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Camel - I Can See Your House From Here CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.87 | 620 ratings

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2 stars As far I'm concerned, this is where it went badly wrong for Camel. Sure the preceeding year's Breathless showed a distinct shift towards a more commercial style, but that album still contained many fine melodic songs like Echoes, Starlight Ride, Rainbow's End and the title track, and it remains a personal favourite. On this 1979 album however, Camel is often insipid and tuneless, with very little of group's established strengths showing through.

Of course one could lay the blame for this on the line-up changes that preceeded this album. Bassist Richard Sinclair had exited to be replaced by Colin Bass and far more importantly keyboardist Peter Bardens had also gotten off the Camel train. Yet his replacements were ex-Happy The Man keyboardist Kit Watkins and former Caravan ivory-tinkler Jan Schelhaas, so with this twin keyboard line-up there was no reason to fear the worst. Unfortunately the worst is just about what happened.

Half this album contains dreary, shorter pop songs that lack the melodic charm of Breathless' pop moments. These include truly awful tunes like Remote Romance (which has a plastic synthetic quality that seems to foreshadow 80s synth-pop), Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine and Neon Magic (which has some of the worst Camel vocals ever!). Despite Camel containing a number of great instrumentalists (and guest musicians Mel Collins and Phil Collins lending a hand as well) there aren't anywhere as many decent instrumental segments on this album as one would expect. I'd have to point to the admittedly excellent keyboard solos during wait (an otherwise frustrating song) and Watkins' orchestra-boosted instrumental Eye Of The Storm as being the main highlights here. And of course, there's Ice.

You may have heard decent things elsewhere about the two lengthy pieces Who We Are and Ice, but I'm not fully convinced by either. Who We Are has some classic Camel hallmarks with a bustling intro, atmospheric keyboards, seductive flute lines and that clean Andy Latimer guitar sound and yet it doesn't quite do the business for me. Like another shorter track Hymn To Her, it suffers from a lack of direction and certain critical ingredients that would turn it into a winning Camel classic. Ice starts off with a beautiful sparse guitar intro before evolving into a haunting, almost sombre Latimer epic solo before fading back out for another beautiful outro. It probably doesn't go enough places for a 10 minute prog piece, but still has that affecting melancholy one expects from Camel.

There are a few times during this album when it's tempting to pretend that Latimer and friends are still on song, but the truth is that something great ended the moment Peter Bardens walked out the door. I have the strange habit of returning to Breathless and playing its closing track Rainbow's End everytime I finish listening to this album, which is a sure-fire way of bringing a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. ... 36% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 2/5 |


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