COOL WATER (1994/2002) - SENSATIONAL CARAVAN (2012)
1 Cool Water (4:07)
2 Just The Way You Are (3:43)
3 Tuesday Is Rock And Roll Nite (4:21)
4 The Crack Of The Willow (5:35)
5 Ansaphone (4:59)
6 Cold Fright (5:21)
7 Side By Side (4:40)
8 You Won't Get Me Up In One Of Those (3:54)
9 To The Land Of My Fathers (4:56)
10 Poor Molly (5:54)
11 Send Reinforcements (4:48)
All tracks recorded in March 1978.
Geoffrey Richardson didn't participate in the studio recordings of Cool Water and left the band in April.
The last four songs were recorded with the assistance of three members of the Gordon Giltrap Band (1978-79):
Ian Mosley (drums), Rod Edwards (keyboards) and John Gustafson (bass).
So, in fact: Pye Hastings solo!
In the vaults there are still songs penned by Jan Schelhaas or Richard Sinclair.
Sinclair later published 'Emily' on 'Caravan of Dreams' (1992) and 'Uncle's Farm' on his 'Live Tracks' album (1993).(it is an early version of Camel's 'Down On The Farm').
Two Hastings' songs - 'Bright Shiny Day' and 'Heartbreaker' - were used on 'The Album' (1980).
The left-overs: What Elephant? // Mark 53 // Funky Love // Fireman //Space Cowboy //Pelican // Bicycle Belle // Acc.Mo. are still unpublished.
Richard Goughlan (drums)
Jimmy Hasting (saxophone)
Pye Hastings (vocals, guitar)
Jan Schelhaas (keyboards)
Richard Sinclair (bass)
Rod Edwards (keyboards)
John Gustafson (bass)
Pye Hastings (vocals, guitar)
Ian Moseley (drums)
2002/CD/Classic Rock Legends/1007/UK
2012/Download/One Media 1P Ltd/World
Click on image to enlarge.
REVIEWS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
Though I was a Caravan/Canterbury fan beginning around For Girls Who Grow Plump (1973), easily the most absurdly tuneful LP of that year, this side of Hatfield and the North's debut, Cool Water is where bandleader Pye Hastings and I begin to part company. Though he is certainly an estimable talent, his several compositional misfires on, say, the original Caravan foursome's 1990 release Back to Front (and considering how he apparently insisted they be included anyhow, thus weakening the record overall) may have been the harbinger predicting this set. Originally recorded in 1978, with a 'pickup' lineup of sorts (Richard Sinclair, bass; Jan Schelhaas, keys; the late Richard Coughlan, percussion), Cool Water consists of all Hastings' tunes from that session but none of Sinclair's (this group did record Sinclair's delightfully silly 'Down on the Farm,' but that had to wait until a Camel record some years later to see the light of day). Considering also Schelhaas' fine 'Man in a Car' from the previous Caravan release Better by Far, one wonders if he too wrote anything for Cool Water that ended up on the cutting room floor. Though Pye's objectionable A&R decisions for Cool Water (which finally came out in 1994) don't do the record any favors, at least the tunes he did include were generally high-quality romps of the sort Hastings penned for Better By Far. If you liked that one, you'll appreciate this. 'Ansaphone' employs a twisty Schelhaas synth break, a trademark Caravan hooky chorus and another of Pye's wistful jilted- boyfriend tales, for example. Probably the best tune here. 'Crack of the Willow' won't make you forget Roy Harper's 1975 HQ album but it is an amusing pastel of a day out playing cricket. The title bit is too slow to open the record (most Caravan releases start with an uptempo bang, like 'Memory Lain, Hugh/ Headloss' or 'Here Am I' (Blind Dog at St. Dunstan's, to my mind the last great Caravan album), and Pye's tale of a night out imbibing doesn't really explain why he thinks 'cool water' will help his predicament. To bathe in? To drink? But Schelhaas is there with a cheerful electric piano break, and Sinclair's bass hits all the right corners, showing there was a potential 'band' here if only Pye had pursued the matter further.
