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Camel - Harbour Of Tears CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 640 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars My great-grandparents made this same journey. Having been inundated with real Celtic music as long as I can remember, I am unduly critical of "Irish-flavored" music (of which recent history can give us many examples, including some improbably popular dance- oriented shows). So it was with foreboding and heightened critical faculties that I first put this on. The beginning almost convinced me that I needn't have worried; the opening pieces ring with respect for the long traditions and adds sparing modern embellishments that rarely conflict. Flowing from unadorned and authentic voice to soaring instrumental accompaniment, "Irish Air" draws you into this tale which the title track gently and sadly defines. "Send Home the States" is authentic both lyrically and musically, with just a hint of rock heaviness to expand the palette. "Under the Moon" develops the singing guitar work even further, and "Watching the Bobbins" finally establishes the modern sound with perhaps a nod to PINK FLOYD's post-"Animals" sound. Slightly less enjoyable musically, the narrative is still emotionally moving as the desperation hinted at begins to take definte shape. "Generations" into "Eyes of Ireland" encapsulates the Irish feeling of expulsion from Eden as well as I've ever heard, and brings to the mix some backstory and sense of time passing. "Running from Paradise" is a left turn into the upbeat, admirably attempting a modern Gaelic dance feel, followed by a softer segment that returns us to the bittersweet end of the spectrum in "End of the Day". The downfall of the album begins to become apparent on "Coming of Age", which to its credit adds an instrumental urgency that increases the impact of the dramatic moments. True to the name, this is a crossover piece, where the Celtic and modern elements meet head-on- though the music becomes somewhat less than the sum of its respective parts. The second and third-generation of Irish immigrants drifted away from their roots, but few of us should be characterized by the bland soundtrack- style of much of the remainder of the album. Finally, "The Hour Candle" resolves the tale with melancholy, expressive (almost bluesy) guitar, a completely modern crescendo and then ultimately a reprise of the a cappella opener. I am left unsatisfied, as if the promise of the first half of the album was too strong for the comparatively average conclusion. It's not a heartbreaking failure- the good parts weren't that magnificent and the bad parts weren't embarassing, simply lackluster. It's hard to judge this album; I want to give CAMEL the credit they deserve but I think they bit off more than they could chew. A concept album is an incredibly hard thing to pull off- even PINK FLOYD could barely make "Dark Side" without sticking in some filler here and there, and this is more personal and much less cosmic in scope. The narrative avoids becoming pretentious or preachy, but also tapers off halfway through- either they intended the music to conclude the story, which is never truly achieved, or they simply ran out of ways to finish the story. But why on earth didn't they incorporate the classic fiddle-and- bagpipe intricacies of Celtic music with the characteristic instumental complexites of progressive rock? If you enjoyed "Lord of the Dance" or its imitators, this is a big step up; if it's real Gaelic music you want, there are hundreds of modern practitioners that are much more authentic. If you want to hear real Irish heart with a rock sensibility, THE POGUES are incomparable. If you like successful pairings of traditional and progressive rock influences, a better choice would be JETHRO TULL's "Songs from the Wood" (despite the fact that the influence is much less Celtic).
James Lee | 2/5 |


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