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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2778 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Surprisingly, this album is not a Mirage, it actually is THAT GOOD!

After releasing their promising - though slightly naive and possibly directionless - eponymous debut album (whose review I wrote only yesterday), Camel followed it up by writing Mirage which is regarded by many as their masterpeice, an opinion I wholly agree with. The artwork - a clever edit to the famous artwork seen on Camel cigarette boxes even today - is surprisingly NOT the first time a prog band were to use a cigarette box as their artwork! I am of course talking about Procol Harum's A Salty Dog, released in 1969, whose album cover is very obviously a parody of the Player's Navy Cut cigarette box. But I digress. Mirage showed Camel maturing very quickly, both musically and compositionally, whilst retaining some of the sound and spirit of the first album, to become one of the most recognised prog bands of the 70s.

The first track, Freefall, shows an uncompromising band. Despite the relatively low sales of their first album, they had chosen to continue in the style of writing on the first album, which was to keep lyrics to a minimum and instead execute extended structured instrumentals. There are a few time signatures flying around in this peice, and the playing is both technical and exciting. The instrumental is really complex, and very similar to the sound of their first album. As an opener though, I still prefer Slow Yourself Down from the debut.

Supertwister is a very light brief instrumental, in which Latimer, having already proved himself as an exceptional guitarist, now proves himself as a very skilled flautist. To excite all you progheads out there, there is an extended section near the beginning in 5/4. This is a very underrated track, as it is just so beautiful! Camel don't take themselves too seriously though, as the sound of someone opening a beer can and pouring is used as a coda to this wonderful peice.

The three part epic Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider (though I usually shorten this to The White Rider) is where the real meat of the album begins. This is another song to put on the long list of prog tracks based on J.R.R Tolkein's 'The Lord Of The Rings'. However, unlike the majority of these tracks, 'The White Rider' is extremely good. While most songwriters spend their time and effort trying to fit closely to the story within the song, Camel's opus is only very loosely related to the book. Nimrodel is the very first part of the track, which is a quiet keyboard solo by Peter Bardens. The Procession is another short piece, which builds in volume. It is based on a marching tune, and includes some more wonderful flute work from Latimer. The White Rider is then the rest of the track. The song starts with a short lyrical section, which quickly turns into a fast paced technical workout from the group. Afterwards, there is another lyrical section which clearly describes Gandalf the wizard, and finally an amazing 2 minute outro. All the sections of this song are absolutely perfectly composed and structured, with all the instruments sounding just right. This song leaves you wanting for nothing.

Earthrise, the opener to Side 2, is another of Camel's signature extended instrumentals. The opening shows a more spacey side to Camel, a direction they would take more on the 'Moonmadness' album. However, some of the rocky energy heard on the first album is also heard in this track. It's very much a crossover instrumental. As you can probably guess, this track also features more fantastic technical playing from all members of the group.

The White Rider is perfect, no question about it, yet it is not the best track on the album! This honour of course goes to the final song, Lady Fantasy, another epic that is labeled in three parts (although where these parts begin and end is mainly up to the listener). When I first bought this CD and played this track, it was love at first sight. While most tracks usually take me couple of listens to get into, 'Lady Fantasy' had me enraptured from start to finish. For twelve minutes and forty five seconds, all I could think was 'I love this and I can't wait to play it again'. That feeling followed me, and it quickly turned into one of the most played tracks on my laptop. While the novelty has sadly worn off, I still love this song just as much as when I first heard it. This was their longest song for many years, and definitely their most iconic and most well known song.

So what is it that makes Lady Fantasy just so good? Firstly, I'm going to say listen and find out for yourself, as I really cannot do this magnum opus justice, but for those of you who want to see me struggle at it, here you go (you horrible people). Well I'd say the first thing that grips you is quite simply the intro, which is one of the heaviest sounds the band ever made. Fans of Yes or other symphonic prog groups will be turned on immediately. If your at all bored, this song will wake you up and make you start listening, and you start to wonder (or maybe even hope) that the rest of the song will be as good. I know I would have felt let down if the intro had been the most interesting part of this song, but thankfully this is not the case.

After the heavy introduction, we are launched into a theme that is closer to the standard Camel style, with a beautiful guitar solo. Before long a lyrical section starts. These lyrics are just so memorable and increase the song's status as an important prog rock song. When the lyrical section ends, there are more instrumental pyrotechnics. This instrumental is very long, lasting around 4:30, but each second is sublime. Incredibly, the introduction is reprised during this instrumental, though in a lighter and more melancholy form. I have to say, I am a sucker for recurring musical themes. The instrumental is climaxed with a long quiet section augmented by an immaculate guitar solo, which leads beautifully into the second and final lyrical section. Again, the lyrics are perfectly memorable, and beautiful in their naivety.

The band, having matured from their first album, learn the importance of dynamic contrast and suddenly raise the volume for a 3 minute extended instrumental that surprisingly (for Camel) feels like a lengthy jam. Astonishingly, this works well in the bands favour. The simplistic extended jam feel is a perfect contrast to the rest of the song, and will have you headbanging or air-guitaring or foot-tapping or whatever it is you do to such great music. The jam section itself consists of a lengthy guitar solo, followed by a lengthy keyboard solo, played over a really heavy riff. The length of this jam seems perfectly timed also; while it's always possible to get fed up of hearing the same riff repeatedly, the band know exactly how to maximise the listener's enjoyment before stopping and moving on. The track is coming to an end so, right on cue, Camel play an extended opening theme which was played after the intro. A beautiful ending to a spectacular song.

What an album! I'd say that it is worth buying the album just to hear Lady Fantasy, but even if that wasn't there, it'd be worth it just to hear The White Rider! Two songs of this quality mean that this album is definitely worth your money! As with Camel's debut album, in nearly 700 ratings, 'Mirage' has not recieved a single one star rating, just proving how amazing this band, and in particular this album is! I have to say, I've always liked albums with 5 or fewer songs on them. This is the place to start for Camel newbies!

baz91 | 5/5 |


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