Here is a new Spanish band named The Flying Caravan, and I must admit that I became an instant-fan from the first seconds of this album! But first, let us have a look at their history.
Guitar player Antonio Valiente was born in Alicante in 1970. He started playing the guitar at the age of 13 with Mark Knopfler as his main musical influence and assimilating the fingerpicking style as his own. Since the age of 18, he has been learning modern technique and harmony with different guitar teachers. As an avid record collector, he exposed himself to a variety of music and styles. With his first band, Yeomen, he performed live influenced by bands as Camel, Jethro Tull, Kansas, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and musicians such as Andy Latimer, Martin Barre, David Gilmour and Bill Nelson.
In 1992, Antonio was one of the founding members of Numen. With this band he recorded two albums, Samsara (1998) and Numenclature (2014), as well as a DVD, Numenclature - Un Viaje En Progresivo.
Since 2000 he has been a member of the bands Malatesta Bier Band, Whiskey Con Yoda, The Worms and Kamikaze Sound Express with whom he has played a variety of styles. Since then he has also worked on the idea of developing his own compositions to record a double album. In 2004 Juanjo Sánchez (keyboards) joined the project, starting The Flying Caravan. They really got going when singer Izaga Plata joined as well. It was then when she and Antonio developed the vocal melodies and the lyrics for the record.
The project was completed with the entry of Pedro Pablo Molina (bass) and Lluís Mas (drums). They recorded then their first double album, I Just Wanna Break Even in Altea between March and August 2017 with the help of some friends, Manolo Salido (sax), Juan Carlos Aracil (flute) and Jorge Aniorte (vocals).
After a two-year production, during which keyboards and percussions were added, the album was finally released in January 2021 housed in an album cover by illustrator Mario Domínguez.
Now, the music. As I said, I was sold from the first minute. Opener Get Real is all-instrumental and sounds very warm, 1970s influenced and led by what sounds as vintage keyboards and synths. Great opener. Love it.
The second track - more or less the group's title track - adds a clear 1980s widdly-keyboard feel as well as Izaga's vocals. These are slightly accented and a bit dull and melancholy, but I do prefer them this way over cold technical perfection which would have spoiled the overall sound.
Upstream to Manonash has a Floydy guitar and pace. The keyboards are much more symphonic, however. The piece reminds me of the early albums of Polish group Quidam and that band is perhaps a good general comparison.
The next piece, Love's Labour Mislaid, is the album's most poppy and uplifting (not that they sound dark other places, they don't do that!). Now do not take this wrong, but this piece sounds a bit as if it would do well as a beautiful ballad at the Eurovision song contest - if they were to do actual music there and not merely shallow show. This piece perhaps brings forth the best in Izaga's voice,
The final track on CD1, blessed with the great title The Bumpy Road To Knowledge, basically fuses all of the band's influences and styles into one great almost 17 minutes long track (besides, there is an alternate version of this piece on CD2 which is more or less a bonus track). Here we find it all: starting with the sound of waves and thunderstorm, warm 1970s synths, a short burst of widdly-widdly neo prog, soaring guitar (the guitar solo halfway through is great!), a pinch of Floyd, some Camel and Yes and Izaga's vocals. I especially like the presence of sometimes jazzy, sometimes Tull-ish flute and the saxophone in the second half reminds me pleasantly of Supertramp.
On the second CD we find a 36 minutes long, seven-part epic that also fuses all of the elements. When listening, it actually feels shorter than over an hour and half of music, which is a compliment, I think because they manage to make time pass without one noticing.
A great debut. I am looking forward to future work from them!
**** Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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