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lunes, 7 de septiembre de 2015

Caravan - Better By Far (1977)

Artista: Caravan
Álbum: Better By Far
Año: 1977
Género: Escena Canterbury
Duración: 43:53
Nacionalidad: Inglaterra


Lista de Temas:
1. Feelin' alright
2. Behind you
3. Better by far
4. Silver strings
5. The last unicorn
6. Give me more
7. Man in a car
8. Let it shine
9. Nightmare

Alineación:
- Richard Coughlan / drums, percussion
- Pye Hastings / vocals, guitars
- Dek Messecar / bass, backing vocals
- Geoff Richardson / viola, guitars, flute, sitar, mandolin, vocals
- Jan Schelhaas / keyboards, backing vocals
+ Vicki Brown / vocals (6)
- Fiona Hibbert / harp (7)
- Tony Visconti / recorders (5), electric double bass (7)


Otro aporte de Wan para seguir con nuestra espacio Caravan. Y les comento, lo que no me gusta de Caravan no me gusta en serio, y este disco, y varios de los que vendrían después, no me gustan ni un poco, así que como yo soy imparcial, les dejo otros comentarios del disco:

Con este álbum se cierra a mi entender el principal ciclo en la carrera de esta banda. A partir de 1980, la banda volvería a grabar esporádicamente, pero con unos resultados bastante desalentadores.
Mike Wedgwood , que había participado en el anterior disco, “Blind dog at St. Dunstans”, deja la banda, y el puesto de bajista es ocupado por Dek Messecar, también metido en la onda Canterbury, y que ya había participado en algún disco de Darryl Way´s Wolf, junto a John Etheridge, entre otros
En cuanto al disco, es más bien un triste cierre a una carrera plagada de buenísimos álbumes.
Si la banda quiso hacer un chiste con el título del álbum ( “El mejor con mucho“ ), la verdad podía habérselo ahorrado , ya que desde luego es el peor desde sus comienzos en 1968. Incluso en su foto interior, se permiten otra pequeña broma con la frase "Cuanto más avanzan, mejores son" . Si a eso le añadimos el diseño de la portada, y los modelitos que visten en la misma, disfrazados de aristócratas millonarios alrededor de un suntuoso banquete en una especie de palacio... como que no. Parece ser que quisieron seguir con el toque de humor de su anterior álbum "Blind dog..." pero a la vista del resultado, más parece una burla.
Al ser su debut para Arista Records, la compañía echó mano de su "afamado productor" Tony Visconty, supongo que con el ánimo de conseguir un éxito acelerado, como ya había logrado Visconti con otros artistas. Desde luego algo tendrá que ver su producción en el sonido resultante, mucho más comercial y con inconfundibles guiños al pop. Todo ello acompañado de un título sugerente de cara a alcanzar grandes ventas y una portada en la que tratan de reflejar a la banda como si fueran una especie de "rock stars". Desde luego ni su música necesitaba de tales aditamentos, ni su imagen era la que nos quisieron vender. Una pena.
¿Qué es lo que tenemos dentro de este disco que se supone es el mejor, según dice el título?. Pues una serie de temas cortos , con unas cuantas baladas bastante insustanciales ( “Give me more“, “Better by far” ) esta última, la que da título al álbum algo mejor, junto con algún ejercicio por intentar crear alguna canción pegadiza ( “Feelin´ alright”, “Behind you”, “Let it shine” ) totalmente fallido.
Hay algún que otro intento, por parte fundamentalmente de Richardson, por crear algo decente al más puro estilo Caravan, cosa que consigue en parte con el instrumental “The last unicorn”, con un bello comienzo de viola y un par de feroces solos de sintetizador y guitarra en la parte central del tema. El tema termina con la flauta de Richardson sobre una suave línea de guitarra. Un buen tema, dedicado a Peter S. Beagle, autor del libro del mismo nombre y en el que naturalmense se basa dicho tema.
Algo más fallido queda la otra composición de Richardson, “Silver strings”, con un ritmo pegadizo, en le que de nuevo viola y teclados se mueven alternativamente sobre la base de guitarra de Hastings.
Entre medio, un tema firmado por Schelhaas, que ciertamente es el más complejo desde el punto de vista de su composición ( “Man in a car“ ), con claro predominio de los teclados.
Al menos para despedirse dejan un buen tema, “Nightmare”, el mejor para mi , junto con “The last unicorn”. También a ritmo de balada, pero ciertamente bastante más trabajado, que el resto de composiciones.
Si se puede destacar algo en este álbum, siendo generosos, quizás las ganas que le echa Jan Schelhaas en un par de temas, especialmente “Man in a car” que él mismo compuso, y algún toque de calidad, cómo no , de Geoffrey Richardson y su viola.
Tras revisar diversas reseñas de este disco en la red, he comprobado que algunos quieren ver este álbum como un digno cierre a su etapa musical más importante. Demasiado generosos, diría yo. Yo lo dejaría en un flojo álbum, con un par de buenos temas, con algún detalle de calidad, aunque francamente, lejos incluso de obras como “Cunning Stunts” o “Blind dog…” que no son precisamente lo mejor de Caravan, y no digamos ya de lo que grabaron de 1974 para atrás. Solo para completar colecciones o para “Die hard fans” que dirían los ingleses.
Nota: Y esto es todo. He preferido hacer una revisión general de los temas de este disco para no aburrir al personal con una revisión individualizada que ciertamente no merecía la pena.
Ubik

