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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2778 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The next best thing to actually finding your Lady Fantasy

Of all the symphonic giants of the 70s, Camel seems to be the one most often forgotten about. While the progressive world is still sure to give these guys their due credit, even with their new albums that have been released into the new millennium (Nod And A Wink), the rest of the world has pretty much forgotten about Andrew Latimer and his band of merry men we can still enjoy their music to it's fullest. Camel's second album, Mirage, is a marriage of several things that made the classic progressive era so classic; Long and winding suites, gorgeous instrumentals, impressive technical playing and even some hard rocking parts. Describing any classic band's sound is pretty difficult, but drawing parallels between these guys and a harder edged version of Yes with a lower pitched singer and more flute would no be too far-fetched. Needless to say, if you enjoy that Yes style of prog (as opposed to Crimson, ELP or Genesis) then Camel should probably appeal to your tastes.

Home to a mere 5 compositions, it can be expected that every one of them be memorable and impressive. Of course this is the case, and it's due to a number of things, which make this album worth going back to for a number of listens. There's nothing weak on the album, not a passage or note that seems out of place, and the album flows incredibly well as it leap frogs between instrumentals and songs with vocals, including the suites. There's only one ''standard'' rocker song, and even that one is quite impressive. Freefall is the tune that kicks off the album and does so very well. If this is your first experience with the band you also get the sense kicked into you that this band is not to be taken lightly, because they are heavy! The riffs in this song along with the repetition of ''down, down, down'' really set the mood for the rest of the album, even if the rest of the album is a lot more eclectic and varied than just that first shade of the band.

The instrumentals are probably the biggest thing to keep people coming back. If you've ever enjoyed an instrumental tune that's ripe with melody then you're likely to get a kick out of this album, and the success of these tunes is likely what led the band to compose the all-instrumental Snow Goose down the road. Supertwistser is an excellent piece that's led by an ear-catching flute melody that keeps things rolling over top as the rest of the instruments follow. The organs and keyboards on this song are also highly impressive, adding some contrast in their darkness to the serene playing of the flute. The other instrumental to be found on the album is twice the length of the criminally short Supertwister and a lot moodier too. Earthrise starts out at a mild pace before deciding that they need to do something drastic. So, like Michael Myers of Halloween finding a big knife of some kind they come after you at full force with amazing guitar solos throughout the song, which only slow off to allow for luscious keyboards with come in here and again. It bookends with another calmer part at the end of the tune and then it's all over, leaving you wanting more.

Where Camel really shows off their edge though, is in the album's two suites. Nimrodel is the shorter and less impressive of the two, but it still has a lot of charm. Starting with some creepy keys it eventually builds up to some war-march drums and then into excellent guitar solos that have a distinct melody to them. The voicing in this tune is subtle, but effective, and the dark keyboard riffs in the end of the song make for a fine conclusion. But it's the 12-minute Lady Fantasy Suite that really takes the cake. Those sharp keys that open the album are just so memorable along with the heavy guitars that almost scream like a warning siren of some kind. This song is heavy, especially given it's time when Black Sabbath were the heaviest people on the planet. Guitar parts give life to the song, especially in the actual Lady Fantasy section of the song where they turn into a chugging machine that makes you wonder if Iron Maiden listened to these guys a lot in their early days. Like any great symphonic prog band, these guys knew how to handle their suites.

This is truly a classic album from start to finish, although it would be a hard press to call this one a masterpiece. The band certainly sounds a lot more raw here than they would on later works, but that's a big part of the charm for the album. It has all the makings of a classic prog album but lacks that final emotional 'erk' that makes your spine shiver whenever you listen to it. Still, that doesn't bring down the quality of the songs at all, and this one gets 4 Lady Fantasies out of 5. Definitely an album to own.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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