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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2778 ratings

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3 stars Though I am sure most of you think we do not need yet another Mirage review, for some time I have wanted to have a go at what most people hold as Camel's finest hour, and a masterpiece of prog rock. The forums are full of dedicated fans of the band, who see them as one of the best, most influential acts of the original prog movement - even better than such undisputed giants as ELP. Well, I am sorry to say that, to put it mildly, I do not share their views, even if I am quite familiar with the band's output. I do own a number of their records, and listen to them relatively frequently, since there are times when you'd rather not go for Univers Zero or The Mars Volta - but this is not really a compliment in my book, especially if you call yourself a prog fan.

Don't get me wrong, Camel are a very proficient band in a technical sense, and have a keen ear for melodies and atmospheres. Their music is definitely pleasant and soothing to the ear, and flows smoothly without demanding too much from the listener. Andy Latimer is one of those so-called 'emotional' guitarists (much like Pink Floyd's David Gilmour) that go for the heart rather than for the throat, and the late Peter Bardens knew a thing or two about creating ethereal, moody textures with his keyboards. Three out of four members were adequate enough to take on singing duties, although the vocal department is the one in which Camel, in my opinion, are most lacking. It is really a wonder how, when the golden-voiced Richard Sinclair joined them in 1977, they didn't exploit him fully, having him share vocal duties with Latimer - who may be a great guitarist, but is certainly not the most gifted of singers.

Seen the huge number of reviews posted before mine, I will spare my readers a totally superfluous track-by-track analysis, and go for the bare bones. The original edition of Mirage is comprised by five tracks, while the remastered editions contains an additional four tracks, two of them taken from their self-titled debut album (Mystic Queen and Arubaluba). Of the original five songs, two can be termed epics - the Tolkien-inspired Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider, and Lady Fantasy, probably the best-known offering on the album. They are both well-constructed, multi-part compositions, featuring vocals and instrumental flights in balanced proportions, richly infused with Bardens' atmospheric keyboards, and unfortunately Latimer's dull, droning vocals, as well as his tasteful guitar work. Personally, though, I find opener Freefall the most interesting song on the album, being far more energetic and dynamic than the others. The instrumental Supertwister is also a pretty nifty slice of music, further enhanced by the lack of vocals (always a sore point with the band) and the presence of the flute, also played by Latimer.

Now, I'm sure many will think this is an overly harsh review. After all, if Mirage is in the site's Top 100 (and has been for ages), there must be some reason... As the saying goes, different strokes for different people. While I am partial to music featuring lots of melody, especially when my brain is in need of relaxation, I don't think Camel represent best what progressive rock is really about. Seeing them as one of the most important bands of the original prog movement may be a question of personal taste, but in my opinion means having a somewhat skewed view of the whole phenomenon. Prog was not meant to be inoffensive, or offer highbrow takes on elevator music. By all means, enjoy Camel, love them to death even, but don't come here and state that they are the best prog band ever. Even love should be able to look at things with some impartiality...

That said, Mirage is far from being a bad album, and one that most prog fans can enjoy- at least when they are not up to anything more demanding. As for myself, I would give it three and a half stars, but since the half star rating has not been implemented yet, I'll stick to three. Nice music, but no second coming of prog, that's for sure.

Raff | 3/5 |


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