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Camel - Total Pressure - Live In Concert 1984 CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.06 | 40 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars A not so totally successful live DVD

Total Pressure is a re-release of a previously released live video (called Pressure Points) originally filmed and recorded on the tour in support of the Stationary Traveller album in the mid 80's. There is also a live album from the same show. The set list consists of almost the full Stationary Traveller album, though not in the same running order as the studio album and with some songs from other albums played in between the Stationary Traveller tracks. Stationary Traveller was a fine album, but hardly one of Camel's very best albums. In my review of that album I said that Camel's best albums are their first four and their most recent four, and that what they did in between was of varying quality. Stationary Traveller is, however, probably the best album they did in those in-between-years. The other albums represented in the main part of this show are Nude, The Single Factor and I Can See Your House From Here all from those uneven in-between-years. This means that the performance under review here is almost entirely focused on material from 1979 to 1984, hardly Camel's better years! There is, however, an encore consisting of two tracks from The Snow Goose and the show closes with the classic Lady Fantasy from Mirage.

As I also said in my review of the Stationary Traveller studio album, the best songs from that album are the instrumentals. This is also true of this live recording. The show opens with an instrumental from Stationary Traveller, called Pressure Points. This track features the amazing guitar sound of Andy Latimer. Stunning guitar work! They then move on to play three songs from the Nude album, with the instrumental Captured being by far the best. We then get five songs from Stationary Traveller in a row and this is easily the weakest part of the show for me. The instrumental title track being the best of these five songs and here Andy Latimer plays a pan flute to great effect and further stunning guitar solos. I do, however, prefer the studio version of this particular song as it has lovely acoustic guitars missing on this version.

Sasquatch is taken from The Single Factor and is another instrumental that has become a mainstay of the band's shows. Wait is taken from I Can See Your House From Here and is the oldest song played until the encore. It is a basic Pop song and as such is not one of my favourites. Two further songs from Stationary Traveller follows before the encore.

With the exception of Pressure Points which is considerably extended and improved here, the tracks from Stationary Traveller are quite faithful to the studio album. But I generally prefer the studio versions of these songs over these live versions. The performances of the Stationary Traveller tracks are rather lifeless, actually. The tracks from Nude, The Single Factor and The Snow Goose, on the other hand, are actually better than their original versions in my opinion. These songs have a bit more punch compared to their original studio versions (that this reviewer finds a bit subdued). And when the band plays these songs, they seem to live up and the performance adopts a whole new dimension and energy!

The band consists of six people plus two guests. As many as four different keyboard players take part in this show (including Peter Bardens who makes a guest appearance on some tracks)! Ton Scherpenzeel of Kayak does a good job together with Ritchie Close and vocalist Chris Rainbow who also play keyboards. However, the stage presence of these keyboard players is close to zero! The performance of Close and Scherpenzeel feels like "a regular day at the office" for them, basically.

From a visual standpoint this version of the band is rather dull. Andy Latimer himself is the most charismatic person here and even if I love the man very much, I must say that he is not really a show man. Though it is fun to watch him play - his "clown faces" and all. This version of Camel is just not a very visual band, but were they ever? Don't get me wrong here though; I personally like bands that concentrate on playing their instruments instead of doing a lot of unnecessary theatrics. But they must put effort and emotion into the performance! Which they do, occasionally! I really feel that when they finish the last track of the night from the Stationary Traveller album (suitably called Long Goodbyes), the whole band feel relieved. And during the encore, when they play a section from The Snow Goose, the whole show gains a lot in energy and enthusiasm. This is the intensity they should have had all night!

One problem I have with this video is that the cameras are almost never where the action is. The camera men almost never manage to film the one who is playing the most interesting passage at the time (or the angles are simply badly chosen). This is confusing, to say the least! The whole thing is badly filmed; you never really get an overview of the stage. When Peter Bardens is introduced for the encore, for example, they don't even show him walking on stage! I don't think there is more than one single shot at Bardens' face! I have never seen such a badly edited concert film. The picture quality is also not the best, but it is, after all, the music that counts.

The DVD also features some bonus tracks (in slightly worse picture quality). Musically these are good, but visually they are dispensable. Here you get another number from The Snow Goose; Unevensong from Raindances, Hymn To Her from I Can See Your House From Here and the classic Never Let Go from Camel's self-titled debut album. You also get a short but interesting video interview with Andy Latimer filmed at the time.

To sum up. I am a bit disappointed with Total Pressure. But I definitely still enjoy it despite its considerable shortcomings (that lie primarily in the visual aspect and the heavy reliance on material from the Stationary Traveller album). The live album called Pressure Points which features this very same show, though not all of it, is actually preferable over this DVD as some of the weakest tracks from the show has been cut and the album actually flows much better! As the visual aspect is not very strong here anyway, I would actually recommend to go for the live album in this case (that I rated with four stars!).

Total Pressure is still a good DVD despite some obvious flaws, but it is certainly not the best Camel DVD out there (and it is, as I said, not even the best official release of this very same show despite the fact that it is more complete). The more recent live DVD, Coming Of Age, is simply extremely much better in every possible respect compared to the present DVD! Coming Of Age is also a much better video introduction to Camel as it features tracks from the mid 70's to the mid 90's (with a performance of the excellent Harbour Of Tears album in its entirety!).

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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