The amusing title “For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night” is the name of the fifth studio album by British Canterbury prog band Caravan. The album was released on October 5, 1973 on Deram Records, the label that also housed Camel. Initially, the intention was to portray the lady on the cover naked. Deram did not agree with that and the pregnant model was given a nightgown. Although I find that retroactively extremely unfortunate, I have been hooked on the album for years due to the unapproachable charm of its music.
Everything on the album is dominated by the rigorous changes in the line-up of the band. Singer/bassist Richard Sinclair and keyboardist Steve Miller had left Caravan after the more jazzy “Waterloo Lily”. First of all, the young Geoffrey Richardson was attracted with his viola and also keyboardist Derek Austin and bassist Stuart Evans joined in. However, the latter two did not stay with the band very long and in the end Caravan formed the line-up which is present on this album. In addition to veteran singer/guitarist Pye Hastings and drummer Richard Coughlan, there are keyboardist David Sinclair, the aforementioned Richardson and the excellent bassist John G. Perry. In fact, there are no less than three new members to be heard, although original member David Sinclair (the king of the fuzzy organ) is back on the nest, to the joy of many. So he is not really a new member. Furthermore, there is a very long list of collaborating artists. For example, at certain times a large horn section and a real orchestra are used.
It is logical that this entire line up change has had an impact on the musical aspect of the album. Not only as a musician, especially as a composer Pye Hastings had a large contribution. The main part of the songs is written by him, which means the music is more rocky but also more romantic. Fortunately, the typical Canterbury sound with its driving rhythms and voluptuous keyboard playing is never far away. Caravan always has something artistic in it but there also is the necessary humor and light-footedness in the music. Don’t be fooled. Richardson’s playing on the viola gives the music a nice folky nodge, but there is no explicit folk to be heard.
So what do we hear? Opener Memory Lain, Hugh / Headloss is immediately an attractive composition of more than nine minutes. Tasty riffs from the guitar are joined together with the windings of the viola and there is a delicious organ solo in unadulterated Caravan style. There also is excellent support from eight horns arranged by Jimmy Hastings. There is a nice moment when the drums and the flute together provide a few breaks. With the Headloss part the tempo goes up and at the end of it is a duel between guitar and violin. The subsequent Hoedown is a somewhat bouncy sneeze and Surprise, Surprise can be labelled as a sultry ballad in which the slide guitar certainly increases the atmosphere. Speaking of atmosphere: the text of C’thlu Thlu is downright creepy, although it has nothing to do with the title. C’thlu Thlu is a monster from the underworld, a lurid octopus, created by H.P. Lovecraft. Musically, the song sounds rather menacing and psychedelic.
The Dog, The Dog, He’s At It Again is supposedly a pop song, I think it’s a great pop song. Not only because the ambiguous text actually is bout a sexual act, but mainly because of that cool keyboard playing in the interlude. The singing of Pye Hastings and John G. Perry together also has a positive effect. Throughout the album, Perry shows that he is a perfect vocal opponent for Hastings. In the solid Be All Right he sings the lead vocals. He does an excellent job. His voice fits very well with the powerful atmosphere that the song exudes. It blends seamlessly into the intoxicating, congas-driven Chance Of A Lifetime. You would almost call this song the highlight of the album because it is so beautiful, but then the epic closing track L’Auberge Du Sanglier presents itself. Two highlights: A Hunting We Shall Go with its frenzied guitar solo and Backwards where the synthesizer and the beautiful orchestra almost make you forget that you are actually listening to a cover of Soft Machine. It fits like a glove.
“For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night” has a fantastic blend of epics, ballads, pop songs, psychedelics, hard rock and classical music. Caravan knows how to bring all that to the fore on an album of more than 44 minutes. I got to know the band and the LP somewhere in the mid-70s. Their unique music still manages to hold me in its grip and I am convinced that it will never let me go.