With a new Best Of album scheduled in addition to this strong new release, maybe 2014 will be just the right time for the much-undervalued, long-overdue Caravan revival. Too often overshadowed by their 70s contemporaries, the Canterbury band produced at least two classic albums (If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You and In The Land Of Grey And Pink) back in the day. While Paradise Filter isn’t quite in that league, there are enough moments on this compact collection to remind long-time fans of former glories.
The album is so compact, in fact, that I found myself wondering if Paradise Filter should be reviewed in these hallowed pages at all – its running time is a mere 50 minutes, and this coming from a band whose best-loved material often occupied an entire vinyl side!
So does this mean there has been a dip in standards? Mercifully, no. Under the watchful eye of the band’s chief songwriter and singer, Pye Hastings, the band have delivered a quietly compelling addition to the Caravan canon. The album opens with the spritely All This Could Be Yours, with Hastings’ vocals sounding as distinctive as they did on As I Feel I Die all those years ago. Rather ironically, the title track (a gentle recollection of ‘an old cathedral town’) is sung – and written – by multi-instrumentalist and long-time member Geoffrey Richardson.
It was Caravan’s unwillingness to be pigeonholed which led to the richness in their sound, and that’s continued on Paradise Filter. Jan Schelhaas’s keyboards act as a perfect backdrop, while Jim Leverton’s bass and Mark Walker’s drums form the ideal foundation for Pye Hastings to float on. As well as Pye’s distinctive vocal style, Paradise Filter contains all the Caravan hallmarks you’d expect, which make it sound ethereal and very English. Indeed, there are times (Fingers In The Till) when the Caravan sound edges eerily close to Pink Floyd. The comparison is particularly noticeable on Dead Man Walking, which could stand comfortably alongside Division Bell-era Floyd.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual: the wry and beguiling Trust Me I’m A Doctor recalls days spent in a land of grey, and pink; Farewell My Old Friend is, as its title suggests, a poignant ballad, crying out to be an X Factor cover. Ultimately though, it’s the song I’ll Be There For You that is quintessential Caravan. It’s another touching ballad that’s sentimental without coming across as cloying.
There’s something about hearing these distinguished gentlemen still hard at it going into the 21st century, and to such great effect too.