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Canamii Concept album cover
2.96 | 32 ratings | 6 reviews | 6% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Afrock (3:17)
2. The Phantom Players (2:54)
3. Spiral (4:05)
4. Rain (3:57)
5. Come and Fly (4:57)
6. Toccata (1:28)
7. And the Moon Be As Bright (3:37)
8. Children (2:49)
9. Feelings (4:06)
10. The Jester (2:22)
11. The Duel (3:12)
12. Tri (3:45)

Total Time 40:29

Line-up / Musicians

- Philip Nel / keyboards
- Paul Woodley / guitars
- Claire Whittaker / vocals
- Mickey Woitynek / guitars
- Ashley Kelly / bass
- Herman Eugster / drums
- Kendall Kay / drums
- Tony Moore / drums
- Tim Kensella / vocals

Thanks to windhawk for the addition
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CANAMII Concept ratings distribution

(32 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(6%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(25%)
Good, but non-essential (50%)
Collectors/fans only (12%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

CANAMII Concept reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars 'Concept' is a pretty obscure offering from South Africa that was the brainchild of EMI studio engineer Philip Nel and technician Claire Whittaker. Apparently Nel fancied himself another Alan Parsons and since he had ready access to a quality studio and a large variety of keyboards he decided to crank out an album in the late seventies. Whittaker was chosen for her vocals and because she and Nel had formed, as is explained in the liner notes, a "musical and emotional bond". Right.

While this record was actually released in 1980 it clearly bears marks of very heavy seventies influence which, to be fair, Nel and Whittaker readily admit to. Whittaker claims to be inspired mostly by Annie Haslam and Kate Bush. You can certainly hear a lot of Haslam's vocal mannerisms throughout including the tendency to articulate a lot of vocal strength and emotion, but within a relatively limited octave range. Bush was quite different from that of course, and Whittaker doesn't have anywhere near Kate's range although you can hear a touch of inflection that calls Bush to mind in the middle of "Come and Fly" and the beginning of "Feelings", and Whittaker seems to be attempting the same sort of syncopated, almost percussion-like singing on "And the Moon be as Bright" that Bush would master on 'The Dreaming'. Claire's voice is a bit wispy at times and she certainly is not in a class with either Haslam or Bush but she is very competent and at times manages to even form her own style on tracks like "Children" and "Jester" (although on "Jester" she does manage to remind me just a little of Clare Grogan of Altered Images). She's also been compared to Sonja Kristina of Curved Air but really I think that's more a reflection on the compositional style of the music than her vocals.

Nel names ELP, Yes and King Crimson as his main influences. That doesn't mean anything really except that it marks him as a student of serious seventies prog since just about every serious student of seventies prog claims to be heavily influenced and inspired by ELP, Yes and King Crimson. I personally hear almost nothing that sounds like Crimson on this album, but the lengthy and rather ambitious keyboard passages could easily be attributed to listening to too much Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman as a youngster. "Come and Fly" in particular has grand ambitions but like all the rest of the songs on this album ends far too soon to be a proper progressive work and reinforces an impression that the band had great ideas but not quite enough musical talent to explore them fully. Check out "The Phantom Players" for another example where the band just starts to get going around the 2:30 mark before inexplicably fading to black right in the middle of what should be a transition into a lengthy keyboard/guitar instrumental passage.

The other artists on the album are friends of the band, local Johannesburg artists who were asked to help flesh out various tracks although Paul Woodley does appear on every song and was apparently asked to be an 'official' part of the "band". I say "band" in quotes because again Nel fancied himself another Alan Parsons and ended up never leaving the studio, so this group would disband not long after the project and never appeared as a live act anywhere.

As far as the music I would be inclined to file it in a large pile of other b-list progressive rock acts from the seventies who had access to studio time, instruments normally reserved for much more well-heeled bands, a little time on their hands and dreams that exceeded their abilities. I would do this, except that these guys hailed from South Africa and at the time that country was a bit of a musical incubator, definitely fostering life but in a way that tended to insulate it from the rest of the musical world owing of course to the apartheid movement and fairly universal ban on touring both inside and outside the country. As a result just about anything that came out of South Africa from that era came out in small quantities with no promotion, and tended to sound somehow just a little different than anything else at the time. The same is true of Freedom's Children and Hawk, the only other South African bands from the same general era. Because Canamii aspired to emulate some of their musical heroes but ended up doing it in a pretty different way than the other seventies prog clones, I'm going to say this is a very good record worth seeking out, a high three out of five stars and recommended if you can find it.


Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This 1980 release from the South African band Canamii wasa one off. Whilst I pick up definite leanings to symphonic prog, the general consensus is that they are a better fit for crossover. Either way it is fantastic to see them here on prog archives. The music can be best described as a hybrid sound of Renaissance and Santana but with some excellent classical influence. Claire Whittaker is a good vocalist, not in the same league as a certain Annie Haslam but she does her best on providing pleasant vocal overlays, " The Jester" is a fine example of her ability. There are three drummers credited to " Concept", hence the Afro/jazz rock feel and Santana references. Many similarities with latin American styles.

