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Camel - Lunar Sea - An Anthology 1973-1985 CD (album) cover

LUNAR SEA - AN ANTHOLOGY 1973-1985

Camel

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars This is the seventh attempt at collecting the best Camel pieces onto one release, and being the newest, this is the only one I've seen in stores in these few recent years that I've known the band. The two cd's contain material from all the Decca-released albums in chronological order, and as a bait for collectors an unreleased version of Lady Fantasy recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra on the same occasion as the live rendition of the Snow Goose found on A Live Record.

The first disc concentrates on the Doug Ferguson era, the first four albums that are usually regarded as the golden age of Camel. From the self titled debut we get the classic Never Let Go, which is an obvious choice having remained in the band's live set for pretty much every tour ever since, and the opening track Slow Yourself Down, which is a nice choice too. I myself could have gone for Mystic Queen instead, but it's nice to open with a little more uptempo numbers. Next we have two tracks from Mirage, the first five star masterpiece. Freefall could have been replaced with the instrumental Supertwister, but hey, five star albums only contain fantastic tracks. Nimrodel/The Procession/The White rider was the song that turned me on to Camel, so it would be a personal insult to leave it out. Fortunately nobody needs to be accused of such a thing. After four vocal tracks comes the instrumental theme album The Snow Goose, and the opening threesome does a very good job of presenting it. Listen to the flute and bass melodies of Rhayader, ahh, pure perfection. Then we go back to Mirage in the form of Lady Fantasy. This live version has a very urgent tempo especially in the intro, and the symphony orchestra adds a nice flavor, but in my opinion nothing really special. A nice curiosity to own, though. The era ends with four fantastic selections from Moonmadness, thankfully leaving out Another Night, the only very slightly weaker track from that album. Stress on the words "very slightly", that's still a great five star album.

Disc two collects the rest of the Decca material, and opens with the only real mistake the compilers made. Two very mellow tracks from Rain Dances don't really give a realistic picture of that album, and don't fit as the opening pieces back to back. They are both very good songs and high points of the album, but one of them should have been replaced with a more uptempo piece like First Light or Unevensong. After Rain Dances Camel released a couple of weak albums, but they still produced a couple of good tracks for the compilation. Echoes and The Sleeper are nice choices from Breathless, and next comes I Can See Your House from Here, where this could have gone really badly wrong. Thank goodness they didn't make the same ugly mistake that many compilers have done before by including Remote Romance, the only real crap track from the Camel catalogue, seriously one of the worst songs in the history of mankind. Instead we get the stunning Ice, probably the best Camel instrumental ever, and Hymn to Her, the other fantastic track from that sub par album. Three cheers for the compilers! Nude was a welcome improvement after a couple of years of mediocrity, but it's a bit strange that even though the album was mostly instrumental, all three selections contain vocals. I would have replaced the very good but a bit overlong Lies with a good instrumental piece like Docks or Captured. The Single Factor was an album Andrew Latimer didn't want to make but was forced to by the record company, and it's no surprise that the only track from that effort is the only track the band has since played live, Sasquatch. While I personally enjoy the album quite much, this song is all a newcomer needs to hear. Camel's times with Decca ended with Stationary Traveller, from which we get a surprisingly large number of songs: four, though West Berlin is a live version from Pressure Points. Luckily the choices are again very good, from the highlights only Fingertips is missing.

Despite the one slight mistake this compilation gives a great look at the Camel's pre-90s career. If you need an introduction to this brilliant band's world, look no further.

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Send comments to Pekka (BETA) | Report this review (#113243)
Posted Friday, February 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After a couple of essential live albums such as "A Live Record" and "A coming of Age" (an "Andy Latimer trademark"), you can resume his remarkable career by means of this interesting anthology, whose title is clearly dedicated to their best "Canterburian" album "Moonmadness" and moreover you can look into the choice of a few songs from "The Snow Goose", perhaps the best style of Canterbury if you exclude the albums by Hatfield & The North or Gong - in a more jazzy mood. Anyway I prefer the early works by Camel in comparison to several works by Caravan for instance (even though "In the land of grey and pink" by these latter is good...); nevertheless Latimer has reached his maturity by means of the recent studio albums of the nineties (above all "HARBOUR OF TEARS" and "Dust and Dreams") being aligned with his famous executions on stage ..."The hour candle" for instance is exceptional both in the studio version and in the live work "A coming of age", unlike "Stationary Traveller" or "Ice" within the present anthology (especially in the section regarding the 80's period, being less interesting in comparison to the live format of "Pressure Points")... Anyway, coming back to this "L.S." Anthology, in my opinion Andy was able to communicate better his feelings and his passionate style too in his famous 70's live gigs, rather than in the studio albums of the same period, but it's a minor question. The present collection enriches your data base of melodic prog - also inspiring recent new prog bands from the UK such as Pendragon - and for me that's enough!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#132158)
Posted Tuesday, August 07, 2007 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Camel banged the gavel down to make a statement of prog like no other band.

