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Camel - The Snow Goose CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.29 | 2093 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars I'm amazed at how some will rate a CD lower simply because it's instrumental. I just don't get that. I grew up listening to prog rock, jazz and classical in equal doses and don't mind all instrumental works. Some times a work of art doesn't require the spoken word to get the point across. To make some analogies: Intrumental works are like paintings and photographs while vocal works are like novels.

But the vocal vs instrumental argument I will leave for another time. For now, let's get on with the review of the Snow Goose.

This is my first, and only Camel CD. Please take that into consideration when reading my review.

I've had this CD in my collection for a year and have listened to it at least a half dozen times. There is something about it that I just don't like. Hard to put a finger on it, but after listening to it last night I think I can summarize it.

It's "bland"; simple as that! It's a sterile recording with very little depth. Sure, the musicianship is there and there are excellent passages throughout, but the production is very weak. The instruments sound very thin and could have been recorded with deeper reverb in order to give the overall production a larger, more regal sound.

Arguably, someone may say that short, in your face reverb is more intimate and may have been the effect that the band was trying to achieve. Pehaps that was the case. If so, then that is where I have a problem with this recording. I have nothing against so-called "intimate" recordings. For some acousitc jazz an intimate recording style is almost always protocol. Nothing like listening to a saxophone that sounds like it's right in your face! However, for a supposed prog-type recording the intimacy factor simply doesn't work for me.

A good portion of my listening is done via headphones and without having to listen really hard I can discern that instrument placement on this recording is of the old-school variety(listen to any of the Beatles records and you will see what I mean). The following formula abounds throughout the Goose: left channel keyboards, right channel rythm guitar, center channel drums and bass. Occassionally an instrument will venture toward the center when it's doing a solo.

What's wrong with that approach? It leads to VERY THIN recordings. Of course, we don't want to hear instruments bleeding over in full stereo all of the time, but when it comes to crecendos or climaxes it is much more effective to have the insturments appear wider in the stereo field. One easy way to do is to NOT pan them full right or left on the mixers. It's a very elementary recording principle and one that seems to have been ignored(whether purposely or not) on the Goose.

If it sounds like I have a problem with the production, well, yes I do. Very much. It sounds like Camel was trying to produce a jazz record. Nothing wrong with that, except that it's not jazz. It's a jazz-like production of rock music; and that simply doesn't work.

For instance, if you were to listen to the Pat Metheny Group's American Garage CD you will see the total opposite of what Camel did here. With AG, the PMG offers a rock sounding record from jazz material. How do they pull it off? The instruments were mixed in a much wider stereo field and the reverbs are thicker, giving the music a larger, cohesive sound(part of the ECM school of recording). The Goose uses so much instrument separation that it makes the overall effect much too lean and weak.

On the other hand, the soft, intimate and muzak-like esthetic of the Goose lends itself perfectly as a vehicle for introducing children to the world of progressive rock. It's soft enough that it won't shock their senses, yet intricate enough that it will prepare them for the more challenging works of the genre.

I cannot give this CD anything more than three stars because I think it falls short of being an essential recording.

jrfernan | 3/5 |


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