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Peter Bardens - The Answer [Aka: Vintage '69] CD (album) cover

THE ANSWER [AKA: VINTAGE '69]

Peter Bardens

 

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3.12 | 47 ratings

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Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Oh well

Prior to forming Camel in the early 1970's, Peter Bardens had been keyboard player with a number of bands, including his own Pete B's Looners which featured guitarist Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) in its line up. In 1970, he recorded this his first solo album. While the guitar parts are credited to Andy Gee, it is widely reported that Green actually plays guitar on all the tracks here, appearing uncredited.

This album is something of a flawed gem. Flawed because Bardens casts his net too widely in terms of styles, while failing to come up with strong enough material to carry the album. A gem because there are flashes of brilliance, plus it offers an opportunity to hear a genuine proto-Camel album. Bardens certainly made sure the album was full to bursting, with 6 lengthy tracks included, the longest running to over 13 minutes.

The three tracks on side one range from blues, through decent rock, to lengthy improvisation. The opening title track includes some strange vocal harmonies which are admirable for their originality, but in my opinion do not really work. The 10 minute "I can't remember" is based on a repetitive chant, with Bardens adding some fine organ playing. There are distinct indications of Camel here, the principal difference being that the bluesy guitar of Green sounds somewhat different to the style of Andy Latimer.

Despite that fact that two superb singers, Steve Ellis of the Love Affair and Linda Lewis, are included in the line up, Bardens makes the mistake of singing most of the lead vocals himself. Criticism of his (and indeed Camel's) vocals is a well worn subject, so I will not labour the point. Suffice to say Bardens would have been well advised to make greater use of his vocal peers.

The second side of the album runs to over 25 minutes. "I don't want to go home" is the most commercial track on the album, the female backing vocals and lilting flute sounds contributing to an unusually light feel. "Let's get it on" sees Bardens unwisely moving into swamp rock territory, this prosaic blues being the low point of the album.

The closing track "Homage to the god of light" is a 13+ minute delight. To the best of my knowledge, it was the only Bardens solo number to be carried into the Camel live set, where it was also one of the highlights. A version of the song performed by Camel appears as a bonus track on remastered version of the band's first album. This epic piece features anthemic verses and another lengthy organ recital. Had the entire album followed the pattern of this monster, we could have been talking about a classic prog album here.

As it is, "The Answer" is a decent first solo album, let down mainly by the deficiencies in the song-writing department. On the plus side, it is the most progressive album of Bardens' solo career. Recommended for those interested in the roots of Camel.

Incidentally, I once had the pleasure of meeting Bardens around the time of the first Camel album. When I mentioned this solo album to him, he appeared a bit embarrassed, and indicated that he was not entirely happy with it himself.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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