Así que al parecer esto queda para los coleccionistas y los fanáticos de la banda, y no es demasiado recomendable... pero no por ello dejamos de compartirlo. Vamos con algunos comentarios en inglés y a otra cosa mariposa...

I perfectly understand why diehard Caravan fans find this album painful to listen to. 'Classic Caravan' this is not; just as DRAMA isn't 'Classic Yes', and yet I find both of these albums excellent in their own right.
Having just listened to BETTER BY FAR for the first time in more than twenty years (a CD version was released only recently), I just can't believe how refreshing Pye Hastings' vocals and Jan Schelhaas' minimoog (among other things) still sound on such bright, simple but by no means negliglible pop songs as FEELIN' ALRIGHT and LET IT SHINE.
I have always found the title tune a very seductive love song, probably because I was deeply in love when I first heard it! SILVER STRINGS is amusing (sort of Caravan- meet-10CC-meet-Johann Strauss) and MAN IN A CAR contains some ravishing harp interludes. But best of all: THE LAST UNICORN is one of the most succesful instrumentals in Caravan's career (wonderful viola playing from Geoff Richardson, followed by an inspired uptempo jam) and NIGHTMARE is one of their most ravishing songs altogether. (Thank you, Pye Hastings, for your lovely singing and for that climactic, yet restrained, guitar solo.)
An additional fascination is the fact that this album was produced by Tony Visconti, who introduced some of the same experiments with phasers (whatever they are!) that he had perpetrated on David Bowie's LOW and 'HEROES'. I was a big Bowie fan when BETTER BY FAR came out, but only now, so many years later, did I notice how much this Caravan album has in common with LOW: virtually the same prominent drum sound, with a clearer bass guitar sound than on any other Caravan record. If you know LOW but haven't heard BETTER BY FAR, imagine, if you like, a warm, cosy, non-alienated twin brother to Bowie's famous album. Now who would have thought a band like Caravan could pull this off?
fuxi

Better than the previous one.
I have always felt deep appreciation to CARAVAN – who can hate albums like “In the Land of Grey and Pink” after all? They’ve led me to Canterbury Scene and related bands, and this is still kinda matter to explore for me. Unfortunately, “Cunning Stunts” was probably their (CARAVAN I mean) last good album. “Better by Far” deserves these 3 stars only because of “The Last Unicorn” alone – one of the best instrumentals I ever heard, very CAMELesque and catchy. Other songs fall into “easy listening pop-rock” category (even with a touch of soul) and even have some self-plagiarism moments (“Give me more” sounds very much like “No backstage pass”). Nice album, but not for a CARAVAN/Canterbury newbie.
Igor Sidorenko

