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Camel - Rain Dances CD (album) cover

RAIN DANCES

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

3.59 | 818 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Unevenalbum

Coming after the excellent and very impressive series of albums consisting of the self-titled debut, Mirage, The Snow Goose and Moonmadness, Rain Dances certainly was a departure in several respects. The original line-up was altered for this album and bass player Doug Ferguson was here replaced by Richard Sinclair of Caravan fame. Being a "big" name in his own right, Sinclair brought to Camel influences from his own musical background and inspired Camel to move away somewhat from their Symphonic Prog roots and towards more of a Canterbury Scene sound which means that the music became a bit more "whimsical" with typical Jazz and Pop leanings. Humoristic song titles like One Of These Days I'll Get An Early Night and Metrognome (notice the spelling!) are typical of the Canterbury Scene. Andy Latimer even joked about re-naming the band 'Caramel' (a crossover between 'Camel' and 'Caravan') and maybe that would not have been such a bad idea, after all? Well, Rain Dances still has enough Camel-identity to be appropriately described as a Camel album (I don't know about the next album, though!).

Mel Collins also joined the band on this album adding saxophone which further altered the band's sound, bringing it closer to Jazz and Pop compared to earlier albums. His presence is most clearly felt on One Of These Days I'll Get An Early Night which is the jazziest tune on this album and about as jazzy as Camel ever got. Highways Of The Sun, on the other hand, is about as Pop as Camel ever got. This song would not be out of place on I Can See Your House From Here or The Single Factor, which are Camel's two most Pop-oriented albums. Still, some songs here are not that far away from the sound of the first four albums. The opener First Light, for example, would not have been out of place on Moonmadness and the same applies to Skylines and the very strong (despite its name!) Unevensong. These three are also the best songs on Rain Dances, in my opinion. The latter song has since been frequent in the band's set list up till and including the very last tour they did in 2003. Elke is a soothing flute-based instrumental that would not have been out of place on The Snow Goose. Tell Me and Metrognome is somewhere in between the old and the new, a mix between the Symphonic Prog of earlier albums and the Pop of some later albums.

Overall, Rain Dances is both a backward-looking album and a forward-looking album and it constitutes an appealing mix of what Camel was and what they were turning into. It is still a very good album even if it meant that Camel lost some of its own distinct identity. In my opinion, they would not quite find their way back to their roots again until the Nude album in 1981 (even if the genuine return to form would not arrive until Andy formed Camel Productions in the 90's and produced such brilliant albums as Dust And Dreams and Harbour Of Tears). But this doesn't mean that there are not some really great songs on the albums they did in the late 70's and early 80's, including the present one.

Recommended for sure, but not the optimal place to start

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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