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Camel - Moonmadness CD (album) cover

MOONMADNESS

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

4.38 | 1551 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Review 33, Moonmadness, Camel, 1976

StarStar(Star)

This album was my third Camel album, and like The Snow Goose, it simply failed to captivate me like Mirage did. At first, I was fairly impressed with Andy Ward's more substantial drumming contribution, and the band seemed to have cracked what they wanted to do with the vocals. However, the problems with the album soon seeped through. I didn't, and don't, like either Lunar Sea or Chord Change, the former, especially, being boring as Hell. The keyboards often sound weak to the point of being ineffectual, and Ferguson's bass isn't especially impressive. Additionally, the album as a whole is quite conservative, unlike Mirage, which was consistently interesting and daring, or The Snow Goose, which, while not my cup of tea, was pretty diverse throughout. Pieces from Mirage, especially, developed a little, while those on here remain pretty static.

Aristillus begins the album with a fairly whimsical synth-driven track with Pete Bardens' keyboards everywhere and occasional background muttering. After a minute, slightly more substantial moog-work is brought in to bring the song to a conclusion. Generally meh.

Song Within A Song is the first of the softer, vocal-inclusive offerings of the album, with a combination of rather ineffectual Bardens keyboards and Latimer flute introducing us to the song. The highlight to this opening is an interesting percussion contribution (providing some mysterious textures) from Ward with an accompanying Ferguson bass-part. Once the vocals come in, the song improves substantially, seeming more directed, with a soft, relaxing mesh of voices and the flutes and synths feeling much better placed. A good groove with a neat keyboard riff and some Latimer-Ward created textures in the background lead us on for another minute. A slightly funky (for want of a more sonically pleasing word) section doesn't really do much for me, with its synths again feeling meaningless and light, but the conclusion with clashing percussion from Ward and renewed synth or guitar (can't tell which) is much more satisfactory.

Chord Change is the first of the two mainly uptempo and rather dubious pieces on the album. We get rather weak set of guitar parts from Latimer, monotonous bass and drums and occasional irritating 'dah-dah dahdahdah-dahdah dah-dah-dadah' vocals. A brief break with a soft guitar solo accompanied by a capable rhythm section, glockenspiel and swelling background organ included. A gradual build-up with some rather strained organ-work leads up a return to blandness. This piece is rather characterised by a fairly cheerful, conservative nature, and I wish that Latimer had perhaps rocked out a little more.

Bardens' Spirit Of The Water (originally a piano solo) is dominated by piano, a watery, distant vocal and a couple of flute additions over the top of the piano. The night-time, watery feel is handled perfectly. I'm not sure whether I prefer this version or the demo solo.

Another Night is definitely the most rocking of the songs here, with a comfortable chord-based Latimer, some delightful block organ from Bardens and some sophisticated and interesting drumming from Ward. The vocals work smoothly in conjunction with the music. An interesting combination of the organ and guitar soloists and the rather blunt bass-led rhythm section gives a springboard from which the guitar-part and hollow drums can burst in again. Two enjoyable solos from Bardens and Latimer respectively lead us on to an unfortunately awkward fade. Still, I like this one.

Air Born begins with a rather pastoral flute solo (and some piano beneath it), and then takes off with a relaxed groove, very nice mellotron and some excellent guitar-playing from Latimer. A tolerable (I'm not really sure if a stronger one would have helped or damaged the song) vocal brings us through the song. Flute and acoustic weave together a light atmosphere for us, but a wallowing moog and slightly tacky sound effects could probably have been left out. Latimer's gentle vocal brings us on to the conclusion with grandiose drumming and mellotron complimenting the acoustics. Another good piece, but not approaching the masterly levels on Mirage.

A deep, shimmering set of keyboards (though overly repeated, in my opinion) gives rise to the groove of Lunar Sea, which is the second of the conservative pieces on the album. Latimer throws in an extensive guitar solo, but listening to it feels like a chore rather than a delight, and a repetitive rhythm section (especially Ferguson) does nothing to help. Bardens takes the next solo, which has its moment, though I find it difficult to get the irritating bass part out of my head and just enjoy it. Following that, Latimer and Bardens gradually become more cooperative in their soloing, with a completely bland and damaging-to-the-song groove from Ferguson, who provides the songs highest moments by not playing. Another solo from Latimer, while Bardens joins the rhythm section, leaves me rather cold, but again, I think it's the background and not the solo that's the problem. A yawn-worthy combination of the guitar, the opening keyboards and some windy effect leads us out. In short, a terribly bland piece of music.

Onto the bonus material:

The single version of Another Night is a welcome addition, as it has all the great parts and none of the un-helpful ones from the original piece. The piano solo version of Spirit Of The Water is nice, perhaps preferable to the one finally included. A live version of Song Within A Song has a better sounding opening, and is overall a rather more satisfactory and fleshed-out piece. Good inclusion. A ten minute live version of Lunar Sea has a slightly less prominent and annoying bass part and more emotional soloing (especially from Latimer), but is essentially the same song at heart. So, not masterly, but much better than the studio one. Finally, this segues into a live rendition of Preparation and Dunkirk from The Snow Goose, with a very successfully conveyed atmosphere and feel in Preparation giving way nicely to the great guitar soloing and martial drumming of Dunkirk. This inclusion provides a very nice end to the 'full' remaster, which is something I have to compliment the Camel re-release range for: despite including bonus material, the album always ends very neatly.

All in all, I'm not that big a fan of the album proper, with a couple of enjoyable highlights. I'd give the remaster complete with bonus material three stars, but the original album's material only two. Two stars it is. The remaster is a generally good album, which I enjoy listening to. Fans of Camel obviously like the sections from the original studio album, but I really don't, and think that someone who hasn't shown much interest in other albums by them could pass it over without really missing anything. Mirage (and, to a lesser extent, The Snow Goose) is much more exciting, in my opinion. Sorry for the stupid overuse of remaster meaning 'album with bonus material', but my brain is scrambled today.

Rating: Two Stars (Three for the remaster with bonus material) Favourite Track: Another Night (or the live version of Song Within A Song)

TGM: Orb | 2/5 |

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