Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Cravinkel - Garden of Loneliness

Garden of Loneliness

Released 1972 on Philips
Reviewed by achuma, 22/10/2009ce

This album is full of surprises, and I think it’s important for me to review this for those who haven’t heard it, because I imagine folks who put on this on and took it off after a minute or so thinking it was surely nothing special, and if you’re one of them, you should think again. Lots of albums get passed over because their treasures are hidden amongst more ordinary fare, so that only those of us with generous patience and accepting tastes get to uncover the goodies within. This is one of them, but don’t get the idea that it’s a half-filler/half-gold formula, because it’s not. Even the more ordinary-seeming stuff turns out to be interesting and very enjoyable when you listen closely and let it sink in, and beyond that, this album just keeps going to amazing places you never would have expected, showing a glorious eclectic creativity that was surely a commercial death-knell for the band, who didn’t make another album after this.

Their first album, ‘Cravinkel’ [Philips, 1970], is an under-rated record, usually dismissed as one of ‘country rock’. Even though a friend of mine had a copy of the LP and said it was great, I was in no hurry to check it out due to these ignorant reviews. I’m glad I eventually did. It’s not as remarkable as the next record, not as advanced, but a lot better than I expected, and not at all country music, except for one track which has a hint of it. The bulk of the album is melodic hard rock with a ‘rural rock’ flavour – suiting the fold-out cover showing the guys hanging out on a pile of haybales – and is sometimes laid-back with hints of Teutonic early-70’s stoned psychedelia, sometimes groove-based and fairly heavy. I’m reminded most of Cream – of which the influence is very obvious in some songs – and Cream-influenced heavy bands of the same period such as Finland’s Charlies, Sweden’s November and Australia’s Kahvas Jute, as well as ‘Mountains’-era Steamhammer.

All well and good, but by the next album the band had evolved in leaps and bounds. The psychedelic cover art contained a drawing of the band members’ heads, and apart from the dopey grin on one guy, they look thoroughly hard and pissed-off long-haired cro-mags, quite a change from the easy-going, fun-loving dudes shown in the inner and outer cover art of the debut. The record itself contained just three lengthy tracks, into which we’ll now have a bit of a peek...
‘Sitting in the Forest’ begins with a mellow melodic intro, before fading out completely and fading back in to some quite mainstream, bouncy rural rock with a slight West Coast vibe and tasty, fluid, funky instrumental interplay, a bit like some Man, Help Yourself or Cargo; it’s not long before the mainstream song feel passes and we’re riding along on a funky chicken-pickin’ double guitar groove, bass doing somersaults over itself as the boys collectively start stoking the fires to come. They’re in no hurry to force anything through yet, midway through this 10-minute piece relaxing into a stoned complacency, but out of nowhere someone’s spiked the tea with speed, and they whip up off their bean bags to finish the song in a much cooler groove than that with which they began, brisk and full of hard-rocking confidence, riffing to a blazing finale in a kinda sub-Hampton Grease Band style.
‘Garden of Loneliness’ starts funky and fluid, reminding me out of nowhere of Pete Brown & Piblokto, just weird enough to make you wonder, before sliding off into a distant stonedness of a totally different energy level, and back out again, veering between these relative extremes almost like the needle on an ECG machine, exploring every texture and tempo shift that can be found in the space of nearly 10 minutes. But that was the more ordinary half of the album...
‘Stoned’ is the 20-minute tour-de-force that finishes the album, and starts aptly sounding pretty stoned, with a slow, vibe established straight away, occasionally swelling like a bubble of lava nearly ready to pop. This shit is just sizzling with restrained psychedelic sauce that is, bit by bit, vented out in rainbow sprays of acid guitar as this piece builds and builds, shifting from one place and pace to another and constantly dodging expectations. The best way to put is, as far as I can figure, is somewhere between My Solid Ground and Hairy Chapter, but a bit more broad and unpredictable, like Ram (though admittedly, not as awesome as Ram!). Halfway through the track, following an apocalyptic guitar orgy, we get some mellow time-out with a nice acoustic guitar & percussion folk interlude, before proceedings rock up again in a totally new direction (momentarily like a blend of Peter Green’s ‘End of the Game’ propulsive instrumentals and the Teutonic heavy psychedelic prog of Gomorrah’s last album ‘I Turned To See Whose Voice It Was’), into a multi-tracked space drum/percussion solo before closing with a flurry of song and crunching guitars.

As a whole, this album might not appeal to a wide audience, and many of you who frequent the Head Heritage pages will probably only like it for the second half of the album, I imagine. However, I believe there’ll be a few out there who will really like the whole thing. If you want to check it out, there has been a CD reissue on Walhalla, though I’m not sure how authorised that release is.

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