This anthology covering their career from 1973 to 1985 is as good as it gets if you want to dip your toes into the water to paddle through the repertoire of this important symphonic prog band of virtuoso musicians. Barden's keyboards are inspirational but the real star is Latimer on vocals and guitar. The spirit of Camel resides in these artists, though it can never be underestimated the power of Ward's accomplished drumming and Ferguson's pounding basslines. Together they were untouchable, pure magic and there was never a lineup like them in early symphonic prog.

It is in chronological order beginning with tracks from the debut such as the creative 'Never Let Go' and my favourite 'Feefall' with dominant keyboards and odd time sigs. Short blasts of drums and keys merge with melodic verses to create an atmosphere of immense tension, that surprises as it twists and turns in various musical directions. Latimer's guitar is ever present and he rips out some searing lead breaks. The time sig changes are ubiquitous on each track and the innovation and creativity on this debut is astounding.

On 'Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider' Latimer's guitars are upbeat and his flute is cheerful and charming. These talents are balanced by orchestra sections giving the work an overall epic majestic quality. The juxtaposition of orchestra and rock instruments works perfectly. At times there are subliminal vocals, no actual words, but more sounds that compliment the tracks.

'Rhayader Goes To Town' is definitely a highlight, featuring on many Camel compilations, and includes enormous keyboard motifs that stab in stoccato riffs, and all is augmented by the blazing guitar solos from Latimer. "The Snow Goose" is one of the best Camel albums make no mistake.

The main drawcard of this compilation are the live tracks, namely the epic multi-movement suite 'Lady Fantasy' featuring Latimer's vocals and scorching guitar solos. The melodies are compelling and the epic flows from section to section seamlessly, bookended by Latimer's main lead guitar motif. Ferguson's bass and Barden's shimmering keyboards throughout each track are accomplished musicianship. A tri-part work of genius that never fails to be compelling and astounding.

'A Song Within A Song' is a 7 minute exploration of time sig changes and incredible musicianship; one of my favourites. Others from "Moonmadness" are 'Spirit Of The Water' and 'Air Born'.

'Lunar Sea (Live Version)' is a 9 minute well performed quintessential Camel that ends the first CD on a high note. It has become a staple of the Camel live concert and always sounds perfectly and innovatively performed. The best of Camel is right here on this CD.

CD 2 is interesting as this is some of the lesser known Camel material from their 80s albums such as "Breathless" and "rain Dances". The changes in their approach to music are quite remarkable. It is not a good change as there is nothing here of classic recognition rather it is solid prog, with nothing standing out to me. It is enjoyable music and the highlights are 'Echoes', 'The Sleeper', 'Ice' and 'Stationary Traveller'. There is a live version of 'West Berlin' and it ends with 'Long Goodbyes'.

I still think it is good to hear the journey of Camel from 70s legends to 80s survivors. The booklet is replete with interesting information on the history of the band and lots of photos. An informative read giving an insight into the longevity of the group. Overall the anthology is a fairly good replacement for buying every album of the band especially following their classic albums, but I must admit even if you do get these songs you are well advised to still get their first 4 albums as an example of some of the best symphonic prog on the planet.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#284711)
Posted Thursday, June 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Andrew Latimer is a very expressive guitarist, and the highlights of this CD (in my opinion)are those instrumentals which are dominated by the soaring sound of his Les Paul, such as Lunar Sea and Ice: both of these are classic Camel instrumentals, where the guitar is understated to start with, but becomes more and more passionate as the piece progresses, taking the music to a new level of intensity. Superb!

The Snow Goose material is another highlight: it has more of a classical influence than some of the other more jazz-orientated material, and some solid melodies, for example Rhayader.

Instrumentals were Camel's forte as they never had anything approaching a strong vocalist: in fact some of their material starts promisingly, only to be scuppered by half-hearted vocals. To be fair, tracks such as Slow Yourself Down do manage to bear repeated listening and grow on you...

I rather like the songs from their 1980 album Nude, despite their synth-drenched 80s production values: they are relatively well sung (Latimer again) with thoughtful lyrics. It is a shame that the instrumentals Docks or Beaches (from this album) are not included, however Sasquatch is here from the next album (The Single Factor). Cloak And Dagger Man from the Stationary Traveller album is an interesting attempt at a hit single, with a great rhythm!

To be honest, I think alot of Camel's music is a bit directionless, including some of the material here. At times they seem unsure of the sort of band they want to be, unlike their progressive rock contemporaries such as Genesis, Pink Floyd, even Sky, who were probably influenced by Camel as some of their music is similar in style, but generally more succinct. However, every now and then, they produced a thing of real beauty, and it is worth buying this CD for that reason. It cost me 3 from (erm) Tescos and I am certainly not complaining!

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Send comments to jcs (BETA) | Report this review (#567340)
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yet another Camel anthology for me to review. 2 CD's from 2001 with a really ugly cover. Camel is a band which needs to be listened in entire album format and not as a "greatest hits" packaging, But this is good for what it is. A great collage of Camel tracks covering their best years from 1973 up to the mid eighties. "Lady Fantasy" and "West Berlin" are live and the rest are studio tracks. If just starting on this band, LUNAR SEA is a good way to dip your beak into one of the classic bands of Progressive Rock music. 4 stars

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Send comments to mohaveman (BETA) | Report this review (#752853)
Posted Sunday, May 13, 2012 | Review Permalink

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