A word here about Mr. Coughlan, the redoubtable drummer who left us in 2013 after a lengthy illness: on Cool Water as on every Caravan release he participated in, the man proves himself to be one of the best rock drummers of his time. Always tasteful, never showy, he enlivens this record (especially 'You Won't Get Me Up in One of Those') with lively fills and the odd cheery splatter. Well done, sir, and you're sorely missed. No, there really are no clunkers here (though the closing 'Send Reinforcements', good track that it is, continues the rather sad cast of Better by Far's coda 'Nightmare'); it's more a case of what might have been, had Hastings insisted that Sinclair's tunes be included.
Kenneth Egbert 11.08.2015 (ALLMUSIC)
I do realize that a «from-the-vaults» release of an entire album that was originally deemed unfit for release by Caravan's record label at a time of general decline for Caravan is hardly going to be exciting news for the non-diehard fan. But yes indeed, after the critical and commercial failure of Better By Far, Caravan did record a second album for Arista, scheduled for release in 1978; and Arista did reject it, shelving the tapes for more than 15 years, before Pye got hold of them, dusted them off and released them pretty much as they were, on a minor label. And the most surprising thing about it is — Cool Water is, by all means, «better by far» than Better By Far, or, for that matter, anything else that Caravan did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Actually, if I am correct, only the first seven tracks here really come from the promised album; the surprisingly short length (32 minutes) is explained by the fact that the release only gives us the compositions by Hastings, leaving out a few contributions by Richard Sinclair — who did, as it turns out, temporarily return to the band in 1977 before leaving again to join Camel; apparently, one of the songs that he'd originally recorded with Caravan in that period eventually became Camel's 'Down On The Farm' (which is hardly surprising, since it always had that lightweight, downhome, facetious Caravan groove to it). The CD release is further padded with four tracks from a later session — not sure about the year, but the only Caravan member on that session was Pye, accompanied by Roxy Music's John Gustafson on bass and future Marillion member Ian Mosley on drums. The songs do sound stylistically similar to the main material, though, so there will be no jarring break in perception. Anyway, the key difference from typical Caravan output of the period is that, although this is still strictly a pop album, the songs are somewhat tighter written and contain more seductive melodic moves than usual. Formally, the title track might be one of those smooth-jazz-meets-adult-contemporary borefests, but Schelhaas chooses some epic keyboard tones (and it is cool how the song has Minimoog, electric piano, and organ all going on at the same time), and the chorus transforms the song into a heartfelt prayer — and we do not know many Caravan songs that sound like prayers, do we? Unfortunately, nobody seemed to take that request literally and give Mr. Hastings some cool water as requested. But even if you still get bored with the song's slow tempo and way-too-soothing arrangement, 'Just The Way You Are' is the first in a series of upbeat pop tracks with cute 'n' catchy singalong choruses that show Hastings had definitely not run out of ideas by that time — there's also 'Cold Fright', a piece of funny funk-pop, and, among the later bonuses, 'Poor Molly', one of Caravan's (or, in this case, solo Hastings') rare forays into disco, and the calypso-influenced 'You Won't Get Me Up In One Of Those', both of which are passable. Things get worse on deliberate attempts to «rock out»: 'Tuesday Is Rock And Roll Nite' is pretty cringeworthy — Pye Hastings and boogie are about as compatible as Bill Gates and WWE, and unless you take Pye's invitation to «rock and roll!» with a heavy side of irony, I don't see any grounds for competing with contemporary rockers here. Did Pye intend this to be an ironic send-up? Not sure. Then there are the other slow ballads: 'Crack Of The Willow' has a memorable, old-fashioned synth riff, good for a decent traditional country dance; 'Side By Side' has an equally memorable voice-guitar duet, though the song's steady waltz tempo is far from the peak of Hastings' creative inventiveness; and 'Send Reinforcements' ends the CD on a very uplifting note — with the single best use of falsetto on the whole album. I realize that I am not shedding much light on particularities here, but these particularities are hard to comment upon — it's just good old Pye in his friendly-glowing mode, taxing his brain and his soul for a few more melodic lines that would accentuate the glowing. So why exactly is this piece better than the albums that surround it on both sides, and is it pure coincidence that Cool Water had to stay in the vaults for so long when melodically inferior product was made available? My guess would be as good as anybody's, but Cool Water has a more homely and personal feel, where something like The Album would strive more for arena-rock values. As for Better By Far, it was homely, too, but somehow it just did not have the same amount of vocal and instrumental hooks — a slip-up, perhaps, that could be corrected with the follow-up level if the band had not been so cruelly let down by its label. Not that I am implying that Cool Water is a forgotten masterpiece: at best, it is just evidence that the genius of Caravan did not evaporate in one day, but kept fluctuating for a while, before the turbulence of the Eighties shut it off completely. But it is indeed an album worth owning, and it is good to see it reinstated in the regular Caravan chronology, so a thumbs up without any second thoughts.
