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Camel - Mirage CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.40 | 2778 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Woohoo, the camel is in full gallop here! This was one of the first few prog rock albums I heard and my first Camel album. Nothing else the band have done ever again made such a big impression on me but my adoration of this fantastic album hasn't faded a whit since. Perhaps, an aptly titled album, then?

Nasty quips aside, I am quite fussy about originality in music. I don't demand something as fundamental as a new tone system to replace the one Stockhausen proposed. But I do want to hear bands present their thoughts, musically and lyrically (not so much), differently at some level. I generally don't suffer the generic end of most music genres too gladly. So, owning up to my unabashed love of Mirage is a bit of a self-goal!

There's not much Camel do, broadly speaking, that you won't find on prog rock albums before. They draw heavily from Caravan and the Canterbury scene as whole, dropping a very big hint about their debt to Supersister. There's some King Crimson in the mix while Peter Bardens at times evokes Deep Purple. They even manage to sound like - and it is like, indeed and not the other way round - those magpies Renaissance. A passage in the middle of Lady Fantasy sounds like Ashes Are Burning but it is quickly forgotten as Andrew Latimer resumes vocals.

But I am not too worried about all that when Freefall kicks off the album to a flying start. From that moment, it's literally a desert storm. Camel at all times sound graceful and capable of being gentle and becalming while rocking really hard at other times to give the album some serious momentum. You don't get much time to reflect on whether the track you just heard is really as good as it appears to be because there's another and then yet another strong track waiting to be digested. It's a simply flawless album all the way through. Not one track strikes a discordant or inconsistent note nor do the proceedings ever get boring.

To accomplish this last aspect, Camel also take you through some delightful twists and turns. Latimer is at the very top of his guitar game, enchanting you with laidback, relaxed notes as sweet as Santana and crushing you with power that reminds you of Blackmore or Iommi. Overall, the band sound as if they are truly having a blast playing these songs. Note especially the solo Latimer plays just after he has finished his first few vocal lines. That passage, as well as others in the album, give the appearance of a jam-y hard rock workout and yet there are hardly an excessive movements in the album. If anything, it is overall one of the more economical prog albums I have heard.

Camel also have one thing in spades that I have suggested was perhaps a bit undervalued in prog and that is emotional resonance. It is hard not to be drawn into those wonderful passages of music that hit you at several different points in the album. Mostly on account of Latimer's guitar but Bardens has his moments too. Subsequently, they got a bit too complacent and gave up too much of their rocking side for my liking but on Mirage their style is hard to fault and their execution just superb.

As I already said, this is an amazingly consistent album but I'd pick Lady Fantasy, Nimrodel and Freefall as the high points. Five stars easily for a delightful prog masterpiece and one of the best albums to initiate listeners into prog.

rogerthat | 5/5 |


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