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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2778 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review 28, Mirage, Camel, 1974


From my mini-Camel collection (the three 'classic' albums, at the moment), this is the one that I head for most often. Neither as artsy and inconsistent as The Snow Goose, nor as monotonous and lacking in testicular fortitude as Moonmadness, this album was my introduction to Camel. While I wasn't satisfied, really, with either of the follow-ups, I was with this album, even if I consider Earthrise a bit of a weak spot. Andy Latimer's vocals, the main caveat, I think, for Camel, satisfy on everything save Freefall ('sung' by Pete Bardens, instead), and the ideas are strong enough to keep interest throughout. Not a masterpiece, but a very strong effort, and worthy of any prog collection.

Whirling keys lead up to the stabbing bass-and-bass-pedals of Freefall, with Latimer and Ward providing some various jabs in. The song breaks out with a rather acquired vocal from Pete Bardens, with a pleasant combination of clean and gritty guitar-work from Latimer. Bardens gives us a few rather random-seeming hums on his organ, while the rest of the band keep varying the song. We get a few gentler and even more whimsical sections before returning to the martial drumming and walking bass with soloing guitar of the main vocal section. A great track for Ward's drumming, not so great for the vocals. However, the live version on the remaster of The Snow Goose is far more powerful in terms of impact.

Supertwister is rather more consistent for me, with its combination of bass, eclectic-drumming, flute, keys and organ gliding throughout a soft, sometimes slightly funky, sometimes beautiful 3.18 to a delightful end with a neat storm-in-a-teacup allusion. Great track.

The White Rider, first of the two long pieces on the album, is an entertaining, and interesting track. Unfortunately, its inspired-by-LOTR nature and use of classy lines such as 'Wizard of them all/Came back from his fall/This time wearing white' may not be everyone's cup of tea. The first section, Nimrodel, begins with an eery atmosphere, constructed carefully by Pete Bardens' synths and Latimer's guitar. Presumably Procession kicks in straight away, as I can't think of a more apt description for the brass-and-military-drums-and-flute of the following section of music. Great flute solo. After this two-part, and two-minute, opening, we can delve into some of the album's real meat, with a gorgeous guitar-part, surprisingly listenable vocals (if you can at least partially block out the lyrics), soulful mellotron and a range of uplifting flute solos from the multi-talented Latimer. After the gentle beginning, we are transported into a heavier section, with excellent, fast-paced drumming and guitar, a capable synth solo. Another stellar guitar solo brings us back to a calmer repeat of the vocal ideas, but with a gentle acoustic from Latimer and a good rhythm section of Ward and Ferguson. A little of the block organ that everyone seems to love (well, I certainly do) takes us back to a more mysterious section reminiscent of Nimrodel, with Ferguson rather taking the lead and Latimer, Bardens and Ward hurling in some superb variations. The swirling outro reminds us of the intro.

Earthrise begins with tingly percussion (the sort on Genesis' The Waiting Room or King Crimson's Formentera Lady) and a suitably wuthering effect. Masses of organ feature quite prominently on the song, as does an overly-funky and quite repetitive bass part. We get some very nice features, including a flamenco-esque tap from Ward, some rather capable rhythm section work, including a good, short drum solo. Several neat reversals of roles are included in the song, with Latimer and Bardens alternating between solo and rhythm playing, while Ward elephants (*coinage!*) all over the place. Some of the solos don't grip me, though, especially near the end and the start, and the track as a whole is the least interesting of the album.

Lady Fantasy is the album's highlight for me, with a combination of biting, versatile percussion, whirling moog and surprisingly edgy guitar launching off unforgettably into Encounter. Ferguson provides some excellent bass as the song slows down a little, whirling up. The vocals again, aren't appalling, and a rather chattery rhythm section and acoustic guitar combination don't fail to hold interest and provide a launching pad for an extended guitar solo. We get some interesting electric piano (I think, though it could just be more moog) through to the end of the vocal section, and presumably kick into Smiles For You with what must be 'tron in the background and Latimer providing alternately emotional and rather whimsical solos, including the amazingly beautiful guitar melody that I remember this song for. A gorgeous guitar solo leads us deeply into the second, highly emotive vocal-and-acoustic section, backed up powerfully by the rhythm section. After the not-at-all-sappy 'Oh my Lady you', Latimer and Bardens explode out into the stunningly high-energy Lady Fantasy with a burst of stellar guitar and moog, with Ferguson also standing out in his interplay with the two soloists. Ward crashes along behind them to bring the song back down to the main guitar melody and its gorgeous shimmering-mellotron conclusion. Just perfect, and managing to convey beauty and emotions while at the same time being good-humoured and even trivial. The Mirage in its purest form.

On the remaster, we get a lot of bonus goodies, including a delightful (especially the flute) live rendition of Supertwister, live versions (very enjoyable, especially Mystic Queen, but I'm not acquainted with the originals yet) of Arubaluba and Mystic Queen (both from Camel, I assume), before an alternate, slightly slower version of Lady Fantasy. Normally, I'm not interested in a single song enough to want to sit through it two times in a sitting, but here I usually let the album continue through the bonus material, just so I can listen to it again without feeling bad about skipping tracks.

All in all, a very, very promising effort, with enough daring and power to make the soft sections stand out (and vice versa). Latimer and Ward really manage to stand out, even if Bardens and Ferguson have a more mixed effect on me. The bonus material is extremely good, so doesn't annoy me, and Earthrise and Freefall alone provide some exposed underbelly for an otherwise extremely solid album. The two longer tracks are vital for a prog listener, so the album receives a well-earned four stars. Also, it's probably listenable enough for a new listener, and also will hold some interest for people like me who generally don't put too much stock in the other two Camel classic efforts, The Snow Goose and Moonmadness.

Rating: Four Stars Favourite Track: Lady Fantasy

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |


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