George Starostin 07.06.2017 (ONLY-SOLITAIRE.BLOGSPOT.COM)
Funny and dismissable, but don't make the mistake of dismissing it - I proclaim the album an obligatory guilty pleasure for Caravan fans.
Archive release. Pye Hastings sure got a funny writing style, as self-indulgent as it actually is quite humble - the liner notes are a gas to read, and you'll learn all about how he unearthed these tapes, originally destined for Caravan's tenth studio album that never was, all dating back from recording sessions in 1977. The particularly good news is that Hastings decided not to tamper with the tapes at all, releasing them right as they were. It's quite obvious that most of them are somewhere half way between demo tapes and finished recordings: full band playing on most of the songs, but no obvious overdubs, excessive orchestration or whatever tricks Caravan liked to have in their studio.
Anyway, as you guess, this is another straightforward 'light pop' album, with absolutely no progressive ambitions in sight, but, at least, as Hastings wittily remarks in the liner notes, 'I hope I have succeeded in not writing what my father in law used to refer to as that "Yeah Baby Yeah" music'. With a few reservations, of course. Whenever Hastings tries to rock on a certain given track, he always falls flat on his face and flatter than that. Maybe overproduction would help conceal the weaknesses of "late Caravan rock", but no overproduction could conceal the fact that Hastings' voice is simply unfit for rock'n'roll. He's got a gorgeous falsetto, we all know that. He writes lush pop hooks occasionally worthy of Brian Wilson. But rock? I suppose you don't own this album and so haven't heard the ridiculous, embarrassing pile of self-humiliating excrements that is 'Tuesday Is Rock And Roll Nite'. A mild, meek guitar/synth pattern and a shaking feeble vocal delivery that gives the impression of a three-year old son of a rocker imitating his daddy on his little xylophone or something. Each time I hear Pye go 'oooh, rock'n'rooooooll!' in that thin falsetto whining that's so non-confirming to the classic view of a 'strong' rocker, I wanna cut out the sound. Truly and verily, Mr Hastings rocks ten times as horrid as Mr Lynne, who at least actually had some real guitar chops, you know. And a voice that could be gruff and gritty on occasion.
But enough, let's just forget about the rockers. I throw out 'Tuesday Is Rock And Roll Nite', I also throw out the funk idiocy of 'Ansaphone', and I pause only slightly before a similar funky vibe of 'Cold Fright', just to think on the subject of why Mr Hastings had to steal the riff from Black Sabbath's 'N.I.B.' and transplant it onto a dance-style pattern. The Lord knows the answer alone, I guess.
And that's all I need to throw out - the other eight songs are all minor pop masterpieces. Light, accessible music, but graced with often heavenly guitar melodies, inspired synth patterns, gorgeous vocals (to think that while listening to Caravan I actually had the guts to call Hastings a mediocre singer!), and... and yeah, the one thing that still remains is the Caravan atmosphere because the Caravan atmosphere only dies with Caravan. Who cares how complex the music is? Caravan's ideal has always been light gorgeous heavenly sonic panorama that caresses and soothes the listener, and I still get that atmosphere from most of the tracks on here. The lack of long compositions only ensures that nothing will prevent us from enjoying the melodies - that the band won't go off on unrelated tangents, wanking in all directions in an experimental way that doesn't at all guarantee enjoyability.
