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Camel - Rajaz CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.06 | 817 ratings

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4 stars Whether one likes Camel or not is really irrelevant in any Progressive discussion, the band having fully established its credentials, as few groups can boast of a nearly 40 year successful career in any genre. They have released some classic records that are prog monuments, tossing in a few rather shoddy affairs as well as some that are in between (I for one love "Stationary Traveler", more for context than content really, as the German Democratic Republic was one of history's strangest anachronisms). In recent times, the eloquence of the Dust & Dreams/Harbor of Tears and Rajaz trilogy deserves some recognition, once and for all. The lads certainly proved the nay-sayers wrong, fruitfully creating music at a time when prog was in its death throes. Of the three, this is the masterpiece Camel album, a glorious voyage that fully encapsulates the Latimer vision; set in awe-inspiring serene artwork (the entire package is perfect) and seasoned with spirited playing that manages to convey the harsh desolation of the desert , the glorious stamina of the dromedary and the essential quest for oasis. "Three Wishes" conjures up impressions of finding a lamp that needs a rub and the apparition of the proverbial genie that grants three wishes (Interestingly, the parallel with the Irish Leprechaun who also grants 3 whims). Latimer is one of very few guitar masters who can squeeze multiple emotions with a minimum of notes and do so convincingly and he does so here with unrestricted aplomb. If you are a melody enthusiast like me, you will appreciate the spellbinding pursuit of melancholia that Latimer seems to invoke at will. "Lost & Found" bravely showcases what many perceive as Camel's Achilles heel: somewhat bland vocals from the leader himself but it's a small and picky caveat as he is no Steve Howe! In fact, the storyline is rather gloomy, highlighted by the spooky guitar insinuations that weave nicely with doomy cello runs, fitting nicely into the caravan of songs. "The Final Encore" is another extensive sonic platform for Latimer to make his guitar swoon, while returning keyman Ton Scherpenzeel (who has a fear of flying disorder) colors the arrangements with sultry synths, tumbling organ rolls and occasional Arabic motifs in the percussion. Both bassist Colin Bass and athletic drummer Dave Stewart complement the songs brilliantly, easily one of the most dynamic rhythm section in prog. The title cut is an extravagant piece of temperamental music, cello way upfront and Latimer's profound vocal lament leading by example, delicate flute interventions, acoustic guitar along for the ride. When the main guitar-bred melody enters, marshaled through by expressive drums, the goose bumps appear by some enchantment, revealing a precious prog moment that soars avidly when the extended and seductive guitar solo undulates majestically. This is really sexy prog music, ideal for a loving encounter where body fluids are exchanged with passionate zeal. Kind of explains why Camel has so many female fans! "Shout" is the archetypal accessible song, sweet and simple almost to the point of fragility. There are no saccharine moments here though, as the maturity comes shining through with great ease. "Straight to my Heart" has a bluesy tune with a slow slide guitar intro that is closer to Eric Clapton that David Gilmour, the haggard vocals recalling some past heartache, the ravishingly painful solo hits the gut hard. There is no fretman that can equal the emotion Latimer instills in his notes! "Sahara" is another patented dreamy Latimer instrumental with palatable virtuosic panache, exuding exotic musical distillations in a somewhat arid symphonic landscape, expressing vacillating emotion and timeless expanse. Some may say that this will put you asleep, I guess then they have never felt the hypnotic stupor of the desert, lulling you into the unexpected! When the searing solo slashes through the dense storm, the mirage of sameness vanishes in an instant, revealing the immense granular universe. "Lawrence" is a fitting closer, a resourceful piece garnished with sumptuous sensation, a musical nod and wink to that famed adventurous fool so magnificently portrayed by Peter O'Toole, again proving how "soundtrack-ish" Camel's music really can be. The minimalistic orchestral dynamics are somehow richly symphonic, sonically illustrating a rather complex story about a prophet in the wind, swallowed by the ruthless sand. The hallowed Fender Strat cast a spell that is grandiose, majestic and legendary, the definition of good prog and Rajaz certainly delivers in spades. 4.5 silky dunes
tszirmay | 4/5 |


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