work. And, for some reason, Pye Hastings never really opens up on guitar. Other than Jimmy Hastings's playing at the end of some so of the songs, there is no emotion or energy on this album. The songs are just boring and tedious. But, Jimmy Hastings does have some wonderful moments. There are a few good songs, like Emily, Don't Want Love, and It's Not Real. After this album was released, Caravan went on a tour to support it. There is a CD from that tour called Live In London at the Astoria (or some variation...it has been released with several different titles and covers). I didn't like the live album either. There is also a video of the concert, but I haven't seen it. A better live album to get is called simply, Caravan Live and is from 3 years earlier and features the complete original band.
VINE VOICE 2/5 21.04.2012 (PROGARCHIVES)
Ahem, now this is getting difficult.
There are better songs (Liar, Somewhere in Your Heart which and few others, but there are also bad ones (It's a Sad, Sad Affair, where every second shouts it's shiny pop song which is melodic, nice and uplifting, but lacking anything Prog-related. The only glimpse would be this keyboards element that's present for few seconds, but only a glimpse, nothing more). But this pop element was always there a little bit. And I also little bit appreciated it. Of course, I liked longer, more complex and generally better (not so leasure-like) songs over these shorter ones, but this album still has moments that are offering fine music. And maybe it's just sound hallucination, but I also hear Prog parts, elements here and there. Nothing major though, but it helps. Don't Want Love is nice example of better parts and newly found inspiration that Caravan provides. This is Caravan sound, but stripped of most Prog sounding elements that were present in 70s. But when compared to dark ages of 80s, it shines. Rating should probably be something in between. But towards the end, pop is stepping to background and more Rock (and even Prog) sounds are appearing, so I'll go for 4(-) for this bold return.
Marty McFly 3/5 10.06.2010 (PROGARCHIVES)
Pye Hastings and Dave Sinclair give a touch of old Caravan with their vocals, but the 70s will never come back again. This reunion album, without Richard Sinclair, doesn't contain true highlights. The opener "It's A Sad, Sad Affair" is nice but just a pop song, and things don't go better with "Somewhere In Your Heart", that's a song to make thirteens dance at birthdays celebrations, even with Jimmy Hastings closing the track with his flute. "Cold As Ice" is better. We have to wait for the third track to listen to Caravan. It's everything but a masterpiece, but it's a decent Canterbury song. "Liar" is similar but with some "70s disco" moments. "Don't Want Love" is the first good song, in the sense that's more than just "decent". Unfortunately it lacks the long instrumental parts which made songs like Winter Wine great. The final flute is not enough. "Travelling Ways" is just a nice pop song with no Caravans inside. "This Time" sounds like the poppy Camel of "Breathless", but Camel were making Harbour of Tears at this time. This is a huge difference. "If It Wasn't For Your Ego" is a song that belongs to the "glam" side of Caravan. Not bad also this, but not much better than things like Love To Love You. "It's Not Real" has a slow funky mood It sounds like Wishbone Ash on Front Page News. Again the problem is that we are in 1995. "Wendy Wants Another 6" Mole": two minutes to skip. "I Know You Were Laughing" is one of the best songs. It sounds Caravan enough and is captivating. Only it's that kind of nice songs one get soon tired of. This second "reunion" some 13 years after the last one is neither a revival. It's well played, but we know how skilled those guys are. There are no essential songs and some weak moments. I can't rate it more than two stars, sorry.
octopus-4 2/5 11.04.2011 (PROGARCHIVES)
I would happily give this album 4 stars as I really love many of the songs here (Liar, If it Wasn't for Your Ego, It's not Real, I Know Why You're Laughing) but as these are the prog archives and, as the other reviewers have written, there isn't too much prog in there really, I can only give it 3 good stars (as in "good but non-essential"). That put aside, this is an excellent pop- rock album and highly recommended to those that like the lighter side of Caravan. The music is melodic, sunny and light (although the lyrics aren't always) with strong performances by brother Jimmy. I hadn't listened to "The Battle..." for some years and rediscovered it only recently with a big grin on my face!
madcap68 3/5 10.09.2012 (PROGARCHIVES)
Let's continue with Caravan's eleventh record which was made thriteen years after the wonderful "Back to front" recording. In 1995 when I was 6 years old Caravan had return to their nice cover apperence and also the title "Battle of Hastings" is interesting. Of course all of you know that two of the Caravans are named Hastings. Yes here they're two; Pyes brother Jimmy is here too, playing a lot of wind and blow instruments. The cover picture shows scenes from the famous tapestry showing the Battle of Hastings. Here there's also Richard Coughlan (we remember him and mourn his recent death), Pye Hastings, Geoffrey Richardson and Dave Sinclair and Jim Leverton who plays bass and sings. "The Battle of Hastings" is a well procuded an over all enjoyable album which carries on the spirit of Caravan through the nineties. I am a little sorry that many of the songs don't sound very much like Caravan. They're too ordinar rock songs. I think it's Dave Sinclairs piano solos that are too seldom here but there are some interesting songs, especially in the end of the record. "It's not real" where I don't think Pye sings is the very best song (8/10). I do like the vocals and even if the song is calm it has a forwardlooking rhytm. The short "Wendy wants another 6" mole" is also great, just as playful and happy a Caravan song should be(7/10) and the closer "I know why you're laughing" is a good rock song with a great synth solo(7/10). Beside from these songs there are a lot of tracks that are okay or enjoyable but not so much above that. I like the happy starter "It's a sad, sad affair"(6/10) and "Cold as ice" starts slow and quite and becomes a very nice song too(6/10). "If it wasn't for your ego" is also playful and has a great synth solo. Over all I like the well known easy adopted happy melodies and more leading keyboards. Perhaps I think these songs are recorded with too many instruments, Caravan should be more stripped. Well I should only review what I have heard and it was a decent record with perhaps five superior tracks that I do recommend. This record is a little better than "The Album" but not as good as "Better by far" or "Back to front". Three stars!
DrömmarenAdrian. 3/5 11.12.2013 (PROGARCHIVES)