Caravan – In the Land of Grey and Pink

09 May, 2014

By Nicholas Montebello



It's 1971, progressive rock is in its heyday, celebrated for its complexity and innovation. Alas it was not without its critics, as the old joke goes "how do you spell 'pretentious' - it's spelt E.L.P". But in the shadow of divisive figures, such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Canterbury jazz rockers Caravan were laying down their own brand of prog which sought to satisfy music lovers on both sides of the divide.


Perhaps their crowning achievement, 'In the Land of Pink and Grey' is a curious, whimsical and understated record, reigning in much of the affectation which defined the wider prog rock movement at the time. Highlights include the title track and the humorous Golf Girl which both revolve around a simple but tight rhythm, led in parts by uplifting keyboard or flute melodies which exhibit technical proficiency without overpowering the dreamy mood of the tracks. Another important track, Love To Love You, is a bright uplifting jingle comprising a bizarrely natural sounding 7/4. This epitomizes what the band has achieved in this album, creating a light unaffected aesthetic which lends itself to easy-listening whilst retaining all the craft and nuance to keep the average prog fan interested.


Those particularly observant readers among you may have spotified the album, noticing that thus far I have neglected to mention the near 23 minute monster Nine Feet Underground, which makes up the entire second half of the album. "So much forunderstated" you may say, and you could probably follow it with branding me an apologist. All apologies aside though, I implore you to consider my case. This isn't your stereotypical prog behemoth: all build up, all pretence, and no substance. In fact, it's quite a relaxed and safe track, with the band falling back on their familiar jazz roots. It is relatively freeform at points, but still favours the soulful over the wildly experimental, serving as the album's clearest exhibition of the band's talents and cohesion. Starting strong with a gorgeous sort of jam, it soon finds structure and remains purposeful throughout. Its 8 separate parts are all of a reasonably sized length and are appealing on their own. I think compiling them into one track can have the effect of scaring off people, but had it been released sui generis as an E.P, it would likely have been lauded for the unity of its separate parts and how well they blend together.


All things considered, a delicate balance has been struck in this album. Jazz influences, British humour, and the obligatory keyboard solo all rolled into a tidy, humble, and attractive package. Ironically, while it did not enjoy the success of Jethro Tull's 'Aqualung' or Yes' 'Fragile' released the same year, I'd argue that it's probably more widely appealing than either and deserves more than its meagre popularity.







Primary Genre: Rock


Secondary Genre: Progressive rock, Jazz rock, Canterbury sound


Release Date: 1971


Label: Deram Records


Like This And You'll Probably Also Like: Hatfield and the North, The Soft Machine, Can


Album Highlights: Golf Girl, In the Land of Grey & Pink, Nine Feet Underground





Caravan - Golf Girl (1971)






Caravan - Winter Wine (1971)