Mott the Dog : Caravan – In the Land of Grey and Pink – 5 Stars

The album cover prepared for the 40th Anniversary edition, exactly the same as 40 years before. Well, when you have a winning formula why change it?

In the early Sixties there was a bit of stir going on in the brand new world of Pop and Rock around the quiet cathedral city of Canterbury in Kent. And emerging from this provincial music scene was the unique band Caravan. There must have been some fine ingredients in the Tea Pots of Kent for all this creativity to come tumbling out. Bands such as Soft Machine, Egg, Hatfield and The North, Matching Mole, Khan, Henry Cow all sprung up like magic mushrooms, many other bands had connections to the Canterbury sound such as, Gong, Camel, Centipede, Spirogyra, plus many more. But to many Caravan were the epitome of what the Canterbury sound was all about. (man)

Caravan as a band are still going today led by Pye Hastings, the lineup has been somewhat fluid, but delightfully some members have wandered off from the ranks, then at the right time sauntered back. Today’s line up of the band has been remarkable stable.

In 1968, (Not forgetting at this time the Beatles were still in their prime.) Caravan were snapped up by American record label Verve and released their self-titled first album Caravan (1968). This went completely unnoticed by the record buying public, which is hardly surprising as nobody had heard of them, and there was next to no publicity as Verve went bust anyway.

This was all put right when the giant Decca records signed up Caravan to a new recording contract, and not only prepared them for their second album but also sent them out on the road to get them in the public eye.

The glorious artwork for In The Land Of The Pink And Grey, a fabulous drawing by Anne Marie Anderson. Very eye catching in the ranks of Vinyl in the days of yore.

Caravan’s second album, the wonderfully titled If I Could Do it Again I Would Do It All Over You (1970), was released to a far greater fanfare and critical acclaim, enabling the band to enlarge their following and develop their natural talents. After six months on the road promoting the album, the band was ushered back into Air London studios under the inspirational eye of young producer David Hitchcock to record a follow up disc.

In the Land of Grey and Pink (1971) has one of the most unique and instantly recognizable sounds in the history of Rock, perhaps a little whimsical for some, but then that is a lot of its charm.

The album opens with Golf Girl, a wonderful song of love about Richard Sinclair’s future wife (there were no themes of war, hate or politics in the Caravan repertoire, just songs of an ideal life that we can all relate to in our happier moments).

Golf Girl is followed by Winter Wine, also by Richard Sinclair, a song of fairytales and dreams while next up is Love To Love You, Pye Hastings composed this little ditty, the lyrics to this very hummable song being extremely naughty, not smutty or crude, just enjoyably risqué.

Ahhhhh. The daze of the early Seventies a wonderfully fresh-faced photo of the Caravan Band members, perhaps having a little difficulty focusing on the camera.

The title track is music as if sung to children, including one of the most beautiful piano solos ever put down on tape and matched with lyrics that would soften the most jaded soul: “Not leaving your Dad out in the rain, those nasty Grumbley Grimblies, and cleaning your teeth in the sea,” the song’s final verse is sung in bubble as you would sing to a six-month-old baby, quite delightful. Richard Sinclair takes a bow on the songwriting credits.

The album’s epic Nine Feet Underground is a stunning display of exactly how well the members of Caravan had mastered their chosen instruments, including the dual lead vocals of Pye Hastings and Richard Sinclair. It is mainly David Sinclair’s keyboards that are to the fore throughout, deservedly so as he was on a par with any player of his day, but this does not detract from the jazzy bass work of Richard Sinclair, the melodic lead guitar work from Pye Hastings, or the rock-solid drumming of Richard Coughlan. There is also room for Pye’s brother Jimmy Hastings to come in and add some flute and tenor saxophone. The suite closes with some heavy riffs that prove Caravan could get down if the need required. The Nine Feet Underground suite was basically written by David Sinclair with help from Richard Sinclair and Pye Hastings. The suite is called Nine Feet Underground as David Sinclair’s basement flat was nine feet underground!

Caravan on stage today being led as ever by Pye Hastings.

Although the album was not a great commercial success at the time, it has never been taken out of print and sells steadily to this day.

There have been many Deluxe, Super Deluxe, and Anniversary Issues released, cast your eye upon them and chose what suits you. The Basic album is all you really need.

Caravan play at many of the British Summer Music festivals still, being a huge draw playing old songs and new. Tours are organized when the band shake a leg selling out immediately.

Mott the Dog rating: 5 Stars.

Richard Sinclair – bass guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals, bubbles
Pye Hastings – electric and acoustic guitars, vocals
David Sinclair – organ, piano, mellotron, harmony vocals
Richard Coughlan – drums and all sorts of percussion
Jimmy Hastings – flute, tenor saxophone, piccolo
Dave Grinstead – cannon, bell, wind (that’s what it says on the album sleeve)

Oh those joyous photo shoots of the early Seventies. Who’s bright idea was it to stick the band up a tree???

Track List:
Golf Girl (Richard Sinclair)
Winter Wine (Richard Sinclair.)
Love to Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly) (Pye Hastings)
In the Land of Grey and Pink (Richard Sinclair)

Nine Feet Underground: Basically by David Sinclair except where noted

  1. Nigel Blows a Tune
  2. Love’s a Friend. (Pye Hastings)

III. Make It 76

  1. Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies
  2. Hold Grandad by the Nose
  3. Honest I Did

VII. Disassociation (Richard Sinclair)
VIII. 100%

Note: Written by Mott the Dog
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If this photo starts looking back at you. Go and have a lie down.