Like I said, the mood is one, but the different shades of the mood are always different. The title track is among the least pretentious on the album and definitely calls associations with the Beach Boys' 'Cool Cool Water', not melody-wise, but effect-wise. A song about nothing, really, just a song to make you feel so good... warm... relaxed... bathed by... cool cool water. Peaceful, enviromentalistic, majestic. 'Just The Way You Are' introduces an optimistic upbeat note - you'll be wanting to tap your foot and clap your hands and suck in all the joy from everyone surrounding you. 'The Crack Of The Willow' has one of the most breathtaking synth riffs ever written, although Hastings' vocals are way too shakey on the actual song for me to highlight it as the absolute favourite. He should have re-recorded the vocals, I would have forgiven him.
'Side By Side' is the one track that's a bit too pathetic for me (the slow pompous rhythm almost seems like it's been made in order to serve as an invitation for, you know, that dreadful ritual of holding hands and swaying from side to side at concerts... er... side to side? The song's called 'Side By Side'! Man, do I really get to the heart of the problem every now and then!), but it's all compensated with the hilarious calypso - is that calypso or what? - shake of 'You Won't Get Me Up In One Of Those'. That's the ultimate solution for you, Pye: if you're tired of balladeering but don't have the guts to really rock, try something, er, adjacent. Then there's the somewhat unremarkable, but very personal (maybe that's related?) 'To The Land Of My Fathers', the light pop-rocker 'Poor Molly' that's way more tolerable than 'Tuesday Is Rock And Roll Nite' because it's just a fast song, darn it! there's gotta be a difference between a fast song and a rocker! they're not always the same thing, see? And yeah, we close with 'Send Reinforcements', which presents us with a nice enough semi-climactic, semi-epic ending. If you're not wooed over by Pye's vocals on the chorus to the track, you're probably one of those "tough guys" who think Brian Wilson was born without testicles. Tough guys, get off my Caravan page! Don't you know Caravan are a bunch of sissies?
Now that the tough guys have gone, let me tell you this in secret - I don't know how a Caravan fan would have the courage to say this record sucks. It's flawed and at times, monotonous, but it has tons of moments of beauty. So, if you're a Caravan fan, get your ass to the nearest store and forget for a moment that music has to be 'complex' in order to be likable. This stuff ain't simpler than Pet Sounds anyway, so take that as an excuse.
George Starostin 7/10 06.08.2012 (ONLY SOLITAIRE)
Some good tracks but not good overall.
Released in 1994, this is a collection of songs originally recorded in 1977 to be a follow up album to Better by Far. The album was not completed, the tracks were in storage and Caravan did not release another studio album until 3 years later (The Album). Cool Water is about 50 minutes long and the sound quality is fairly good, but there are tape noises on some of the later tracks. My copy of the CD does not list who is on it (other than that Pye Hastings wrote all of the songs). Some others have listed the album personnel, but I don't know where they got the information. I have seen incorrect information about albums floating around on the internet, so I am not sure I would believe what others have written. This is an album of mostly droning Hastings songs, along the lines of songs on Better By Far, Front to Back and the very bad Battle of Hastings. However, there are some good songs on the album that feature some interesting keyboards. The last great Caravan album was Cunning Stunts, but the follow up, Blind Dog was fairly good (although many of the songs were reworked and are much better on All Over, Too). The Album, which came between Better By Far and Back to Front is pretty good, but that is because most of the songs were not written by Pye Hastings.
VINE VOICE 2/5 15.01.2012 (AMAZON)
Wow what a great CD.
