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Camel - Rain Dances CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.60 | 880 ratings

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The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Camel and Jazz Dance Together

Camel had entered ''the fall of Prog'' period in a slightly different manner than most Prog bands had; Genesis with And Then There Were Three moved to a simpler Prog style; Yes with Tormato, made a vegetable disaster, while not Pop, it was quite lacking of their epicness and the sound overall was horrid; ELP was messing with orchestras and finally concluding with a total swift in musical direction with Love Beach; Pink Floyd was still in their gold period, however, they were changing too to a darker realm dominated by Waters; Gentle Giant was doing no good, and so on. Camel, on the other hand, while they had diminished their "prog quotient", they still featured their melancholic sound plus new features like up-lifting melodies and very jazzy rhythms.

Camel brought new members for this record, but not ANY new members, these were Richard Sinclair, "the voice of Canterbury", with his beautiful voice and great bass playing, and Mel Collins, a well-recocgnised sax player from the Prog world. These inducted their obvious main influence to Camel's music, which is Jazz (Fusion), even though Camel always had a jazzy touch due to Peter Bardens' organ style.

So Rain Dances is made up with a fairly new sound compared to Camel previous works. You got the clear Moonmadness/Snow Goose melancholic and proggy roots, as well as some, expected, mainstream influences, but what really stands out and makes this album worthy is the jazzy touch.

The popular Highways of the Sun is an ingenious mixture of the freshly acquired mainstream sensibilities and jazzy ones, making a fairly enjoyable song, and actually very impressive for being a single.

Then there's Unevensong, which is certainly uneven because it can easily be divided in two different halfs: the first half being the mainstream part compromised by a Supertramp-esque keyboard riff with a very jazzy bass and rythm, while the other half of the song features a Floydish melancholic moment for a while which then turns out to be a decent guitar solo with the rhythm section backing up greatly.

The opener, First Light, while featuring some up-lifting melodies which make it feel pretty mainstream, it still is a fantastic instrumental with some very notable instrumentation, specially Peter's echoey and spacey keyboards.

Yes, that's as much as the mainstream sensibilities go, which as you may notice they're not even present in a whole track all-through, so there.

Then you got the totally Fusion-esque tracks. One of These Days I'll Get an Early Night being one of my favorites Camel tunes, it opens with a simple though grabbing rhythm made by Richard and Andy, Peter soon enters with his so pleasant spacey keys and then the instrumental really begins together with Andy's melancholic guitar playing. The tune stays with that rhythm all-through while some of the musicians start to solo; Peter delivering an incredibly up-lifting keyboard solo which has a bit of groove; Mel Collins soon follows and delivers a fantastic solo too; finally Andy finishes the show greatly with his guitar.

For more Fusion-alike, the other instrumental entitled Skylines, with it's killer bass line and showing a vast improvement over Andy Wards' drumming, though the main attraction is the impressive performance of Bardens' synths. This should definitely please any jazz fusion lover.

Then finally, there's some hope for die-hard fans of Moonmadness, with the tunes Elke and Tell Me, both played in a slow and melancholic manner, even the flute makes a reappearance in both.

Metrognome however, is a mix of Camel's prog roots and the new jazzy side. The first half being melancholic, but not necessary slow, while the second half is a masterful jazzy instrumental part, in the strength of Skylines and One of these Days I'll get an Early Night, with again a killer bass line, as well as great sax playing, and finally ending up with a sparkling guitar solo.

As for the last track from Rain Dances, the title track, I never understood what was it's purpose. It's a decent instrumental orchestrated by Peter's keyboards, but it really doesn't fit the album's either jazzy or slightly mainstream style.

All in all, an easy album to get into and a difficult one to rate since it's definitely not the Symphonic Prog Camel people are accustomed to, since Latimer's guitar is by all means less frequent, Bardens killer organ is gone though replaced by very nice floating keys and synths, while Ward's drums are great like in Moonmadness, nothing spectacular, but he knows what to do when and how efficiently. As for the new members, Sinclair and Collins, they definitely contributed a lot and made this Camel album what it is, a smoother and groovier Camel, but never taking off Camel's original brilliancy for composing and playing, and that's why the result is great and unique, something that will not happen with the following record, Breathless.

A very unexpected 1977 release which is nonetheless an excellent Camel album due to having achieved a fairly new sound while still maintaining Camel's instrumental and compositional strength and uniqueness. Fans of Moonmadness' jazzy features will get a great kick out of this.

The Quiet One | 4/5 |


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