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Camel - The Single Factor CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.65 | 536 ratings

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1 stars I just don't get it. The Single Factor is generally considered to be Camel's bid for mainstream, radio-friendly commercial success. Now, I can get the radio-friendly and mainstream angle; these short, poppy tracks are both. But how anyone could have expected tepid, unfashionable soft rock like this to attain commercial success in the New Wave era is absolutely beyond me. Perhaps someone believed there was a market for an unenthusiastic-sounding Andy Latimer singing soft rock ballads for the terminally tasteless, but whoever it was must have failed to look at the pop charts for the five years preceding this release. It's not badly performed, but it's dreadfully badly conceived - Latimer and the record company must both have known that the prog audience would reject this one, but exactly what audience were they trying to win over with it? It's baffling.

UPDATE: OK, after trying to revisit the album and give it an honest try, I still can't think any better of it - however, having done a bit of background research, I can at least understand why it is the way it is. You see, this is the first album after longtime drummer Andy Ward left Camel, and what wasn't generally known at the time (and has only become apparent in later years with the blessing of all concerned) is that Andy's departure was precipitated by his attempting suicide, after his struggles with drugs, alcohol, and the stresses of life on the road had a terrible effect on his mental health.

Under the circumstances, I can see why songwriting for a new Camel album would have been the absolute last thing on the mind of Andy Latimer or any of the other friends and relations of the band who came together to make this album - but not only did the record label seem disinclined to give them any time off, they actually demanded that Latimer set his sights on producing a hit single! I can't really blame Latimer for turning out this weird collection of nonsense under such circumstances - particularly since there didn't seem to be a single, stable Camel lineup at this point (all the songs are performed by slightly different lineups, with at least one being a Latimer solo piece) - and it's perhaps fairest not to hold The Single Factor against Camel.

The irony of it all is that Andy Ward's next stint behind the drums would be a brief spell with Marillion - who, the same year that The Single Factor came out, showed that a prog band *could* have a hit single if they didn't water down their edge too much with the Market Square Heroes, and then the next year showed that the good old-fashioned prog album still had commercial legs to it at that with Script For a Jester's Tear. Perhaps this showed Decca/Deram the error of trying to water down their prog acts too much, because Camel were given a free hand to produce the more prog-oriented Stationary Traveller next...

Warthur | 1/5 |


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