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.
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.