Try not to stare at the parts that are bare!
"Better by far" falls outwith the classic Caravan Deram label years of "Land of grey and pink", "For girls who grow.." etc., which were indeed better by far than this album. That said, the music here is enjoyable if relatively unchallenging.
Recorded in Spring 1977, the line up is essentially that which recorded the previous "Blind dog at St. Dunstans", with Dek Messecar replacing Mike Wedgwood on bass. The band moved labels once again for the album, this time to BTM/Arista, with the legendary Tony Visconti taking on the roll of producer. Pye Hastings is once again the dominant force throughout, writing all but three of the tracks.
The album sets out in reassuringly traditional fashion with the upbeat "Feelin' alright" (no relation to other songs of the same name), which has the sound of the lighter Caravan songs of old. The song sets the mood for much of the album. The following "Behind you" tells a raunchy tale in the best traditions of "Golf girl":
There could be no way I was going to stay with a man like that on my heel He was six foot four and could eat a door and his fists were like great blocks of steel But his wife was rude and it seemed so good to have fun while he was away While he lived in hope of the sale of soap, like the cat and the mouse we would play
The title track is a slower ballad type song which finds Hastings in particularly melodic tone vocally.
The dedication to the talents of the violinist ("Silver strings") is understandably a Geoff Richardson composition. It is not a great song either lyrically or melodically, the clever arrangement enhancing what is actually a pretty ordinary number. Richardson remains in the song writer's chair for "The last unicorn", a fine instrumental dedicated to Peter S Beagle, the author of a book by that name. The early part of the tracks which features strings is reminiscent of Stackridge, before a more familiar synth solo lifts the tempo. This track has distinct echoes of the great Caravan days, and shows the band still willing to work out instrumentally, at least on occasions.
"Give me more" features some more of Caravan's wonderfully smutty lyrics. Who can resist smirking to lines such as "She's got ill repute, and an over-size foot, bad breath and drives a Mercedes" and "Though I tried not to stare at the parts that were bare, she said: "Would you like to touch?" (complete with female vocal), I said, "Very much"". The naive innocence of Hastings voice countered by the erotic screams of guest vocalist Vicki Brown only add to the fun.
Keyboard player Jan Schelhaas sole compositional contribution to he album is "Man in a car", which he also appears to sing. The vocal sections are rather prosaic, but his bursts of synth are positively striking. The songs marks a change of lyrical style for this track and the remainder of the album, the nudge-nudge innuendoes being replaced by more obscure fantasy based poetry.
"Let it shine" starts of with a slight country twinge before settling into a pretty orthodox Caravan pop song of the type the band would utilise more and more on subsequent albums. Guitar and keyboards duet effectively for the track's play-out. The album closes with "Nightmare", the longest track at around 6½ minutes. The lyrics here are particularly troubled and un-Caravan like, but at least have a positive ending. Richardson's swan-song on viola is superb, the track making a good case for its inclusion in any list of Caravan greats.
In all, a surprisingly good offering from a less familiar Caravan line up. While some of the tracks point towards the pop direction the band would later pursue, those pop undercurrents were there even on their best albums; they are essentially one of the band's characteristics. There are enough reminders of the band's great albums here to make this a worthwhile acquisition for those who appreciate those releases.
Despite a reasonable promotion effort by the band's new label, the album failed to find significant success. Geoff Richardson would leave within a year of its release to pursue a career in session work, and the band was once again in turmoil.
Bob McBeath

