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Camel - The Snow Goose CD (album) cover

THE SNOW GOOSE

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

4.27 | 1555 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Australian
Prog Reviewer
5 stars For me "The Snow Goose" is just one of those albums that sticks with you for your entire life, you all know what I'm talking about. This album in my eyes is an absolute masterpiece and goes beyond description for me.

Camel decided to attempt another concept in their music, after the success of "The White Rider" in Mirage. Keyboardist Peter Bardens suggested "Siddhartha", and some songs were written before the idea was trashed. Another book by the same writer, "Steppenwolf" was also suggested but this concept proved unworkable for the band. Finally, bassist Doug Ferguson suggested the short story "The Snow Goose", which the band accepted. Peter Bardens and Andy Latimer went to a cottage in Devon to record the album in peace, they worked extensively to create something good. After coming off the fairly successful "Mirage", which charted number 149 in the US and slightly higher in England, the band decided to stay in America and do some shows in clubs and small theatres. From this the band gained some further recognition and consolidated their American audience.

The album is based on a short story by Paul Gallico called "The Snow Goose." The book is about a man named Philip Rhayader, who is a recluse and lives in a marsh and tends to birds. He was suggestibly a World War 1 solider and he is looked upon as odd in the surrounding area because of his deformed appearance and claw-like hand. One day a young girl named Firtha comes to Rhayader's house with a wounded bird. Rhayader determines it is a Snow Goose from Canada and wonders how it got to England. Over the next few months Firtha and Rhayader tend to the wounded bird and become friends, until one day the bird migrates, leaving Rhayder once again alone. The bird returns and Firth comes to visit Rhayader once more. Rhayader gets news of English soldiers pinned down by German forces on the beach at Dunkirk and he goes with his boat to rescue as many as he can. He manages to bring many boat loads of men to safety before being killed, the Snow Goose stays with the body of Rhayader until a group of English men find the boat.

The Album was initially intended to have narration, but the writer of the book, Paul Gallico did not allow the band to have lyrics as he was against smoking and the band was produced by a cigarette company. Hence this is why the album is actually called "Music inspired by The Snow Goose."

"The Snow Goose" opens with the appropriately named track, "The Great Marsh" which depicts where the recluse to Rhayader lives. The song begins very quietly with the quacking of various birds and soft piano chords before moving into a more melodic passage spanning around forty seconds. The song is sets the scene of the story very well and captures the atmosphere of the marsh.

"Rhayader" is next up and is obviously the song for the character. Considering his status and reputation among people around him, his tune is very happy. It consists of an opening flute melody played over the top of an underlying keyboard melody. The song them moves into a much more upbeat section with steady bass and percussion and a continuing flute melody. After the flute solo comes a guitar synthesizer solo from Latimer which then, in turn lead to a repeat of the opening theme. The song then connects directly to the next song.

As "Rhayder" fades out."Rhayder Goes to Town" Begins as the two songs, like the entire album are joined together. The song begins basically consists of some repeated themes on a variety of different guitar and keyboard synthesizers. One theme in particular is repeated many times before leading into what is a very good guitar solo around the 2:30 minute mark. This solo moves away from the repeating melodies and is just a great moment in the album, the solos spans basically the rest of the song. The character Rhayder goes into town every so often to get supplies, hence Rhayder goes to town.

"Sanctuary" is a very brief song and it is intended to sullen the mood of the album as the song is very beautiful. It is basically acoustic guitar, overlayed with a very mellow electric guitar melody. It is a very calm and peaceful song and it is slightly different from the jazzy "Rhayader Goes to Town."

"Firtha" Leads on perfectly from the previous track, and it is similarly structured to it. This time the tune is slightly faster and instead of being overlayed with an electric guitar, there is a synthesizer. "Fritha" describes the character Firth from the book.

"The Snow Goose" is quite a mellow tune and then entire song is a slow guitar solo with snippets of synthesizer and bass here and there as well as a steady drum beat. This is one song which is hard to appreciate first listen, it takes some time to "get it." The song describes the bird that Firth brings to Rhayader's house in the marsh.

