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Camel - Stationary Traveller CD (album) cover

STATIONARY TRAVELLER

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

3.35 | 482 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Can camels tell stories? Yes, with music!

Andy Latimer clearly has a thing for albums with a storyline told through music. First, The Snow Goose in the 70's, then Nude in the early 80's and now Stationary Traveller. And, of course, later on, in the 90's, there would be a further two story-based concept albums in the brilliant Dust And Dreams and Harbour Of Tears albums. That is five such albums throughout Camel's history!

In my view these story-based Camel albums are all very good, culminating in the excellent Celtic-flavoured Harbour Of Tears. This leaves Stationary Traveller somewhere in the middle both chronologically and in terms of greatness. It is not quite as good as Nude, but it is an album that has grown on me a lot since I first heard it.

All these story-based albums (perhaps with the exception of The Snow Goose of which I don't really know what it is about) are based on rather sad stories and events, and this is, of course, reflected in the music. Stationary Traveller is no exception; this is a rather melancholic and almost depressive affair. I will let you discover the concept for yourself.

Compared to Camel's previous, non-conceptual albums like Raindances, Breathless, I Can See You House From Here and The Single Factor, Stationary Traveller certainly is an improvement and a return to form. I would say that together with Nude, Stationary Traveller is the best Camel album of the 80's. However, as I said above, Dust And Dreams from the early 90's would be the true return to the form of their glory days of the first half of the 70's.

Like on Nude and some other Camel albums, the instrumental material on Stationary Traveller is the best. The opener Pressure Points, the title track and Missing are three great instrumentals with dazzling guitar work and lovely flutes. The first of these instrumentals was considerably extended and improved for the live performance on the tour in support of this album. And the extended version is available on the live album called just that - Pressure Points. This very good live album was recorded during this tour and was released shortly after.

The vocal material, partly handled by Chris Rainbow and partly by Andy himself, is good but a bit on the Pop side of things for my taste. Particularly Refugee, Cloak And Dagger Man and Long Goodbyes bring this album down a bit, in my opinion. However, the vocal material on this album is mostly not quite the kind of cheerful and light-weight Pop that is present on some songs from Raindances, I Can See Your House From Here and The Single Factor. It is, at least partly, a more melancholic and "serious" Pop Rock material that we find here. Chris Rainbow's vocals fit the material well, but I think that Andy should have handled all the vocals himself. That would have given this album a bit more Camel identity. As it stands, you could easily believe that you were listening to (a very good album by) The Alan Parsons Project!

Overall, this is a very emotional album just like Dust And Dreams and Harbour Of Tears would be. In that sense Stationary Traveller is forward-looking. But it is also backward-looking in a different sense. This is, after all, from the mid 80's with all what that involves in terms of sound and production. It was also the last Camel album for several years. Not until the 90's when Andy started his own label and found new creative freedom would Camel once again be an active band.

It is interesting to note that the best Camel-eras are those of the first four albums (the self-titled debut, Mirage, The Snow Goose and Moonmadness) as well as that of the most recent four albums (Dust And Dreams, Harbour Of Tears, Rajaz and A Nod And A Wink). What they did in between was of varying quality, but you can definitely find some gems from these in-between-years and Stationary Traveller is definitely one of them! Nude being the other worthy of special note.

Recommended for sure, but not quite excellent all the way

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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