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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2778 ratings

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5 stars Not a Mirage - the Real Thing!

A masterpiece of prog if ever there was one.

From the punchy opening of "Freefall" to the sublime "Lady Fantasy", classic Camel at their very best! A cliche, maybe, but generally we use cliches because they work and, in this case, there's no other phrase that best sums up this wonderful album.

So, on with the smoking jacket, up with the volume, and pour a dram of the finest Scotland has to offer and relax as we take a journey through the rock machine that is "Mirage".

"Freefall" lives up to its title perfectly with twisting, turning, free falling chunks of pure magic, Bardens and Latimer duelling gently, Ward and Ferguson providing solid support and rhythmic counterpoint. As usual, I'm not too sure why Camel thought that lyrics were necessary - but the vocal lines are fairly amusing if you take them tongue-in- cheek as I'm sure they're intended!

"Supertwister" again shows the lengths Camel would go to dream up apt titles as it snakes and turns through various time signatures and keys, each one more breathtakingly beautiful than the last, Latimer picking up the flute for his Bardens challenge on this outing. The flutter-tonguing at around 1:30 has to be heard to be believed - you'd swear birds were flying out of your speakers! Somehow this track is only 3:20, yet packed with incredible ideas - you simply wish it were 10 times longer.

Then we open a beer in time for "Nimrodel" ;o)

A drop-dead gorgeous exotic sounding mellow opening raises the curtain for the bells and crowd noise of "Procession". I know nothing of how this amazing little mediaeval- style march was put together, but it's over too quickly, and "The White Rider" takes us on a spacey journey of discovery, replete with oboes and, of course, flute. There are unbelievably more twists and turns, key changes, surprise cadences and powerful melodies in this one track than on the average Genesis album... OK, I'm posiibly getting carried away, but words are not quite enough to describe the joys of this track, so what I've said will have to suffice :0). Have fun working out which literary figure is "The White Rider" (it's not hard).

If you have the vinyl version, then it's at this point you realise with utter delight that you have another side to go - but how could it possibly get any better?

The answer comes as soon as the needle drops - Camel are well into the prog groove on this album, and the classic "soft sixths" sound re-establishes itself after a twinkling spacey introduction, with Ferguson providing gorgeous fat bass as usual before revisiting the slightly funky groove the band established on the first album, and also the slightly darker, muddier textures - which work a lot better on Mirage than on the debut, showing a remarkable growth in the band's style. Latimer demonstrates how to noodle in reverse AND keep the noodling relevant to the music - is there no end to this man's talent? Bardens then demonstrates his equivalent keyboard skills to provide perfect balance. Just as you get to feel that this is pretty much free form, earlier sections are revisited, giving a satisfying structuredness to the whole composistion.

"Lady Fantasy" is neck-hair raising proof that the best was saved for last. I may have enthused about the earlier tracks on this album, but I cannot even begin to describe the sheer beauty of the melodies, structures, timbres, rhythm and harmony of this track... I can even overlook the melancholy vocals (never a highlight of any Camel song)... "Lady Fantasy" is packed full of moments that make me want to jump out of my cosy armchair and shout "Yeah!!!" - but fortunately I'm a restrained kinda guy, so won't subject you to that.

It's a Masterpiece alright!

Certif1ed | 5/5 |


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