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(42:37, Garageland Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Between the Mountain & the Spoon 3:28 2. Tombstone Eyes 3:10 3. Down Under 4:23 4. Wicked Mind 4:21 5. Dead Inside 4:12 6. A New Time is Coming 3:21 7. Train Song 3:51 8. Flying High 3:03 9. Monkey 3:50 10. Desert King 8:58 LINEUP: Niklas Gustafsson – vocals Bjorn Lohmander – guitars Stefan Branberg – guitars Jonas Lindskold – organs Pierre Svensson – bass Christopher Olsson – drums Annika Branberg – percussion
Prolusion. THE CRYSTAL CARAVAN is a Swedish act that was formed in 2002; and the current line-up has been in place since 2004. Following a demo in 2005 and an EP in 2006, they appeared on Volumes 2 and 3 of the "Trip in Time" compilations, and now in 2009 their self-titled debut album has been issued by Swedish label Garageland Records – with distribution handled by the somewhat higher-profiled Transubstans Records.
Analysis. As has been commented on previous occasions, whenever Transubstans Records is involved it is usually for an artist exploring retro-oriented music of the psychedelic or hard rock variety. And, although they aren't the issuing label this time around, this is the case for the artist and album at hand here too. The Crystal Caravan is more of a late '60s influenced outfit though, with The Doors and Steppenwolf as primary influences to their excursions, with a psychedelic garage rock tint to the mix. Late ‘60s hard rock riffs and licks and the obligatory organ form hard hitting, often slightly staccato melodic textures with an emphasis on drive, energy and groove rather than on melody as such, with a tendency to form rough melodic patterns rather than embellished melodies. Driving energetic sound cascades rather than themes dominate, but the band does find the time to create some mellower excursions as well. Tight bass lines and drums is the foundation for guitars and organ, and on top vocalist Niklas Gustafsson belts out the lyrics in a manner very much like John Kay of Steppenwolf fame. As the icing on the cake we find percussionist Annika Branberg, who adds some Santana vibes to the proceedings – which suit this music perfectly. While the influences of The Doors and Steppenwolf do dominate the overall sound here, fans of vintage rock and hard rock will have a field day in finding elements from the bands they like on this production. When reading descriptions of this outfit I must have seen 30 or so different bands from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s namedropped as probable influences - with tracks like Down Under compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band as well as the aforementioned influences, and the overall energy and pace of this band's output compared to Mountain, to name but a few examples. Personally, I'd add in Deep Purple Mk-I as a probable influence for some of the harder hitting organ-dominated passages throughout this affair, and also for the absolutely astounding album closer Desert King, where a sound pretty similar to the first version of Deep Purple starts and ends a composition with a lengthy, space-tinged, mellow mid-sequence pretty similar to early ‘70s Eloy in overall sound.
Conclusion. While this production doesn't contain much material that can be said to be progressive in style and sound with its emphasis on hard and driving late ‘60s influenced hard rock, there are segments on this production that still might appeal to those who like the earliest varieties of art rock - in particular the passages with most similarities to The Doors in overall sound, and also the final composition on this excursion. But, first and foremost, this is an album that will appeal to followers of late '60s and early ‘70s hard rock, and as such recordings go, this is a high-quality one.
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