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Camel - Rain Dances CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.60 | 873 ratings

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3 stars Camel's fifth album Rain Dances saw a change in personnel with stalwart bassist Doug Ferguson having called time on his stint with the band. While his replacement Richard Sinclair (a founder member of both Caravan and Hatfield And The North) was arguably a superior musician, Raindance did mark the beginning of the end of Camel's classic phase. For as they searched for a new sound to restore their commercial fortunes, Camel put together a number of tunes that bore the hallmarks of the neo-prog sound that Marillion, Pendragon and the like would emulate a few years later. Despite the fact that it's not a sound I'm fond of, Camel's musicians are far too competent to bore me in the way that many of the lesser lights of neo-prog do.

Nonetheless this album really is quite a mixed bag. On the plus side you have the opening track First Light, a stunning instrumental in which Peter Bardens plays some really lovely synthy (as opposed to his usual organ) leads, guitarist Andy Latimer weighs in for a while and then guest saxophonist Mel Collins (the guy who played with anyone from King Crimson to Bad Company) swoops in to clinch the deal. There's also Highways Of The Sun, one of Camel's breeziest moments. It's actually their attempt at credible pop and may not sate your prog desires, but it sure is a light-hearted (and thanks to a gorgeous synthy mid-section ... not entirely lightweight) track that ought to lift your spirits.

There are also two beautiful instrumentals ... the laidback rather sad flute dominated Elke and the spacey synthy title track which is something that Tangerine Dream would have been proud of.

On the down side though, there are a fair number of songs I'm just not sure about. The jazz fusion instrumental One Of These Days I'll Get An Early Night for example contains a brilliant electric piano solo from Bardens, but is generally a dull piece. Skylines offers more of the same ... it's very fusiony, with mediocre solos from Latimer and brilliant daring stuff from Bardens (who seems to have been in fantastic form throughout).

Metrognome is probably the worst song on the album and is a typical neo-prog tune. Unevensong though is just what it's title indicates ... it starts off as a meandering neo- prog effort with tedious vocals and plods along until Bardens' keyboards take over at the two minute mark turning the piece into an exciting one which eventually reveals a lovely repetitive fade-out that is one of Camel's most beautiful moments. One of the most intriguing pieces here is Tell Me which is held together by Sinclair's bass and assorted brass. It's a moody piece that is quite un-Camel-like and my opinion of it seems to change every time I hear it ... although I quite dug it the last time I checked it out.

Because there are too many uncertain moments on Rain Dances, I can't quite recommend this album as emphatically as I have done certain others, but there is a little doubt that its many peaks do not shame the Camel name. Incidentally, my CD contains an edited bonus single version of Highways Of The Sun, which is punchier but somehow not quite as cheery as the album version. ... 64% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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