Caravan - In The Land Of Grey And Pink
Think of any album from the Canterbury prog scene in the 70s, and it will almost certainly be In The Land Of Grey And Pink, the third album from Caravan. In just forty minutes the band summed up to perfection the quintessentially English quirkiness that defined this little corner of the country at the time; but more importantly produced what is just a damn good record, now rightly regarded as a classic of the genre. So forty years from its initial, admittedly low-key, release, it is more than deserving of an all bells-and-whistles reissue.
The original five tracks have been given a touch of added sparkle with the aid of modern technology, and they benefit from the extra clarity that highlights the playfulness of Caravan as the folksy guitars and Hammond organ weave around each other in childish delight. It still remains a pleasure to listen to the whimsical lyrics of ‘Golf Girl’ and ‘Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)’ as they go on about buying cups of tea in PVC and the murder of suitors in the same cheery tongue-in-cheek tone.
And then of course you have the magnum opus ‘Nine Feet Underground’, twenty three minutes of the finest proggy goodness that distils all the jazz, blues, folk and rock influences with an added dose of the English eccentric; whether it is the driving ‘Love’s A Friend’, the ambient sweeps of ‘Dance Of The Seven Paper Hankies’ or the ballsy riff of ‘100% Proof’, these eight little ditties slot together and whisk the listener along in such glee.
So what about the bonus material dug out of the closet? A number of the tracks that emerged on the last reissue crop up again, such as non-album tracks ‘Aristocracy’ and ‘Frozen Rose’; here they also joined by ‘It Doesn’t Take A Lot’, a sedate piano tune that has the feel of a late night jam in a dimly lit smoke-filled back room. The other previously unreleased tracks include a much more laid back first version of ‘Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)’ as well as a needlessly and barely noticeable extended version of the same track, and the original ‘Nigel Blows A Tune’ in a bare bones form that is just a mite stale in comparison to the final take.
The final five tracks, all lifted from the BBC Archives, are a bit of audio gold; although they won’t be new to Caravan completists having all appeared on the BBC compilation a few years back, the ‘Sounds Of The Seventies’ session and a couple of tracks from a John Peel Sunday Concert, including a wonderfully madcap version of fellow Cantabrian’s The Soft Machine’s ‘Feelin’, Reelin’, Squealin’’ are boisterous, lively renditions.
One final treat is the Steven Wilson 5.1 surround sound mix of the entire album, a truly glorious experience. The extra channels gives the music a huge amount of space to grow into, and there are few better at the moment in utilising the added dimensions to bring the best out of any music than Mr Wilson; in this format In The Land Of Grey And Pink becomes a fully immersive experience as various instruments flit around, a child-like restlessness that is so befitting of the mood within the album.