Caravan confirms their very good sense of humour, not only with the title of this album but with some other ones as well.
"Feelin' Alright" is not really my state of mind when listening to this weak opening number and the poor and upbeat "Behind You" is not any better. Just a rock song with some funky rhythms. Not my cup of tea.
The "Caravan" sound is back for the title track even if this song is more on the commercial side. Still the melody is fine and vocals are pleasant. One of the best numbers from this album (but there aren't that many).
None of the tracks are dramatically bad but they are seriously lacking the freshness, the spontaneity of their earlier counterparts. I pretty much liked "Blind Dogs" so, it is not a question of era. More a problem of song writing IMO. I can't get thrilled with such a song as "Silver Strings".
Things get better with "Unicorn", a dynamic instrumental track which starts sweetly and evolves into an upbeat jazzy part. The first half of this number is obviously the one I prefer.
Most of the remaining songs won't be remembered for their creativity nor their brilliance. Average songs, no more. Some being really poor ("Let It Shine").
The highlight of this album IMO is "Nightmare". A lovely ballad with superb vocals, perfect harmony and a great violin section. "Caravan" as I like.
But this won't avoid this album to be the weakest "Caravan" album so far. Two stars.
Daniel

Better By Far is the eigth studio album from Caravan. Mike Wedgwood has left the band and in comes new bassist Dek Messecar. Both Cunning Stunts from 1975 and Blind Dog at St. Dunstans from 1976 where albums with good moments, but unfortunately also with some really bad ones. I rated both albums 3 stars. Better By Far is unmistakably a Caravan album, but sadly it has more boring moments than good ones.
The music is more or less soft rock´n´roll by now and all hints of progressive rock are gone except for the only good song here which is the instrumental The last unicorn. Allthough I said this is unmistakably a Caravan album it´s a really uninspired one.
The musicianship is good, it´s just too bad the great musicians don´t use their abilities playing good music.
The production is allright. It´s in the same soft rock vein as the two previous albums.
The cover artwork displays the typical Caravan humour but it´s not that pretty.
Better By Far has been a great disappointment for me and it´s not an album I will return to in the near future. This is only for fans of soft rock. Don´t expect anything progressive on this album ( except for The Last Unicorn). Consider yourself warned. I´ll rate this 2 stars which is only because the musicanship is good and the compositions are as such well done even though I don´t enjoy them.
UMUR

It's clear that Caravan were trying to enter into the mainstream area, but it was not their pot so the result is just another brit-pop album with songs who could have been performed by the Abba.
Effectively the lineup contains just half of the original one and the composing skills at this point seem to be decreasing at each new release.
This album is good for a ride by bus with all thess easy things in the background covered by the motor's noise. Nothing to pay attention to.
The songs are not so bad to be disturbing, but they are totally empty. Before listening to anything barely interesting we have to wait for the intro of "The Last Unicorn". However its only merit consists in not having the brit-pop flavour of the previous songs, but it's not so good to save the whole album from its mediocrity. Another song that sounds good enough is "Man In A Car", and in general the B side is really better than the A side as it happened with Cunning Stunts, but it's not enough and even in side B things like "Let It Shine" keep the level low.
This album is no more than a collector's item.


