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Camel - Rajaz CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 786 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Soothing Ethnic Guitar Clinic

Camel's Rajaz is an album I put on more often than many in my growing prog collection. However, the part of me fed by this album is very different than the part that enjoys Yes or Frank Zappa or even the classic Camel albums. This is an almost ambient piece of chillout music featuring some of the tastiest guitar ever recorded. The closest approximation I can think to this mood is Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms." This is NOT a Camel record in the mold of their 70's prog works, it is its own entity.

Superficially, this sounds like an Andy Latimer solo record. While the guitars are singular, up front, and beautiful, many of the other instruments are strictly supportive. In fact, many sound as if the guitarist himself had programmed base tracks for his solo instrument in a home studio. Many of the drum beats, especially, are almost electronically stiff, and I suspect Latimer's credits in percussion are actually programming. Certain tracks (notably the great lead track "Three Wishes") employ obviously live drumming, and have a much more energetic feel as a result. Similarly, contrasting the balance found in early Camel, here the keyboards clearly take a back seat to the guitar.

Even in the beginning, Camel was a pretty mellow rock and roll act, but this album is more like a Mike Oldfield outing for much of the listening experience. Latimer does, however, have many subtle tricks up his sleeve to keep the interest going and keeping this album from becoming a snooze fest. This includes middle eastern tonalities, which find their way into many of the tracks. Some times this is quite obvious and sometimes subtle, but they allow a broader note choice that keeps at least this ear attentive. The vocals break up the long instrumental sections nicely, and Latimer's skills have improved somewhat over the years. Similarly, subtle prog elements including meter changes, keyboard soloing, and non- standard chord progressions all find their way into the album in small doses. Rather than defining the music, however, the prog gives what could have been another guitar solo album a much needed boost in musicality.

The lead guitar is clearly what deserves the most attention. Latimer's touch on the fretboard is among the best in rock. He's often compared to Gilmour, but other than touch and subtlety being their signature charateristics, the two players have fairly distinct voices. Latimer's palette is a fair bit wider, his tone a little more uniform, his technique flawless. Though he uses almost no flash, Latimer's playing hints at a more complex dexterity that simply isn't appropriate for this collection of music. Any guitarist looking for a lesson in expression, musical choice, and articulation would find a great resource in this album.

I recommend this album to guitar players, fans of ambient flavored rock, and anyone who needs a musically skilled piece of chillout music. I would rate it at 3+ stars but not enough to reach the classification of "excellent prog."

Negoba | 3/5 |


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