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Camel - Moonmadness CD (album) cover

MOONMADNESS

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

4.38 | 2150 ratings

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Magnum Vaeltaja
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars "Moonmadness", Camel's fourth studio album, shows the band continuing to develop the sound that they had introduced on "The Snow Goose". Like "Snow Goose", this release shows Camel's signature mellow symphonic style in full bloom. For some, this meant the peak of their discography, but it's kind of left me a little disappointed. With their debut and their studio masterpiece "Mirage", Camel was a truly unique beast in prog. A sort of Canterbury/symphonic crossover, with light jazz touches and an occasional psychedelic flair. By "Moonmadness", though, the stripped-back symphonic purity of their music moved them from the realm of progressive innovators to nondescript easy listening.

Perhaps that's being a little hard, though. Even though "Moonmadness" is less distinguished, this period in Camel's discography did still retain its own special charm. And don't get me started on the melodies; they're absolutely splendid on here. Indeed, if lush symphonic ballads are your thing, there are a handful of them here that should satisfy your cravings. "Song Within A Song" and "Air Born" are both Andrew Latimer flute showcases, with all sorts of Bardens synth splurges to tug at the heartstrings a little. The album has two true highlights, though. The spacey instrumental "Lunar Sea" offers solos galore and is something of a fan favourite. My personal favourite, however, has always been "Chord Change", perhaps the strongest instrumental in the Camel catalogue. It opens with a fast, playful pace that soon slows down and changes tone (hence the name?) into a stirring instrumental ballad. Andrew Latimer's guitar playing is absolutely stunning on this track, with his aching string bends and soulful runs. It's a real must-hear for fans of beautiful electric guitar music.

Wonderful as the album can get, though, the music tends to be quite tired sounding. I suppose that that's always a risk that artists take when trying to achieve a softer sound, but "Moonmadness" often slips below the ideal balance of mellow and energetic. Consequently, I tend to prefer a lot of the bands who have moulded their sound off of this album (e.g. Asia Minor, Sanhedrin) than the original. "Moonmadness" still has its place, of course. It serves as a fine starting point for those new to prog in general (it was certainly one of my first prog loves), and of course Camel fans should find plenty to love throughout. I also find it to be an ideal album to listen to on still winter nights. With all things considered, this is a good symphonic release that wouldn't be out of place in any prog fan's record collection. 3 stars.

Magnum Vaeltaja | 3/5 |

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