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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2779 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After a very promising debut album in which the playing was generally stronger than the material, Camel created their first artistic pinnacle with "Mirage". This album has all the best qualities a rigorous should expect and demand from a symphonic prog masterpiece: musical ideas full of genuine inventiveness and lucid ambition, well harmonized performances, amazing guitar and keyboard solos, eerie mellotron nuances and synth layers, a solid rhythm section that fluidly sustains the repertoire all throughout its shifts and variations, and of course, the quasi-mandatory two or three long epic tracks - in this particular case, two of them, 'The White Rider' and 'Lady Fantasy'. These multi-part numbers had been included in the band's usual live setlist from their early days, but it wasn't until now that they met their official recorded versions. 'The White Rider' is a dense sonic journey into the realms of a magical world (after all, it was inspired by an episode of Tolkien's opus "Lord of the Rings"), starting appropriately with an echoing arpeggio sequence on guitar upon which an eerie Mini Moog briefly expands some evocative lines; then, after a brief military match interlude, the main theme kicks off with a featured mellotron upon which the guitar and the oboe alternately slide in a delicate manner. The minimal lyrics delivered by Latimer are then followed by a brief flute passage, and then a rockier section that serves as the perfect foundation for some organ and guitar soloing. After a second brief sung part, the cosmic closing motif finds Latimer displaying psychedelic flashes on guitar while Bardens' synth and Ferguson's bass provide a disturbing background. The other long prominent track is my all-time Camel favourite composition: the 12+ minute 'Lady Fantasy' is, in fact, one of the best prog compositions ever. From the synth arpeggios that form the intro theme you get the sneaking suspicion that this is going to be really big. The attractive main guitar motif, reprised later for the closure, is one of the most emblematic and recognizable landmarks of prog rock history: it somewhat comprises the emotion of melancholy essentially inherent to the distance and illusion of platonic love. Both the rockier and the languid passages of 'Lady Fantasy' are delivered with amazing ease: the band feels truly energetic and comfortable while going through all the variations of theme and ambience. The soloing by Latimer and Bardens is very confident and sensibly elaborated, and Ward's drumming here is one of his best Camel inputs ever. Once the main guitar motif has been reprised and the final mellotron echoes have vanished, the listener gets the feeling that they have witnessed a musical epiphany of divine proportions. What about the shorter tracks? Well, they're great too. 'Free Fall' finds the band assuming a hard attitude over a jazz-oriented basis: Latimer's guitar parts are really harsh, though still immaculately crafted, while the rhythm section keeps a solid path a Bardens builds an effective bridge between Latimer and Ward/Ferguson with his organ, synth and electric piano. 'Supertwister' is a delicate Bardens-penned number dedicated to the guys of Supersister (close friends with Camel), where Latimer leaves his guitar in favor of his flute, displaying well articulated lines on the canvas of organ and electric piano drawn by Bardens. The final result is an amalgam of soft jazz and pastoral mood. The jazz thing is more intense, and at times more bombastic in the amazing 'Earthrise', a 6+ minute tour-de-force that rivals in energy and catchiness with some of the most accomplished passages of 'White Rider' and 'Lady Fantasy'. Overall conclusion: an absolute masterpiece, a classic that must be regarded as an obligated starting point for each and every prog novice and an item of worship for each and every prog expert collector.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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