" Afrock" is agreat introduction to the Canamii sound as is the end instrumental " Tri". For other highlights check out the melancholic " Rain", " Children" and " Feelings" I remember when this was first released on vinyl in South Africa. It was like a breath of fresh air especially as prog as we knew it was waning. There again we did have Steely Dan's Gaucho released in 1980 too as well as Duke so from an overall prog perspective and on reflection a great year. Highly recommended album. Three and a half stars. Great all round musicianship but the vinyl will be extremely hard to come by.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Now this is the kinda crossover prog I can wrap my arms around and warmly embrace. Canamii's Concept lives up to its title by unashamedly representing the size, breadth, ambition and absurdity of longwinded, high-envisioned rock. Founded with thick walls of synths and organs and sporting Claire Whittaker's spritely voice ~ South African and bearing the dated "AfroProg" label ~ it is (or was) a thing to behold.

Almost ceremonial in tone, this rockestra manages to do what so few actually did in the Prog Era: produce a genuine concept LP in all its distended pomp and overdone flash-bang atmosphere without taking it too seriously. And why not; Begun in 1977, finally released in '80, it was still an acceptable time to do this kind of thing without being laughed out of most venues (though time was running out fast). Not that I know or care what the "concept" is-- with an album like this, it doesn't really matter. What's important is the project itself: the album is the concept, and that's what counts. 'Afrock' bubbles-up gurgling, congested cataracts of Korgs; 'The Phantom Players' reminds of Electric Light Orchestra, Styx, and even Babe Ruth now & then; 'Spiral' baroques a bit and a distinct David Bowie influence begins to show in Tim Kensella's singing and the sultry use of saxophone. 'Rain' is negligible but okay folky romance, 'Come and Fly' backs it up with a well-timbred Folk lament, and ELP's 'Toccata' is attempted. 'The Duel' is an interesting look at hand-to-hand combat from a female perspective, and 'Tri' finishes as a desert-roving instrumental with a bit of Latin heat.

I don't know if I'd recommend this one, maybe because I don't know who I'd recommend it to. But it sounds great, the leaders having had full access to EMI's vast playground of sound sculpture, and the luxury to take their time which may've been an advantage. On the other hand, rock tends to blossom when conditions are less than ideal. It is what it is.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars Inspired by the concept of the ALAN PARSONS PROJECT as well as artists like KATE BUSH and RENAISSANCE, keys man Phil Nel and vocalist Claire Whittaker assembled skilled hired guns from the South African scene of the end of the 1970s and produced this one-off recording of uniformly pleasant and accessible progressive pop. Apart from Whittaker's sultry voice, Nel's keyboards are the predominant instruments, warm synthesizers that bathe the arrangements, a musical salve for those difficult times. The at times soaring guitars of Paul Woodley and Mickey Woitynek and the bass of Ashley Kelly also predominate and accentuate the appealing melodies, one of the best of which is "And the Moon be as Bright".

Sadly the loose aggregation never took to the stage, and no sequels were forthcoming. I'm not sure if they were aiming for epic with "Concept", and, while they do fall a few notches short of that stature, this toned down quality also suits the era where only the dinosaurs seemed unaware of their imminent extinction. Interestingly, the Alan Parsons Project attained their commercial pinnacle a few years later with this leaner approach and, of course, a whole lot more financial backing, a concept that remains familiar to this day. Recommended to fans of this style.

Review by Menswear
3 stars Obscurity Madness!

I love prog obscure/forgotten/nobody-gave-a-crap albums. It's like a itch, you just can't stop. This time, South Africa gives us a nice addition, starting with art cover that SCREAMS progressive rock. Just lovely. I heard this album on YouTube, and yes, I was immediately attracted by this Moonmadness inspired artwork. Hmmm, who are they?

When it comes to the music, it's basically Philip Nel who writes and does keyboards. And good keyboards at that. He paints nice soundscapes with lush and colorful lines. Extra good melodies at times, he crosses to pop many times, reminding me the same song approach of Alan Parsons and Curved Air. The first 5 songs are just so catchy and atmospheric, my heart was pounding with excitement.

And then my heart rate went normal.

As it went, the material began to curve strangely towards ELP for a quick time, then back to a poppish hybrid beast of Camel- Ramses-Abba. The times changes are not the most subtle, and why on earth does the fade-out starts when she's still singing? Some songs deserved more love and would've made good, if not great, longer cuts. Anyway, very good first half and wishy-washy second.

Overall, a very British sounding record that will not change your life but still holds a certain dose of charm. A congenial obscurity.

Latest members reviews

2 stars I stayed very curious about the work of the South-African band CANAMMI, first because I can't remember of much progressive rock bands originals from this country ( in fact at this moment I don't remember none) and second due the year of album release 1980 for some people "The Dark Ages" of p ... (read more)

Report this review (#1329470) | Posted by maryes | Sunday, December 28, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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