I stumbled upon Caravan in the late 80s by way of Gong and Soft Machine, and got into their first few albums (1968 - 1974 period), then around '91 I found their Canterbury Collection compilation of '80s material which was pretty soft by my tastes but still worth listening to for a couple of good songs. Well this CD, Cool Water, along with recent siblings All Over You and The Unauthorized Breakfast Item, really show what the band has been up to in the last decade, namely that they still have outstanding songwriting. Performance and production values are also top notch. If you are feeling down and need some uplifting, positive music with finely honed ideas, lyrics and polished sounds look no further than this or any of the above mentioned titles. Listening to Caravan will make you feel better.
metal rifferon 5/5 05.06.2007 (AMAZON)
Avoid, not progressive rock , but a sub-par boring pop album.
Released in 1994, containing songs that were supposed to come out in the late 1970's when they were considered to have lost it, or pressured into writing song with new wave pop influence in order to sell records. These would have be considered tracks too lousy to make it then. In 1994 there are tired renditions of them by a band that seemed to be making a record to support themselves and their family.
S M 1/5 31.01.2006 (AMAZON)
There is no progressive music here!
I like early Caravan's albums. But this CD is not CARAVAN that I like. It contains some of popish music. I don't know why it was issued... One star! Sorry...
Igor Vladimirovon 1/5 17.10.2001 (AMAZON)
This anachronism in the recorded history of Caravan was released in 1994, but all of the songs were recorded as a follow-up to “Better by far” in 1977 and for some reason shelved for almost 20 years. I’m gonna take the liberty to rewrite the history here and place it where it belongs chronologically, since Pye obviously decided not to tamper with the tapes at all when he finally decided they were release-worthy. A little revisionism hasn’t hurt anyone. Yet. And what’s 20 years in the cosmological perspective anyway? The Caravan fans of Alpha Centauri sure would care less when gazing towards us through the light years of distance. I hope they will catch this review though.
I hope you will too, dear earthling, because even if it’s basically a collection of more or less raw demo recordings, at least the first seven tracks that apparently have been subjected to some production enhancement, it’s at least as worthy a listen as “Blind dog”. And for one thing, guess who’s back: Richard Sinclair! Not that his presence makes him that much justice since Pye is the one and only voice present on here. These cool waters ain’t running through no land o’ grey’n pink, fo’ sho’! It’s still an interesting listen on a song-for-song basis, and it has its shares of ups an downs. One serious down, and I do mean serious, is the bloody atrocious “Tuesday is rock and roll nite”. As you might read out from the title, awful in itself, they are trying their hands on good old-fashioned rock’n roll, and as you might guess, it results in a major facepalm. Hearing our favourite sissy boy proclaim “rock’n rooouuull, yeah” in the weakest and most wimpy intonation possible is the core definition of inadequacy. Yes, they had incorporated more rocking elements in their songs before, but they always adopted it to their own style. This time however, they try to step out of that style in favour of something they were simply unfit for. You gotta hear it at least once of course, just to witness why Pye is the last go-to-guy on earth when it comes to gaining knowledge about where tonight’s rockin’ is at.
Fortunately, none of the other tracks comes close to this puddle of embarassment (which sure would be an achievement in itself) but there are still some rather bland funk workouts present. “Ansaphone” doesn’t do much, neither harm nor impact, and “You won’t get me up in one of those” is at least memorable in its bouncy rythm pattern that betrays some new wave influences. “Cold fright” even approaches disco which is perfectly understandable, given the times and all, but not terribly interesting melody-wise. We’re given a few slow-paced ballads as well, several of which are based on the same 6/8 rythm which gets tedious after a while. “To the land of my fathers” is little more than pure atmosphere and “Side by side” is mainly a re-write of “Better by far”. “Crack of the willow” at least boasts a really good synth line but the real highlight out of these is the title track. “Cool water” is a really pretty barroom lounge-jazz shuffle, with a hushed atmosphere perfectly fit with the lyrics taking place at the closing hour of a night out during which a drunk and exhausted Pye wishes for nothing more than some cool water. Haven’t we all been there? The one thing that bugs me though, is the fact that it’s placed as the opening track when it more than anything should have been put last. It’s just designed to be closing whatever comes before it and the only rational reason I can think of why it opens the album, is that they made a mistake in the sequencing process. All in all, it’s a perfect afterparty track to play when arriving home late at night and settling down in the couch with a girl under your arm. God I hate being single. I want a girl, now! (Yeah, as if a girl would be into Caravan, much less reading long-winded reviews of them! If you are though, and look like Kate Bush, PM me.)
