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Spirit Caravan : The Last Embrace

This is the final musical statement from one of riffing doom's best groups ever. Don't mistake this for a brainless major label style "best of", or a "greatest hits", because it's far more than that: its an essential document for enthusiasts of all things Wino and Co., a great introduction if you've been under a rock or in jail for the past few years and are wondering what all the noise is about, and a great portrait of the band's potential.

Of course you know Wino's history in The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, and now Place of Skulls and The Hidden Hand. Everyone has their own essential albums from these groups, but suffice it to say that overall he has one of the most impressive resumes in heavy music. But don't forget Spirit Caravan bassist and stoner poster child Dave Sherman's history in one of doom's more obscure and fascinating groups, Wretched, as well as his present group Earthride. Drummer Gary Isom has recorded some superb tuneage with Iron Man, not to mention his jamming history with just about every Maryland old school band past, present, and future. We're dealing with doom metal of the highest order. I was privileged to see one of their last shows in 2002, and it was probably the best of the several SC. shows I witnessed. Solid, heavy as hell, and full of soul and spirituality. It was top drawer old school doom with class to spare.

Naturally I was unhappy to learn that they broke up shortly after I saw them. But Wino and Dave have arisen phoenix-like, with new bands, and they're better than ever. In the mean time, Meteorcity has stepped in with this musical testament. It's largely composed of the songs from the out-of-print 'Jug Fulla Sun' and 'Elusive Truth' albums, but as is the case with all the label's "reissues", there's a lot more going on. To start with, nineteen songs have been fully remastered. Then there are the Shine (SC.'s original name) recordings of 'Lost Sun Dance', 'Courage', and 'Powertime', reckoned by the band to beat the 'Jug Fulla Sun' versions. Then there are the two songs off the last Spirit Caravan single, and if that's not enough the band's last three recordings - never released until now - are included. It's a feast of great tuneage, whether you have the originals or not.

If I was making a "best of" for Spirit Caravan, I'd undoubtedly include something from the essential 'Dreamwheel' EP, and maybe I'd drop a few from 'Elusive Truth'. No doubt you'd have your own choices. Actually, the only "best of" that would truly satisfy would be a boxed set of every single recording they ever made, 'cause I'm a fanatic like that. So you can bet that I'd buy 'The Last Embrace' even if it had only one unreleased song, let alone three. The point is that Meteorcity has done everyone a favor by reinvigorating and reinterpreting the 'Caravan catalog as a kind of fond goodbye. If you're half the Spirit Caravan fanatic that I'm am, you'll pony up and count yourself lucky.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
CD 1:
1. The Last Embrace
2. Brainwashed
3. Healing Tongue
4. Cosmic Artifact
5. Fear's Machine
6. Dead Love/Jug Fulla Sun
7. Fang
8. Chaw
9. Melancholy Grey
10. Sea Legs
11. Kill Ugly Naked
12. No Hope Goat Farm
13. Courage
14. Powertime
15. Lost Sun Dance

CD 2:
1. Dove-Tongued Aggressor
2. So Mortal Be
3. Undone Mind
4. Spirit Caravan
5. Black Flower
6. Retroman
7. Find It
8. Futility's Reasons
9. Cloudy Mirror
10. Elusive Truth
11. Lifer City
12. Outlaw Wizard
13. Darkness & Longing
14. The Departure

Duration : Approx. 120 minutes.

Visit the Spirit Caravan bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Kevin McHugh
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