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Camel - The Snow Goose CD (album) cover

THE SNOW GOOSE

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

4.27 | 1547 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review 51, The Snow Goose, Camel, 1975

StarStarStar

For an album like The Snow Goose a complete track-by-track review would ultimately be pointless. Instead, I'll start with general comments and then give a sentence or two about each of the tracks.

The Snow Goose is, for some, the epitome of Camel's work, or even 'symphonic' prog. Alas, that does not hold true to me. While a very consistent album, and one without many moments so over the top that they will alienate the listener, it does only a limited amount to actually involve me. Generally, the way Camel work for me is with vocals or a clear idea as a focus. The Snow Goose not only lacks these, but also flops a bit on creating a genuine feel of continuity, and it feels more to me like a bunch of separate themes thrown together into a forty-minute piece rather than a fully cohesive album. The echoing is a bit blunt, where it happens, and doesn't feel clever.

The musicianship throughout is fine. Andy Latimer provides some cheerful guitar and flute, and even if his style at those doesn't always work for me, he does what he does quite well. Pete Bardens keyboards are Pete Bardens' keyboards. Rarely electrifying in performance, but they do the job and add another layer. Occasionally this layer seems a bit too thin for my liking, but there are equally moments of psychedelic ideas that are handled quite neatly. Andy Ward is the highlight player, drumming quickly, proficiently and in line with the feel of the music. Doug Ferguson never was my favourite bassist, and this album isn't an exception. I don't often feel impressed by a Ferguson bass-part, even when they don't reach the repetitive levels of Lunar Sea. Perhaps that's just preference, though. The inclusion of the orchestra varies from proficient to gimmick to childish, and is at times quite a nice extra, but at others nothing special.

The Great Marsh opens with birdsong and the relaxed aa-aa-aaa-ah vocal theme that will recur a couple of times. Latimer provides a tense guitar and the band move quite nicely to sort of mini-explosion with a fairly good use of the orchestra.

Rhayader features a classy flute solo, some sort of odd piano choice from Bardens (I want to say it's an electric, , a typically stalking Ferguson bass groove and neat relaxed percussion. An odder middle section features a rather over-stretched guitar solo.

Rhayader Goes To Town follows straight on with a rocking section, keyboard riffs galore and excellent soloing from Latimer. Ward again gives a sterling performance. It is unfortunate that the entire piece isn't up to the opening, with the following bits feeling more half-hearted than lighthearted. A more up-to-scratch showcase for Latimer's soloing features, which, while not exceptional, is fitting.

Sanctuary is plainly a boring piece, with a repeated, weirdly fast acoustic, a couple of bass taps and a mostly bland slow solo from Latimer. Fritha, ditto, but Pete Bardens provides clangeresque soloing instead and the acoustics are slowed to a more appropriate speed.

The Snow Goose again takes off a bit. Certainly more of a band piece, with everyone strutting their stuff carefully. Latimer provides the wonderful main theme melody, while Bardens merely supports with the organ. It's unfortunate that they chose to include a repeat which simply wasn't needed and Ferguson feels a bit redundant at times.

And from this, a whiny oboe/sax intro with a generic background dududu takes us to friendship. A pity that when the main melodic theme is so wonderful, the bland orchestra use leaves me basically uninterested in the piece. Migration again features the wordless vocals, and basically the good things about the song are rather masked by the number of times things are repeated with little or overly obvious elaborations. The gentle Rhayader Alone is one of the album's highlights, with a basic emotional appeal that many of the songs lack, a feeling of isolation and loss. Latimer's guitar solo is wonderful and the softer acoustic bass works very nicely. Not sure quite what the Bardens tone is, but it doesn't spoil the piece.

Flight Of The Snow Goose is another relatively uninteresting track. A slightly boring keyboard thing opens it, and it continues upbeat and uninspired for another two minutes. The foreboding Preparation is a bit of an acquired taste, and sounds better live from the Moonmadness remaster, in my opinion. Bardens haunting keyboard melody is superbly done and there is a gorgeous female vocal, but the rest, orchestra and all, is simply a bit duh. Ward taps on a glockenspiel.

Dunkirk is an odd piece. The brass is used in an entirely generic way, and the basic melodies are repeated for far too long, while the solo completely fails to inspire me. On the other hand, Bardens does have a very nice organ tone, and the basic material isn't all that bad and the final minute or so is a pretty good piece of music (especially from Ward's side). The guitar solo is alright, if not my favourite, and the slightly grittier sound is something I've always felt Camel needed more of.

Epitaph is directly echoing the keys on Preparation, with a large set of various key-based additions and an even darker feel. Ward provides some very odd percussion. Psychedelic and fairly brilliant. Fritha Alone is a piano solo, soft and emotive, if a little over-repeated.

La Princess Perdue is a true example of a song exemplifying the good and bad of its album. Upbeat, and initially annoying, with orchestral additions. As always, one melody is repeated far too much and others crop up in between the repeats. Later on, however, it takes off a little more, and I like the use of the orchestra. The Snow Goose theme is repeated. The Great Marsh concludes the album on the same sort of terms as it began, birdsong, bland keys, repeats. A fairly nice wheeeet sound in the background, though.

Onto the bonuses: the single versions are pointless. A much livelier live version of Rhayader Goes To Town is welcome. The Snow Goose is alright. Freefall is incredible, except the vocals, which truly wreck it.

I'd recommend this wholeheartedly to anyone who doesn't really need their music to challenge and constantly interest them. It's a decent album for relaxing with, and does have a few genuinely interesting ideas, however, it does not keep and hold my interest on any deep level while I'm listening. Good, yes, but non-essential for those who aren't fans of less involving music. While listening for this review (and this is after at least 20 listens), whole tracks went past without me noticing.

Rating: Three Stars. Favourite Track: Epitaph

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |

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