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Camel - The Snow Goose CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.29 | 2103 ratings

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3 stars Good, for sure. Masterpiece? Ummm.

I don't think so. The Snow Goose is widely considered to be Camel's finest hour although that belief is as debatable as nailing down the finest Floyd album. Being an instrumental concept album the case can be made that Snow Goose is the most progressive album but some will charge that it doesn't have enough adrenalin, that it is a little too easy listening. Certainly the first two albums are more rocking but the strength of the Goose is that it does try something different and perhaps more elegant/grandiose than Mirage or the first album. An ambitious and often beautiful piece of light symphonic prog, the Snow Goose was conceived in a fashion similar to Dark Side of the Moon. The band was out on the road touring Mirage while working on this, just as the Floyd were while working on a piece titled "Eclipse." Giving the new material a pre-recording road work-out can often be helpful to the quality of what eventually hits the street and the theory works with Snow Goose as well.

The highlights include the whimsical and dancing flutes melodies of "Rhayader." Melody is king on Snow Goose and that's the main reason this work is so beloved. The playing is awesome as you'd expect and while most of the accolades go to Latimer, Andy Ward is the one who catches my ear all the time with his astonishing ability to deliver percussion parts that are just spot on without being showy. "Rhayader Goes to Town" is a favorite of mine with its sublime guitar leads by Latimer. "The Snow Goose" is perhaps the most instantly recognizable guitar lead of Latimer and its soaring repeating melody is my mind's definition of "the Camel sound." If you only hear this album once in your life, chances are you'll forget most of it but you'll take the Snow Goose lead guitar melody with you. "Migration" is a smooth jazz-pop track with wordless vocals and a very Caravan sound. "Dunkirk" injects some darker mood with the eerie keyboards and ominous growing rhythms. The guitar work here is positively Oldfield, in fact the whole track could fit right in on Hergest Ridge or Ommadawn. The climax of this track is as chaotic as the Snow Goose gets and it is a much needed shot of oomph. I'm a sucker for the lovely solo piano of "Fritha Alone." Lovely. "La Princesse Perdue" sort of reprises the main melody of the title track but changes it up a bit and adds other backing to make things a little richer.

Another nice booklet in the remastered edition tells the story of the time period and includes a funny story about how the record execs reacted when they heard the Goose had no lyrics: "They freaked!" I love instrumental albums but in this case perhaps some high quality guest vocals on certain tracks could have elevated Snow Goose in the way Maggie Reilly or Sally Oldfield could boost certain Oldfield tracks. For those who love the instrumental Camel sound on Snow Goose, I have to make my usual recommendation of Rousseau's "Flowers in Asphalt." It delivers a similar sonic experience with even better results.

The Snow Goose is a fine album but falls well short of an essential masterpiece in my opinion. It has its share of excellent moments but it also leaves me a bit unfulfilled. If it is the Camel magnum opus, then it supports those who feel that Camel is not of the same caliber as some of the other legendary bands. I don't think it stands up equal to the best of Floyd, Yes, Caravan, or Genesis. The main tracks are good but not jaw dropping, and the short bridges linking them together are pleasant but rather inconsequential in some cases. It is most successful at conveying the overall serene mood to the listener and it definitely has stellar playing but personally I prefer the Camel debut which I'm sure has many of you rolling your eyes. The Decca remastered CD will give your another generous batch of bonus tracks to wade through consisting of unreleased singles and live material. 3 affectionate stars for the Goose but don't miss the debut album for a livelier Camel experience.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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