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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover

MIRAGE

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

4.38 | 1790 ratings

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LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Camel's second release shows the band opening up to a world of exciting ideas, somehow playing a form of Pink Floyd-esque space rock while at the same time keeping a strong, adventurous rhythm and upbeat sense of straightforward rock, and this is no mean feat for a band to pull off.

Mirage quite possibly best represents 70s Camel's blend of hard rock and classically composed prog. Contrary to what many may lead you to believe, the band's vocals are not horrible, are not just weak attempts at sounding like Pink Floyd. Camel is and has always been their own band, and in truth I rather enjoy the vocals on this album. Both Doug and Andy can not only hold a tune but truly sound actually sound like they know how to sing and that there's a reason they are stepping into the microphone zone. That common quibble out of the way, all that's left then is the album's music. And this is the kind of music that marked the peak of the 70s prog movement. Complicated rhythm section work, one part emotive and two parts technically brilliant guitar, keyboard sounds that actually have aged very well, and moods that perfectly describe the power and creativity of a young band playing whatever they want with wild abandon or careful deliberation.

The album opens with the upbeat and rocking Freefall, a guitar-oriented piece with some aggressive (for Camel, that is) vocals and a interestingly syncopated rhythm section. The next track segues nicely from it, being Supertwister. Not far into this short track does the music change drastically: flute. Yes, Andy Latimer breaks out another instrument that he is quite talented with, and from this point forward the band will only increase. The song itself is quite pretty and yet, like the first one, upbeat when compared to Camel's other major albums. The bass work is also quite superb. Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider seems to me to be the weak track on the album, with some awkward segues and a general sense of lacking direction. When the song is moving forward, however, it sounds absolutely stellar, with gently probing guitar solos and dramatic keyboard soundscapes. A creepy and fast bassline breaks in near the end, finally lifting the song from its listing parhood.

Earthrise starts up with an atmospheric intro, complete with organ. It builds in intensity and tempo for the first half before turning into guitar and keyboard solos. It closes gently. Of course, that's only a ruse, because the wild Lady Fantasy wraps up the end of the album. Starting off with a keyboard lick over some guitar that reminds me perhaps of Kansas, the song rotates between a luscious main guitar melody, proving here once and for all that Andy Latimer is a genius with his instrument. The song builds and ebbs, featuring a good number of solos and some good bass lines. The real magic occurs, however, at a little over eight minutes into the track, where the vocals return for a few lines, sounding melancholic and wonderful. A half second of silence becomes one of the most catchy and up-tempo bass lines the band has ever toyed with. A wild guitar solo that reminds me of Robert Fripp's power drill method (like on Fallen Angel) jumps right in, only to segue into a complicated keyboard lead. The instrumentalists show their respective masterful skills for a few minutes before finishing this song off with a band and a return of the gentle main melody.

This album is not the high point of Camel, however, somehow, it will be surpassed by the following Snow Goose, but nevertheless Mirage stands as a splendid statement of the young band's creativity, energy, and raw skill. A must have for fans of good symphonic prog, and quite possibly the best place to start with Camel. The weak portions of Nimrodel are easily made up by the masterful construction of the rest of it, and I cannot but rate this as an absolute necessity of a prog fan's collection.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |

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