West Coast organist takes us higher and higher.
Jimmy Caravan (organ), Personnel unknown
in 1967 in Los Angeles
as Tower 5103 in 1967
Higher And Higher
How Can I Be Sure
Up, Up And Away
I Say A Little Prayer
Rock And Roll Woman
A Day In The Life
Look Into The Flower
Every woman every man, join the caravan of love. Here’s Jimmy Caravan and his hippie Hammond happening. Elusive character, to say the least. Anybody got the goods on Mr. Caravan, please raise your hand. Only thing to go on are the liner notes of his debut album Look Into The Flower. Caravan was born in Pennsylvania in 1940, played accordion and oboe as a kid, performed in Pittsburgh clubs, was inspired to pick up the organ by Jimmy McGriff, went westward to Hollywood. Few bits on the internet highway to hell. According to the Captain Beefheart fan site Captain Beefheart Radio Station, Caravan supposedly played organ on Bluejeans And Moonbeams, albeit alongside two other keyboard players. Close listening required.
Contrary to his stint with Don van Vliet, the heavy organ sounds on Caravan’s debut album on Capitol’s subsidiary label Tower Look Into The Flower from 1967 can’t be ignored. (its follow-up Hey Jude was released in 1969) That also applies to a couple of nice tricks that Caravan’s got up his sleeve.
Flowers, strings of beads, sunglasses. Jazz pop funk all over the place. And a group of excellent ‘unknown’ musicians (strong bassist and striking drummer, who lays down some hefty grooves, his fills on Holiday are outtasight) that make Caravan’s songs sound like the soulified and muscular brothers of Big Brother & The Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane. There is no recorded evidence but, full of popular tunes as Eleanor Rigby, I Say A Little Prayer, Up, Up & Away, A Day In The Life and Rock And Roll Woman, Look Into The Flower (thank you, will give it a try) should’ve gone down well in Haight-Ashbury. Groovy stuff, man. Peace. And all that jazz.
None of that frumpy skate ring stuff. Caravan’s sound is voluptuous and meaty with the right amount of crunch and his forthright lines are precise and fluent, usually starting off with a hefty signal and hammering them home convincingly. Eerie and alienating sounds mark I Say A Little Prayer. Caravan ends Eleanor Rigby with something resembling ambulance sirens. Acid overdose? Hope she’s ok. The way that the organist underlines his story of Rock And Roll Woman with subtle left hand runs is pretty nifty. All this reveals a good ear for detail.
No need to further analyse a commercial record like Look Into The Flower, definitely a top-rate affair in the world of unpretentious groove music. (And, amazingly, available on Spotify)
Jimmy Caravan passed away in Santa Ana in 1990.