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Camel - Moonmadness CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.38 | 2150 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Many consider this to be Camel's best album, and if it weren't for the two of theirs that are better, I'd probably be inclined to agree.

Coming off the heels of the band's excellent prog rock powerhouse Mirage and their gently brilliant instrumental album The Snow Goose, Moonmadness mixes both of them without truly foraying into as much adventurous genius as either of them. The songs are all great, but they do not come across quite as convincing nor as enthralling. The vocals are much less inspired to me than on Mirage, and the compositions a bit more jam-oriented than on The Snow Goose. Do not mistake the meaning of all this. Camel's third strongest album simply implies a wonderful release of progressive music, and not one to be ignored by any means at all. Fans of Camel will love this. Fans of Pink Floyd will likely love this. Fans of prog in general can probably find plenty to love here. It's just not quite on that plane of quality that its two most recent predecessors find themselves on. The flute is not quite as prominent nor as unfettered, but the drums and bass form the rhythm section in a way that actually is much more remarkable than on any other Camel album.

The first track is the short instrumental bit Aristillus, opening the album with a mildly upbeat sound over which an odd-sounding keyboard jingles out the melody. It turns quite nicely into Song Within a Song. This track is mostly slow-moving, beautiful guitar/bass unisons displaying the melody. About four and a half minutes in, the song changes for a bit (song within a song?), featuring more driving rhythm and a nifty keyboard ditty bounced around. The music turns majestic for a few moments, drums flying with cymbals and snare quite evocatively, before turning around at the last moment to remind us of the way the song sounded at the beginning. Chord Change sounds more like earlier Camel at the get-go, fast harmonized guitars marking out a melody. Andy really shines on his frets here, completely showing up his often-considered rival David Gilmour. In truth, this track in a lot ways hearkens back to The Snow Goose. A spiraling clean guitar solo makes up the middle section of the tune, slowly giving way to a new keyboard melody that slowly gains ground and intensity. It suddenly launches into a quick solo. The tempo and feel keeps growing under the force of a guitar as the song fades out. Short of Lunar Sea, this is the strongest track on the album. Spirit of the Water wraps up the first side, being a gentle song with a good melody and kind of lackluster vocals.

Side two begins with Another Night, a cowbell driven rock tune marred only by a slightly weak vocal melody. The mid section features a wonderful bass line that truly powers the song much further than its verses can provide. The guitar once again harmonizes with itself to play the melodic lead throughout the instrumental interlude here. Finally, a snappy guitar solo closes out the tune in true Latimer flair. Air Born waltzes in next, though this track is a more straightforward and less clever ballad than its predecessors. It's not terribly remarkable save for some quirky and tasty flute. The true highlight of the second side is the near ten minute track Lunar Sea. Akin to Chord Change, this song features no vocals. However, much of it is gentler. It opens with a bit of keyboard soundscaping, before the bass lays down the ground and the guitars walk all over on top. It settles down after a moment so that an electronica sort of key sound can play a melody (which eventually becomes a solo), but the tempo will return. With it comes some organ and another guitar solo, all still completely held in check and at the same time propelled forward by some absolutely wonderful bass guitar. The music then changes and grows even wilder about seven minutes in, with Andy Ward flailing about wonderfully on his drumset. This fades into a closing soundscape.

In all, Moonmadness has too many weak spots to truly qualify as a five star album, but it quite easily stands in the four star range. Any fan of Camel needs to listen to this one. It's not the best place to start, but it's a great second or third one to listen to. Highly recommended.

LiquidEternity | 4/5 |


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