Caravan - For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night. 1973 England
Select LP issues: 1973 London (USA); 1973 Brain (Germany); 1973 Pink Elephant (Netherlands); 1974 Kingdom (France); 1976 Deram (Japan)
Select CD reissues: 1988 Mantra (France); 1990 Deram; 1991 Deram (Japan); 2001 Deram; 2001 Deram (Japan mini-LP); 2014 Deram (Japan mini-LP)
In 1984, at age 19, I happened upon a sealed copy (US London) of In the Land of Grey and Pink. It was 99 cents. I had no idea what it was, but it looked awesome, so I took a chance and that's about all the money I had anyway. Jackpot. That, predictably, had me go on a Caravan seeking mission. With that prelude, For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (again US London) was quickly secured at a used record store in Lubbock called Lipps*.
This album isn't nearly as immediately likable as Grey/Pink is, and it was always on the margins of whether or not I should keep it. About a decade later it finally penetrated through my thick skull, and today I consider it one of their better albums. The thing about Caravan is that you have to sit through what I call the "Pye Hastings' Ditties". They're not bad songs per se, but more geared toward the whiskey drinking nightclub set, rather than the psychedelic backdrop of their best work. And on For Girls, those ditties are front loaded with 'Headloss' (second half of the much better 'Memory Lain, Hugh'), 'Hoedown', and 'Surprise, Surprise'. One can get disinterested early. Suddenly 'C'Thlu Thlu' pops in with an angular King Crimson like sound (also not a known Caravan quality), and it's very disorienting. But Side 2 is as good as anything Caravan ever released. And it closes with one of their best epics in 'A Hunting We Shall Go', which is classic Caravan, with Dave Sinclair's fuzz organ driven solos, just as God had intended music to be. This is the album that introduced long time member Geoffrey Richardson to the fold. His viola is a very welcome addition to the Caravan sound, and one wonders how much better the early albums would have been had he been on them. Caravan were never to reach these heights again, though the followup Cunning Stunts certainly is worthy of investigation as well.
Be sure to find any of the Deram based reissues (starting in 2001), as they feature 5 bonus tracks. The first 4 are alternate recordings of the album proper, and are interesting but not essential. The grand prize here is 'Derek's Long Thing'. After Richard Sinclair and Steve Miller departed following Waterloo Lily, there was a lineup that included Derek Austin on organ and Stuart Evans on bass. This is the only known surviving work from that period. Hastings stated that Austin wasn't a good fit for Caravan, because he was "too much Hammond organ". Whatever. This track is awesome, and one wonders what would have been produced had they stayed on board (Richardson was part of the same package).
*Lubbock is in west Texas, and where I attended college. Lipps was one of a handful of good used record stores we had in the area in the 80s. They had taken over an old Piggly Wiggly grocery store, so it was a big place. It closed down while I was still in college (...so last week. Noooooo. 1986 I think?) But here's the interesting part. Our neighbor here in the suburban Fort Worth area, who lives precisely 2 doors down from us, is the older brother of the owner of that store! How crazy is that?
Ownership notes: I only have the Brain copy because I collect the label. The Japanese CD is exactly the same as the UK version (including the booklet in English), except it has the original packaging of the LP in miniature.
Caravan - A Hunting We Shall Go. 1974 Kingdom (France)