Nov 8, 2010

The Crystal Caravan - Against The Rising Tide

It comes as no surprise that The Crystal Caravan come from Sweden as that country seems to be leading the retro-rock 70's revival that just keeps on getting bigger and more popular. Maybe it is a backlash against modern, watered-down sounds but more and more bands are opting for the classic sound of Hammond organs, bluesy guitar and strong energetic melodies played with a passionate no-frills attitude. The Crystal Caravan are a seven-piece band so the sound is huge but damn the songs are predictable but in a good way. Of course I wouldn't even be considering doing a review of this album if it wasn't for the fact that this kind of music has been somehow been thrown into the "Stoner-Rock" category but don't get me started on all that. The Crystal Caravan are really just a hard rock band or what they used to called A.O.R,  but that is another dumb musical description. The 2nd album of The Crystal Caravan brings the North Swedish band into a more varied approach compared with their first album combining the 70's hard-rock with a more electic psychedelic edge. Here is some of the more obvious influences you hear on the album and this tells the story better than any review can. Grand Funk Railroad, Steppenwolf, Uriah Heep, Montrose, Mott The Hoople, Led Zeppelin, Free, The Who, The Black Crowes - you get the picture, need I go on ?

Innovators they are not but this album is pretty hard to knock in any way, the melodies are irresistible and the passion in which the songs are played leave no doubt that The Crystal Caravan know their stuff and have perfected their craft. The opening song, "We’ll Always Lose" is an upbeat, energetic rocker in the vain of Free meets The Black Crowes and it is pretty clear what you are getting here from the outset. "Love And Direction" is a bit heavier sounding like Grand Funk and yes I will be making a lot of comparisons in this review because The Crystal Caravan sounds like a tribute band for the 70's, they are great but I can't find nothing original here at all. The epic sounding "Apple Hotel" sounds like The Who at their peak while "I’m A Stone" sounds like a modern version of Mott The Hoople. Sometimes with bands like these, the influences are only slight inflections but in the case of The Crystal Caravan, the influences come through loud and clear. I must stress it is not a bad thing, this band are great players who deliver the songs with a huge amount of enthusiasm so you can't go wrong here if you still have a taste for vintage 70's hard rock. Another song "Focus" the band take a long walk down the psychedelic path of the late 60's, The Doors are one obvious band that springs to mind while listening to this especially in terms of atmosphere.

The next part of the album didn't do much for me, a couple more songs played in a typical 70's style that just seemed a little bland but hitting the skip button brings you to the best song on the album for me and that is "Wrecking Ball". The Uriah Heep influence is in full flight with glorious guitar solos and energetic performances from everyone within the band, great song. This band are indeed great musicians, if not this album might have been instantly forgettable. Björn Lohmander and Stefan Bränberg are exceptional guitar players with a real talent with some real class and taste and vocalist Niklas “RG” Gustafsson can match it with most of the famous frontmen of the past. Bass player Pierre Svensson has a great sound with all the finesse required for a classic-rock combo. Drummer Christopher Olsson plays with the power of a "Bonham" but with the off-the-wall energy of a "Keith Moon" and that leaves Jonas Lindsköld (Organ) and Annika Bränberg (Percussion) and it is clear that these two are flawless musicians as well. The question remains though is the band really serious ? The Crystal Caravan seem to be more about having fun than trying to make any-kind of artistic statement and that is fine by me and out of 8 songs, 6 are really cooking. I have read that this band is building up quite the reputation as a killer live-act also, go to Youtube to find evidence of that, the band really delivers the goods. If you want to hear an authentic sounding 70's kind of band that makes the likes of Wolfmother sound like total amateurs, this is your band................8/10
The Crystal Caravan @ Myspace
Official Website

2 comments :

  1. Ultimate 70's tribute band? Possibly. These guys are pretty damn good. I'd rather hear a band like this than a band that just plays Sabbath riffs backwards all the time. You're absolutely right Ed in that The Crystal Caravan aren't exactly "original". But they play their music right. When I listen to it I don't think, "man this is just a Grand Funk song played faster" rather I think, "Grand Funk could have written this!" or Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, etc etc. They're like the little brothers/sisters of the 70's bands that just wanted to be like their older siblings.

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  2. I agree, they are not like a rip-off band, their songs sound like other bands but they are not copying the actual tunes, rather doing their own thing with it. Most of the album, I think is great. I would rather listen to this than say Wolfmother or someone who sound like cheap copyists, Crystal Caravan sound like a long-lost 70's super-group.

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