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Camel - Breathless CD (album) cover

BREATHLESS

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

3.14 | 759 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars If Rain Dances had found Camel refurbishing their musical direction and absolutely capable of creating yet another prog masterpiece for their catalogue, the follow-up effort "Breathless" turned out to be a partial disappointment. The band's sound somewhat deviates from the increased Canterbury orientations that had been developed in "Rain Dances" (and used in the live versions of old material with support wind player Mel Collins, as it is shown in A Live Record) and fully returns to the intensely melodic drive that had signalled the band's earlier symphonic prog albums. Richard Sinclair didn't prove to be the determining influential force that he could/should have been, while the tandem Bardens-Latimer was falling apart at the seams before the eyes of everyone else in the band. Even before the album's actual completion, Bardens had announced his decision to part ways with the reast of the band. There was tension in the meantime in a high degree: proof of that is the fact that Bardens refused to play in the Sinclair-penned track 'Down on the Farm' (actually, it is a very entertaining song, very much related to the simplistic humorous side of Caravan, but actually not as inspired as what he wrote in the 'Waterloo Lilly' song, for instance). On the other hand, the beautiful closing ballad 'Rainbow's End' was written by Latimer as a kind farewell to his longtime partner and fellow musician. Of course, the creator of that special background that characterized vintage Camel sound deserved no less than a beautiful song as a parting homage. But before getting to this moving closure, there are other brilliant songs in this album. 'Echoes' is not only the album's highlight but one of the most brilliant Camel compositions ever. The dynamics and refined arrangements that solidify the links between motifs and tempo shifts cry out the echoing rumours of the "Mirage"-era, while Ward's drumming continues to provide that kind of swing that he eagerly explored in the "Moon Madness" and "Rain Dances" albums. More tracks like this, recapitulating the current and pre-Sinclair eras in a tight fashion, were what this album needed to be truly excellent. More focused on the jazzy leanings are the powerful instrumental 'The Sleeper' (still reminding us of Moon Madness in some specific moments) and the effectively appealing 'Wing and a Prayer' (this is the kind of Canterbury-friendly songs that Sinclair should have come up with in order to make his contributions really interesting). Also, the romantic eponymous semi-ballad and the pastoral-related ballad 'Starlight Ride' are eficient in their respective musical ambitions: sonic colorfulness delivered with melodic sensibility and a clear sense of elegance. I'm not so sure about what Camel intended to accomplish with 'Summer Lightning' and 'You Make Me Smile'. The former has an excellent guitar lead and magical multiple synth layers, the latter bears effective synth solos - granted. But all in all, these are indefinite pieces that apparently intended to create a ridiculous marriage of disco/pop and art-rock, ultimately failing. General balance: a very irregular album with two great tracks, a few good songs and some inane numbers that sabotage the repertoire as a whole. "Breathless" is essential to understand the evolving vision of Camel at a certain point of the band's history, not an essential album in itself.
Cesar Inca | 3/5 |

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