What convinces me even more that the positioning of that track was a mistake is the fact that it’s followed by “Just the way you are”, which is an obvious successor of “Feelin’ alright” and thus a much more apt candidate for opening the album. A bouncy pop shuffle in the best Badfinger tradition, only catchier. “Poor Molly” continues the transatlantic popster tradition in a compact Steely Dan-fashion. Play this back to back with “Tuesday is rock’n roll s h i t e” and spot the difference. The closing “Send reinforcements” is once again mirrored in the previous album, this time in “Nightmare” which means it’s perfectly good in itself.
As you can see, there was little progress made in the making of this could-have-been album so on one hand it might have been just as well that it wasn’t released in time, especially since their previous album wasn’t exactly successful in the eyes of the world. On the other hand, you should really give it a try, if only for the selected few tracks that are truly worthy. And, by all means, for the valuable lesson of “Tuesday is rock’n roll tripe”.
dotoar 10.05.2011 (POLITEFORCE)
Als er ooit een prijs wordt uitgereikt voor de ‘braafste’ rockgroep dan zal Caravan een niet te onderschatten kandidaat-winnaar zijn. Pye Hastings moet wel één van de meest zachte stemgeluiden in de rockscene hebben.
De titelsong van deze cd kan zonder meer gebruikt worden als slaaplied voor volwassenen en dat is niet negatief bedoeld. Het is een zachte ballad over een man die zo dronken is dat hij alleen nog verlangt naar zijn bed en een glas fris water. Hastings zingt het nummer alsof hij naast je bed zit te wachten tot je inslaapt. Mooi! De zachtheid van Hastings’ stem is misschien wel het handelsmerk van Caravan en het lijkt wel alsof alle instrumenten daarop afgesteld zijn. Want wat ze ook doen, hoe up-tempo ze hun nummers ook maken, ze blijven altijd waanzinnig ‘braaf’, een ander adjectief vind ik niet. Je krijgt een afwisseling tussen rustige ballads en snellere rocknummers, maar zelfs in Poor Molly, een echt rocknummer, kan ik me niet van de indruk ontdoen dat het allemaal net iets te braaf, net iets te gestroomlijnd is. Want dat moet je Caravan wel meegeven: het zijn professionals. Op de productie valt niets aan te merken. Cool Water is geen slecht album, maar heeft nergens iets dat de luisteraar in zijn greep neemt. Elk afzonderlijk zijn de nummers best genietbaar,maar als je de hele cd beluistert heb je na een tijdje de neiging om op de display van je cd-speler te gaan kijken hoe lang het nog duurt. Neem nu Send Reinforcements, het laatste nummer: afzonderlijk beluisterd is dit echt een leuke song, maar aan het eind van deze cd hoeft het echt niet meer en dat is toch jammer. Als je gasten op bezoek hebt, kan je deze cd zonder problemen opzetten terwijl je wat zit te praten. Je zal er niemand mee buiten jagen en het klinkt zelfs best gezellig. Maar voor wie echt wil luisteren, mist dit toch iets. Misschien is dit album nog het best te omschrijven als rock zonder ballen.
Luc Descamps 01.09.2004 (PROGNOSE)
In 1977, Caravan entered the studio to finish their tenth LP. The music recorded during these sessions was shelved for almost two decades before Pony Records released the newly mastered tunes in 1994. The collection, entitled Cool Water, has a distinctly raw sound that suggests much of the material was still in development when the album was scrapped. Without the benefit of a complete production treatment, the songs are reduced to their fundamental elements, adding to Cool Water's pop overtones. Gone are the 20-minute epic noodle-fests and indulgent solos. Echoes of Brian Wilson and John Lennon can be heard in guitarist/vocalist Pye Hastings' work during highlights like "Just the Way You Are," "Poor Molly," and other straight pop numbers. The only real miscalculations on Cool Water are the fluffy rock tracks, especially "Tuesday Is Rock 'N' Roll Night." Despite these missteps, this lost treasure is sure to delight fans of the Canterbury Scene. Listeners who can do without the genre's most excessive musical elements will be especially pleased.
