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Articles Home » 1975 Articles » Caravan - 1975 Cunning Stunts
Caravan - 1975 Cunning Stunts

ARTIST: Caravan
ALBUM: Cunning Stunts
LABEL: Deram
YEAR: 1975
CD REISSUE: 2001, Decca, 8829812 (with bonus tracks)


LINEUP: Pye Hastings - vocals, electric & acoustic guitar * Richard Coughlan - drums * Dave Sinclair - keyboards * Mike Wedgewood - bass, conga, vocals * Geoffery Richardson - viola, guitar, flute, whistle

Additional Musician: Jimmy Hastings - sax, clarinet

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Show Of Our Lives * 02 Stuck In A Hole * 03 Lover * 04 No Backstage Pass * 05 Welcome The Day * 06 The Dabsong Conshirtoe * a) The Mad Dabsong * b) Ben Karratt Rides Again * c) Pro's & Con's * d) Wraiks & Ladders * e) Sneaking Out The Bare Quare * f) All Sorts Of Unmentionable Things * 07 Fear And Loathing In Tollington Park Rag


Once upon a time there was a band of young lads called The Wilde Flowers. Based in the medieval city of Canterbury, England; The Wilde Flowers existed between 1964 and 1967 playing their catchy pop locally although never officially releasing a record. Like most groups of the era they probably would have disappeared in the foggy recesses of memory if not for the fact this was one incredibly talented bunch which included future members of both Soft Machine and Caravan and signaled the birth of the much-heralded 'Canterbury sound'. Melding pop and progressive styles with jazz and avant-garde; both bands and their periphery were quite varied in their approach. Soft Machine's first two albums were very much pop, morphing into an inventive jazz fusion outfit and eventually dabbling in improvisation on later releases while Caravan was first and foremost a progressive band with pop tendencies and has remained so throughout their career. Records like the stellar 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink' and 1972's 'Waterloo Lily' are cherished progressive rock classics, but in 1975 line-up issues and an evolving music climate forced Caravan into more obvious pop-oriented fare beginning with 1975's 'Cunning Stunts'.

The Songs
As with previous releases 'If I Could Do It Again, I'd Do It All Over You' and 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In the Night'; the sexual innuendo in the album title 'Cunning Stunts' is hard to miss and dressed in another classic Hipgnosis cover, the package as humorous as it is appealing. Notable for the addition of former Curved Air bassist Mike Wedgewood; Caravan's new direction is far more commercial than previous efforts and 'The Show Of Our Lives' is a dynamic start with beautiful piano backing from Dave Sinclair and laced with a stratospheric melody line that seems to float effortlessly around the room, demanding repeated plays as one my all-time favourite Caravan tracks. 'Stuck In A Hole' was the album's only single and it's a catchy little up-tempo number that's only outdone by thick wedges of baroque strings on the decidedly ELO influenced 'Lover' which was coincidently the single's B-side. And yet Caravan never forget their roots and the eighteen minute/six movement prog masterpiece 'The Dabsong Conshirtoe' is the album's anchor and includes everything we've come to expect from Caravan - creative pop silliness, jazzy interludes and complex instrumental work-outs that are in a word - dazzling.

In Summary
A tour of North America supporting The Tubes, Frank Zappa and Procol Harum followed as well as a European pairing with Renaissance and a short French jaunt with krautrocker's Ash Ra Tempel, but critics were harsh on 'Cunning Stunts', calling it a sell-out and the band a shadow of their former selves. Attitudes haven't changed much as the record is still seen by many prog fans as the beginning of the end, but for this reviewer it's the start of Caravan's more interesting period and albums like 1977's 'Better By Far', 'Back To Front' from 1982 and 1995's excellent comeback 'The Battle Of Hastings' are never too far from my CD player.

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