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Camel - Rain Dances CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.60 | 874 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars "Rain Dances" is probably a concept album, since the passage of time is too well synchronized here to be accidental. However, the real idea behind the record seems to be a commercial smoothing over of CAMEL's previously prickly progressive coat. Hiring bassist/vocalist Richard Sinclair (ex-CARAVAN) to replace Doug Ferguson and adding saxophonist Mel Collins (ex-KING CRIMSON) to the proceedings would, on the surface, portend a more progressive direction. Collaborating with Brian ENO on the haunting instrumental "Elke" also suggests artistic intentions (ENO's always served as the Good Housekeeping Seal of avant garde integrity in my book).

But CAMEL writes actual songs this time, conventional structures that suggest ALAN PARSONS PROJECT or PINK FLOYD in their sleepy vision: "Metrognome", "Tell Me", "Highways of the Sun". Sinclair takes most of the vocals, achieving the same humble state that seems to be a shared acquirement among all CAMEL members (I can rarely tell who's singing a CAMEL song at the time). It's not a radical departure from past excursions, with the usual soporific prog pixie dust scattered throughout in "First Light", "Tell Me" (which suggests a cross between "The Snow Goose" and 10CC's "I'm Not In Love") and "Unevensong".

Yet CAMEL was clearly embarking on a path away from prog's excesses, eschewing long instrumental passages for quirky pop songs (the same direction Anthony PHILLIPS and Steve HACKETT were moving in) and light fusion. It was a path many prog groups would follow, from GENTLE GIANT to GENESIS, and CAMEL manages to do it without trading in their original principles. Unfortunately, in the crossing the immortal state of grace is lost, and the albums that followed seemed human, imperfect. "Elke" is the only track that reaches back to the realms of Heaven, and even so it's a different place than CAMEL alone would have conjured (the haunting tones of "Discreet Music" are the working reference point). Peter Bardens' magnificent organ solos would no longer weave their old magic (only two tracks here feature organ), and another mystic queen or white rider wouldn't be on the horizon. Before striking too elegiac a tone, it's important to note that "Rain Dances" can't be reckoned a disappointment, since CAMEL still seeks counsel from the old oracles for inspiration. Subsequent records would make plain just how much magic remained on "Rain Dances".

daveconn | 4/5 |


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