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Camel - Rain Dances CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.60 | 913 ratings

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3 stars Whilst the best part of Camel's career ended at 'Moonmadness', 'Rain Dances' was certainly no lightweight. The accusation that this album is 'commercial' in sound is quite false. In fact 5 out of 9 of these tracks are entirely instrumental, which adds up to 23 minutes: more than half the album! Also, Caravan's Richard Sinclair was to join Camel's ranks, lending his instantly recognisable voice to the songs. All in all, quite an exciting prospect! Let's analyse this opus track-by-track.

First Light was clearly written to be an album opener. This 5 minute instrumental completely delivers. The song structure is surprisingly simple by Camel standards, but the melodies are fantastic. For those expecting a cheesy pop song on this supposedly 'commercial' album, then you will be pleasantly surprised by this.

First Light segues neatly into Metrognome, which is quite a quirky little tune. We get to hear Sinclair sing some rather cryptic lyrics in the first half of the song, before it completely changes to a fun instrumental. It's a very odd little song, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Tell Me is more melancholy in nature. The music is dominated by keyboards and bass guitar, with a flute solo appearing halfway through. This song is not very proggy, and unfortunately not very interesting either.

The most commercial song on this album is Highways of the Sun. With a shamelessly poppy feel to both the verses and the choruses, the experimental instrumental makes this song slightly more musically interesting. If you're looking for a guilty pleasure song though, this might just be the song for you. On a side note, the 2009 reissue of this album mistakenly titles this track Highways To The Sun, which sounds like a far more interesting song!

After the extremely poppy feel of Highways of the Sun, Unevensong returns Camel to a very proggy sound. There are many time signature changes in this strange track, and many mood changes. Whenever I listen to this, I'm always pleasantly surprised by actually how good it is, technically and musically. The quibble I have with this song is that the lyrical parts are rather unmemorable, and thus the song is less enjoyable, but the outro to this song is a very good reason for listening to it.

That is, in fact, the last vocals you'll hear on the album. The final four tracks are all entirely instrumental. Commercial? I don't think so. First up is One Of These Days I'll Get An Early Night, an experiment in a jazzier sound. The track starts off in good form, and continues at it's leisurely pace for the entire track. We hear a keyboard solo, followed by a sax solo and finally a guitar solo, played over the same pattern. While the music is very listenable, there is little of 'prog' interest about this song.

Elke is a slow, ambient instrumental, which is augmented by Latimer's flute. This piece is very relaxing and pretty, but doesn't feel too progressive either.

What you want is excitement, and Skylines certainly quenches some of your progressive thirst. The track is played entirely in 3/4 with a triplet feel, so more like 9/12 perhaps. The sound is one that progheads will feel more comfortable with. The technicality of the playing is remarkable and the flow of the song is also great, but it is nowhere near as gripping as First Light.

Rain Dances is a light instrumental that uses the same theme from First Light as it's outro. This gives a more cohesive feel to an otherwise directionless album. This track is quite pretty, but not very interesting.

Although 'Rain Dances' is not as commercial as some people give it credit, it does have a few flaws. Firstly, the album feels quite directionless, as if the band are once again trying to find their sound with their new bandmates. Secondly, all the instrumentals lumped at the end of the album does not help, as it makes the album feel lopsided. Finally, I can't quite put my finger on why these tracks sound generally less interesting than those on previous albums. The great musicianship is there but the compositions really don't excite me, although in my opinion, First Light is just as amazing as anything the band ever did. There are enough good moments to make this album a worthwhile listen, but this is a band on decline.

baz91 | 3/5 |


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