Contrary to the last few songs, "Friendship" is a "happier" song and it is depicts the friendship between Rhayader and Fritha. The song is made up of a few wood winds, Bassoon, Oboe and clarinet I believe. The instruments seem to answer each other and create a very warm atmosphere.

"Migration" is the first of the songs with word less vocals; both Latimer and Bardens sing the lyrics less vocals. The song is happy, just like the previous one, probably more so. The song is tinged with synthesizers and the bass and percussion is strong here. The title requires no explanation.

With the migration of the snow goose, Rhayader becomes lonely again as Firth does no visit him anymore, hence why the song is called "Rhayader alone." It is quite a mellow song and follows the same vein of the quieter songs near the beginning of the album with mellow keyboard chords and lush guitar.

"Flight of the Snow Goose" begins with a synthesizer and guitar part gradually increasing in volume until finally and new theme comes in. This melody reminds me somewhat of the tune from "Rhayader Goes to Town", although here it is notably faster. There is also a splendid synthesizer solo which is then followed by another repeat of the main melody.

"Preparation" is probably the most monotonous song on the album as it consists of a very odd synthesizer and percussion rhythm which is repeated over and over. it is also the only instrumentation of the song. There are some more lyrics less vocals in the background by an unknown vocalist. The song describes Rhayader's preparation before he attempts to save the men stranded at Dunkirk.

"Dunkirk" is the longest and most progressive song on "The Snow Goose" and it features very strong symphonic traits. It features many very interesting instrumental passages played on guitar and synthesizers as well as bass and drums, of course. It is very fascinating listening to the different movements in the song. At Dunkirk Rhayader is able to save many men from the beach, before he is killed.

"Epitaph" is an echo of "Preparation" and is the song that indicates the death of Rhayader as he attempts to save the men stranded on the beach at Dunkirk. Nothing much else to say about this song other than it's essentially a repeat of "Preparation."

When Rhayader doesn't return, Firth soon discovers that he had died. She goes back to Rhayader's house and looks after the birds in his stead. "Firtha Alone" is very brief and simple, but it is a very sad.

When Firtha sees that The Snow Goose had returned, she is overjoyed and names it La Princess Perdue, which is where the name of the song comes from. The song is perhaps the best on the album and it sums up the last forty or so minutes of amazing music. Unfortunately, Rhayader's house in the Marsh is destroyed by German aircraft and Fritha returns to the swamp to find the house completely destroyed, all evidence of Rhayaders' existence is now gone.

The album is ended with a repeat of "The Great Marsh", only this time the song gets gradually softer opposed to louder. The song fades away, as all the evidence of Rhayader is washed away.

1.The Great Marsh (4/5) 2.Rhayader (5/5) 3.Rhayader Goes to Town (5/5) 4.Sanctuary (4.5/5) 5.Firtha (4.5/5) 6.The Snow Goose (5/5) 7.Friendship (4/5) 8.Migration (4/5) 9.Rhayader Alone (4.5/5) 10.Flight of the Snow Goose (4.5/5) 11.Preparation (4/5) 12.Dunkirk (5/5) 13.Epitaph (4/5) 14.Firtha Alone (4.5/5) 15.La Princess Perdue (5/5) 16.The Great Marsh (4/5) Total 71.5 divided by 16 (number of songs) = 4.46875 5 stars Essential: A Masterpiece of Progressive Music

Truly an amazing album from anyone's perspective, what's not to like about it? It is certainly the pinnacle of Camel's career and a gem of progressive rock music. Camel decided to go on a more lyrically based approach with their following album, "Moonmadness" and left "The Snow Goose" unspoiled. I'd recommend "The Snow Goose" to all prog fans as I believe it is an absolute essential to everyone's music collection. If you have read this far, then you have a longer attention span than me.

Australian | 5/5 |

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