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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2778 ratings

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Magnum Vaeltaja
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Camel, Camel, Camel... what can I say? By 1974 prog had just about reached its peak. Many of the symphonic giants of the day who had released their Earth-shattering opuses just a year or two prior were reaching, or had long overstepped, their prime. Amidst the chaos, though, there was Camel, off in the corner, blissfully ignorant of all the fuss. Indeed, Camel always was one of the more modest and nondescript of the classic prog groups. So while their English contemporaries were forging darker, more aggressive, more experimental, more ambitious musical paths, Camel was content putting out what can best be described as archetypal symphonic prog. And the consistent simplicity of this approach can best be heard on this sophomore effort of theirs, "Mirage".

I suppose I shouldn't sell Camel short. After all, while nothing on "Mirage" begs for your attention in the same way that some of the more ambitious prog albums do, its safety music-wise makes it unbelievably likeable. Listening to this album, it's easy to see why Camel has maintained its small but loyal fan base for as long as it has. "Mirage" is a simply a tastefully done production in every sense. Camel were the masters of smooth, succulent melodies, and never played a note more than the music asked for. Indeed, this album has aged incredibly well while still retaining its distinct 70's symphonic prog flair. And perhaps it's not even as cut-and-dry prog-by-numbers as I've made it out to be so far. This early period of Camel, along with their debut, actually did contribute an original take on the progressive sound of the day. What we have here is an interesting beast, a cool Canterbury/symphonic crossover who fuse the typical melodic, fantasy-themed tendencies that are definitive of the symphonic sound with light . It's a shame that they didn't continue to develop this sound on "The Snow Goose" and instead went the full-on easy listening route, because the ideas they put into "Mirage" really were a recipe for success.

I won't bother going into a track-by-track as there are dozens of others reviews here already that can reproduce the album far more faithfully than I could. So instead, I'll just share a few things that I feel distinguish "Mirage" from the crowd. The first is the subtle eclecticism. Indeed, I touched on that when I was describing the mild Canterbury flavours to be heard, but there's even a bit more to the album than just that. "Earthrise" delves almost into space rock territory, albeit with an energetic, uptempo take on the style. And "The White Rider", a jewel of an epic, ends in a rather unconventional way for a track of its grandeur. While most of the classic symphonic epics would likely choose a drawn-out recapitulation of earlier themes (a la "Supper's Ready") to drive things to a rousing finish, Camel was wise here. Indeed, the "White Rider" suite is a more subtle, moody, type of epic, so what better way to end it off than with a psychedelic jam, with a hypnotic bass line for Andrew Latimer to paint all over with his slide guitar playing? Cool stuff. The other thing that draws me back to "Mirage" is Andy Ward. The man can't be stopped on this record! Just listen to how frantically how pounds away during the organ solo in "The White Rider", or during the jam in "Earthrise". Wow, I'd like to know what they put in his coffee before those studio takes, because he really pushes the whole band along and adds a really frenetic element to might have otherwise been a stale release.

In all, "Mirage" is a very safe purchase for any prog fan. There's a reason why this is so highly rated on the site: there's just not really much to dislike about it. I've dropped its score from my earlier 5 star rating (back when I was in more of a symphoni-philic time in my life) on the basis that it's not much of a paradigm-shifter - it doesn't take many risks or make any bold or poignant statements. As I said before, Camel always was the modest one in the prog family. But while this kind of stuff is very unlikely to change your life, it's still an appealing, high quality release that wouldn't be out of place in any prog fan's collection. This Camel album isn't a must-have, but if you must have a Camel album, this is the one.

Magnum Vaeltaja | 4/5 |


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