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The Show of Our Lives - Caravan At the BBC, 1968-1975

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Album Review

While this two-CD, nearly two-and-a-half-hour collection doesn't include all of Caravan's BBC recordings, it's indisputably the finest collection of the band's radio performances yet assembled. It doesn't quite include all of the BBC tracks that have appeared on previous releases; a couple songs from their first 1968 session are missing, as are most of the cuts from the Ether Way: BBC Sessions 1975-77 compilation. This is more than compensated for, however, by the inclusion of a half-hour August 2, 1973 session that appears for the first time anywhere on this anthology, as well as the much-improved fidelity on some material first issued as part of the Green Bottles for Marjorie: The Lost BBC Sessions set. Too, the absence of some mid- to late-'70s material isn't a big blow, as it was during the period covered by this collection, in which Caravan were truly at their peak. As for the music itself, while these tracks aren't radically different from the more familiar studio versions, they're fine testimony to the band's ability to deliver complex progressive rock with deft spontaneity in a live setting. The first disc is far more impressive than the second, the band sounding like a cousin to early Soft Machine (with whom, of course, they shared deep roots) in their ability to make the transition from psychedelia to progressive rock sound playful, humane, and for the most part, based in strong songs and vocals. The most pleasing treasure is their fine nine-minute stretched-out cover of the early Soft Machine B-side "Feelin', Reelin', Squealin,'" which Caravan never recorded on their studio releases. The second disc, alas, finds the group becoming steadily less interesting with the onset of several personnel changes, documenting the band's (and indeed the entire serious British progressive rock genre's) growing inclination toward slicker virtuosity and less acute, distinguished songwriting. Nonetheless, the better portions are delightful and Mark Powell's annotation (which almost amounts to a band history in itself) excellent, and the compilation as a whole belongs in every serious Caravan fan's collection.


Formed: Thailand

Genre: Rock

Years Active:

Caravan were one of the more formidable progressive rock acts to come out of England in the 1960s, though they were never much more than a very successful cult band at home, and, apart from a brief moment in 1975, barely a cult band anywhere else in the world. They only ever charted one album in their first six years of activity, but they made a lot of noise in the English rock press, and their following has been sufficiently loyal and wide to keep their work in print for extended periods during...
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The Show of Our Lives - Caravan At the BBC, 1968-1975, Caravan
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