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Camel - Camel CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.96 | 1189 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Superb first effort

I would just love to call this album a masterpiece of prog, but the old "flawed diamond" story is just stretched a little too far; This is a great album, and would surely become a treasured part of any prog collection - but in the same way that a comfortable jersey or old pair of jeans becomes a treasured part of your wardrobe.

"Slow Yourself Down" is just wonderful, and somehow epitomises 1970s rock music. It is punctuated marvellously with incidents from Latimer's guitar and Barden's keyboards that just make you sit up and take notice - that real "wow" factor.

"Mystic Queen" would be equally marvellous if it wasn't for the slightly cheesey lyrics. However, the warm bass and organ more than make up for this. Sumptuous flowing textures are the order of the day in this contrast to the driving rock of "Slow Yourself Down". Latimer excels himself with lyrical, melodic solo lines and rich acoustic rhythms.

"Six Ate" is more upbeat and slightly funky with Ferguson's fat rolling bass and subtle keyboard rhythms from Bardens - possibly a little bit "elevator music", but satisfying nonetheless. However, the sudden change to a kind of dark muddy texture is part of why I feel this album is not quite the "flawed diamond" it could be, as "Six Ate" sits somewhat uncomfortably within the rest of the album - and the wierd keyboard sounds do nothing to enhance it. Latimer's wonderful solo lifts it well, temporarily - but you still get the feeling that Camel were floundering a little with this one.

"Separation" is a good rocker, with the welcome addition of Latimer's flute - but its the solos we anticpate - and with good reason! There is some beautiful fast work from Latimer that escapes the bluff trap, arpeggioing around the melodies very nicely and demonstrating that Latimer is not restricted to the slower, singing style that he is rightly famous for.

"Never Let Go" is a Camel classic, full of every element that make Camel such a pleasure to listen to; the rich 6th-laden harmonies, flowing melodies and slightly funky bass and drums. Bardens really works it with Latimer's flute in the middle section to provide some beautiful, timeless prog. While Bardens might not have had the most notable voice in prog, it fits well here, the lyrics patch in well, and Latimer really lets fly with some classic air-guitar worthy soloing in the burn-out.

"Curiosity" lives up to its title well, with slightly dodgy lyrics, but nice shifting time signatures and interesting textures - including many of the trademark "soft clashes" you get when layering 6ths. I'm particularly keen on the sections where the keyboard and bass double each other, while the guitar doubles the voice. Bardens produces some beautifully lyrical keyboard work, more than complementing Latimer's guitar.

"Arubaluda" walks away with best title award - and also contains some of the most exciting textures and rhythms; Camel decided to end on a high, and this is a real rocker - although the time shifts are not neglected in the pursuit of rock! Some superb crunchy Deep Purple-esque riffing, although the guitar work remains solidly within Latimer's pure melodic domain, no matter how hard Bardens tries to descend into dissonance - brilliantly, it has to be said! Also notable is Ward's loose yet somehow solid way of keeping everything together whilst at the same time turning the rhythms upside down - not exactly Carl Palmer, but wonderful stuff nonetheless!

This is especially stunning as it is Camel's debut album - the maturity of the playing is quite remarkable, and the establisment of Camel's sound at such an early stage of their career is quite incredible - I can think of no other band that held on so fastidiously to their sound all the way from beginning to, well, present, in the case of Camel. Somehow Camel (Latimer...), despite heavy losses, have survived intact unlike so many of their contemporaries.

File under "ESSENTIAL!".

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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