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Camel - Harbour Of Tears CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 622 ratings

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3 stars HARBOUR OF TEARS is a somewhat schizophrenic, uneven offering from 2nd-rank (in terms of chronology -- not quality) English prog stalwarts Camel. This 1996 concept album blends traditional Celtic flavours with a classic, keyboard and guitar-driven prog sound to tell the sad tale of the Irish emigrant experience, and therein lies the inconsistency.

HARBOUR OF TEARS is an ambitious work that seems unsure whether it is Celtic or progressive. What we have here is a would-be wedding of progressive rock and Celtic/British traditional, but, for my money, this marriage of musical forms has been much more harmoniously executed in the past by bands like Horslips (especially on their classics BOOK OF INVASIONS and THE TAIN), and even English "folk fusion" acts Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, who draw more upon straight rock sensibilities for the non-trad component of their sounds.

Some of the material here, such as the lovely opening "Irish Air," would not be out of place on a modern Celtic compilation; some, such as the instrumentals "Cobh" and "Generations," with their rich orchestration, sound much like a film soundtrack; while more, including the heavily-accented "Send Home the Slates, " and the fine Floydian-guitar tinged "Watching the Bobbins," are a mélange of "trad," prog, and film score-like music. There is certainly beauty and power within, and some moving lyrics, but for my tastes, the disparate flavours never quite coalesce into a unified whole. This is an album well suited to your CD player's "program" button -- with the tracks you select depending upon whether you're feeling more Celtic or "proggish." If you are craving pure, pompous "symphonic" progressive rock, I can heartily recommend the instrumental tour de force "Coming of Age." From its infectious and rhythmic string-section intro, to its soaring, cutting guitars and uplifting Genesis-like keyboard themes, this is as good an arrangement of latter-day prog as I've had the pleasure to hear. Crank this one up -- it's majestic! (The album closer, "The Hour Candle," with its fine lead work, continues in much the same vein, before reprising the "Irish Air," but its "ending," which -- as fellow reviewer Maani noted -- takes the form of some fourteen minutes of gull and ocean sounds, can safely be skipped by all but the most sentimental of coast-craving, land-bound sonic sailors!)

Throughout their long and distinguished history, Camel have released albums that fit more solidly within the progressive rock field than HARBOUR OF TEARS. Nonetheless, there is still much that merits the attention of prog and Camel fans here. While less than cohesive, it is yet good music, and when firmly grounded within its genre -- as on "Coming of Age" -- it is very good indeed. Worth checking out.

Peter | 3/5 |


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