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The Crystal Caravan

The Crystal Caravan

Review by Gary Hill

The year is 1976. What, you say it’s 2009? Well you couldn’t tell it from this disc. OK, yeah there are a few hints of punk rock here, but overall this album would have been completely at home in the mid-70’s. It’s got a great retro groove and really rocks. There’s nothing very modern about this, but as Homer Simpson once said, “We all know rock music attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.” You just can’t argue with that.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Between The Mountain And The Spoon
They waste no time getting into it. They power out with a killer retro rock jam. As the vocals join, I'm reminded a bit of Grand Funk, but the music doesn't have that feeling. This is a smoking hot rocker that is a great way to bring us into the world of The Crystal Caravan.
Tombstone Eyes

The guitar soloing on the intro here has a great psychedelia meets fuzz mode. There’s a bit of punk rock on this, too, though. There are bits of this that remind me of The Black Crowes and yet there’s plenty of influence that’s much older – of course, The Black Crowes are quite a retro band. The things is there are moments here that make me think of The Dead Kennedys, too. There’s a full on tribute to psychedelia in the form of the first instrumental break and there’s some cool Latin percussion.

Down Under

There’s a more melodic texture to this. The retro elements are certainly at the fore here, though. I can hear bits of The Allman Brothers alongside The Rolling Stones – and then there’s a more modern crunch. This one also makes me think a bit of The Black Crowes. It’s a definite change of pace in that it’s mellower than the two openers, but it’s no less rooted in the 1970’s.  There’s a tasty little keyboard solo in the middle of this track.

Wicked Mind

A killer fast paced riff opens this one and then we’re off on a jam that actually reminds me a bit of Captain Beyond’s Sufficiently Breathless album. They’re not breaking any molds here, but this is still its own track. A false ending gives way to an keyboard based section.  This has an almost Uriah Heep or early Deep Purple texture. It fires out in a psychedelia meets proto metal jam that’s amongst the most frantic on show here and serves as the extended outro.

Dead Inside

I hear Captain Beyond on this again, but more the first album. That said, I also pick up on a bit of Dead Kennedys vibe on this track. There’s some George Thorogood in the mix, too – to further confound things. Odd as this combination is, they still add in a Deep Purple like jam mid track and yet the whole thing works like a charm.

A New Time Is Coming

There’s a definite punk rock energy and raw texture to this. Yet it’s still very much in keeping with the other retro stylings of the rest of the disc. This is the most straightforward and rough around the edges cut on show here. It’s a screamer, but not one of my favorites. There’s a cool percussion meets vocals break, though.

Train Song

The retro vibe on this is another that calls to mind the more melodic music of groups like The Allman Brothers. That said, there’s still plenty of fuzzy crunch to this. It just has some catchy hook-laden elements paired to that vibe.

Flying High (Or So It Seems)

While overall not a lot has changed in terms of the general influences on this track it’s got a really cool groove and one of the most effective vocal lines. There’s also an exceptionally tasty guitar solo. This is definitely one of the highlights of the set.

Monkey

The opening section here reminds me a bit of music from “The Munsters” TV show – or something like that. It’s got that definite surf groove to it. Other than that segment – which is repeated – this is more of the same. Still, as strong as this all is, there’s not a bit of boredom seeping in. There is a cool punky sort of bridge on this and we also get a great retro surf instrumental section.

Desert King

This fuzz laden groove combines old school Black Sabbath with Mountain in a stoner rock fans’ dream. There’s a killer psychedelia meets space jam on this. It’s also the only cut that I’d say crosses the boundary into metal – with an almost Cult-like section. Then it moves out into a sedate psychedelic sort of spacey exploration from there. It really moves out into some seriously Hawkwind-like space music. It’s another killer tune and arguably the strongest on show here. Whether you agree with that statement or not you can’t deny that it makes for a great closer to a potent set of songs. At almost nine minutes in length you can’t argue that it’s the longest track here. I’d also have to say that it’s the most dynamic.

 
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