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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover

MIRAGE

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2843 ratings

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Isa
Prog Reviewer
3 stars [C+] Fun and light symphonic prog, though not particularly enduring.

I must confess that my first impression of Camel's Mirage was not one of utterly timeless symphonic prog majesty, but rather of dated 70s sounding rock 'n roll with half-baked influences from the popular jazz-rock and prog bands of the time. While I haven't completely departed from this viewpoint, a fair amount of plays through the album have allowed me to really appreciate the many great moments of light-hearted beauty and the nicely balanced mixture of symphonic prog and jazz-rock influences. There is a high level of creativity with song-structure and instrumental layering in all of the tracks, with mostly successful results.

The first track Freefall presents probably the heaviest side of the band's sound on the album, with jarring guitar riffs and an aggressive vocal part. This aggression is followed by some clever solo sections, leading into a a cheerful, proggy section with some 11/8 metered guitar and keyboard riffing, one of my favorite moments on the album. This leads back into the hard rock sounding chorus. The drumming on this track is particularly cool. Supertwister is an interesting track with several diverse sounding sections, some whimsical and soft, some energetic. The flute melodies and juicy keyboard parts are the best part about the track, I think. Nimrod / The Procession / The White Rider might be considered an "epic," Nimrod being a short somewhat and somewhat strange, darker section. After this, The Procession is a sort of short Renaissance sounding march, leading straight into The White Rider. I sense that the first part of this section is highly influenced by Moody Blues, with the use of an oboe-sounding synth melody and once again whimsical atmosphere. The vocal melody is a bit lackluster sounding to me, however. This leads leading directly into a fast paced solo section, which is pretty fun and well done. I sense some Uriah Heep influence in several parts of the track, including the fantasy themed lyrics. Earthrise is an interesting, very prog-sounding track, with beautiful parts from all of the instruments, though I find it a bit long-winded sounding with the faster and thicker section toward the end of the track. The track ends very well with the slower marching tempo.

Lady Fantasy is in most ways the best part of the album, and is the most diverse, cohesive, and expressive of all of the tracks on the album, with the most developed lyrics. The solo is very well done, and the singing a bit less so. I hear more Santana influence in this track than in any other, for sure, much more jazz-rock oriented throughout the song. Many solo sections throughout this multi-movement track. My favorite part of this track, and thus the whole album, is the reverse-fade guitar solo, just gorgeous. This leads directly into the soft, emotional lyrical section, and I love how the music reflects the mood of the lyrics, portraying the concept of being mesmerized by a beautiful, really majestic woman from a afar. Then "bam!" the hard-rock riffing and soloing begins, and it's just great. The crunchy keyboard timbre is just so juicy.

In terms of the album as a whole, I have some complaints which are stumbling blocks for me giving this album a higher rating: there isn't much of a sense of lyrical drama or even instrumental expressiveness throughout the rest of the album, compared to Lady Fantasy. While the complex proggy sections are fun indeed, they almost all have a very narrow range of emotional expression, unlike what you might find in the music of Yes or Genesis, and thus always leave me wishing for more. Also, while each section of music in each song is very well done, it just doesn't create a memorable cohesive whole for most of the tracks, let alone the album as a whole. These are things that I find particularly crucial for a great work of artistic music, and in my view they are where Camel falls short with respect to this album.

Mirage is a very good album which has clearly had much influence on the sound of the symphonic prog style. Any fan of this style should own this album for sure, though I wouldn't really call it crucial for progressive rock collection.

Isa | 3/5 |

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