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Camel - Moonmadness CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.38 | 2195 ratings

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4 stars After the ambitious but largely successful 'The Snow Goose', 'Moonmadness' showed Camel returning to a more conventional prog rock sound. Indeed, this album and 'Mirage' show Camel at their proggiest, whilst 'The Snow Goose' puts the 'symphony' in symphonic rock. However, whilst 'Mirage' sounds more rocky, 'Moonmadness' has a very airy spacey feel to it, largely due to Barden's keyboards. It's good to hear them return to the technical playing heard on the first two albums again.

The worst track on the album is unfortunately the opener. Aristillus is one of the most annoying instrumentals you'll ever hear, with squeaky squeaky keyboards and a stupid bouncing riff. Good news is it's only two minutes long.

Song Within A Song actually sounds more like two songs stuck together. It's very easily to split this track in half, one part including all the vocals, and the second being the 4 minute instrumental at the end. It is an extremely beautiful song, and the instrumental is spectacular. There are more subtle time signature changes scattered around as well. One of my favourites off the album.

Chord Change, like Six Ate, Arubaluba and Earthrise is another Camel instrumental lying in the six to seven minute range, and it sometimes gets confusing to remember which is which, as they all have similarities. I suppose the major difference with Chord Change is that, whilst the other three end with themes heard near the beginning, this track doesn't recycle used themes but instead evolves as the piece goes on. The beginning of the song is misleadingly energetic, because most of the track is extremely relaxing. The majority of this song is extremely pleasant. However, because none of the themes are reused, this track lacks direction. It also fades out at the end, which seems highly arbitrary for an instrumental track. One wants to ask 'Surely you could have faded out at any point. How come you couldn't finish the song?' Listening to live versions reveals that they didn't really have a very good ending at all. This is my least favourite of the "Six-minute Camel instrumentals".

Spirit Of The Water is one of the few songs where I prefer the demo version over the album version. The demo of this track is just Peter Bardens performing this song alone on the piano, and it sounds beautiful. On the album version, there is a slightly annoying flute playing intermittently and the vocals have had special effects done to make them sound watery. In most cases, voice effects are bad, and this is no exception, as it takes away from the acoustic feel of the song. A slight disappointment really.

Another Night is another of my favourites from this album. This might be because it's not airy or spacey at all like the rest of the album, which probably says something about me as a prog fan. This song is similar to Never Let Go in structure: a pop song with a long instrumental and a guitar solo outro. The 'pop song' parts of this song are great! The melody is very catchy and also in 6/8. The instrumental is in some bizarre time signature that I've found impossible to count. The whole song rocks and is extremely enjoyable. For those listening to the bonus tracks, there is also a single version of this song. However this isn't your normal run of the mill shortened single edit. It becomes evident upon listening that the song was completely rerecorded (except maybe the iconic guitar solo at the end) in a shorter format. The middle instrumental sounds really different here. Because of this, the song completely works as a single version, as Camel were able to rewrite it as a short song. Genious!

Latimer's flute opens what is undoubtedly the most beautiful track on the album. Air Born is a soaring peice, with beautiful guitars, keyboards and flute. For the long spacey instrumental, an interesting use of time signatures is made: listening closely shows the instrumental is based around a 4/4 + 5/4 + 4/4 + 4/4 structure.

The longest track on the album Lunar Sea is an extended prog rock instrumental work out. The track title is a play on words: 'Lunar Sea' sounds like 'lunacy' and hence the connection to the title of the album 'Moonmadness'. Beginning with some very spacey keyboards, this song starts to get exciting after the 1 minute mark. When the band do come in, they are playing in speedy 5/8, so we know this is going to be good. After the 5/8 section there is an epic keyboard solo, lasting around 2 minutes. Following is some stunnnig guitar work, played in 5/8, which might just be Latimer's most impressive guitar solo. All too soon though this track dissolves back into the spacey keyboards heard at the beginning, and finally to the sound of wind (overused prog cliché much?) Definitely one of Camel's better instrumentals.

Sadly this was the end of an era for Camel. Following the completion of this album, bassist Doug Ferguson would leave the group, to be replaced by the very famous Richard Sinclair, changing their sound forever. As it stands, this album is a must-have if you've ever liked Camel, but there are a few poor moments. Between the first three albums, Camel did not score a single one-star rating in over 1500 ratings! Unfortunately, they failed to score a home run, as the number of one star ratings is 1% for this album. Shame! Moonmadness is Camel's last truly progressive album, before they took a more commercial route. Housed in a striking gatefold sleeve, this is a wonderful example of progressive rock.

baz91 | 4/5 |


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