Jason Anderson (ALLMUSIC)
Sorry Pye, but this one sucks. I heard this was originally songs to come out in the late 70's but by hearing them they would've been sub-par to those also. Be careful, everybody as this got released with a new cover recently, but the material is the same.
Sean Trane 1/5 02.02.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
Not a bad album considering it came out after all the moth balls were dusted off! Audio is notably poor and Pye confirms that on the CD but there are some really clever pieces reminiscent of Blind Dogs and Better By Far. Tracks worth mentioning are The Crack of the Willow, Send Reinforcements and Side by Side
Chris S 3/5 05.07.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
This album contains material, recorded by Caravan in studio in 1977. Recordings spent 17 years somewhere in the vaults before they were released for a first time. Obviously material wasn't developed till the end, so many songs sound more as demos with simplistic arrangements and poor sound mix. But main problem with this album isn't mix or arrangements, but the songs themselves. Band well known by their melodic folk-pop influenced Canterbury sound in early 70-s recorded there just a collection of simple, but melodic pop-rock songs. In a key of Crosby, Stills and Nash, or Brian Wilson. Not too many traces of Canterbury sound could be find there. Just very average pop-rock album vice nice vocals harmonies. For collectors only.
Snobb 2/5 23.11.2010 (PROGARCHIVES)
I got my hands on this CD recently, despite the warnings I have read. First of all I must admit, that this is not a progressive rock, but somekind of "easy listening" with poor production. In the other hand this "easy listening" is done in professional manner (at least in musical aspect) and if one is able to pretend not knowing that this is Caravan the CD would be partly quite pleasant listening. Among relatively silly rockers, filler and left-overs, the highlights for me are: Cool Water, The Crack of the Willow, Side by Side. In conclusion: There are a lot of better pieces of music, but sometimes then you are feeling tired of technical and/or musical comlexity this one could have spin or two. At least I will keep my copy of the disc in CD shelf.
arxx 2/5 16.08.2006 (PROGARCHIVES)
Lush pop. Lushy, slushy, mushy, wishy, washy pop. I LOVE it. Stone me just like in that silly Bob Dylan song and dismiss me as a blasphemous, hypocritical Judas for not basing my rating of this album on progressiveness but rather the quality and effort put into the songwriting because this is a damn GOOD release. (Read: Not great, this album does have a totally glaring and grody flaw and it's simply that theres not enough diversity, dudes and dude-ettes, but that's not going to deny a well crafted album a respectable rating) Okay, first to slip the obligatory historical facts regarding this album into this review to feed your hungry minds: Historical Filler-in Fact 1#: This is an archive release; the music on here was written in 1979 rather than 1994 when this music was released. This music was originally slated to be the sequel of the exceptionally great "Better by Far" but for some reason; the project was dropped. Historical Filler-in Fact 2#: The songs on here are demos or at least, have a demo-like quality. There are a few crackles and a tape hitch here and there but otherwise, everything sounds just fine. Well there ya go. I now need not to go off on a long rambling essay about anything else other then the goods printed on this dandy disk. "Cool Water" is mainly composed of intelligent pop rockers and pop ballads that are not complex in the slightest but there is a very nice emphasis placed on melody and musicianship. I'll even admit that band leader, Pye Hastings, had undergone a transformation into a popmeister during the mid-seventies but he also became a seriously talented, first rate popmeister during the mid-seventies. (Unfortunately, his songwriting ability suddenly got all moldy in the eighties. After all, it was Mr. Pye spearheading the creation for half of what sounds like the soundtrack for a disco roller-skating movie on "The Album" and something with less pseudo-inspiration than a greasy late period Rick Ashley butternuttter on "Back to