Something about even this perceived poorer album `Better By Far' from Caravan still brings a smile to my face. I love the cheeky lyrics, wonderfully upbeat sound and energetic playing. There's a real infectious quality to this album that makes me proudly place it alongside their classic discs.
Although some listeners may be a little dismissive of the fact that a lot of the music on this album is full of pop arrangements, this has really been a classic Caravan trait from even their first album. Think about it - `Place Of My Own', `Hello, Hello', `Golf Girl', `Love To Love You', and so on are all very much pop songs, filled with great ideas and wonderful playing, and there's still a lot of that same vibe present on this album. The band also seem very happy and re-energized throughout.
Pye Hastings vocals have never sounded so confident, distinctive and full of character, and he seemed to be really pushing his guitar playing on this one. Drummer Richard Coughlin is all over this album, constantly dropping in busy drum fills and really driving the energy of the record. Jan Schelhaas performs endless `crowd pleasing' keyboard/synth and minimoog runs, and large parts of the album feature his wonderfully subtle electric piano playing. Geoffrey Richardson on violin steals all the dramatic and serious moments, and Dek Messecar's bass is always loose and upfront.
The album kicks off Richard's pummeling drumming, a minmoog intro and pumping bass before properly launching into a punchy and up-tempo poppy number, similar to `Memory Lain' and `Headlong' off `Plump'. Very upbeat and hand-clapping chorus. Listen to Coughlin really bash away on this one! The energy present on this track pretty much maintains throughout the whole album. Abrupt ending though!
`Behind You' is a very perky and naughty track, with some morally suspect (but quite comical!) lyrics, great catchy chorus too, and it's full of the band's usual humour and positivity. Killer solo in the middle, pure Caravan. Keyboards solos all over this track!
"Better to have tried than never...than never to have tried at all." How cheerfully naïve and innocent! Sweet vocals from Pye and heartfelt lyrics on the title track, which wouldn't have sounded out of place on `Cunning Stunts' alongside pieces like `Lover'. Lovely synths and electric piano all the way through, far more understated and effective than drowning it in orchestral strings. Has a nice melodic and low-key guitar solo in the middle too. OK, so the `wanna make love tonight' bit is a little cringe worthy, but you'd have to be made of stone not to smile at the loved-up sentiment of a line like "I got a love, and I just wanna let it grow, a gift from above, telling me to let it show!" If anyone could sell that kind of sweet romantic ideal, it's Caravan! OK, so perhaps I'm just a wimp...
Nice upfront bass on `Silver Strings' and some pleasant group harmonies, even if the song itself is a little schmaltzy and tacky. Even if it's trying to be more of a pop song, it's really kind of loopy and a little bent! Pye's "do-bee-do!" bits are amusing, but the middle chant out call bit of "yay!" is just hideous. Effective violin from Geoff Richardson in the middle, and it ends with a very quirky synth solo that gives it that very typical Caravan identity.
Of course the absolute highlight of the album is the wonderfully atmospheric and stirring instrumental `The Last Unicorn'. It's a vivid title that conjures up all sorts of wondrous imagery, and all the band gets to shine on this. Geoff Richardson's grand violin playing sets a reflective and thoughtful mood during the first half, and then out out nowhere, the bass kicks in and it really takes off! Richard Coughlin's drumming is absolutely furious on this, and Pye lets rip with a wailing guitar solo. Proof that Caravan still had what it takes at this point in their career, and it's one of their greatest moments ever committed to vinyl. Bit of a classic.
Despite wonderfully absurd lyrics ("I tried not to stare at the parts that were bare"!) and trademark Caravan naughtiness, `Give Me More' is a little sickly-sweet and let down by a hideous wailing female vocal in the chorus. There was similar problem with this on the previous `Blind Dog' album, shame to hear it again. Disappointing, because Pye's singing is actually really rather good, and the lyrics are frequently highly amusing.
`Man In A Car' has a very slight country feel with smooth harmonies. A number of really quick minimoog solos throughout, with two very brief dreamy and atmospheric sections that make for a very pleasant track.
The slight country sound remains for the start of `Let It shine', which has yet another catchy and well sung chorus, is well played and still recognizable as Caravan, but it's probably one of the most commercial and straight-forward tracks on the album. Perfectly lovely and forgettable at the same time.
`Nightmare' is a little bit darker for Caravan, and probably the most serious moment of the album. Very restrained vocals from Pye through the whole track, and his guitar solo at the end is a real example of subtlety and precision without show-boating. There's a very moving violin solo about two minutes in with some nice upfront bass really heightens the drama. Despite the lazy fade out at the end, and the fact that the track still feels too short, it's finishes off the album in a grand way.
So it's not going to ever be considered a classic along the lines of their first few albums, but I think it's still got more than enough interesting ideas, great playing and classic Caravan charm to justify grabbing a copy. It's the sort of album that makes me smile if I'm a little down or had a bad day at work, and Caravan is a band that has provided my friends and I with so many wonderful musical moments.
Luca



1 comentario:

  1. Download: (Wv + CUE - No Log + Scans)
    http://pastebin.com/UVC4tLj5

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