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Camel - Camel CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.96 | 1194 ratings

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3 stars A rather polarizing group is Camel. Nobody seems to dispute that they were considered a sort of second-tier prog group thoughout their career, but half the proggers out there think that they were criminally under-rated, while the other half think that Camel deserved to be lightly regarded. I'm in the former camp.

That said, this debut album by the classic Camel line-up of Latimer, Bardens, Ferguson and Ward isn't quite the place to begin if you're trying to convince someone of the group's place among the all-time greats. While it contains many good songs and a couple of great ones, there are a few factors that prevent it from approaching the heights that Camel would reach on subsequent releases.

The first factor is the vocals. A lot of people have derided Camel's vocal abilities, but I'm a fan and I think their songs normally suit the mellow, limited vocal styles of Latimer, Bardens and Ferguson (who share lead vocals on two songs each here). However on their first album, Latimer's two vocal spots are poor, particularly on the opener Slow Yourself Down and Ferguson also turns in a weak performance on Curiousity. (Incidentally, the record's liner notes inform me that Camel actually stopped recording at one point and spent three days auditioning for outside vocalists before deciding to stick with what they had!)

Another factor that drags this album down is that there are actually a couple of bum notes and misplaced harmonies running around this album, a sure sign that it was recorded in a hurry. But what really makes this album sound even more like a "trial run" is the fact that Latimer's had yet to develop his guitar style and didn't even play the flute on a single track.

Despite these lapses, Camel is a good album. It includes two stellar moments that remain among the finest songs Camel recorded ... Mystic Queen and Never Let Go. The mournful Mystic Queen, which features a lead vocal by Ferguson, sees some delightfully melodic Hammond organ playing from Bardens. And then there's Never Let Go, a pulsating piece which sees some lovely exchanges between Bardens and Latimer. Both pieces contain melodies that will never leave me.

The rest of the album contains a bit of exciting instrumental playing. Latimer almost sounds like Richie Blackmore during parts of Separation, and while Bardens shines at some point during virtually every song (his solo on Never Let Go is one of my favourites), it is their trademark exchanges that can really be intoxicating.

There's a point I have to make the CD bonus track on this album. It is a 19-minute live version of Homage To The God Of Light, a song originally recorded on Barden's debut solo album ... and it's a great track, full of confident free-form playing that showcased the extravagant talents of the quartet. It's shocking to think that it stayed in the vaults for 28 years! If this track had been on the original album, I might well have given it 4 stars. ... 61% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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