Front".) However, in the final year of the seventies, Hastings still had an almost solid grasp on his fleeting talent and pens some real oobie-doobie songs that are well worth hearing. If not anything else, it's the airy, fluffy ballads that truly prevail on this album. The xylophone laden title track has the uncanny ability to quell my emotions whenever its sound waves linger in the air. Those three part harmonies slowly and soulfully crooning "all I need is, cooooool waaater, cooooooool waaaater, cool water, that's all" just wash over me, lulling me into a tranquil state of placidity. A perfect song for meditating and lots of deep breathing. Magnificant. "Crack of the Willow" is only second to the subject of the above paragraph. I could never imagine a more (excuse me from stealing the lingo from a stereotypical pitchfork.com review) "wistful" and beautiful synthesizer line that graces such a lovely ballad. And the song itself is about bowling, no less! Such an uncliched topic and Pye tackles it with a real poetic flair. The other two ballads "Side by Side" and "Land of My Fathers" are kind of weaker in terms of melody, though. "Land of My Fathers" does sound very heartfelt and contemplative, while "Side by Side" is rather yawn inducing, lite lite musik. The more upbeat poppy fare is a mixed doggie bag, as well "Just the Way You Are" is a positively heavenly pop rocker with a bouncy motownish charm. A song like this just throws its dorkiness to the wind and invites you to join in the joviality, which I happily do without the slightest shame. It's a quality composition and you're a fool if you hate it because it doesn't have a complex time signature or universally moronic "universal" lyrics. (Like Yes or anything Pete Sinfield wrote, e.g.) It's the melody that matters, IMO! "Poor Molly" may just have the darnest best hook on the album, even considering the outstanding ballads. Unfortunately, that hook certainly isn't good enough to be constantly repeated over the course of six minutes! Not even the melody of a first rate Beatles song deserves that treatment. "You Won't Get Me Up In One Of Those" mixes a huffingly long title with calypso and power pop and interestingly enough, it sounds quite inspired. In complete contrast and I'm going to ditto the All Music guide and say "Tuesday Is Rock And Roll Nite" is a hilariously bad misfire. Here's my first knock at the song: Partying on a WEEKDAY?! Is he MAD?! At least Elton John knew that a Saturday night is all right for fighting but Pye is a total square! Oh and Pye ends up sounding like a completely talentless dweeb singer trying to make his ultra thin voice (which is perfectly suited for the lighter stuff, not "Guns and Roses" like fare) sound all anthemic and powerful. Pye also is a total albino cracka for thinking he could pen a couple of serious funk numbers. "Ansaphone" and "Cold Fright" are completely silly; totally attempting to lay down the funk but end up sounding whiter than a Nabisco Saltine. Good thing they still have nice melodies to compensate their dippiness or I'd write em off as throwaways real quick. The last song is perhaps Caravan's last attempt ever at something in the epic, pompous and proggy vein. "Send Reinforcements" is dark, dire and it even has a multipart, almost Pink Floydian sounding chorus. ("I feel so all alone, I feel so all aloooooone, can you hear me?") That's enough to keep all you hardcore proggers satisfied, eh no? So, in conclusion, this album is lush pop. Always wonderful, always composed for the sole purpose of being inoffensively catchy, always lush pop. My only beef with this album, other than a few of the cheesier numbers, is eventually everything gets a bit samey being so lush. If you're a prog fans who's even a little partial to pop, give this music a try. It's not perfect but it doesn't deserve to be written off simply for its sheer poppiness. No album produced by a quality band like Caravan deserves that.. Please approach with an open mind, for that is the key to this album's immense enjoyment.
Album grade: B+
Bests Songs: Cool Water, Just the Way You Are, Crack of the Willow, You Won't Get Me Up In One Of Those, Poor Molly, Send Reinforcements
Worst Songs: Tuesday Is Rock And Roll Nite, Side by Side
LionRocker 4/5 26.07.2010 (PROGARCHIVES)