Monday, 25 January 2021

Camel

Mirage (1974)





Freefall/Supertwister/Nimrodel/Earthrise/Lady Fantasy


This album, from 1974, is said to be one of the cornerstones of the prog rock genre, a genre I have my problems with, as regular readers will know. However, as you will also know, I am attempting to break down my prog barriers, so I will give this a listen.


I quite like Freefall, the opener, due its powerful riffs, solid drumming and swirling keyboards. the keyboards-cymbals interplay in the middle is almost like avant-garde jazz. The bass is nice and deeply rumbling too although the vocal is a bit proggy. The overall sound is, of course proggy, but there is something more rock about it that makes me prefer it to the quasi-classical, keyboard-driven noodling of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. it is prog ROCK in the best sense. Yes, it is still based around typical prog indulgence, but it retains some appeal for me. 


The instrumental Supertwister is a slower, more dreamy, laid-back number, featuring a gentle flute (played by Andrew Latimer) and more jazzy vibes. I really quite like this too.


Nimrodel is one of those multi-part "suites" that prog rock bands specialised in. Here I find I like the instrumental passages but am not so much a fan of the vocal bits. Look, it is all too rambling and overdone for me but I cannot deny that the band could play. The track, and the album, have a great sound quality to it - lots of warm bass and less of the ELP-style discordance. I like the mid-song guitar part and the spacey cymbals-keyboards break around 7:30. 


The instrumental Earthrise is tuneful and richly bassy. Once more, it is something I can listen to. as always with this sort of music, I am never going to return to it regularly, but I am happily enjoying this as I write. Some more fine guitar can be found in the middle. Although Lady Fantasy is a twelve minute-plus opus it has an appealing gentle catchiness to it that perfectly exemplifies the group's musical dexterity and comparative accessibility. Yesterday I listened to Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Brain Salad Surgery and had to turn it off. Give me this any day. Listen to that great funky stereo bit at 3.:58 when the guitar, bass, keyboards and drums kick in - good stuff. Ditto the guitar soloing around ten minutes in. 



Camel sound, to me, far more melodic, varied and warm in their sound (particularly when compared to contemporaries ELP). I find them to be more fluid, subtle, intricate and carrying more musicality. Many prog fans would no doubt disagree but it is just how this outsider hears it.














The Snow Goose (1975)


I also took the time to check out this release, from 1975, which was one of those dreaded concept" albums. Now, I love literature and I love music, but I find the two don't always mix too well. This album was a collection of bits of music inspired by Paul Gallico's World War II (Dunkirk)-themed novella, The Snow Goose. In true prog rock style, Camel decided they wanted to write some music based on a book and duly chose Gallico's. As it happened, though, it is a very nice piece of work containing lots of relaxing instrumental fare, along with some nicely upbeat but extremely melodic tracks - Rhayader and Rhayader Goes To Town are two exceptionally attractive ones, as indeed is The Snow Goose


The longer tracks are interspersed with shorter ambient pieces and there is a refreshing lack of archetypal prog rock indulgence. It is simply really good music, all the way through, albeit with proggy tinges.



As I said, the album is full of quality instrumental offerings that relate loosely to the book - soaring parts representing the previously injured goose returning successfully to flight, a brief jaunty bit maybe conjuring images of a goose waddling along etc. Either way, the music is really good, played immaculately and reproduced in top quality sound. I found myself enjoying this immensely.




Related posts :-
Caravan
Jethro Tull
Mike Oldfield

2 comments:

  1. I'm going to try to listen to this tonight. Like I said, I never heard their stuff before. My friend will be so glad cuz he was always trying to get me to listen to them. lol

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  2. Pleased to be of service.

    I much preferred it to ELP.

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