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Camel - Rain Dances CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.60 | 880 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars When singer and bassist extraordinaire Richard Sinclair joined Camel in 1977, both the fans of the band and the aficionados of the Canterbury scene were anticipating fireworks. Drummer Andy Ward was keen on exploring the jazzier side of things, and Richard - who had last been a member of the superb Hatfield and the North - was just the right person to lead the band into hitherto unexplored territories. Moreover, his sublime voice seemed a perfect match for Camel's mellow, laid-back, atmospheric sound. With such premises, expectations of a masterpiece would certainly have been justified .

However, even though "Rain Dances" can be considered the last good studio album recorded by Camel in the Seventies, calling it a masterpiece would be a bit of a stretch, to say the least. It is indeed a lovely, relaxing album, featuring some excellent musicianship. On the other hand, Sinclair's awesome talents are definitely underused. For starters, he only gets credited on one track, "the jazzy instrumental "One of These Days I'll Get an Early Night" - but, what is even worse, his divine voice is only allowed to shine on two songs out of nine. When you have such a singer at your disposal, and force him to share the limelight with someone like Andy Latimer, who is a great guitarist, but a barely adequate vocalist at the best of times, it is nothing short of a crime. If you want further proof of what the album is missing, check the live versions of "Metrognome" and "Unevensong" from A Live Record - the difference is remarkable.

Anyway, since the album is mainly instrumental, Sinclair gets many chances to show his chops as a bassist, and his partnership with Ward proves to be a solid one (the two have worked together quite often after Sinclair left the band). The constant presence of unofficial member Mel Collins on sax and flute adds further interest to the songs, blending seamlessly with Peter Bardens' distinctive, atmospheric keyboard style. One track, Elke, even features Brian Eno and his trademark rarefied, ambient mood. A special mention is also deserved by opener "First Light", where the individual talents of the five musicians get an opportunity to shine; and the melancholy, soothing ballad "Tell Me", tailor-made for Sinclair's beautiful voice. "Highways of the Sun" is instead a poppy, throwaway number that could have easily appeared on the band's less than stellar follow-up, "Breathless".

All in all, "Rain Dances" is a more than pleasant album to listen to in those moments when anything more complicated would be too taxing. However, I cannot help seeing it as a lost opportunity for a band that could have made a giant leap forward with it, but chose instead to play it safe. Though I like it, and listen to it relatively often, I would hesitate to call it but a nice, yet non-essential addition.

Raff | 3/5 |


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